Not a racist? Prof. Alan Abramowitz thinks that makes you even more of one.

Tomorrow’s Washington Post will feature an op-ed by Emory University PoliSci professor Alan Abramowitz (“In These Primary Numbers, Warnings for the Fall“) that seeks to turn logic and rationality on its head for the purposes of calling White America racist.

“Voting patterns in Indiana and North Carolina show that resistance to a black candidate among some white Democrats remains a serious threat to his chances in November,” Abramowitz writes. “Obama continues to have particular difficulty with one segment of the Democratic electorate: white working-class voters.”

His explanation of this is long on unsubstantiated, not-rationally-supportable conjecture, and his conclusions lack anything remotely resembling evidence or facts. I suppose that’s the price one pays for (or the benefit of) being a political “scientist”: rather than having an academic specialty that prepares one to conduct research (and draw conclusions from that research) and analysis, all a political “scientist” like Abramowitz seems to feel the need to do is obtain numbers. His analysis and conclusions drawn from those numbers are all assumption, with no explanation added as to how those conclusions were reached, or why they should be accepted as correct.

The backdoor assault on working-class whites begins with Abramowitz’s declaration that, despite a dearth of “overtly racist beliefs” (which he concedes “are much mess prevalent among white Americans of all classes today”), “a more subtle form of prejudice, which social scientists sometimes call symbolic racism, is still out there — especially among working-class whites.”

“Symbolic racism,” he explains, “means believing that African American poverty and other problems are largely the result of lack of ambition and effort, rather than white racism and discrimination.”

So Abramowitz has set his premise: “African American poverty and other problems” are the result of “white racism and discrimination.” If you don’t agree, you’re a racist. Further, if you don’t agree with that, then there is no point in your continuing to read Abramowitz’s assault-on-logic of a column, because the information he provides in the remainder of the piece for the purpose of fomenting guilt or outrage quite simply won’t make sense to you — and certainly won’t provoke that intended reaction.

You see, Abramowitz doesn’t bother to expand on that premise by explaining just how it is that the African American community’s problems are all being caused by racist whites; he just assumes — and wants you to assume — that it’s true, and to operate from that point of view as you read the rest of what he has to say.

The rest of the column is dedicated to showing how widespread the attitude that the African American community’s problems aren’t to be solely chalked up to bigoted white crackers is; you are expected to agree with him that that attitude and opinion is not only incorrect, but abhorrent. Some examples:

Almost 60 percent of white voters agreed with the statement that “blacks should try harder to succeed.” A startling 43 percent of white college graduates nodded at this one, along with 71 percent of whites with no college education.

“Startling” indeed. Was that supposed to be a hard-hitting statistic?

Fully 49 percent of white voters disagreed with the statement that “history makes it more difficult for blacks to succeed.” Forty percent of white college graduates disagreed with it, along with 58 percent of whites with no college education.

Wow; that’s just unbelievable. “Fully 49 percent of white voters” clearly must weigh the same as a duck and be made of wood — or whatever the racist version of that equation (which is as scientific as Abramowitz’s argument) is.

Anyway, on top of those two hard-hitting statistics (and the absent logic and analysis explaining why holding those “startling” attitudes not only make one racist, but are incorrect in the first place) is…nothing. The good “science” professor from Emory University has apparently blown his wad on just those two underwhelming polling results.

What — were you expecting more? Hey, I warned you: if you didn’t buy into the initial premise — that the belief that “African American poverty and other problems” are not the result of “white racism and discrimination” makes you a “symbolic racist” — then there was little or no point in reading the rest of the column, as it would make little sense, and utterly fail to provoke the outrage at, and shame of, those racist working-class whites that Abramowitz was do desperately hoping to achieve.

Oh, yes, the end of the piece. Abramowitz concludes:

Of course, these results don’t mean that Obama won’t win over white working-class voters. … Democrats must hope that disapproval of Bush could lead working-class voters to begrudgingly approve of a black presidential candidate.

Hm. I would argue that “Democrats must hope” that they have people in their arsenal of writers and academics who are more capable of making, and backing up, an actual argument than poor Professor Abramowitz. Then again, most high school essays are better constructed and better argued, so I don’t worry that there’s someone out there, from the age of fifteen up, who can serve as a sharper mind, and present a clearer and more coherent argument, than Abramowitz.

