Monday, June 09, 2008


For a while I naively hoped that, after the primaries ended, Paul Krugman would overcome his intense loathing of Barack Obama and everyone who supports him. Alas, that's not the case -- here's Krugman in today's New York Times telling the presumptive nominee and all us Obamabots how lucky he is (and Hillary Clinton isn't) and how ungrateful we cultists all are to the baby boomers -- well, basically to Bill Clinton -- without whom our messiah would be pushing a broom:

Fervent supporters of Barack Obama like to say that putting him in the White House would transform America. With all due respect to the candidate, that gets it backward. Mr. Obama is an impressive speaker who has run a brilliant campaign -- but if he wins in November, it will be because our country has already been transformed.

... why has racial division become so much less important in American politics?

Part of the credit surely goes to Bill Clinton, who ended welfare as we knew it. I'm not saying that the end of Aid to Families With Dependent Children was an unalloyed good thing; it created a great deal of hardship. But the "bums on welfare" played a role in political discourse vastly disproportionate to the actual expense of A.F.D.C., and welfare reform took that issue off the table.

Another large factor has been the decline in urban violence.

... during the Clinton years, for reasons nobody fully understands, the wave of urban violence receded, and with it the ability of politicians to exploit Americans' fear.

...Let me add one more hypothesis: although everyone makes fun of political correctness, I'd argue that decades of pressure on public figures and the media have helped drive both overt and strongly implied racism out of our national discourse. For example, I don't think a politician today could get away with running the infamous 1988 Willie Horton ad.

Unfortunately, the campaign against misogyny hasn’t been equally successful.

By the way, it was during the heyday of the baby boom generation that crude racism became unacceptable. Mr. Obama, who has been dismissive of the boomers' "psychodrama," might want to give the generation that brought about this change, fought for civil rights and protested the Vietnam War a bit more credit....

There's certainly progress -- Obama's success couldn't have happened otherwise. And the Willie Horton ad did spark a backlash (after it helped elect a president). But have we really managed to "drive both overt and strongly implied racism out of our national discourse"?

First of all, has Krugman actually watched the Willie Horton ad recently? It may not be as heavyhanded as he remembers. Here it is:

The voiceover doesn't mention Horton's race. The ad just shows his face, tells a story about him, and lets the viewer draw the conclusion. That doesn't mean it wasn't trying to play on racial anxieties -- it was. But it didn't play the race card as openly and unabashedly, as, say, the Jesse Helms "Hands" ad.

So is the use of Horton in the anti-Dukakis ad really all that different from the use of Jeremiah Wright in this condemned but widely disseminated North Carolina GOP ad?

Or the use of Wright -- and Obama himself -- in this ad from the recent Mississippi special election?

And if we really have managed to "drive both overt and strongly implied racism out of our national discourse," what was up with the blonde in the notorious "Call Me" ad aimed at Harold Ford when he ran for Senate in Tennesseee?

Progress has been made. Boomers deserve a good deal of credit. But Obama didn't win in a race-blind racial paradise created by boomers.

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