The New York Times sent reporter Sabrina Tavernise to the battleground state of Ohio, to the blue-collar town of Steubenville in pursuit of a pet theory: Barack Obama may struggle to win because some whites are racist. Tavernise starts by suggesting this could be a problem with Democrats, but “ultraconservatives” quickly surface.
The locals were most quotable in the Times when made undocumented suggestions like “you had all these whites saying, ‘Oh, there’s another vote from some drug addict.’” They also associated the notion of racial discrimination in job interviews with anti-Obama sentiment:
Stephanie Montgomery, who is black and a graduate of Franciscan University in Steubenville, said her race came up so often in her job search in this area that she developed a technique for recognizing when it was happening. The sign: when warmth on the phone turns cool in person, and “they lose eye contact with you.”
“You almost need a corporate environment to get a fair shot,” she said while standing at a job fair in the Steubenville mall. She said that she did not vote for Mr. Obama in 2008 because she preferred Mr. McCain’s more conservative platform, but that Mr. Obama seemed to be a lightning rod for criticism, in part because of his race.
“He’s everything they hate,” she said, referring to ultraconservatives. “An affirmative-action baby. Got the Nobel Prize without deserving it.”
Franciscan University is a very traditional Catholic college (my son attended it for a year). It’s very pro-life, so it would make sense that Montgomery might not be your ideal Obama voter in 2008. But did she say “ultraconservatives,” or is the Times suddenly projecting?
Here was Tavernise’s methodology in her hunt for racism: "In 50 interviews in this county over three days last week, 5 people raised race directly as a reason they would not vote for Mr. Obama," Tavernise reports. She di not ask "specifically about race, but about their views on the candidates generally," so that "those who raised the issue did so of their own accord."
As James Taranto at The Wall Street Journal theorized, “If 45 of 50 interview subjects didn't mention race, one could just as easily take the position that the glass is 90% full rather than 10% empty.” But Tavernise and the Times felt that even a small amount of what they perceive to be racism could be crucial in a close election.
It’s also ridiculous for the Times to imply through its mining for quotes that the concept that Obama “got the Nobel Prize without deserving it” is racist. Obama felt he won the Nobel Prize without deserving it.
Tavernise sometimes didn't find the quotes that actually would match her thesis:
Many who raised race as a concern cast Mr. Obama as a flawed candidate carried to victory by blacks voting for the first time. Others expressed concerns indirectly, through suspicions about Mr. Obama’s background and questions about his faith.
“He was like, ‘Here I am, I’m black and I’m proud,’ ” said Lesia Felsoci, a bank employee drinking a beer in an Applebee’s. “To me, he didn’t have a platform. Black people voted him in, that’s why he won. It was black ignorance.”
Louis Tripodi, a baker in Steubenville who voted for Mr. Obama, blames talk radio and Republican rhetoric for encouraging such attitudes. “ ‘He’s a Muslim, he’s a socialist, he’s not born in this country,’ ” he said. “It’s got a lot to do with race.”
Anyone who reads these sentences can see it’s the liberal who brings up Obama’s background and faith, and assumes it's "racist" for radio hosts to suggest Obama is selling socialistic ideas like nationalizing the auto companies and the health care system. Felsoci was talking about blacks voting overwhelmingly for Obama. It might not be “black ignorance,” in that black voters are stupid, but it might be “black disinterest in the facts, voting blindly on race.”
See Samuel L. Jackson: "I voted for Barack because he was black. Cause that's why other folks vote for other people -- because they look like them...That’s American politics, pure and simple. [Obama’s] message didn’t mean [bleep] to me.”
But the Times never noticed that comment.
When recent polls show black voters prefer Obama 90 percent to 4, why isn’t the Times sending one of their reporters into neighborhood bars to ask them if they’re racist? If as the Times suggests in its headline, that it's sad "Race Is Still an Issue for Some Voters," can we expect a reporter tsk-tsking at black tribalism?