Past Event

Whose Race Problem Is It?

After a long fought primary season, the Democrats have finally selected their nominee for president, Barack Obama. This historic decision, presented as a civil rights victory by most news outlets, has been surrounded in questions and controversy about race. Political commentators say that chief among Obama’s challenges is appealing to the "white vote," and many analysts have suggested that he will need to make special efforts to win the vote of working class whites and women more generally.

Some have suggested that Obama could work around this challenge by picking Hillary Clinton as his vice presidential running mate since she had success with these constituencies during the primary. Others have maintained that an Obama/Clinton ticket would represent "politics as usual." And yet others think that such a ticket would be seen as too liberal. Nonetheless, issues of race and gender continue to be central themes of Obama’s campaign even after securing the nomination.

What does Obama’s primary victory mean for racial politics in the United States? Is it as much of a material civil rights victory as it is a symbolic victory? Should he go out of his way to appeal to voters who may not like him based solely on his race? Or to earn the support of Democrats, especially women, who might be more inclined to vote for McCain? Would an Obama-Clinton ticket serve as a way to bridge this gap or only make it wider?

Suggested Readings:

Free. Open to the public. For more information, call 312.422.5580.