As Election Day nears, we’re hearing more stories about racism in the vote. The camp for Barack Obama is concerned about “The Bradley Effect” (also known as the Wilder Effect), as explained this week in Time.
The theory holds that voters have a tendency to withhold their leanings from pollsters when they plan to vote for a white candidate instead of a black one. In 1982, Tom Bradley–the African-American mayor of Los Angeles–ran for governor of California. On the eve of the election, polls anointed him a prohibitive favorite. But on election day, Bradley lost to his white opponent, Republican George Deukmejian. Some experts chalked up the skewed polling to skin color.
MPR’s Mark Zdechlik looked at the subject in a story today, and found Democratic officials suggesting race is a factor.
“Oh yeah, we hear a lot of that,” one Obama supporter said. “Just the race color basically that’s the main thing. People up here they’re afraid to elect someone that’s not a Caucasian. That’s basically all you hear.”
But the story said other people had voiced concern about Obama’s race, but no person who harbored those feelings appeared in the story.
In an MPR newscast this morning, Senate District 5 DFL Chair Kathy Daniels said some Democrats have hesitations about Obama because of his race.
“From the phone calls that have been coming out of this office it looks to me like a lot of people are prejudiced, but they won’t say and they’re still going to vote the Democratic ticket.”
What’s wrong with that picture? If they won’t say, how do you know they’re prejudiced? It’s a serious enough allegation to demand proof with every assertion, and clearly around the country, the two have been paired. But not this time.
The assertion differs from the experience of pollster John Zogby. “We are picking up prejudicial sentiment in this race, and there are a core group of people who say they will not vote for Obama because he is black,” Zogby told the San Francisco Chronicle. “But I think we are in a post-Bradley-effect America. We have honorable bigots. They say they won’t vote for him, and then they don’t vote for him.”
In the first presidential debate, John McCain didn’t look at Barack Obama. A caller on MPR’s Midmorning defined its meaning. “He grew up in a culture where if a black man looked into the eyes of a white man, it was a threat,” he said.
It was, he contended, racism, a point that led Kerri Miller to schedule an entire program on the subject earlier this month.
Is a vote against Barack Obama a vote for racism? To prove one is not a racist, does one have to vote for Obama? The pundits will have a crack at that when the first returns start coming in on Election Day.
But few have hit the fast-forward button. What if Obama wins the presidency? Does the “race issue” disappear or will the loyal opposition be viewed through a racial prism?