For the most part, the mainstream media have gone along with the fiction that Barack Obama's success shows that the country has moved beyond race. Obama and Hillary Clinton have said repeatedly race shouldn't matter. But the mere fact that neither candidate wants to talk about race shows how much it matters.
Tellingly, the Clinton campaign had to knock down rumors that Obama's skin was intentionally darkened in a TV ad.
The Wall Street Journal recently asked whether the race card is back on the table. The reporter cited polling data that show race was an important factor for 20 percent of Ohio voters and 19 percent of Texas voters.
In a similar vein, conservative commentator Morton Kondracke observed:
Obama wins in states with majority-black Democratic turnout, like South Carolina, Georgia and Louisiana and in states with few blacks, like Wisconsin, Washington and Vermont.
Kondracke further noted:
In Rhode Island, another heavily working-class state, race was important to 20 percent of the electorate, and this group went 56 percent for Clinton.
Truth is, identity politics--race, ethnicity and gender--played and will continue to play a crucial role in Obama's and Clinton's rise, fall and rise again. Consider: An exit poll of Ohio voters found:
- Clinton won with women, 57 percent to Obama’s 41 percent.
- Clinton won whites, 64 percent to Obama’s 34 percent.
- Obama won blacks, 88 percent to Clinton’s 12 percent.
Will race matter in the upcoming primary in Mississippi, where African Americans represent roughly 38 percent of the population? Is fat meat greasy?
Will race matter in Pennsylvania, where Gov. Ed Rendell, a Clinton supporter, said "you've got conservative whites here, and I think there are some whites who are probably not ready to vote for an African-American candidate?"