Monday, November 3, 2008

Unresolved Issues

By Andrew Grant-Thomas, Deputy Director at the Kirwan Institute

Election Day 2008 is tomorrow and, frankly, it’ll be a relief to get this long campaign over with. However, the end of the Campaign 2008 will do little, if anything, to resolve several troubling issues raised along the way. At least three come to mind.

The Vote: In states from Colorado to Ohio, Wisconsin to Florida, the signs of voter suppression are everywhere. Tomorrow, in all likelihood, many thousands of people will be denied their rightful vote because of voter roll purges, registration challenges, over-use of provisional ballots, dysfunctional voting machines, machines that don’t record the intended vote, and more. Sadly, unless we see a repeat of the Florida controversy of 2000, when a very close vote in a key state made the difference in a very close election, these problems will likely be ignored.

Race: Whatever happens tomorrow, Obama’s success confirms that, as a country, we have come very far on race. However, in itself, an Obama victory won't give urban schools full of black and Latino kids the money, books, and excellent teachers they need and affluent white kids' schools have. It won't change the fact that many employers would prefer to hire white men with prison records over black men without records. With lots of people insisting that the Obama phenomenon proves that we have become a colorblind society (it doesn’t; we’re not), I worry that issues of racial justice will lose more of their already-limited purchase on Americans’ attention.

Hate? Where will the racism, misogyny, Islamophobia, xenophobia, and vitriol so manifest over the last year go after the new president is sworn in? By October 2007, the Facebook group, “Hillary Clinton: Stop Running for President and Make Me a Sandwich,” boasted some 30,000 members. The “charge” that Obama is Muslim reverberated for months before one pundit publicly asked the critical question: so what if he were Muslim? A Congresswoman from Minnesota recently urged the media to scrutinize her colleagues’ words and records for possible “Anti-American” sentiment. And in Bexley, Ohio, just outside Columbus, students peacefully protesting a partisan rally were vilified and physically threatened by rally participants.

Campaign 2008 didn’t create these issues and its end won’t put them to rest. President Obama or McCain will have an important role to play in “healing” our country, and both men have promised to embrace that role. But, mostly, it’s on us.

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