Hit & Run

When Can Brown Begin? (Answer: November 5, 2008)

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With a McCain-Palin defeat creeping up closer and closer, speculation is turning to the GOP's 2012 hopefuls, with a heavy focus on brilliant Louisiana Gov. Bobby (born "Piyush") Jindal. He made McCain's VP shortlist, after all. But Chris Orr writes off his chances.

Though rarely explicit (and certainly not exclusive) a large portion of the GOP's closing argument this cycle has been to stoke white, working class fear and suspicion of the Other. The dark-skinned man with the foreign-sounding name may be a Muslim, or a socialist, or a friend of terrorists, or a racial huckster, or a fake U.S. citizen, or some other vague kind of "radical." You may never be sure which he is (maybe all of the above), but in your gut you simply don't "know" him the way you know the other candidates. This is not, to put it mildly, a message likely to benefit Bobby Jindal.

I think this is exactly wrong. If Obama wins, than the campaign Orr describes will have been a miserable failure. The host of Obama rumors (which are still churning) will have only convinced a small, embittered portion of the electorate to vote against the guy. And it won't be long before a President Obama doesn't abolish the Constitution, or institute sharia law, or build a White House tunnel to Mecca.

Michael Savage and his merry band of radio mouth-breathers will predict he's going to, any second now, but as Obama becomes a conventional liberal president it'll have an intense calming effect on this sort of racial-ethnic paranoia. It will make the GOP search for a non-white candidate more, not less, frantic. After all, could the Palin selection have been possible without Hillary Clinton blowing through a number of traditional voter impressions of female candidates and normalizing the idea of a woman as commander-in-chief?

The GOP elite and punditocracy will speed along the process. (Had Jindal gotten the VP nod instead of Palin, we'd have spent two months listening to conservatives explain how non-white Rhodes Scholars, not hockey moms who can't name a Supreme Court case, represent the "real America.") The only downside is that glowing stories about Jindal's trips to rural Iowa will come along with stories about the oddball conspiracy theorists in his crowds who want to know about his birth certificate and whether he's a member of al Qaeda and whether there's a tape of his wife railing about "whitey" being responsible for the Amritsar massacre.