Ah, the Obama fandom. Much to my dismay, Michael Berube has shown himself to be a member. I haven't been so crushed since I found out one of my sisters was a secret Buffy-Angel shipper, even in the 7th season.
First of all, Michael is funny, and it's always a bit tough to find that line between sincerity and irony with him. It's something I've always loved about his writing. Now, I'm supposed to wait and find out how his conclusion that hick racists are Clinton's base was a joke, but that means I'd have to haunt TPM, and I'm having some blood pressure issues already. I shouldn't add to the stress.
Second, I'm not really paying much attention to the campaigns. I haven't watched a single campaign event, including the famous Obama speech (I read it), so my knowledge is pretty much filtered by others and thus I consider it a bit unreliable.
So let's for the sake of argument say that Hillary Clinton is running a campaign where she is deliberately using appeals to voters' racism in order to garner votes.
Is that really substantially different from Obama's speech? Well, yes. And no.
This may depend, of course, on how you read Obama's approach. I have a few conservative/libertarian friends. Good people, but misguided. And most of them LOVE Obama. Why? Because they think he "will listen" to them. He won't judge them or accuse them of hating the poor or blacks or of being awful people. They feel that Clinton, however, is the kind of prosy, lecturing bore they knew in high school, always telling them what to do and how to feel.
This concerns me. I think what a lot of people do not realize is that there is a whole lot of latent racism there that people want to leave be. It's one of the reasons Libertarianism appeals to the white supremacist/end-of-the-world types. They just want to be left to themselves to be as racist and/or kooky as they want, and Libertarianism is the political philosophy that will let that happen.
Now, do I really think Obama wants to make nice with racists as a matter of national policy? No, of course not. I'm perfectly comfortable with the idea that this is a political strategy is using to court support of more conservative voters. I hate the strategy. I don't think we should be making nice with people who want to be left alone to be racist, who want their racist ideas to be heard and listened to. Is that what the national conversation about race will involve? Everyone baring their soul and exposing their innermost racist thoughts, crying on each other's shoulders? I've seen that song before in Avenue Q, and it was a lot funnier and entertaining there.
Obama's campaign relies on appealing to racists just as much as Clinton's does. They take different approaches, and Obama at least is making a hand-wave to the potential transformation of racists. Yes, all the bad stuff is going to melt away before the awesomeness that is Obama. Whatever. I'll still vote for him if he's the candidate in November, and I pretty much believe he is a good guy who'll do his best for our country.
But I don't delude myself into believing that he is any less politically canny when appealing to racist voters than Clinton is.