Thursday, March 18, 2004

Obama for America

Barack Obama has impeccable liberal credentials and a nuanced view of race rooted in the exploration of his own ethnic and geographic identity. Charlton McIlwain at The Gadflyer has an interesting look at the upcoming campaign against investment banker Jack Ryan. One of McIlwain's arguments is that because race is omnipresent in media coverage of the candidate and there is the usual bombardment of stories about Black crime on local news, Obama will have to battle a Willie Horton effect each day of the campaign. I don't imagine that this is a new fight for Obama, though it will take place on a big stage. The question is whether his candidacy will challenge entrenched assumptions about race and change the rules of the game for future African American candidates. This depends on whether the candidate and his supporters proactively talk about race, class, and identity. I'll be looking to local observers of the campaign for greater insight on how this issue plays out through November. This is one of the important meta-stories embedded in what most observers think will be a successful electoral campaign.

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