There are multiple dustups brewing in the national election scene as both presidential campaigns aren’t just testing out themes to appeal to voters, but also attacks and rebuttals as well. It’s all about gaining political advantage for their side in the November elections.
That said, the theme that our president’s opponents most want to declare taboo is the issue of race. They seem the most indignant when it's suggested that race could even possibly be an issue in an election where Americans will be asked whether or not they want to re-elect the nation’s first African-American president.
Journalist and former CBS anchorman Dan Rather drew a white-hot reaction from the rabid right for stating the obvious -- race will still be an issue in the 2012 presidential election. The reaction seems hottest by those who have been quickest to use race as an issue in the past, whether it was calling President Obama a "colonial Kenyan," reviving and reveling in Birther controversies, or never truly denying rumors that the president is secretly a Muslim.
The irony is the folks guiltiest of those tactics take the most umbrage at being called to task on it. Sometimes, it smacks of I-think-he-doth-protest-too-much doublespeak.
At the end of the 2008 election cycle, such questions about race did prove to be relevant. From accusations of President Barack Obama hating white America due to his association with Rev. Jeremiah Wright to the subtle insinuations that Birthers still level against him today, there was ample evidence that certain segments of America weren't ready for a black president.
Posters of President Obama dressed as an African witch doctor, continuous “questions” about the man’s birth certificate, and other attempts to prove that he is "not one of us" are evidence that the issue is far from dead, especially with some of the radical’s in the Republican party. Yet, other right-wing activists, even if they don't believe such accusations, still seem willing to use the controversy to their political advantage.
So, Rather's comment that it would be an issue this year barely qualifies as news analysis in my opinion. The rage from those being called out for it is more evidence of how it’s true than any assurance it's not. Is Dan Rather correct? Yep. The issue really is how much and how in-your-face race is going to be over the next few months
There are some ominous signs already. Jeremiah Wright's latest sermons are back on the playlist at Fox News and other right-leaning media outlets, despite the fact that President Obama hasn't had him as a pastor since 2008, cutting ties after the previous controversy. And, while it's harder to tell if birtherism is being pushed front and center again, since it's always been in the news, Sheriff Joe Arpaio's recent press conference on the results of his investigation into the president's birth certificate shows that there's a willingness out there to play upon those fears of a black President being from 'Somewhere Else.'
So, certainly there are people out there who are still ready to make those same sorts of arguments as before, though they are now unable to couch them in the terms of 'Are we ready for a black president?' After all, the results of the 2008 election showed that we were.
However, conversations about race and politics don't have to be considered automatically negative things. That's just our default assumption when racial differences are discussed in the media. Race could play a positive role in the 2012 presidential election. The problem is that all signs point to no for now. Skirmishes between the two campaigns have been economic or social, not racial, and only time can tell if it's going to come up in the future. The nation's imagination is going to be captured by the Trayvon Martin/George Zimmerman trial, but is that the right atmosphere in which we want to have a healthy conversation about race?
While this election is yet again another historic chance to have a significant conversation about race, it needs to be a conversation that is worthy of America. Otherwise, it's going to be considered an extension of our presidential election pageantry culture, instead of a sincere effort to talk about the real situations that America's melting pot faces today.