Though we didn’t hear much about race in the presidential campaign
for a while, it has re-emerged in recent days. Who’s raising it?

The media, for one. Like this cover of Time. 

What’s the point of this story
at this time? That in spite of Sen. Barack Obama’s amazing ascendancy
and lead in the polls, positioning him as the likely next
president…..people are hiding their racism and really don’t support him
as much as they would a “generic” Democratic candidate in a
hypothetical poll?

That’s what it says.

Some attribute it to something less distasteful: Obama’s
unfamiliarity, his “exotic” background, his comparatively recent
emergence on the political stage. The doubters–they would call
themselves realists–often assert that these are just euphemisms for
prejudice, a way of camouflaging what lies beneath.

So Time looks at the role race is playing in this election…

No one can say for certain what is in people’s hearts.
But what we found is a very American answer: people are pragmatic and
seem willing to evaluate the candidates on the merits of their
character and ideas. And, yes, Obama is still unfamiliar to plenty of
voters–but what we also discovered is that anxieties about the economy
are trumping anxieties that some people have about Barack Obama.

So…..is Time injecting racial prejudice in this, when the American
people are willing to evaluate the candidates on the merits of their
character and ideas?

And, does it occur to the Time editors that some anxieties that some
people have about Barack Obama are not race-related, but experience and
leadership and idea-related?

Time sent out an editor-at-large to investigate the heartland.

David found a good number of blue collar white voters
who said they plan to vote for Obama because of the economy, and some
who say they plan to vote against him because they disagree with his
policies. But he found little evidence that race will be a determining
factor either way.

So why the cover?

It may be media coverage like this that prompted this Acton Institute commentary on racial politics.

With only a few weeks to Election Day, racial politics
has reared its pathetic head as pundits attempt to decipher poll
numbers and audience comments at political rallies.

But who’s raising it? Pundits, mainly. But now that it’s raised, we’re in the thick of it again.

While using race as an ultimate criterion for supporting
or rejecting a candidate is equally unjustifiable and shallow, the
possibility of doing exactly that is one of the trade-offs of being
free. Positively, freedom permits us to choose a candidate according to
important issues such as his or her positions on abortion, the role of
government in meeting the needs of the poor, foreign policy, and
education. I am happy to live in a country with this type of liberty
rather than a regime where I have no role in choosing leaders to
represent me.

The question, Bradley says, is not whether racism still exists, but why did anyone ever think it would go away?

When I hear African Americans, Latinos, and Asians
lament, “It’s 2008 and racism still exist in America,” I want to shout,
“What fairy tail were you reading that said racism would ever cease?”
One of the historic tenets of Judeo-Christianity, along with many other
religions, is that evil exists in the world. As long as people lack the
moral formation to escape it, there will always be racism.

Bradley is a bit harsh on the public here, and I don’t agree with
some of this assessment of voters’ civic values, but note it’s prefaced
with ”the media’s recent displays of racial politics”. So again, look
at how the media are forming public opinion by saying they’re reflecting public opinion.

Here’s the issue at heart…

What Americans must embrace is their responsibility as
virtuous citizens concerned about the common good. This means that we
put non-essential issues like race aside, to choose a candidate with
the character and competence necessary to offer leadership on the
pressing issues of our times.

For example, which candidate has the wisdom to understand that
championing economic liberty in the market has historically proven to
be the best way to create wealth and lift people out of poverty? Which
candidate champions justice embedded in a rule of law that keeps
corruption, power, and greed in check?

Which candidate has the humility to know that neither he, nor any
other small group of central planners, has enough knowledge or
expertise to use government to manage the lives of 300 million people?
Which candidate has the courage to fight for human life? Which
candidate has the personal integrity to encourage trust and
cooperation? In light of these critical questions, who cares about the
candidate’s race?

Exactly.

Sheila Liaugminas

Sheila Liaugminas is an Emmy award-winning Chicago-based journalist in print and broadcast media. Her writing and broadcasting covers matters of faith, culture, politics and the media....