Given the survey results regarding Obama and McCain, the best evidence seems to show that race is not a major factor for most Americans. I obviously would not say that we have “transcended” race or that race has no impact at all on how people are making their political decisions. However, race matters much less than in the past and this seems to be a mark of moral progress in America.
While McCain and Palin have been accused of trying to bring race into the race, McCain has clearly taken steps to try to keep the focus on Obama’s ties to Ayers rather than to allow a slippery slope slide from “palling around with a terrorist” into racism. I don’t think that McCain wants to make use of race. First, he seems to be a decent person and has little tolerance for intolerance. Second, he is a smart enough politician to know that while racism might get a few votes, it will also lose many more.
Interestingly, it has been the Democrats who seem to be running into problems regarding racism. Most recently, John Murtha called Western Pennsylvania racist. Other Democrats and Obama supporters have also alleged racism on the part of people in that region and there was, of course, Obama’s infamous remark about how such people are bitterly clinging to God, guns and racism.
Obviously enough, accusing people of being racist is not an effective way to win votes. Hence, Murtha recently apologized for his remarks and the Obama camp is being more careful about making accusations of racism. There is also the matter of perception: the more left leaning Democrats are often seen as obsessed with race and gender and the squabbling over race and gender in the primaries did not help. Not surprisingly, this perceived obsession does not play that well with mainstream America-in part, because it seems to (ironically) be based in racism and sexism. When it is implied (or claimed) that people are supporting McCain just because he is a white man, then it is implied that his supporters must be racist or sexist (or both). However, this is not the case. Most people support McCain because they agree with his views or find him more appealing than Obama. While my friends and associates are not a representative sample, the people I know who support McCain do so because they think he has more experience and they share his conservative views. They would support him even against any liberal-even a white, male liberal.
So, race is still a factor-but it is now often a factor because people are being (often unfairly) accused of being racist.