Don't Mug Me: I Voted for Barack Obama


On NBC's surprisingly funny sitcom 30 Rock, Tina Fey feels betrayed when her TV show's black star pumps her for favors by pretending he's illiterate.

Tracy took advantage of my white guilt, which is to be used only for good, like overtipping and supporting Barack Obama.

And as usual, comedy writers and Steve Sailer are the only people who see a smoldering racial issue and want to talk about it instead of running full tilt in the opposite direction.

Supporting Obama for President, like supporting Powell a decade ago, is seen by many whites as the ultimate in White Guilt Repellent.

Plus, I suspect there's an even more hidden reason many whites wish Obama is elected President: They hope that when a black finally moves into the White House, it will prove to African-Americans, once and for all, that white animus isn't the cause of their troubles. All blacks have to do is to act like President Obama—and their problems will be over!

Sailer is right about Powell and mostly wrong about Obama. Unlike Powell, Obama is a serious politician who's run for office, won, and developed a political philosophy he's exposited in countless speeches and one and a half books (most of his first book wasn't about politics). Powell, like Obama, released a best-selling book as the campaign season ramped up, but My American Journey was a memoir with brief passages about race and serving in the White House that pundits had to torture to squeeze out any political grist. The Audacity of Hope is a political book with some memoir trimmings. The Powell boomlet is more comparable to the Dick Morris-fueled (maybe "greased" is a better word when we're talking Morris) Condi Rice boomlet than the real (and getting realer) Obama campaign.

It's true that Obama's support is mostly emotional, but that's not out of the ordinary for presidential candidates. (After you tamp down the "first female president" talk, what's Hillary's qualification to be president, after all? She's not even the most accomplished female senator.) The feel-good factors Obama benefit from are, in order:

1) The "uniter" factor. Obama wasn't in Washington for the Clinton scandals or the Iraq war builup and vote, both eras that the detestable, responsibility-shrugging American voter wants to forget. They don't get that chance with Hillary or McCain, or even dream candidates like Gore and Rice, but they get it with Obama. And Obama's actually made a couple small efforts to reform the way the Senate works. The Coburn-Obama transparency bill wasn't world-changing, but it's a wonderful thing to explain to voters.
2) The "fresh start" factor. Voters don't actually reward the young, insurgent candidate in every presidential race, but give them a choice between Kennedy and Nixon or Carter and Ford or Clinton and Bush I and they'll go all gooey. They tend to support the insurgent after a long period of political turmoil like, say, this one. Obama can be that insurgent. (A corollary of this is Obama's openness about his past drug use and current smoking habit, which political reporters find incredibly refreshing.)
3) The "white guilt" factor.
4) The "alternative" factor. Only Obama can defeat an anti-matter humanoid who threatens to destroy space and time. Oops, wait…

There are probably more factors that'll become apparent as Obama runs, but "white guilt" will never be the preeminent one.