Sunday, January 10, 2010

Harry Reid: Shame On You, Big MA Upset Brewing?

If you have been living in a cave the past 24 hours, perhaps you missed Senator Harry Reid's revealed words about President Obama from the campaign trail in 2008. To be specific, Senator Reid said that then-candidate had a real opportunity to win because he was "light-skinned" and "had no Negro dialect, unless he wanted to".

You could certainly make an intellectual argument that America was more ready to accept a bi-racial President than a dark-skinned black President. You could similarly argue that if the President did not have strong command of proper language skills, he would not have been a viable candidate. Neither of these are the point.

The subtext of Senator Reid's remarks reveal a clear racism. First, the choice of the word "Negro", a word broadly considered offensive in the African-Ameican community for well over 40 years. Second, the notion that somehow President Obama's ability to speak without "Negro dialect" in some way set him apart from most African-Americans is simply wrong and deeply racist. Cory Booker can't speak to white people? How about Deval Patrick? David Patterson? Heck, Jesse Jackson speaks perfect English and he ran for President 22 years ago. What does Senator Reid think, that 95% of African-Americans go to work every day and talk like 50 Cent?

Perhaps Senator Reid's problem is that he doesn't actually know that many black people. At the time he made those remarks, there was but one African-American Senator, Senator Barack Obama. There is still only one African-American Senator, the embattled Roland Burris, and there will likely be none come December.

Michael Steele made the point on the Sunday talk circuit that there is a double-standard in play here, that if a Republican had made similar remarks, he would have been run out of town. And he has a point. The eagerness to forgive and forget on the left in this case in extremely inconsistent. When Senator Trent Lott made the remark that if Strom Thurmond had become President, "maybe we wouldn't have a lot of the problems we have today", a reference which those of us familiar with Thurmond's 1948 Dixiecrat run for President assumed referred to civil rights legislation, but which Lott never explicitly said, seem downright mild compared with Reid's verbal offense.

President Obama has issued a statement of forgiveness and support for Senator Reid. I do not grant the President the right to make a determination of forgiveness on behalf of anyone beyond himself. If he wants to forgive Senator Reid, that is certainly his right. And I might forgive Senator Reid, who is clearly sorry, personally. But words have meaning and statements have consequences. Senator Harry Reid cannot lead the Democratic Party in the Senate after making such a deeply racist statement. He should step down immediately from his post.

No need to call for his resignation -- voters in Nevada have the opportunity to make their own judgement in November. And I suspect that this is just a nail in the coffin.

Coakley and Brown in a Dead Heat??? Not So Fast.
There was a poll that lit up the political internet yesterday, a Public Policy Polling look at the Massachusetts Special Election, taken from January 7th to January 9th that showed Coakley and Brown in a dead heat for the seat (actually Brown was up by a point.) The storyline was a familiar one -- candidate B (in this case Brown) is surging and candidate A will soon be toast.

Not so fast.

First of all, Public Policy Polling is a partisan-affiliated polling firm. The thing that is a little odd in this case is that they are affiliated with the Democratic party. Nevertheless, their release of polls can be politically motivated and the numbers can be shaded to serve a particular purpose. This wouldn't be an issue if the poll wasn't squarely at odds with the other available data. But it is.

The Rasmussen poll released three days earlier showed Coakley with a 9 point lead, 50% to 41%. Certainly Scott Rasmussen has been accused of a lot of things in the polling world, but being overly favorable to Democrats is not one of them.

Secondly, a Boston Globe poll that run through January 6th shows Coakley with a 17 point lead. This is consistent with the trend of Rasmussen polls showing somewhat closer races than other polls that we have seen in recent months.

The PPP poll appears, at least at this point, to be an anomaly. I have no doubt there will be several more polls released in the coming days to give us a better understanding of the state of the race.

For now, I'm leaving this a Likely Democratic Hold.

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