If anything, I think the way the McCain campaign has finished up — and the way the media has covered it — works to Jindal’s advantage in 2012: Conservatives are going to be extremely eager to prove that they only hate Obama because he’s a radical, not because they’re racist, and what better way to demonstrate that than to nominate a dark-skinned conservative with a funny-sounding name? Indeed, much of the current affection for Jindal among movement conservatives – and especially in talk-radio land – can be traced to precisely such a yearning for a conservative Obama: A multicultural prince who channels Ronald Reagan, and whose nomination would at least reduce the taint of racism that clings to the American Right.(Ross Douthat, link)
Yes, that’s why I thought, many months ago, that Jindal would have made a good VP choice for McCain. (I expect it will come out, in months to come, that McCain specifically asked Jindal to join the ticket this past summer and Jindal turned him down.).
The above argument is in response to a point from Christopher Orr at The New Republic that I think many on the left (including our own Ennis) have agreed with:
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. (Christopher Orr, link)
For Douthat, by contrast, the attempt to “otherize” Obama is a combination of things, involving not just his skin color and name, but also his academic background, history as an urban community organizer, and membership in a liberation theology church:
I think this vastly, vastly overestimates the extent to which the attempt to “Otherize” Obama has been about race qua race (and racism qua racism), and vastly underestimates the extent to which it’s been about the way Obama’s name, ancestry and skin color have dovetailed with other aspects of his background – from his liberation-theology church to the academic-lefty and urban-machine milieu in which he spent much of his early political career – that the GOP would have tried to play up against any Democratic candidate (and especially in a year when the party didn’t have much else going for it). (Ross Douthat, link)
All in all, an interesting exchange.
I think it is certainly true that the GOP has been stoking up xenophobia (have you seen this?) through its attempt to smear Obama as “palling around with terrorists” (Rashid Khalidi being the latest smear), and with the whole “Who is the real Barack Obama?” line of thought.
But Douthat’s point of view — that this is merely a cynical, tactical attack, not based on fundamental beliefs amongst the leadership — gives me some hope that this will not become a chronic line of attack should Obama win the election next week.