Bradley Effect: Dead or Dormant?
While it will still take some time to comb through all the entire exit polling data from the presidential election, one thing is clear: there was no net Bradley effect. Barack Obama won the states he was projected to win, within the margin of error that the last polls projected him to win. This does not mean, of course, that there was no Bradley effect. It is possible that Whites who indicated support for Obama in the polls chose McCain in the voting booth, but if so, they were offset by Whites who indicated support for McCain in the polls but voted for Obama.
This is especially possible in parts of the Deep South, where the “norm of racial equality” is weaker – where White folks might have actually been driven to conceal their support for Obama.
Further, it is inappropriate to declare the death of the Bradley effect as a result of one election. It is possible that the Bradley effect did not apply to Barack Obama's presidency, but the salience of the campaign, the fact that Obama is half White, the fact that McCain's campaign was so poorly run, or the fact Obama is a "first" might have mitigated the effect in this election (though it is also possible that this would have contriubuted to a Bradley effect). So we're not sure we can sign the death certificate for the Bradley effect just yet, but we are certainly happy to sing it a bedtime story (and slip it some Ambien) at the very least.
By the way, was John McCain advocating a Bradley effect vote the night before the election when he was interviewed on Monday Night Football? We wouldn't speculate on his intent, but we wonder if the fact that he knew that a Bradley effect was his only chance at that point didn't affect his answer to the question. Watch (below) and see what you think.
In any case, Obama did not simply win the election – he dominated. A six-point popular vote lead may not sound like a lot, but when one considers that there have been only five Black candidates who have won high-profile statewide office (U.S. Senate or governor) since Reconstruction, Obama’s victory was impressive. Further, in many states where he ultimately lost, he was competitive up until to the end. The Electoral College tends to exacerbate a popular vote victory (when it doesn’t reverse it), so that trouncing of McCain paints an exaggerated picture of Obama’s support. And it is true that winning a third term for the Republicans was a long shot in the current political climate, but it is wise for us to revisit – as we did after Obama secured the nomination – our prediction nearly two years ago that Obama would not win.
Before noting that Obama would not win the Democratic Party nomination, here is what we said about the general election in December 2006:
Let's begin with the general election, where Republicans and other conservative types will of course be part of the electorate. It seems an almost foregone conclusion at this point that Republicans, especially in the South, have mastered and continue to refine the art of race-baiting; they know such messages will always find fertile ground to influence voting decisions at the least, and develop into vociferous anti-black/minority opposition, even hysteria, at most (especially in a Presidential race). Of course there is always convenient cover for such insidious messages; for Republicans, it is ideology.Unlike our incorrect prediction about Obama’s inability to secure the Party nomination, we were fairly accurate in our prediction of what Obama’s opponents would do.
And you can already see it coming in this week's evangelical rancor over Rick Warren's invitation of Obama to speak at his megachurch AIDS summit. Should Obama win the nomination, he is certain to face vigorous opposition from Republicans who believe Obama's real sin is his skin. This sentiment will be denied of course, with claims that it is his stance on abortion, stem cell research, homosexuals, etc. - not race - that is the reason for opposition.
Republicans absolutely used ideology as a cover for their racist rhetoric. Rather than attacking Obama for being “too Black,” they called him “radical,” “risky,” and labeled his policies “socialist” and “Marxist.” Rather than using Jeremiah Wright to suggest that Obama was too empathetic to the cause of Black liberation, McCain supporters suggested that their concern was Wright’s “anti-American” positions. Nothing about Jeremiah Wright’s sermons are anti-American per se; they were anti-White supremacy, and to the extent that White supremacy is an inherent part of America, the point could be made. We’re pretty sure that’s not what the McCain supporters meant, though.
Perhaps because of the primacy of the economic crisis, there was little substitution of progressive social policy positions for race. We were, for the most part, mistaken about that.
At the end of the day, we underestimated the American public with respect to the likelihood of using Obama’s race against him. Our final sentence in that blog reads as follows: “Obama certainly has the qualifications to be President, yet the barriers of race make us quite skeptical about the possibility of the nation electing the first black President.”
But if there is any doubt about the role race played amongst McCain supporters, consider this map from The New York Times, which shows the handful of counties where McCain got more support than George W. Bush got in 2004. Progressive blogger Yglesias astutely notes that given the level of poverty in those areas, it is unlikely that McCain’s call for tax relief for the wealthiest Americans can account for this increase of support for the Republican candidate this year. As our good friend Rush Limbaugh might say, “It is totally about race!” (Thanks to loyal TWIR reader Matt Zanon for passing along this link.)
