Without a doubt, the hate speech and signage directed towards Obama during recent Republican rallies are worrisome. And they’re dangerous for their consequences—as Frank Rich writes, “unleash[ing] the demons who have stalked America from Lincoln to King.” The Post’s Jonathan Capehart wrote last Friday about “an anger and resentment on the campaign trail that should leave all with a cold chill running through their bodies.” A homemade sign at a McCain rally today read, incredibly, “Obama bin Lyin’”. This is a topic that should be—and is being—addressed.
But it’s also simplistic, and problematic, to advance an evergreen theory like the Bradley Effect at times like this, because it suggests (even unintentionally) that the best way to talk about race-in-politics is still to cite surveys and debate the efficacy of exit polls—in other words, to talk about it in the understood and studied ways. While turning theories around and around may be a safe and necessary way to address the extent and effect of racism in this campaign, their prescriptive “despite experts, we still can’t say for sure” formulations don’t actually do anything for anyone’s cold chills.