The election is only a few weeks away, and there are still "undecideds." What are they waiting for? And how can they be torn between these two guys. They're so different. They are offering voters a very clear choice. Besides, what more could the undecideds possibly hope to learn or see about the candidates? Is Obama finally going to gain a few pounds? Is McCain finally going to stop saying, "My friends?" What is taking these people so long to make up their minds? Well, when it comes to some of them, to paraphrase a famous political saying, I'd have to say, "It's Because He's Black, Stupid."
Now before you start angrily typing to me, let me make a few things clear. I'm not suggesting that everyone who dislikes Barack Obama and plans on voting for John McCain is doing it because of race. I'm not saying that all of the people who are still undecided are racist. What I am suggesting is that we have to look at and wonder about those voters who agree with Barack Obama on issues that are very important to them and disagree with John McCain's positions, yet are still thinking about voting for McCain. Why? Could it be race?
Lately, political pundits have been talking about "The Bradley Effect." This refers to the 1982 California gubernatorial contest in which Tom Bradley, an African American, was ahead in the polls but lost to George Deukmejian. Some experts feel that some white voters were embarrassed to tell pollsters that they really planned to vote for the white candidate, and others who favored Bradley just couldn't vote for the black candidate once they got in the polling booth. There is some feeling that this may happen again in the Obama-McCain contest.
But I think there's also something going on that I'll call, "The Who, Me? Effect." This involves white voters who don't consider themselves anti-black. They may live among or work with African Americans and would certainly never use a racial slur. But, well, they just aren't completely embracing African Americans. They feel uncomfortable, weird, and awkward about the whole thing. When they're having a public conversation in a restaurant, etc., they always seem to whisper the word, "black" (like some people always whisper the word, "cancer"). If someone called these people bigots or said they were prejudiced, their response would be a shocked, "Who, me?"
But they agree with Obama on all the issues that are important to them, yet they're just not sure about voting for a black man. So they remain undecided. And they are desperately searching for some reason, some excuse, some rationalization for voting for McCain that doesn't involve race. Apparently, they couldn't convince themselves that eight-year-old Barack Obama was a radical member of the Weathermen, so they're still looking for some reason not to vote for Obama without feeling guilty.
When you combine "The Bradley Effect" with "The Who, Me? Effect," the numbers could be quite significant. A whole vocabulary has evolved to help the "Who me-ers" rationalize their opposition to Obama. I can help with the definitions:
"I don't like him because
he's arrogant" really means, "He's black."
"He's inexperienced" really means, "He's black."
"I know he's not a Muslim,
but how can I vote for
someone with a name like
that in these times?" really means, "He's black."
"His speeches are too fancy" really means, "He's black."
"How did a guy with his
background end up at Harvard?" really means, "He's black."
"I like his ideas, but
there's just something
about him" really means, "He's black."
"I don't like his wife" really means, "He's black."
One good thing about America is that you are not required to justify whom you vote for. If you want to vote for someone because you like his eyes or the way she dresses, you may do that. And if you don't want to vote for someone because of the color of his skin, that is your right. I just hope that not too many people exercise that right.