Will Obama End Racism Among Democrats?

By Noel SheppardAssociate Editor, NewsBusters.org

As America prepares for the inauguration of its first black President, an inconvenient truth dogs the country: Democrats are treated far differently than their Republican counterparts when race is involved.

[caption id="attachment_5236" align="aligncenter" width="300" caption="President-elect Barack Obama on January 8 (AP)"][/caption]

Take for example the recent actions by Senate Democrats concerning who should fill president-elect Barack Obama's vacant seat.

On January 3, The Chicago Sun-Times reportedthat Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) told Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich back in November that he didn't want Jesse Jackson, Jr., Danny Davis, or Emil Jones -- black men all -- appointed as Obama's successor. Instead, Reid recommended two white women: Illinois Veterans Affairs chief Tammy Duckworth and Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan.

Will Obama finally define racism as an abhorrent behavior performed by anyoneirrespective of party affiliation, or is that too much to ask?

Despite the obvious racial component, there was no media outrage concerning this matter. Quite the contrary, few press outlets even bothered to report it.

Contrast that with what would have transpired if the GOP controlled the Senate and a white Republican majority leader told the corrupt Illinois governor not to appoint a black man for this position instead pressuring him to pick a white woman.

Such a revelation would have been on the front page of every newspaper the following Sunday, as well as the primary focus of discussion on that morning's political talks shows, while receiving hourly coverage from all the television news media outlets to the point that the "guilty party" would be forced to, at the very least, apologize. Even worse, as the Trent Lott precedent showed, said person may have been pressured to resign as Majority Leader.

For those that have forgotten, Lott was forced to cede his leadership position in December 2002 due to the outrage over innocent comments he made at the 100th birthday party for former Sen. Strom Thurmond.

Although the overtones of this alleged conversation between Reid and Blagojevich were far more racist, there have been no calls for an apology from the Majority Leader, and no suggestion he step down from his leadership role.

Even more curious, a claim of racismby black Congressman Bobby Rush (D-Ill.) concerning the refusal by Reid and associates to seat Roland Burris last Tuesday also went largely ignored. The evening news programs on the three broadcast networks, despite paying a tremendous amount of attention to Burris not being seated, didn't mention Rush's accusation that night. Neither did CNN. Ditto the print versions of The New York Times and The Washington Post the following day.

Yet, these same media outlets last year were quick to label as racist virtually anything said about Obama by the McCain campaign:

  • If the campaign referred to domestic terrorist Bill Ayers, that was racist.
  • If the campaign referred to Rev. Jeremiah Wright, that was racist.
  • If the campaign referred to Obama's middle name, that was racist.
  • If the campaign showed pictures of former Fannie Mae CEO Franklin Raines in an ad, that was racist.
  • If the campaign showed pictures of Paris Hilton and Britney Spears in an ad, that was racist.
  • If the campaign showed a picture of an old white woman in an ad, that was racist.

Consider that in his speech to the nationabout race last March, then presidential candidate Obama said:

The fact is that the comments that have been made and the issues that have surfaced over the last few weeks reflect the complexities of race in this country that we've never really worked through -- a part of our union that we have yet to perfect. And if we walk away now, if we simply retreat into our respective corners, we will never be able to come together and solve challenges like health care, or education, or the need to find good jobs for every American. [...]

Contrary to the claims of some of my critics, black and white, I have never been so naive as to believe that we can get beyond our racial divisions in a single election cycle, or with a single candidacy - particularly a candidacy as imperfect as my own.

But I have asserted a firm conviction - a conviction rooted in my faith in God and my faith in the American people - that working together we can move beyond some of our old racial wounds, and that in fact we have no choice is we are to continue on the path of a more perfect union. [...]

For we have a choice in this country. We can accept a politics that breeds division, and conflict, and cynicism. We can tackle race only as spectacle -- as we did in the OJ trial -- or in the wake of tragedy, as we did in the aftermath of Katrina -- or as fodder for the nightly news...We can do that.

But if we do, I can tell you that in the next election, we'll be talking about some other distraction. And then another one. And then another one. And nothing will change.

That is one option. Or, at this moment, in this election, we can come together and say, "Not this time."

Did candidate Obama really mean these words, or were they just rhetoric on the campaign trail he knew his adoring press would gobble up with both hands? If the latter, he was right, for this speech was lauded by media members from coast to coast:

  • MSNBC's Chris Matthews hailedit as "worthy of Abraham Lincoln."
  • "Good Morning America" calledit "historic" and "not only important for his campaign but also for the future of the country."
  • The New York Times saidit "could be likened only to speeches by Presidents Lyndon B. Johnson, John F. Kennedy and Abraham Lincoln."
  • The broadcast network evening news programs calledit "historic," "extraordinary," and a "gift" for "confronting racism in America."

Will Obama finally define racism as an abhorrent behavior performed by anyoneirrespective of party affiliation, or is that too much to ask as we celebrate the inauguration of the first black President of the United States of America?

Noel Sheppard is associate editor of the Media Research Center's NewsBusters.org. He welcomes feedback at nsheppard@newsbusters.org.