Youngstown, Ohio has produced some doozies of political drama. Who can forget Jim "Beam Me Up" Traficant, the long-time Congressman (for whom I voted twice), or, more recently, disgraced philandering Ohio AG Marc Dann, (for whom I did not vote)? Both are Democrats, as a politician must be to win around this union-dominated former steel center.
Two more Democrats have further distinguished the Mahoning Valley lately, injecting race into Presidential politics in a way no responsible politician would or should. And this on the eve of a McCain-Palin event at the regional airport north of town today (Tuesday 16 Sept.) and a Biden rally downtown later this week.
"Race -- that's the only reason people in the Valley won't vote for him," said state Rep. Thomas Letson of Warren, D-64th, about Barack Obama, his party's presidential nominee. "There are 1,000 reasons to vote for Obama [ed. -- and they are...?] and one reason why you won't -- race."
It is the independents, the "swing voters" and Democrats who are or will support Republican John McCain who are the "racists," Letson and state Rep. Robert F. Hagan of Youngstown, D-60th, said.
"When we speak to swing voters and we talk of issues, the only reason they're undecided is because of race," Hagan said.
How irresponsible and absurd.
The reaction from the vice chairman of the Mahoning County Republican Party, Mark Munroe, was spot-on:
“These guys have gone off the deep end,” he said. “This is probably the most absurd and disgusting comment we’ve heard from our elected Democratic legislators.”
While acknowledging “race may explain why some people vote for or against Obama,” Munroe said there are many reasons why people wouldn’t support him. They include, he said, Obama’s inexperience, his “liberal voting record,” and his position on the war in Iraq.
Emphases mine, because Munroe makes a very important point -- while there may well be some racists who simply won't vote for a black man, how many people have decided to vote for Obama solely on the basis of his race? "It's time for a black President, all other factors be damned." In fact, while on the USS Kearsarge for Operation Continuing Promise the only three Obama supporters I met were black, and two of them openly admitted their choice was because Obama is black. They failed to see the racism inherent in that position.
Now, in full disclosure, I have relatives who fall into both categories. My very Ukranian grandfather, a long-time union member who hasn't even considered voting for a Republican in his entire life, will vote for McCain. God bless him, but my 85 year-old grandfather is racist. My dad, on the other hand, is a rather successful small business owner (a non-union custom cabinetry shop in the very-union Youngstown area) -- one of McCain's "fundamentals of the economy" -- and is registered Democrat. He will vote for McCain simply because Obama is a terrible candidate and McCain is a good, if not great, candidate.
If Democrats in the Mahoning Valley need to flail about this wildly Obama is in trouble in Ohio. I already believed he was, but evidence to back up my hunch is welcome.
More evidence: I've listened more to local talk radio lately. While the hosts are as reflexively anti-Republican as ever, even as they occasionally claim still to be "undecided," those calling in have been noticeably more pro-Republican than usual.