I anticipate that most black Americans will believe that an Obama defeat will have stemmed in substantial part from a prejudice that robbed 40 million Americans of the chance to become president on the day they were born black. They will of course understand that race wasn't the only significant variable — that party affiliation, ideological proclivities, strategic choices and dumb luck also mattered. But deep in their bones, they will believe — and probably rightly — that race was a key element, that had the racial shoe been on the other foot — had John McCain been black and Obama white — the result would have been different.
I'm inclined to agree that Obama starts out with an overall disadvantage because of his race, but I wonder what readers think of Kennedy's hypothetical. Let's say that the Democratic candidate was white, but had a bio similar to Obama's: grew up in Hawaii and Indonesia, went to Ivy League schools, worked as a community organizer, then state legislator, then one-term Senator, all the while showing signs that, as co-blogger Jim Lindgren says, he has a very moderate personality, but is among the most left-wing candidates in personal ideology in modern history. And let's say the Republican candidate was black, but like McCain, was a former POW, a relatively moderate Republican, and one who had a history of tangling with the Republican Party establishment, gaining a reputation as a gadfly. Let's also assume that this Republican candidate had been a member of a mainstream African American church free of the radical ideology of Jeremiah Wright's church.
Do readers think it's correct to assume that in this hypothetical matchup, the Republican candidate's race would be a significant disadvantage? And would the Democratic candidate likely have been as successful a candidate against Hillary as Obama turned out to be?
Again, I'm not denying Kennedy's main point, that if Obama loses a close election, racism may well be a decisive factor. I'm just wondering whether there are some interesting nuances that could be discussed.