Will Obama be hurt by racism among white voters?

Friends and Colleagues:

AFL-CIO Secretary-Treasurer Richard Trumka, former president of the United Mine Workers union, recently gave one of the most powerful speeches I’ve ever seen, challenging white voters, especially union members, not to allow racism to get in the way of support for Barack Obama.   He delivered this incredible speech to a convention of the Steelworkers union in West Virginia a few weeks ago. It will stir your soul.  View it below, more after the jump.


Political analysts are now debating whether, or how much, Obama will be hurt by racism among white voters.  Some are concerned about the so-called “Bradley effect,” named after former Los Angeles Mayor Tom Bradley, who, a few days before election day, was leading in the polls when he ran for governor in 1982, but who lost the election to white Republican George Deukmejian. Since then, the “Bradley effect” has meant the reluctance of white voters to tell pollsters that they won’t vote for a black candidate.  The question today is whether the “Bradley effect” is as powerful now as it was 26 years ago.  Undoubtedly there are white voters who won’t vote for Obama because he’s black, even if they won’t admit that to themselves, much less to pollsters.  But is the number of such voters large enough to sway the election in key swing states?  Will voters  under 40 — who are less likely to vote for or against a candidate based on race — account for a large enough proportion of the electorate to undermine the “Bradley effect” on November 4?  (Another important question: do the current polls under-estimate support for Obama because so many young people rely on cell phones, while polls mainly survey people using home phone numbers).

And will the efforts of the labor movement — and the powerful appeal to union solidarity by Trumka and others — not only expand turnout among union members and households, but persuade more union members to vote for Obama. (In 2004, despite John Kerry’s tepid campaign and upper-crust demeanor, union members gave him 61 percent of their votes over George W. Bush. In the battleground states, where unions focused their turnout efforts, they did even better. In Ohio, for example, union members favored Kerry by a 67 to 31 percent margin).

The McCain campaign is counting on the “Bradley effect.”  In fact, they are doing everything they can to get voters to think about Obama in racial terms, as well as to associate him with radicals, troublemakers, community organizers, and other groups whom they hope will turn white, swing voters against him.

For different views about the potential size of the “Bradley effect,” see the following:

Two more items on different topics:

First, if you haven’t yet seen the Saturday Night Live spoof of the Palin-Biden debate, don’t miss it.

Second, while the White House and Congress were fighting over the Wall Street bail-out, and whether the cause of the mortgage meltdown was too much or not enough government regulation of the financial services industry, housing activists in Los Angeles were gaining momentum.  Last week, LA Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa announced a bold housing plan that involved more regulation of landlords and developers in order to improve housing conditions in the city.  My article in the Huffington Post last Friday, “Keeping Hope – and Housing — Alive in LA,”  examines how community and union activists have been waging their grassroots campaign.
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Posted in Politics & Elections
One comment on “Will Obama be hurt by racism among white voters?
  1. Eric Lee says:

    I just stopped by your blog and thought I would say hello. I like your site design. Looking forward to reading more down the road.

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