A January 17 Manchester, New Hampshire, Union Leader editorial commenting on Sen. Barack Obama's (D-IL) decision to form a presidential exploratory committee carried the headline: "If Obama runs: Will he get affirmative action." The editorial stated that it is "remarkable" that Americans "are telling pollsters that they ... are eager to elect a black man over a host of more experienced white candidates" and that "Obama's undeniable popularity is a sign that the justifications for affirmative action are crumbling all around us." The editorial's headline was first noted by the National Journal's Hotline, under Wake-Up Call! (subscription required).
From the January 17 Union Leader editorial:
The junior senator from Illinois has filed the legal paperwork necessary to begin campaigning for President of the United States. You probably wouldn't care, except this senator's name is Barack Obama, and despite having been in the Senate for only two years, he is one of the most admired men in America.
No, really. In a Gallup poll conducted last month, Obama finished fourth on the list of men Americans admired most. He beat out Bill Gates and the Rev. Billy Graham.
In a Concord Monitor poll last month, Obama finished in a statistical dead heat with Hillary Clinton as the favorite potential Presidential candidate of likely Democratic primary voters in New Hampshire. And in Iowa last month, Obama tied John Edwards as the favorite among likely Iowa Caucus voters.
Forget for a moment whether the people answering these questions have a clue what Obama's positions and beliefs are. What is remarkable is that Americans are telling pollsters that they not only are willing to see a black man become President, but that they are eager to elect a black man over a host of more experienced white candidates.
(Note also that Obama tops the polls in New Hampshire and Iowa, two of the whitest states in the union.)
In 2004, Al Sharpton had to accept public funds just to have any viable Presidential campaign. Some people suggested that racism was the reason. But Al Sharpton being Al Sharpton was the reason. Barack Obama is no Al Sharpton, and voters can see that.
Obama's undeniable popularity is a sign that the justifications for affirmative action are crumbling all around us. Yes, racism still exists, and always will. But with Obama generating this much enthusiasm among white voters nationwide, it can hardly be said that American society as a whole is infused with a subtle, pervasive racism that keeps minorities down.