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When Will ‘Barack Hussein Obama’ Become the Issue?

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In the American Conservative, Scott McConnell notes that the liberal blogosphere goes nuts when anyone raises the "Barack Hussein Obama" issue–as Bob Kerrey did, mildly, wondering if Obama’s background would stop people from voting for him–but that in fact the general electorate will be receptive to this sort of smear come the fall.

Can we acknowledge that no contemporary Trollope or
Allen Drury seeking to dramatize the emergence of a talented
half-African presidential contender would consider burdening his hero
with a name that evokes both of America’s best-known enemies in the War on Terror?…
The political class, far more cosmopolitan than the
rest of the country, has been intrigued with Obama for years. But by
this summer, both parties will be playing to a broad electorate, in
most cases more than twice the percentage of voters who turn out for a
contested early state primary. Compared to primary voters, November
voters are lower on the political awareness scale, less educated, less
prosperous, less tuned in. Many will be forming an opinion about Barack
Obama for the first time during and after the conventions, and branding
him could be done comparatively quickly. Democrats in 1988 were
astonished at how rapidly Michael Dukakis was “defined” by Willie
Horton and how fast the Duke’s double-digit lead in national polls
evaporated…. On
what basis should we assume that white working-class voters (precisely
those most resistant to Obama’s electoral appeal thus far) would be
completely unmoved by a campaign geared to question Obama’s

I take McConnell’s point; and god knows a lot of us are braced for the general election and all that it will bring. Nightmares!

But the test matters as much as the result. There are times when a country is called to a larger field of values, and this is one of them. An Obama campaign is sure to redefine America, and pull it forward to a motley America I seek. That is why I’m enthusiastic. Will there be a reaction? Of course. Will it be that bad? Who knows. Maybe it won’t, maybe America will pass the test. If we peel away now from the challenge, that’s worse. And anyway, isn’t it surprising that the Clintons haven’t pushed this one–yet?

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