Saturday, November 6, 2010

Has affirmative action hurt Barack Obama?

Mickey Kaus and Robert Wright debate the question:

They agree that affirmative action has probably hurt Obama. They seem to agree about how it affected him early in life, while disagreeing about how his experience as president is problematically different. Wright thinks the problem is that Obama wasn't prepared for all the racism he faces now. Kaus thinks Obama wasn't prepared for the lack of racial bias affecting his presidency. (Actually, it's not clear how much they really disagree; Kaus aptly notes that Wright "snatched disagreement from agreement.")


Jason (the commenter) said...

One of the reasons I prefer the company of Conservatives: no one is forcing a crutch on me.

buck smith said...

Kaus is right. Wright is wrong. What Wright thinks is racism is actually opposition to Obama's reflexive anti-American, anti-western bias. Obama has the worldview that thinks Western imperialism is the only imperialism that ever happened, that the Cold War was unnecessary cause the Commies intentions were good, that slavery in north America 150 years ago is way, way worse than slavery today in Africa. He should be working at the UN, not president of the US. He would fit in perfectly at the UN.

Meade said...

Mickey makes the mistake of letting Bob get away with bringing the red herring of racism into the debate.

The problem for Obama is that, for the first time in his career, he's being judged simply on his merits and the red herring of racism won't help him now.

With unemployment at 15%, and with the way the universal health insurance reform bill was jammed down our throats, the 90% of the electorate for whom race doesn't matter believes his performance as president merits a big fat "D."

Unfortunately and ironically for Obama, most of America really has become post-racial. And his affirmative action extra credit is all used up.

John Althouse Cohen said...

I don't think Mickey is "letting Bob get away with" anything. Mickey agrees with you, but Bob also gets a chance to express his viewpoint. Mickey does criticize Bob for overemphasizing racism, saying it's 10% of the problem that distracts from the race-neutral 90%.

Jarrett said...

Wright splits this into hairs - does race have ANY importance? Well, there will always be ONE person who will judge him on that, so yes, but that's not really a material question in a democracy of over 300 million. His own point, as he frames it, is essentially immaterial. Besides,

1) In surveys and polling during the primaries, the number of people who said they would be unwilling to support Obama because he's black was something like 6%. There were more people unwilling to support Hillary Clinton because she's a woman, for Christ's sake. Sure, you can argue that 6% (or whatever the number was) is still 6%, but it's such an infinitely small number in the world of politics. You can find at least 6% of people who agree with just about anything. 4% of blacks voted for John McCain.

1) b) Perhaps I'm wrong but I believe there to be an implicit assumption that all potential racism is directed solely against Obama. If people like Harry Reid or Robert Byrd would be any indication, even an offensive position on race does not necessarily translate into opposition.

2) For someone so sensitive to race as an issue, I'm rather disappointed that Wright seems to think Muslims are a race. Just in case there were any doubt that Wright doesn't know what he's talking about, his example of racism appears to be that people think he's a Muslim. That too is stupid, but that's distinctly different from being black. (As long as religion is conflated with skin colour, oh, how we could list all the "fundamentalist christian" comments associated with criticism of the Bush administration.)

3) I know it destroys the racism narrative, but isn't it easier and more plausible to accept that opposition to Obama is based on his politics and/or that he's the most prominent Democrat in the country? Making allowances for the changing tone of the times, it's hard to distinguish the nature of the opposition of Republicans to Obama and their opposition to, for instance, Jimmy Carter, Bill Clinton, or even John Kerry. Sure, he's the "other", but that's what the Blue Team leader IS to the Red Team.

John Althouse Cohen said...

I think Robert Wright, who wrote a book about religion with 5 chapters on Islam, realizes that "Muslim" is a religion rather than a race. That doesn't mean there isn't racism underlying the sense that Obama is a Muslim.