Tuesday, June 15, 2010


Josh Marshall:

Obama Oddly Unpopular in Former Slave States

Roll Call has a good article ... today about the role of former President Bill Clinton in the 2010 election. The gist of the piece is that Clinton is turning out to be an important asset in this cycle since there are many parts of the country where he can go and campaign effectively where Barack Obama just can't....

What strikes me about the
Roll Call article is that there's not a single mention in the piece that Barack Obama is ... well, black.

I don't want to make it like Obama's unpopularity in a lot of parts of the South is solely or even mainly tied to his race. I don't believe that.... If you go back to 1994 and 1995 you'll remember how Bill Clinton had a very similar geographical spread to his dire unpopularity. In a sense, he became kind of black in the middle years of his presidency.... Some of us tend to forget that this is some of what Toni Morrison meant when she famously called Clinton America's 'first black president'...

Well, remember: Bill Clinton was elected in a recession, as was Barack Obama. Americans disgusted with the economic status quo may elect Democratic presidents, but when those Democrats start acting like Democrats, even a little bit, in uncertain economic times -- raising taxes (even just rich people's taxes), seeking to expand social services -- certain white voters (not just in the South, but perhaps disproportionately there) will inevitably see that as being black. Or, rather, as being pro-black. Because you know who benefits from government social programs, don't you? Them. And you know whose taxes get raised, don't you? Yup -- us.

Certain white voters surely thought they were being overtaxed early in the Clinton administration so that, um, those people could get Hillarycare and the like. But then the economy turned around -- and eventually Bill Clinton became genuinely popular, even to some hard-to-reach whites.

I don't know if that can happen to Barack Obama in better economic times. But when times got better, Bill Clinton lost a lot of melanin in a lot of white people's eyes.

No comments: