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September 10th, 2008
05:07 PM ET

Race, age, gender are taboo in election

Roland S. Martin | Bio
AC360° Contributor
CNN Political Analyst

One of the most intriguing conversations I had at either the Democratic or Republican convention was with a white labor leader from Ohio.

I can't remember his name, but he made it clear that he is going all around the Rust Belt state looking his white union brothers and sisters in the eye and essentially shaming them into supporting Sen. Barack Obama for president.

No, he's not saying vote for the black man for president because he's black.

He said he's telling them that it's shameful that as Democrats, they agree with him on various political issues, but because of his skin color, they are refusing to cast ballots for him.

"We have gone to our black brothers and sisters for years to support our [white] candidates, and it's wrong for us to stand here and not support one of their own, even though we're Democrats," he barked.

There is nothing more in-your-face than to hear someone speak truthfully to the inherent racism that is at play in this election.

For all the talk about inclusion and the historic nature of this campaign, the true tribal feelings of so many people will come into play, whether we want to admit it or not.

We are seeing remarkable bias playing strongly in this election. Exit-polling data in the primaries showed some evidence of bias when it came to age, race and gender, but the great concern is whether people are as honest in talking to pollsters as they are in the voting booth.

Because Sen. John McCain is 72 and would be the oldest person to be sworn in as president, there is a lot of dialogue about how old this white guy is, and how wrong it is that he's running. Age questions also have been raised about the 47-year-old black guy from Chicago and whether he is too young and inexperienced to lead.

While there is a lot of talk and excitement surrounding Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin being named as the first woman on a Republican ticket, and what that may mean in terms of widespread female support coming the way of McCain-Palin, there are some voices who refuse to vote for a woman.

We've also seen a number of prominent women - including Washington Post columnist Sally Quinn and radio talk show host Dr. Laura Schlessinger - who have questioned whether the 44-year-old white mother of five children should be vice president, considering she has five children, including a special needs child.

It's wonderful to talk about the economy, immigration, the war in Iraq, health care and education, but we can't be naïve to the reality that when voters go into that voting booth, they will, as one person told me during an interview, "vote with their tribe."

That was one of the arguments we heard during the Democratic primaries when Obama enjoyed overwhelming support from African-Americans - to the tune of 90-plus percent - while Sen. Hillary Clinton had major female support, largely white, in the range of 65 to 70 percent.

So what do we do when it comes to our tendency to follow group identification?

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Editor’s Note: You can read more from Roland at RolandSMartin.com

soundoff (107 Responses)
  1. Harold

    Someone ought to ask the question of Sen McCain, "if Palin was the candidte for the office of President of the United States, would you vote for HER"?

    September 11, 2008 at 9:41 pm |
  2. Evelyn

    Now I have had a enough, today I watched Pat Baucchan speak about how noble, and afraid Sarah Palin must be watching and seeing her 19 year old son being sent out to Iraq, how grand she must be feeling. Well I take offense to that statement from his mouth, I too have a daughter that went off to Afghan in June leaving behind two son's 8, and 5 years old who everyday ask about their mother, crying at night because their mother isn't home to tuck them in, she's not able to read a book at night for them, they cry at school because they color pictures and want to share them with her but can't, I dare you PB to make such a big deal about Sarah Palin's son going to Irag when there are many families, including me who have lost their family members to this man made war, you should be ashamed of yourself, Senator Joe Biden has a son leaving as well, mention that. I watched you P.B. during the primary election, and I must say, you need to refrain your distaste for Barack Obama it's ovious He's not your choice, and Sarah Palin is, but keep your showered praises about her and her family to yourself, she hasn't sacrificed anymore than me and the many families who have seen their children go to war not to return, and when they do return they are never the same.

    September 11, 2008 at 8:26 pm |
  3. Clarence Jenkins Jr.; SC

    I like Hillary and would be excellent in any position. As Donna Brazile has said that ship has left the dock in so many words. Hillary has join the team so why not you and let us kick the repubican party of of office.

    I will be that parrot again McClain has fat pockets, McClain has fat pockets, and McClain has fat pockets and now he is a reformer. I have one question for McClain, why did it take so long and fat pockets to see the light.

    September 11, 2008 at 7:37 pm |
  4. herb

    it's sad we have come so far and yet allow race to stand in the way. yes i am multi-racial and have live with it all my life. if i am a better person for the job–so be it–obama wake up those that are not going to vote for you-dont worry about it–move on they were not going to vote for you from the begining-i am glad all of the people dont look at race but at the man best qualified for the job

    September 11, 2008 at 6:17 pm |
  5. Kevin

    Roland, my mother is a grandmother that took care of my neices when my sister left, be cause she made a tough decision, can she be a vice president candidate too. Oh she was a soccer, football, baseball, basketball, track, and tennis mom. Top that Sarah.

    September 11, 2008 at 5:01 pm |
  6. Chris - Hemet, Ca.

    One thing that hasn't been mentioned much in this election (probably because of the elitist tag) is the intelligence factor of the candidates. I think it's safe to assume a smarter person will most likely make more thoughtful decisions and would probably be more apt to be right. I look at the four candidates (Ps and VPs) and the intel factor jumps out. John McCain, an American hero, graduated 894 out of 899 at the Naval Academy. Sarah Palin has a BA in Journalism and didn't know what the VP does when asked a month or so ago. Obama graduated from Harvard Law School and taught law at the U. of Chicago. I'm embarassed to say I haven't researched Joe Biden yet but I'm fairly familiar with his voting record and he seems like a pretty smart guy. When looking at it from this perspective McCain/Palin looks pretty scary.

    September 11, 2008 at 4:55 pm |
  7. Darry

    Mr. Martin, maybe you have already seen this, but I thought it was revealng to say the least.

    What if John McCain were a former president of the Harvard Law Review?
    What if Barack Obama finished fifth from the bottom of his graduating class?
    What if McCain were still married to the first woman he said 'I do' to? What
    if Obama were the candidate who left his first wife after she no longer
    measured up to his standards?

    What if Michelle Obama were a wife who not only became addicted to pain
    killers, but acquired them illegally through her charitable organization?
    What if Cindy McCain graduated from Harvard? What if Obama were a member of
    the 'Keating 5'? What if McCain was a charismatic, eloquent speaker?

    If these questions reflected reality, do you really believe the election
    numbers would be as close as they are?

    This is what racism does. It covers up, rationalizes and mini mizes positive
    qualities in one candidate and emphasizes negative qualities in another when
    there is a color difference.

    September 11, 2008 at 4:46 pm |
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