I have to say, it’s definitely a good thing that this wasn’t submitted to, rather then by, the good Professor, as I feel confident saying that such assumption, and such utter failure to back up both premise and argument, would surely have earned the erstwhile student who produced such poor work a less-than-stellar grade.


  1. Obis_Sister says:

    I don’t have a problem with a black candidate, period. I wouldn’t care if he was pink with purple pokkie-dots. What I DO have a problem with is:

    :: the lack of experience – half a term as a junior senator? Give me a break!
    :: lack of sincerity and integrity.
    :: lack of backbone.

    He is not CIC material, plain and simple.

  2. bowersville says:

    Thank you Jeff. I’m as redneck white as they come. I don’t have a problem with Barack’s Harvard education.

    I have a problem with Mr. Obama’s political positions.

    Bull, I’m calling on you to get McCain off his @ss and fight for this election.

  3. John Konop says:


    Why should someone vote for McCain? And not why someone should vote against Obama.

    McCain has flip flop on Iraq like Obama

    McCain has flip flop on balancing the budget like Obama

    McCain has flip flop on abortion like Obama

    McCain has flip flop on immigration like Obama

    I am with Indy I do not get it on either side.

    You are bigger than so please do not beat me up!

  4. John Konop says:

    Hillary went too far!

    This op-ed article by Peggy Noonan summarizes why I think Billary campaign against Obama was vulgar!

    WSJ-This is an amazing story. The Democratic Party has a winner. It has a nominee. You know this because he has the most votes and the most elected delegates, and there’s no way, mathematically, his opponent can get past him. Even after the worst two weeks of his campaign, he blew past her by 14 in North Carolina and came within two in Indiana.

    He’s got this thing. And the Democratic Party, after this long and brutal slog, should be dancing in the streets. Party elders should be coming out on the balcony in full array, in full regalia, and telling the crowd, “Habemus nominatum”: “We have a nominee.” And the crowd below should be cheering, “Viva Obamus! Viva nominatum!”

    Instead, you know where they are, the party elders. They are in a Democratic club on Capitol Hill, slump-shouldered at the bar, having a drink and then two, in a state of what might be called depressed horror. “What are they doing to the party?” they wail. “Why are they doing this?”

    You know who they are talking about.

    read more

  5. Holly says:

    So, white voters voting for the white candidates are racist. . . wouldn’t that also mean that the African-Americans voters voting for the African-American candidate are similarly racist by these standards? That’s what I never understand about these sorts of analyses.

  6. StevePerkins says:

    “Symbolic racism,” he explains, “means believing that African American poverty and other problems are largely the result of lack of ambition and effort, rather than white racism and discrimination.”

    I don’t see what’s so terribly controversial here, really. Most working class whites I know (not to mention most Peach Pundit threads) DO think that black poverty and other problems are largely the result of lack of ambition and effort.

    However, that’s not to say that whites completely discount the notion that “history makes it more difficult for blacks to succeed”. Indeed, the emphasis on “49%” of whites disagreeing with that statement overlooks the fact that a majority DID agree! I think it’s a combination of the two. Many blacks don’t try harder because history makes it more difficult to succeed. However, it’s not shocking that many people agree with the notion that this means they should try harder. That’s only “racist” if you fail to take note of fact that it sucks.

  7. moocher says:


    Agree with you 100% and find these “racist white people” comments regarding their lack of voting for Obama extremely ironic. If you’re going to look at a demographic and their overwhelming resistance to a particular race; you’ve got to look at the black voter and their resistance to not only women, but white people as well.

  8. Come on, don’t you folks ever read the paper or watch the news? We all know racism is the only reason people don’t vote for Obama and sexism is the only reason people don’t vote for Clinton.

  9. Tea Party says:


    You are killin’ us here! LOL

    IMO the statement: “Voters WILL NOT elect THIS African American and WILL NOT elect THIS woman,” is the more correct bias.

    Obama is an incredible speaker, his tone, measured resonance, and content, are inspired.

    I do not believe Obama’s slender experience and economic ‘solutions’ will carry him to 1600.

    Remove the moniker “Clinton” from the first woman to run for POTUS and you remove Hils biggest ‘ball and chain.”

    America is showing the World that we are able to rise above the ‘shackles of racism and sexism’ by putting forth both a man of color and a woman up for POTUS. That voters may not carry these historic candidates through to the White House remains to be seen.

    IMO, it will be Obama’s divergence from mainstream economics that will be his biggest challenge. Hils never got past her last name.

