Tuesday, August 26, 2008


Obama's nomination is consistent with the notion that race ceased being determinative in America, a view I've long espoused. So why do lefties use Obama's example to conclude the opposite? The latest is liberal Slate writer Jacob Weisberg warning that "Racism is the only reason McCain might beat him":
Such prejudice usually comes coded in distortions about Obama and his background. To the willfully ignorant, he is a secret Muslim married to a black-power radical. Or—thank you, Geraldine Ferraro—he only got where he is because of the special treatment accorded those lucky enough to be born with African blood. Some Jews assume Obama is insufficiently supportive of Israel in the way they assume other black politicians to be. To some white voters (14 percent in the CBS/New York Times poll), Obama is someone who, as president, would favor blacks over whites. Or he is an "elitist" who cannot understand ordinary (read: white) people because he isn't one of them. Or he is charged with playing the race card, or of accusing his opponents of racism, when he has strenuously avoided doing anything of the sort. We're just not comfortable with, you know, a Hawaiian.
The only reason? Does Weisberg claim he can read America's mind? How about foreign affairs? Or energy policy? Sometimes "elitist" isn't a code-word for race.

Best of the Web's James Taranto applies Aristotle:
Weisberg is committing the logical fallacy of denying the antecedent. This consists of an argument in the following form:
If P, then Q.
Not P.
Therefore, not Q.
In this case, P is "Obama wins the presidency," and Q is (in our simplified paraphrase) "America has overcome its legacy of racism."

Another way of formulating Weisberg's argument is this: Obama's victory is a sufficient condition for America to have overcome its legacy of racism. Therefore, Obama's victory is a necessary condition for America to have overcome its legacy of racism. This is true only if one accepts as a premise that Obama's victory is logically equivalent to America's having overcome its legacy of racism--a silly premise, given that Obama's even winning the nomination was contingent on so many factors. . .

So, has America overcome its legacy of racism? Those who say "no" seem to offer only faulty logic and imaginary data to support their position. Still, absence of evidence is not evidence of absence. To conclude definitively that they are wrong would be the argumentum ad ignoratiam, another logical fallacy. If Obama loses, racism may be the reason.
I can't fault Taranto's syllogism, but governmental decisionmaking doesn't demand absolute certainty. I can't prove that unicorns don't exist--because, who knows, one could be around the corner!--but we don't base public policy on that remote possibility. Even Justice O'Connor set a 25 year sunset on upholding the unicorn. At some point--for mythical beasts or enduring bigotry--the lack of evidence is evidence.

Contrary to popular wisdom, the obsession about race seems to lie largely with the left.

1 comment:

OBloodyHell said...


I've already been over this one extensively here and elsewhere.

If Obama's race is a factor in your consideration of him at all, you're a racist.

If you only care about the policies he supports, the positions he takes, or the programs he advocates in your decision, then you aren't. And that can allow you to reasonably, and rationally, vote for *OR* against him.

Voting for Obama because he's black is just as utterly racist as voting against him. No, it does not matter if you want to "prove" you aren't racist... because you've just proven otherwise. "White Guilt" just prolongs the race problem.

"I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character."

If you're voting for *OR* against Obama on the basis of his skin color, then you are not judging him by his character, but by the color of his skin. That it's a "positive" judgement does not change that.

"I'm sorry, Mr. King, but certain parties, notably the Democrats and others on the Left, refuse to give up their racism. Your dream, as well as your grandkids, will have to wait for at least another decade."