A German journalist tries to peel back America’s real presidential race.
Race is of course not totally hidden in the presidential race between Barack Obama and John McCain. But how much racism is bubbling under the surface? Leave it to them furriners to rub our noses in it.
Der Speigel‘s Gerhard Spörl has a fresh piece, “The Hidden Issue in the US Presidential Campaign,” that delves into it as few U.S. outlets have the guts to do.
Race, he says, is getting “short shrift” in this race. Here’s an excerpt:
A couple of weeks ago, Spörl, the paper’s foreign-desk chief, did an interesting piece (which I wrote about in “Bush and the Caucasians”) trying to link the Caucasus madness to Bush’s foreign-policy flops.
His new piece doesn’t give you any new facts, but he’s produced a provocative take that probably only a non-American can write. Here’s some more:
Obama’s skin color has, to be sure, already been touched upon in the campaign. For the most part, though, references have been veiled and indirect — and occasionally underhanded.
Hillary Clinton broached the subject with particularly elegant perfidy. When she brought up Robert Kennedy and Barack Obama in the same sentence, the subtext was: Well, Bobby Kennedy was murdered, so maybe it’d be a good thing if I stay in the race.
Bill Clinton compared Obama to Jesse Jackson, a man that has made many white voters uncomfortable in the past. And Geraldine Ferraro, who would have become vice president if Walter Mondale hadn’t lost the 1984 election to Ronald Reagan, complained about Obama allegedly being treated better by journalists because of his race — as if it were some priceless advantage to be born black in America and an insurmountable disadvantage to be white.
And after noting that the Clintons “prefer to attribute all their defeats to plots, conspiracies or monumental injustices,” Spörl writes:
Obama was better than Hillary: better at speaking, cleverer in the way he ran his campaign. He was the cool new kid on the block. His skin color certainly didn’t tip the scales in the Democratic primary battle, but it seemed not to be a disadvantage either.
Now, though, it’s McCain against Obama, Republican against Democrat, old against young — and, more than anything else, white against black. McCain, of course, hasn’t broached the race issue directly. But indirectly, the argument goes like this: To be white means to be like John McCain — patriotic, bedecked with medals and honors, self-sacrificing and a hero. To be black means to be like Barack Obama — eager for the spotlight, similar to a Hollywood actor, egocentric, flippant and lacking truly American values. White America is — subtly and adroitly — being mobilized against black America.
This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on August 27, 2008