Bob Novak recently reported that some Democrats have counseled Hillary Clinton, if she should win the nomination, not to select Barack Obama as her Vice Presidential nominee. I was among several bloggers who noted that the failure to select Obama could sour African American voters to her candidacy. Yesterday Senator Obama showed that he's not afraid to play the race card:
"I'm probably the only candidate who having won the nomination can actually redraw the political map," Obama told a Democratic voter skeptical that he could defeat a Republican candidate.
"I guarantee you African-American turnout, if I'm the nominee, goes up 30 percent around the country, minimum," Obama said. "Young people's percentage of the vote goes up 25-30 percent. So we're in a position to put states in play that haven't been in play since LBJ."
Democrats regularly criticize Republicans who make racial appeals to voters; how is this any different? Obama is playing identity politics and endorsing the idea that people will vote for him because of the color of his skin.
The flip side is that African Americans won't come out and support the nominee if he or she is white. That's racial blackmail -- 'vote for me or black Democrats stay home on election day. 'Obama is telling Democratic leaders that he is willing to play the race card to get what he wants. If Hillary is the nominee, will Obama tell African Americans that they ought to be disappointed that the Democratic party rejected their favorite son? Will he say that Hillary needs to select him, or see black turnout fall?
If Obama wants to continue to run as a different kind of candidate, he'd be better off taking back this comment. It sounds like it was an offhand comment -- like some of the other gaffes he's made -- but it's entirely inappropriate, and it encourages racial divisions. And for a candidate who claims to offer 'something different,' it sounds an awful lot like something that Jesse Jackson or Al Sharpton would say.