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November 15, 2008

This Focus on Obama's Race is an Attempt at Face-Saving

Ever since election night and the focus on the historical nature of Obama's win, I've wondered about that.  From the perspective of the huge range of people I've talked with over the last year about this election, Obama's race has seemed like such a small part of why his candidacy has been so important. 

It's been his focus on the practical, on the straight-forward task of rebuilding our democracy and our economy and our sense of self-respect.  It's been his lack of ego; he doesn't get in his own way and he doesn't seem to allow others around him to either.  It's about their dedication to us and their request for our dedication to ourselves as well.

It always has been historic for African-Americans and perhaps for all people of color.  That I completely get.  But for Republicans?

Nevertheless, the Republicans - McCain, Bush, Palin, Cheney, one after the other, congratulate Obama and the American people for the historic nature of this election.   In the process, they were more gracious than one might have thought given their nastiness during the campaign.   I puzzled over it in some remote part of my brain.

Then, I saw a transcript of a Q&A of Laura Bush on her visit with Michelle Obama.  She said the the same thing.  Here's the transcript between the correspondent, Elaine Quijano, CNN White House correspondent, and Bush:

QUIJANO: Last question then. Your husband, the day after the election, talked about it being a stirring sight to see the Obamas because of the historic nature of having the nation's first African-American president. I wonder if you could share your thoughts on that, as well?

L. BUSH: Well I also think it's very, very important. I think it's important for American history. I think it's a message to everybody in the United States of what's possible. But it's also a message around the world because I know, because I heard from them, that there were leaders in the -- around the world who didn't think the United States would elect an African-American man. And so, I think it's a really important message about our own democracy to people around the world.

And I got it.  Because Obama's race makes this a more understandable historic moment, it allows them to graciously point to something we can all agree on.  We're not likely to agree that the Republicans came close to destroying this country in the last 8 years.  We're not likely to agree, at least in public, that McCain is just a grumpy, reckless old man whose selection of VP candidate made it clear he has no respect for this nation.  

So, yes, Obama being an African-American is a historic win and a safe thing for Republicans to talk about.   

Posted by Lynn Allen on November 15, 2008 at 03:08 PM in Candidate Races, Current Affairs | Permalink


I think you're right Lynn, at least in that Obama's race played a very small part in the campaign. It played far less than many people feared, and less than some Obama supporters asserted. That's something worth celebrating, though. I suspect that in addition to the face-saving you mention, they probably just instinctively find something to praise about the process when they need to sound gracious. Normally, they'd just say something like "Hey, we elected a Democrat. Democracy still works here." Instead, they get to talk about something really noteworthy.

It's a rare politician, to say the least, who is going to pull a Bullworth and tell you what he really thinks.

Posted by: Cujo359 | Nov 17, 2008 2:35:39 AM

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