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Tuesday, February 12, 2008

How Obama's Blackness Played Its Role

An interesting piece I found on the International Herald Tribune:

As a consultant to several African-American elected officials, Axelrod's career has been steeped in racially charged elections. And he said Obama had confronted racial politics during the campaign that propelled him to the Senate, where he is only the third black elected since Reconstruction.

Axelrod said he had learned there was "a certain physics" to winning votes across racial lines. Previous campaigns by African-Americans - by the Reverend Jesse Jackson and the Reverend Al Sharpton - had overwhelmingly relied on black support that wound up defining, and confining, their candidacies. By contrast, from the moment Obama stepped onto the national political stage, he has paid much attention to a far broader audience.

"He believes you can have the support of the black community, appealing to the pride they feel in his candidacy, and still win support among whites," Axelrod said.

Questions about Obama's "blackness," though, quickly threatened to obscure the reasons he believed himself most qualified to become the next president of the United States.

A Rolling Stone article linked him to the militant preaching of his pastor, the Reverend Jeremiah Wright. The article quoted the minister as saying in a sermon, "Racism is how this country was founded and how this country is still run."

Axelrod said he talked with Obama about taking Wright off the program for the campaign announcement in January 2007, arguing that his presence might distract from efforts to portray the senator as a candidate capable of unifying the country.

I can't knock Obama for wanting to be as inclusive as possible. You can't be taken seriously as a candidate when you're a minority excluding the majority group. That's a recipe for failure.

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