    Perhaps America will vote in an experienced man of color or another female candidate, given this HISTORIC precedent.

  10. debbie0040 says:

    “John Konop // May 10, 2008 at 7:47 pm


    Why should someone vote for McCain? And not why someone should vote against Obama.

    McCain has flip flop on Iraq like Obama

    McCain has flip flop on balancing the budget like Obama

    McCain has flip flop on abortion like Obama

    McCain has flip flop on immigration like Obama”

    The Supreme Court, The Supreme Court, The Supreme Court.
    McCain is for smaller Government
    McCain will do a better jof of getting us out of Iraq.

    Without trying to sound morbid, SC Justices Ruth Bader-Ginsberg and John Paul Stevens are very much youth challenged. They will either idie or retire during the term of the next President. I would much rather have President McCain appointing their successors than President Obama.. These appointments will have an impact on our country for generations.

  11. StevePerkins says:

    I’m not sure, Tea Party. On economics, Obama ran consistently closer to the center than Hillary through the primaries (his health care proposals are less intrusive than Clinton’s… his advisers sent signals that his anti-trade rhetoric shouldn’t be taken seriously… etc).

    I can’t see myself voting for Obama, but on economics I started giving him a second look after that “gas tax holiday” issue last week. Basic Economics 101 shows that Clinton and McCain’s proposal to drop the gas tax for the summer would accomplish zero good. Obama was the only one to say, “this is stupid, you guys are just pandering to people who don’t know any better.” That took some balls speak the truth about gas prices and stay out of the pandering right in the middle of razor-thin primary. Shame that McCain played me-too to Hillary Clinton rather than him.

  12. Tea Party says:

    Good point, Steve. Obama did distinguish himself from the pol crime of Gross Pandering on the gas-tax holiday. The ‘holiday’ is a stupid excuse for anything resembling an energy policy, much like the tax-rebate is a poor excuse for ‘fiscal conservatism.’

    Somebody mentioned to me that Obama’s lack of experience is exactly what WDC needs.

    Clearly so much institutional control exists in WDC .

    Can ANY POTUS cleave special interests from the teat of government spending? I know, let’s reform campaign contributions!

  13. Tea Party says:

    This just in, the the This Just IN Department:

    “I NOW know what iss ‘is’:

    It’s Stupid Spending Stop the spending.

    Wish I could do that little Trade Mark (TM) thingy!

  14. Jeff Emanuel says:

    Steve Perkins:

    I don’t see what’s so terribly controversial here, really. Most working class whites I know (not to mention most Peach Pundit threads) DO think that black poverty and other problems are largely the result of lack of ambition and effort.

    Steve, that’s neither here nor there’.I didn’t challenge the numbers Prof. Abramowitz is using (chiefly because they’re not his numbers; rather, they came from a third-party study). The “controversial” issue, or question to be asked, is whether holding that view does, in fact, make a person racist.

    Prof. Abramowitz assumes that it does, and uses that given as the premise from which he makes the rest of his case. Unfortunately, his assumption that such an attitude is, in fact, “symbolically” racist — and that this premise will be accepted by the reader as a given, as well — prevented him from actually explaining why or how that attitude is (a) wrong, and (b) racist.

    That’s why Prof. A. gets an “F” for this paper. Surely he can do better work than this.

  15. Ms_midtown says:

    Bottom Line —
    That opinion piece is WEAK by Washington Post editorial standards.

  16. Goldwater Conservative says:

    Go ahead and disagree with Dr. Abramowitz all you like. He is one of the most distinguished political scientist in the field of electoral outcomes and determining factors. Jeff Emanuel is not a political scientist…nor is he globally renown for his work in the field.

    Abramowitz does not use his gut to come up with numbers or predictions…people are not as unpredictable as most think. We, humans, are not special. We are predictable…just like any other animal. After enough observations of behavior and consequences, watching the way humans vote (particularly Americans) is nearly as predictable as a dogs behavior.

    You can say anything you like to a dog when you use that exciting high-pitched tone…they get excited. You can be telling them that you “are taking them to the vet. to be put to sleep…” they get excited. Humans are no different. There may be different cues, but more often than not…we respond as intended.

    I must admit that the piece was a little shallow…I suppose that we will have to wait for the in depth piece that is undoubtedly due in the P.S. Quarterly. Midtown, don’t forget…that was for a newspaper, there is only a limited amount of space and attention span amongst non-academic readers on this topic.

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