John McWhorter, who supports Obama, has pointed out what he sees as a profound problem with the Obama campaign, which is the way identity politics has made it impossible to treat Obama as an adult, rather than a child, for fear of being called “racist”:
Yet there is an element of surprise, a tincture of dismay, in how many view the sliming of Mr. Obama. If Grover Cleveland or John Kerry got slimed, what do you expect? But if Mr. Obama gets slimed, well.
There is a tacit sense that decent people would make an exception for him. Otherwise, why would so many think of it as news that the Clintons or anyone else would get nasty in trying to push past him?
Let’s face facts: People see this commonplace phenomenon as news because of a tacit idea that as a black man, Mr. Obama should be treated with kid gloves.
Lawrence Bobo, professor of sociology at Harvard, gives it away comparing the Clintons’ attacks on Mr. Obama to, specifically, the Willie Horton ad and the 2000 vote count. That is, events traditionally classified as “racist” — as if Republicans have not sought to best Democrats in ways disconnected to race. Upon which the Swift-boat thing is germane. Mr. Bobo appends that to his list, too — but misses that the guiding theme is not racism but hardball.
Welcome to reality: being judged by the content of our character means that we black people will not be exempt from hardball. We should not be seduced by the fantasy that we must pretend to be fragile.
Well, yes. This is what I’ve been saying all along. I recently wrote a post saying that one of my fears about Obama as a candidate is that it would be impossible to run against him in the ordinary rough and tumble way we’ve come to expect in a Democracy. Any negative comment would be deemed “racist,” and the Republican candidates, all carefully groomed and controlled by their handlers, wouldn’t even want to get near that.
It did occur to me, though, that McCain might be the candidate who would stand up to Obama, who would not fear being called a racist. He is a man confident and feisty enough to get into a fight on its merits, and not pull his punches for fear of collateral damage. I don’t know how well those qualities would serve in the increasingly surreal world of the White House, but it might be just what is needed to level the playing field against America’s first black presidential candidate (something that would be more fair to Obama, too, since it would treat him like an adult and not a child or a half wit).