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Oglesby: The effects of race, money on votes

POSTED: January 6, 2009 1:00 a.m.

Let's pick up the continuing analysis of the presidential election. The deliberate campaign to discredit the president for political purposes, a discussion we started last time, had a huge overall effect.

The identity of CIA operative Valerie Plame was revealed in a Bob Novak column. Revelation is felony.

Democrats played it as revenge by the administration for a report her husband prepared that disputed an administration claim. They held investigative hearings pillorying the administration, leading to a special prosecutor.

In fact, state department official Richard Armitage inadvertently had mentioned her identity during a conversation. He immediately contacted the special prosecutor who told Armitage not to reveal his involvement to protect the prosecutorial investigations.

Upon completing his work, the prosecutor publicly confirmed Armitage was the inadvertent source and fully cooperated as asked. Vice President Dick Cheney's chief of staff was convicted, not of leaking but of lying to a grand jury, a verdict under appeal. The story that Plame's identity was "leaked" punitively has been repeated so much that many took it as fact. It weakened Bush, damaging his presidency.

The intolerance of the GOP right and Democratic left wings, coupled with single issue voters on both sides, had their effects. Primarily on the left, getting out of Iraq was the biggest issue after the undefined "change" Barack Obama's rhetoric promised. Some on both sides but primarily on the left went for Ralph Nader. A few on the right went for Bob Barr's Libertarians. This had more effect in early voting and hurt John McCain most.

Many on the right said they couldn't vote for McCain and early voted for Barr only to regret it.

Meanwhile, a perhaps larger number early voted for Obama before they realized the impossibility of his promises and regretted it. Overall, Obama benefited far more from early voting.

The net effect of Sarah Palin is hard to gauge. The right, lukewarm on McCain, was energized, improving lagging fundraising, reducing Libertarian votes and inspiring "stay-at-homers" to vote. As the surprise wore off, Democrat attacks accelerated, and many undecideds, independents and more moderate Republicans defected. Overall, I think she produced more net positives than negatives.

Racism existed on both sides. It wasn't the "hate whitey" type. It was an "I'm voting for him because he IS black" racism. Even blacks who conceded he was the least qualified, least experienced, least really known and least accomplished in American history voted some 98 percent for him. Blacks since the 1960s have voted overwhelmingly for Democrats, white or black. They'd have voted heavily for Hillary Clinton, had she been the nominee, but nowhere near Obama's near-unanimous margin.

The GOP right wing has more than its share of racists who won't vote for a black candidate because of race, particularly in the South. It's not nearly as blatant, though. Black candidates have been elected in black-majority cities, counties, congressional districts and states, though not as often in the South as the rest of the country.

Racism of other sorts exists in both parties, some of it racial, some regional, some religious. Many Southern evangelicals wouldn't vote for a Mormon regardless of other qualifications (a number of Republicans in this area personally told me so.) A number wouldn't for a Jew, others for a Catholic, and some won't for a Hispanic. The various racisms went considerably more in Obama's favor.

A huge factor was Obama's reneging on his pledge with McCain to accept public financing. He raised a record sum, enabling him to compete in normally GOP states, win some and force McCain to devote more of his resources in the others, freeing Obama to campaign more in swing states.

This was purely a political decision, gambling it wouldn't damage his personal integrity and credibility too much. It didn't. McCain was basing his campaign on experience and change AND on a long record of personal integrity. It worked spectacularly and may have been the single most important factor in the race, the economy notwithstanding.

We'll try to conclude next time.

Ted Oglesby is retired opinion page editor. Reach him at P.O. Box 663, Gainesville, GA 30503. His column appears biweekly and on gainesvilletimes.com.



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