“Wright” Up Until the End
While John McCain technically kept his promise to not invoke Jeremiah Wright during the campaign, the last two days (Sunday and Monday) saw a flurry of ads featuring the out-of-context statements by Obama’s former preacher. The Pennsylvania Republican Party (PAGOP) ran one, as did the National Republican Trust (NRT) political action committee, the friendly bigots at Freedom’s Defense Fund (FDF), and the Republican Jewish Coalition (RJC). Click each of the four images below to enjoy the full video.
The National Republican Trust (NRT), Freedom’s Defense Fund (FDF) and the Pennsylvania Republican Party (PAGOP) released a flurry of ads that used implicit racist messages. For the PAGOP, there was an ad called “Bitter” that brought forth a flurry of White folks (and one Black man with his child) that were supposedly the target of Obama’s “elitist” comment about his inability to win over rural White Democrats during the primaries and one that altered photos of U.S. leaders meeting with leaders of rogue nations to suggest that Obama’s believe in diplomacy with enemies of the U.S. was naïve. The spot includes an image of Obama shaking hands with Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.
NRT ran an ad about Obama’s tolerance for terrorists, one criticizing Obama’s opposition to denying driver’s licenses to undocumented workers, and one linking his "redistributive" economic plan to illegals and terrorists.
TWIR readers will recall that FDF is the group who made the “Willie Horton 2008” spot linking Obama with former Detroit mayor Kwame Kilpatrick. This group also ran an ad using Jeremiah Wright (above), and one linking Obama to a Kenyan leader (another scary Black man!).
While not a legitimate ad that ran in any states, it is interesting to note the attempted satire in this YouTube ad that targets voters who would only vote for Obama because of his race. Please be sure to note the last frame, where the person who made the ad declares that its not racist. Thanks for the heads-up, pal.
Racists for Obama
Of course, for Obama to win, he had to put together a coalition. Surprisingly, Salon reports that some of Obama’s supporters were espoused bigots. (Thanks to psychologists and loyal TWIR readers Dr. Jon Mueller and Dr. Steve Davis for passing this along.)
Strange bedfellows indeed!
Ralph Nader, apparently not satisfied with the degree of offensiveness of his remark about Obama “talking White” this summer, had the following to say about Obama’s win: “[Obama’s] choice, basically, is whether he is going to be Uncle Sam for the people of this country or Uncle Tom for the giant corporations.”
Fox News had Nader on to discuss the comment (see below), and Nader explained that Obama wasn’t Black enough in his policy preferences. What is so remarkable about Nader’s remarks here and back in the summer is that he feels so comfortable telling Obama how to be Black.
As a rule, when Fox News calls you out on your racism, you’re in bad shape. If Fox would have been as diligent in calling out conservatives on their racism as they were with lefty Nader, we would be more impressed.
Not Taking This Well
Our colleague, historian and loyal TWIR reader Dr. Alex Kindell, learned of some text messages that were going around Northwestern Indiana after Obama’s victory. Here’s some examples (spelling errors in the original):
- Free bbq chicken, chitlins', watermelon, and 40's at the white house tomorrow be there & bring your own blunts. We runnin this shit now!
- The Statue of Liberty is coming down today. Aunt Jemima is going up holdn a chicken leg!
- ALL WHITE PEOPLE MUST REPORT 2 THE COTTON FIELDS TOMORROW MORNING AT 7 AM FOR ORIENTATION!!
- Washington is on the dollar. Lincoln is on the 5. I heard Obama will be on food stamps. (Reminds us of the Republican women’s club email that came out of California a few weeks back).
The truth is, however, that many McCain supporters will be supportive of Obama's presidency at the beginning (during his "honeymoon" period). Many of these folks shed tears with the rest of us on election night as the historical importance of the moment became apparent. Sean Hannity and Rush Limbaugh will continue to have their coalition of the under-educated and the ultra wealthy, but there is little question that as a nation, we move forward together to try to address the most pressing issues of our day.
Be sure to check out Dr. David Worth's GUEST blog this week, where he discusses the work yet to be done with respect to race relations in America.
Stephen and Charlton were busy this week providing analysis of the election. In addition to the spots embedded below, Stephen did an interview for TVN of Poland and had a live appearance on Al Jazeera English. If those clips become available, Stephen will post them on his YouTube page.
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