Yesterday, Adam Nagourney of the New York Times posted an article titled “It Ain’t Over Till It’s Over,” six (unconvincing) reasons why McCain can still win. Point number five caught my attention:
Race is, of course, the question that has hovered over the contest for two years. Are there a significant number of white voters who will not support Mr. Obama because he is black, no matter what they tell pollsters? Some Republicans said they have come to look at this as Mr. McCain’s last, best hope.
Nagourney sees this as a reason why the race isn’t over. In reality, this is the clearest indication that it is. Despite what “some Republicans” are hoping, and what they’ve been relying on since the 1960s, America simply does not have enough racists anymore to swing the election. No one knows the exact numbers, but I guarantee that the racist vote is significantly smaller than, say, the black vote, the Hispanic vote, the blue collar vote, the female vote– all voters the McCain campaign has either ignored or outright insulted in order to focus on firing up and turning out “the base.”
The fact that Republicans are pinning so many hopes on such a small, and rapidly dwindling, segment of the population speaks volumes about how badly they are beaten on every other front. It’s also incredibly foolish. For every racist voter you fire up, you lose many more undecideds who want nothing to do with the new Republican atmosphere– an atmosphere that is increasingly diminishing our image around the world. Here’s a devastating, must-watch report by Al Jazeera English on the McCain campaign:
Of course, no candidate can be held responsible for the individual things said by overzealous supporters. But John McCain is absolutely responsible for the fact that you can’t throw a rock at a McCain-Palin rally without hitting someone who believes Barack Obama is a terrorist. With McCain’s decision to focus his campaign on Bill Ayers, he put the dots out there, drew arrows pointing to the dots, advertised the dots, gave stump speeches about the dots, asked leading questions about the dots, and then acted shocked and disappointed when his supporters connected the dots.
When a voter last week told McCain “We’re scared of an Obama presidency,” McCain rebuked the man, despite the fact that his campaign is running 100% negative ads against Obama. What is the point of the ads if not to evoke that exact response from voters? If you’re going to say your opponent “pals around with terrorists,” you shouldn’t be surprised when your supporters start interrupting you with shouts of their own solution to the problem: “Kill him!” (again today).
If Republicans truly see “white voters who will not support Mr. Obama because he’s black” as “McCain’s last, best hope,” then they’ve already beaten themselves. You can fire up a certain voter until they’re foaming at the mouth, but they still only count as one vote. If you can’t appeal to the overwhelmingly larger non-racist American vote– voters who care more about their jobs and their 401(k)s and their children’s health care than Barack Obama’s middle name– if you gave up going after these voters in October, you will lose and it won’t be close. I suspect that on November 4th, the Republican party will be shocked to discover that it is in fact 2008, not 1958.