"I never really thought about whether or not that I was racist, or however you want to put it," said Tina Graham. She fears Obama would focus on African-Americans at the expense of poor white people like herself. "It's just the fact that I think that he will represent them, and what they want, and what they need. ... They're his people, they're his race." (You can listen to the NPR story here.)While looking up that hyperlink, I was confronted with this story on the NPR homepage: "Searching for a President 'Just Like Us.'" This story is less about implicit racism than the populist appeal at work in both campaigns, but the title arrested my attention; for this is exactly what is at work in the aversion to Obama expressed in the above quote. He's not like me, this VA voter is saying. He is Them. And They are something to be afraid of--what They want and need is different from what We want and need, and we better make sure We elect someone who's going to work for Us. Not Them.
But what's been disturbing me today is not so much the spectre of implicit and unacknowledged racism or all the talk about "the Bradley effect" and how that may undermine Obama come election day.
What's disturbing me today is the realization that, for my own part, I dislike McCain because I recognize that McCain is Not Like Me. (He's hawkish, I have a peace dove tattooed on my foot. Etc.) Now, I hasten to assure myself, "Self, I have good reasons for being Me. So it's okay, there's nothing wrong here. It's a matter of principle and thoughtful rationale, not knee-jerk not-like-me-ness." I'd like to believe myself. But then there's Sarah Palin. Who is also very, very much Not Like Me.
And Obama is, perhaps surprisingly, Like Me. ("professorial!" oh, that warms the cockles of my heart, people!)