In this weekend's Washington Post, Randall Kennedy considers the effect of an Obama loss on the black community:
I anticipate that most black Americans will believe that an Obama defeat will have stemmed in substantial part from a prejudice that robbed 40 million Americans of the chance to become president on the day they were born black. They will of course understand that race wasn't the only significant variable -- that party affiliation, ideological proclivities, strategic choices and dumb luck also mattered. But deep in their bones, they will believe -- and probably rightly -- that race was a key element, that had the racial shoe been on the other foot -- had John McCain been black and Obama white -- the result would have been different.
This conclusion will be accompanied by bitter disappointment, and in some quarters, stark rage. In the early stages of the Obama campaign, his rival, Hillary Clinton, outpolled him among blacks in part because many didn't believe that he stood a chance of prevailing. Then came Iowa. And the near-victory in New Hampshire. When blacks realized that Obama's candidacy represented a serious drive for electoral power with an appreciable chance of success, they gravitated overwhelmingly to the Illinois senator.
There's been a some racist fearmongering from the usual suspects about riots about the aftermath of an Obama loss (something that is extremely unlikely). It's important to remember the utter skepticism among black folks that originally greeted the Obama candidacy, skepticism that melted away in the wake of his primary victory in Iowa. Black folks simply didn't see this coming, but I think there are few illusions about the possibility of his loss. In fact, I think black folks on the whole are probably more pessimistic about Obama's chances, and that pessimism will go a long way towards insulating people from disappointment if Obama loses. I think for the most part, people will shrug their shoulders and move on. There will be some people saying they "knew he couldn't win" who aren't saying that now.
If Obama does lose, count me among those who will count race as a major factor. The double standards in this race are absurd -- imagine if one of Obama's daughters had been pregnant, or consider that arugula, which is available to the rich and famous at any local McDonalds, is "exotic" while moose is now as American as Thanksgiving turkey.
I'm actually more concerned about what the reaction will be if Obama wins without a majority of the white vote. How will the conservative movement, whose standard-bearer this year has relied explicitly on identity politics and an exclusive conception of "Americanness," react? Will they spend the next few years arguing that Obama isn't "their president" and working to convince whites that they've been disenfranchised simply by virtue of a black man being in the White House?
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