Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Racists playing the 'Obama' card

Obama is down in the polls, including on InTrade, which means lots of people are quite literally betting he will loose. So the Sri Lankan communalists are now pointing to racism to explain this turn of events. Case in point  --  this Island piece by some fellow called Mano Ratwatte.  The writer makes number of claims, 
  1. Obama is loosing because there is a racist conspiracy against him. Majority of the people in the southern states will not vote for a black candidate because of racial prejudice and tradition. 

  2. He says, "No one other than a Christian will ever have any chance of seriously running for public office even for a small city council (perhaps, with the exception of San Francisco)".

  3. Iraq war was about oil.

  4. Sarah Palin is a rightwing christian extremist. These people brainwash innocent people, doesn't care about Iraqi IDPs and calls Obama a baby killer.

  5. On the other hand, Sri Lanka is wonderful. There are lots of instances where Sinhala Buddhists majorities voted for Muslims, Christians and Tamils. 

  6. Ranjan Ramanayake and Janaka Perera are devout catholics. They got highest preferential votes in the buddhist dominated Sabaragamuwa and North central provinces. Sinhala-buddhists are not so bad like the newspapers say. 
In sum, Obama is loosing because of racism, We are so much better. Yay!

If Obama continues his downward trend and eventually looses, expect to hear more of this, and not just from Sri Lanka. If there was ever one good reason for Obama to win the election, it's because he's black. Just that. For the sake of proving that it can be done. and deny all those other communalists the pleasure of making  "look it can't even be done in the U.S., so why here" type arguments.

Let's take some of these "arguments" by the writer. First of all, isn't it criminal that in the days of Google and Wikipedia, these 'journalists' don't bother to using them? 

If  Ratwatte did manage to use a search engine, he would find that there have been plenty of Jews who have been American politicians including at least a couple of Muslims, BuddhistsSikhs, Hindus, and at least one Atheist.  Some of these people have been Governors, congressmen, mayors, senators and Republicans from 'red states'.  So.. Can't run for city council? Ratwatte is lying or most probably have no idea. Let's also bear in mind we are taking about a country where non-christian religious beliefs comprise of just 5.2% of the population, including Jews. 

But let's go back to his first point, Now I don't claim to know why exactly Obama is loosing ground. If I did, I'd be a Washington strategist, not a Sri Lankan blogger. Perhaps Obama is following a flawed strategy, perhaps Americans are waking up to the naive "Hope" and "Change" stuff, can't be sure. But claiming that it's racism is just nonsense.

As for the 'Southern states', they are called red states for a reason, they go Republican whether the opposing candidate is black, white or luminous green. The battle is not fought in Texas or Alabama like Ratwatte suggests, it's fought in swing states like New Hampshire and Virginia. One needs to understand how the U.S. presidential electoral college system works, it's not like the guy with the most votes win as in Sri Lanka.

Finally, anybody who thinks Sarah Palin is a christian extremist needs get his/her head examined. If evangelicals are in control of the Republican party like some liberals like to think, Mike Huckabe would be on the top of the ticket, not John McCain. 

Now I don't know about Sinhala-Buddhist majorities voting in Muslims, Christians and Tamils, but if that is indeed the case, as a litmus test, let's put a Tamil to run in Hambantota, A Sinhalese in Jaffna and get one of the major parties to nominate a Muslim in one of the presidential elections, let's see how that go. I won't be that optimistic.  I wouldn't read too much into the Ranjan, Janaka Perera situation other than achievements of an actor and a Military man. 

To summarize, yes, I do think there are racial prejudices which play a part in the election, and yes, there are intolerant Christian fundamentalists U.S. politics, but they are not in control of this election and unlikely to make a deterministic impact in the future. Nor can Sri Lanka hope to compete for a prize in multicultural politics with the United States.

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