THE BLOG

Why Isn't Obama Doing Better?

10/23/2008 05:12 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

Why isn't Barack Obama doing better? This question has been asked ad nauseam. The inference from the question is that Obama's campaign is doing something wrong, and that Obama himself is not getting his message across properly. He's not fighting back strongly enough, or his experience and liberal views are undercutting his message.

Yet the obvious answer to it has rarely been mentioned. The man is black, or more accurately, bi-racial (which in America means black). A new poll finally confirms what most of us have known all along. Perhaps someone will talk about it now. Americans are having a little bit of a hard time dealing with the idea of a black man becoming president.

Yes there are some hard-core racists in The United States, but these people would never vote for Obama anyhow. The real problem, and one that can be dealt with, is the underlying background noise, if you will, that infects most of the rest of us. Forget about the kids. Anyone born into the MTV generation knows that our future is in gleaning the best from all races. They are the first real color-blind generation.

On the other hand, anyone born in the 1960's or before, harbors some memory of racial strife. They may not identify themselves as racist, and they more than likely are not, but they may be unaware just how pervasive their racial attitudes are. They've either had a negative experience of their own that involved race, or they've witnessed such an event on television. In the back of their minds, they're not so sure they trust a black man to be president.

If this is the case, and it certainly seems to be true, then Obama has been taking the correct approach. He has maintained an even temper throughout and has done his best to stay above the fray. He has refused to respond to the obviously racist attacks against him. instead he has elevated the discourse and stayed on the issues. This is the only way a victim of racism can help to change the psychology of the masses without running the risk of backlash. But someone not directly connected with the campaign, the pundits, other politicians, his supporters, must alert Americans to what is going on inside their heads.

The email attacks calling him a Muslim, filled with anti-white comments he never made and focusing on the comments of others, such as his former preacher, are clearly designed to take advantage of this subtle racism. For John McCain's most recent ad they chose to connect Obama with a black former Fannie Mae exec even though his connection to a white former Fannie Mae exec was more substantial. Yes, the McCain campaign has not overlooked how to use race as an attack in this campaign.

Fortunately most Americans are not really racists. They may suffer from a lifetime of misconceptions, but even my 83 year old mother knows the difference between a bright young black man with good intentions and a plan worth trying and a 72 year old white man who has nothing to offer this nation but continued pain. With the correct conversation and effort we may be able to convince those who sit on the fence to vote with their logical brain instead of trusting their age-old prejudices.