The WALTHER REPORT
By Tony Walther
If Barack Obama loses this presidential race it may well be due to white voters of all education and economic levels who just can’t get themselves to vote a black man into the White House and even more so due to blue-collar workers my age, 59, and older who have memories of the riots and looting of the 60s.
And if that sounds racist, I’m sorry.
I definitely am not saying that Obama should not win because of the color of his skin and surely he is not to blame for the 60s.
Right now it looks as if it will be a tight race, perhaps the closest ever, so any little thing can win it or lose it for either Obama or John McCain.
But if you’re my age or older you remember George Wallace and his calls in the 60s for law and order and his rants against hippies and commies and black rioters.
Wallace was a little too much on the fringe (even though he did get a lot of votes) to make it to the White House, but his sentiments helped Richard Nixon get there.
The post Vietnam generations have no way of understanding what it was like in the 60s. We were truly a nation divided, even families were divided.
You had the Vietnam war, which kind of snuck up on everyone and had generally good support at first, but as it dragged on and it became apparent that we were not getting anywhere and that we did not have any clear plan for victory and perhaps not even a definition for victory, and that we were slaughtering many of the people we were supposedly trying to help, that support waned. Sound familiar?
At the same time, while as a whole the nation supported the idea of ensuring civil rights that had been so long denied to black people even after their ancestors were emancipated from slavery a hundred years before, we all were aghast and even scared by the rioting and looting by black mobs in the major urban centers. And of course it is not fair to law-abiding blacks who get blamed for the actions of those who don’t obey the law, but that’s the way it was.
And there’s something else going on here too. Sometimes it helps to read literature. Read a book such as “Accordion Crimes,” by Annie Proulx, and you will find that especially in the working class circles throughout our history there has been fierce competition between ethnic and racial groups, not just white vs. black.
And how do you think the landed aristocracy of the South got regular poor down home boys to fight for their, the plantation owners, right to hold black human beings as slaves? And how did the upper class whites get those same folks and their ancestors to support segregation and discrimination after the Civil War? They appealed to the fear of loss of jobs and places to live and even places to farm due to a newly liberated class of people.
Obama, as one news story I read noted, does not even have slave ancestors, and I add, he is only half black, but he is, of course, by appearance simply a black man. So that is something, even though not really fair at all, he has to overcome.
I actually think that with each new generation the remnants of racial prejudice are dying out – well at least the prejudice against blacks. Nowadays we have illegal immigration and even legal immigration and outsourcing and that could be a whole new ball of wax.
Obama has some kind of gift that has brought him to where he is today and with his speech tonight he may be able to overcome. I think he is right not to emphasize his race (and not to run from it, either). He needs to come across with the issues and put out the message that he has better judgment than the crowd that is running things today.
He does seem to think things through, rather than shoot from the hip, and I think that could indeed be refreshing and good for the nation.
We’ll tune in tonight.