It must be tough to try and capitalize on latent racism within some Americans without appearing racist. Obviously, it is possible to do so — candidates on both sides of the aisle have employed code and campaign methods to communicate to, um, discriminating voters that Barack Obama isn’t like them and should be feared. Nicholas Kristol, in the New York Times, has figured out the right wing’s alternate route to spreading campaign-trail hate.
What is happening, I think, is this: religious prejudice is becoming a proxy for racial prejudice. In public at least, it’s not acceptable to express reservations about a candidate’s skin color, so discomfort about race is sublimated into concerns about whether Mr. Obama is sufficiently Christian.
The result is this campaign to “otherize” Mr. Obama. Nobody needs to point out that he is black, but there’s a persistent effort to exaggerate other differences, to de-Americanize him.
Raising doubts about a candidate based on the religion of his grandfather is toxic and profoundly un-American, cracking the melting pot we emerged from. Someday people will look back at the innuendoes about Mr. Obama with the same disgust with which we regard the smears of Al Smith as a Catholic candidate in 1928.