Sunday, September 14, 2008

Obama and race

I agree with this. I think political correctness prevented many democrats from thinking clearly about how race would influence the final outcome of the election. Political correctness also prevents us from understanding many other obvious things about society today.

Related discussion here.

WSJ: ...Democrats' fatal blindness to the brute fact of race in America. When, during the primaries, the Clintons seemed to allude to the subject of Sen. Obama's electability in light of his race, they were accused by many of their fellow Democrats of "playing the race card." It is fairly incredible that it was, for the most part, not until this summer that liberals began publicly asking themselves if the country was ready for a black president. That it was not until recently that liberals began wondering with any forcefulness whether people really were telling pollsters the truth about their attitudes toward race. ("Will race influence your vote for president?" "Race?! Me? Are you kidding? Of course not!")

For 18 months, the majority of liberal commentators wrote so rapturously and unskeptically about Sen. Obama's candidacy that you would have thought he was just a white guy with a deep tan. It was as though people were afraid that if they spoke honestly about racism as a stumbling block to his candidacy, they would be taken for racists themselves. Indeed, it was as though by ignoring racist attitudes when writing about Sen. Obama, liberal commentators conferred on themselves the virtuous idealism that they were fantastically attributing to the country as a whole. It is an elementary psychological fact that we sometimes praise to an absurd degree what makes us slightly uncomfortable -- or that we put the source of discomfort in an impossibly ideal light in order to put as much distance as possible between us...and the person we fear we may actually be.

What polls show about racism and voting:

...Some people who are telling pollsters they're for Obama could actually be lying.

Such behavior has been called the "Bradley Effect ," after Tom Bradley, a black mayor of Los Angeles who lost his bid to be California's governor back in 1982. While every poll showed him leading his white opponent, that isn't how the final tally turned out. Things haven't been far different in some other elections involving black candidates. In 1989, David Dinkins was eighteen points ahead in the polls for New York's mayoral election, but ended up winning by only a two-point edge. The same year, Douglas Wilder was projected to win Virginia's governorship by nine points, but squeaked in with one half of one percent of the popular vote. Nor are examples only from the past. In Michigan in 2006, the final polls forecast that the proposal to ban affirmative action would narrowly prevail by 51 percent. In fact, it handily passed with 58 percent. That's a Bradley gap of seven points, which isn't trivial.

Pollsters contend that respondents often change their minds at the last minute, or that conservatives are less willing to cooperate with surveys. Another twist is that more voters are mailing in absentee ballots, and it's not clear how those early decisions are reflected in the polls. Yet the Bradley gap persists after voters have actually cast their ballots. Just out of the booth, we hear them telling white exit pollers that they supported the black candidate, whereas returns from these precincts show far fewer such votes. Thus they lie to interviewers they don't know and will never see again.


Barry Kelly said...

Yes, but there is also a paradox here. It is only by putting aside race, ignoring it, that racism can be overcome. If either majority party never put forward a minority race candidate on the grounds that a minority race candidate would suffer from racism, it would create a self-propagating steady state, adding and furthering any preexisting racism.

Something very similar comes up in peace-making. If two sides are at war, particularly a long-term civil war (e.g. Northern Ireland, Israel / Palestine, etc.), the only way it can be stopped is by forgiveness of the unforgivable. The unforgivable is unforgivable because "If we forgive this, then the enemy will think we are weak and take advantage. Thus, we must seek revenge instead." The enemy, following exactly the same principles, retaliates, etc. Without complete genocide, there is no exit without irrational forgiveness.

Taboos, things we avoids discussing for fear of invoking automatic emotional backlashes and concomitant social exclusion, are predictable and unsurprising facts about societies. Sometimes those taboos have beneficial side-effects that outweigh any theoretical drawbacks of intellectual dishonesty, however.

Viewing the world through excessively intellectual-tinted glasses isn't useful. It leads to annoyance and frustration, and ultimately to surprise and disappointment when plans based on such a viewpoint are upended by the non-intellectual.

Realism, and taking advantage of the actual mechanics of the world by saying and doing things, with careful timing and audience, for their ultimate effects, rather than their meanings, is the best route for effecting change.

Complaining about something like political correctness will at best achieve intellectual honesty amongst the small elite who care about it, at the probably cost of prolonging racism, sexism and miscellaneous phobias, etc.

Steve Hsu said...

Part of viewing the world "through intellectual-tinted lenses" means realizing that the vast majority of people do not.

If the left's own delusions meant they couldn't adequately judge the prospects of their presidential candidates, I would call that a lack of realism.

Anonymous said...

Well, there goes whatever little hope I had of Obama winning in November:-) Looks like it could even be a blow-out, i.e., McCain-Pallin by a comfortable margin.

In any case, Hillary would not have fared better.


Anonymous said...

Your sexist attitudes (assumed given your sexists statements) suggest that Palin also has brought pressure against the McCain Ticket

Steve Hsu said...

Funny you would call me a sexist. I argued to fellow democrats that Hilary had a better shot than BHO, even though I like BHO better.

Unknown said...

I believe the Bradley effect is real and could easily represent up to a 10% gap in the actual votes.

It can't really be that hard for the intellectuals to realize that the real world is different from theirs and that in some key states, there may be a problem for BHO. They must just not think ahead.

On the other hand, BHO may benefit from the fact that he is only 50% black and has brought many white relatives out on the trail with him.

I think that if he were more experienced and more moderate, race would be less of an issue. While Colin Powell may have also been a victim of the Bradley effect, he has much more experience to minimize the effects of any racial bias...

This is perhaps the key reason that BHO was not able to knock out Hillary and has not opened a wider gap with all of the advantages he has this year...

As of today, if you adjust the polls for the Bradley effect, it will be extremely close in the key toss up states. The liberal media may be the difference for BHO...

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