Tuesday, January 22, 2008

The Race Heats Up

As the race for the Democratic presidential candidates to snag critical delegates heats up in South Carolina, the tone of the debate has been cranked up to a whole new level. It's becoming clear that race is becoming more of a factor as both Democratic front-runners are increasingly becoming more divided along racial lines.

During last night's debate Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton clashed for over ten minutes over the Clinton's repeated attacks on inconsistencies in Obama's voting record in the Senate and his current position as a presidential candidate.

At one point they both traded cheap shots; Obama calling Clinton out for sitting on the board of Wal Mart while she was a lawyer; and Clinton accusing Obama of having worked for a campaign contributor who is alleged to be tied to legal improprieties.

The tension is showing. In Greenwood, South Carolina, Obama snapped at New York Times reporter Jeff Zeleny who confronted him on the effects the Clinton attacks are having on his campaign.

I've been impressed with Obama's campaign. If he becomes the nation's next president, his race is going to impact his presidency in a variety of ways. There's no question he's going to have to mature as a politician very quickly.

Bill and Hillary Clinton are savvy politicians with a wealth of experience in the global political arena. They also come to this race with truckloads of credibility among African- Americans including myself. They're going to use any weapon in their arsenal including Obama's relative inexperience and race.

The sooner he learns to counteract these strategies and stray on message, the more effective his campaign is going to be. Indeed race and ethnicity are going to be an integral part of the 2008 election, in the end Obama's message of racial unity is going to have more widespread appeal amongst American voters - but it has to have as much intensity as the politics of division, it has to have more to reflect the will of the culturegeist who are weary of the road to the White House being lined with appeals to ingrained racial fears and cultural ignorance.

We're a better nation than that.

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