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E. J. Dionne On Racial Voting

Or Why Color of Skin Trumps Content of Character

A week or so ago Erick wrote a story entitled: Is it Okay to Vote Against a Candidate Because of His Race?and concluded that no, it is not okay to vote against a candidate based on his or her race.

Yesterday Washington Post columnist E.J. Dionne answered the converse to that question, Is it okay to vote for a candidate based on his race, this way:

Like it or not, Obama’s race is an issue, just as John F. Kennedy’s religion was an issue in 1960 — and racism runs deeper in our history than anti-Catholicism.

There is no doubt that two keys to this election are: How many white and Latino votes will Obama lose because of his race that a white Democrat would have won? And how much will African American turnout grow, given the opportunity to elect our nation’s first black president?

Let’s dispose of the canard that there is something wrong with black people voting in overwhelming numbers for a black candidate. Minorities in the United States always turn out in a big way for the candidate who is breaking barriers on their behalf.

Pause for a moment and consider the implications. The canard Dionne so deftly disposes of, if his assertion is to be held as anything less than scandalous, is the notion that judging people by the “content of their character” is just so much booshwah.

If it is “okay” for minorities to vote for a candidate of their racial and ethnic group then it follows that it is okay for non-minorities to do the same. Otherwise one is left with the unpleasant proposition that “those people” are expected to behave differently from “us”, the more enlightened. Even if it isn’t “okay”, is it reasonable to expect there will be no backlash when it becomes obvious that a candidate’s viability depends nearly in its entirety on members of a specific racial or ethnic or cultural group voting for him in large numbers?

I’m not so naive as to be surprised that a lot of black voters will pull the lever for Barack Obama based solely on his skin color. Likewise I have no doubt that he will lose a lot of white votes that would ordinarily have gone Democrat for the same reason. But let’s not sugar coat it. Racial voting is wrong. It doesn’t matter who does it or what the reason. A black man pulling the lever for Barack Obama because of his race is in the final analysis no different from a white guy pulling the lever for David Duke. Sponsoring a “black slate” of candidates (h/t to Erick in his PeachPundit persona) bears a striking resemblance to proferring a “white slate.” It’s a pretty simple concept, really, and our system of government will not work if we accept and encourage the idea that racial balkanization in the voting booth, latter day Jim Crow voting if you will, is acceptable.

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