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January 11th, 2010
03:12 PM ET

Harry Reid wrong on many levels

Melissa Harris-Lacewell
Special to CNN

Sen. Harry Reid's comments during the 2008 Democratic primary show that he is socially awkward, but they certainly don't prove he is a secret racist. If anything, these comments show that Reid may know about white voters, but he doesn't understand black voters at all.

Reid's assessment that President Obama's light skin was beneficial to his electability among white voters may be accurate, but it's certainly not decisive. Think of it this way: We can divide white voters into three categories relative to black candidates. One group believes that blacks, as a group, are unqualified to hold public office. They will refuse to vote for a black candidate regardless of his politics or his skin tone. Surveys indicate that this is a dwindling part of the white electorate.

Another group of white voters is deeply committed to interracial political coalitions and are enthusiastic about voting for black candidates when they have the opportunity. This group is also largely unaffected by characteristics like skin color.

Finally, there is a group of white voters who are willing to vote for a black candidate, but who need to feel comfortable that the candidate will represent their interests. These white voters are looking for cues, signals and signs.

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soundoff (4 Responses)
  1. Forrest Talley

    I am so sick of all this talk about the poor blacks being wronged....at one point blacks referred to themselves as negros'! Whites get called so many names and we just let the ball bounce. Why don't we talk about unemployment, taxes, gas prices and etc.

    SICK TO DEATH IN MISSOURI!!!!

    January 11, 2010 at 10:23 pm |
  2. Loretta maul

    he said this about obama not any one else. If obama was mad about it and felt he should resgin then obama would tell him too . Obama has not told him to resgin so everyone need to let it go.

    January 11, 2010 at 10:13 pm |
  3. alex lyrics

    I don't know why anyone is acting so surprised, minorities have been experiencing racism on many levels for years.

    I am a Democrat, and although I understand the senators comments, I also have been on the receiving end of the racism, and comments as an African American.

    I only hope that I will see in my lifetime a day when race no longer matters in this country.

    Sadly enough , I don't think that I will, but who knows I didn't think Id see an African American President like Obama either.

    God bless America

    January 11, 2010 at 4:19 pm |
  4. Tim Gibson

    I think what is wrong on so many levels is the "storm" that has arose from Reid's comments. I personally do not support Reid, nor the majority of his gang in congress, but lets get real here. Is this story really worth that much exposure?

    January 11, 2010 at 4:11 pm |