Jimmy Carter Is Wrong -- It's Just Not About Race

Folks, as a marketer and an American I've got to say: I’m fed up.

It's just not about race.

And it is high time that President Obama, who marketed himself as a post-racial candidate, take the lead and move the current flap of Joe Wilson’s outburst last week far beyond racism.

From a marketing perspective this is critical for two reasons: 1) Obama was elected by a majority white nation -- this in itself is a statement that racism isn't a definitive factor in our nation anymore, if it was, he'd never be president -- end of story; and 2) he was elected because he promised to move the nation beyond the old ways of doing things. Well, making claims of racism is one of the old ways of doing things that he needs to decisively move us forward.

The electorate and Barack Obama's Target Market are waiting for a strong response and President Obama is the only one who can deliver it -- but will he?

Unfortunately, others seem to be speaking for him at this point and what they’re saying is only moving everything backward.

Then in an interview with NBC's Brian Williams, Jimmy Carter said this:

"I think an overwhelming portion of the intensely demonstrated animosity toward President Barack Obama is based on the fact that he is a black man."

That was the last straw. Fuggedaboutit.

I am not saying that racism doesn't exist or that it didn’t figure at all in Joe Wilson's words, but marketing (like true political leadership) is about what should be emphasized and what should be de-emphasized. And President Obama has consistently marketed his presidency as an issues driven one. Whenever faced with ambiguity or bad feeling that comes from who-knows-where, he has wisely chosen to either ignore it or treat it directly in a way that made it much less toxic.

There's an old song that Bing Crosby made famous. It goes something like this: You’ve got to accentuate the positive, Eliminate the negative, Latch onto the affirmative, Don’t mess with Mister-in-Between...

This isn't a Pollyanna sentiment; this is about making a positive choice to keep your eye on the issues that matter and making the ideal –in this case, a post-racial society -- a reality.

Bottom line, at crucial moments in our nation’s history, we have always been about accentuating the positive and ignoring the ambiguity that would wreck us.

To become a nation in which we had a president and not a king, we had to make affirmative choices. We had to emphasize our belief in one ideal over another old way of thinking. The attraction of monarchy remained (heck, we still talk about an imperial presidency) but it was gradually lessened first by George Washington's affirmative choice to be a president, not a king, and then by election and after election and presidency after presidency until the presidency was rock solid in our land.

Just as he made a famous speech to explain Reverend Wright, President Obama must now make a statement that accentuates the positive and doesn't mess with Mister-in-Between.

His is the post-racial brand and like any brand he must promote those post-racial characteristics like there's no tomorrow.

First, he needs to say that he believes that Joe Wilson's outburst and much of the animosity toward him from tea partiers and others is not about race. But then he needs to finally and firmly acknowledge what most of us already know:

The widespread anger and doubt (the hundreds of thousands marching on Washington) is about genuine ideological differences between the president and his opposition. It's about belief. It's about palpable fear that the Obama brand believes in a radically different vision of America than many Americans: a creeping nanny state, a place of big government and too little opportunity for re-invention and prosperity for the little guy.

Simply put, this vision and the opposition to this vision is color blind –and it's about time that our president made this fact unmistakably clear.

And remember, the business of politics is always easier when you keep marketing and branding in mind.

John Tantillo is branding editor for Fridge Magazine, the magazine for small business owners and entrepreneurs. He is the author of "People Buy Brands, Not Companies."