Writing in the Miami Herald op-ed page today, Washington and Lee University’s journalism ethics professor Edward Wasserman calls for reporters to cut beyond the noise of Bradley effect coverage, and tackle head-on the impact of race on this election.
Sure, his own racial identity will influence voting. Black voters support him with near unanimity, while an AP-Yahoo News poll in September suggested that with a third of white Democrats holding negative views about blacks, the percentage of voters who may withhold support from Obama because of race could actually exceed the overall margin of victory in 2004.
Reporting what’s behind that is tough. A common reason for not exploring the role of race in this election is that white voters will dissemble, and those who won’t vote for Obama because of race are embarrassed to say so.
But surely, how race might tilt the vote isn’t the only racial issue worth reporting. What about exploring what an Obama victory would do to race relations? What would become of the myriad, passionately divisive policy issues that have been inextricably tied to race for the past half-century: the huge population of young black males behind bars, early childhood intervention, job training, the war on drugs, poor housing, the whole reality of race-tainted social justice? We’re beyond those? Even the subprime lending debacle, which disproportionately hit minority homeowners, has been whitewashed into a race-neutral industry bailout.
A very good and necessary point. The rest is here.