Friday, September 12, 2008

RACE AND THE ELECTION IN MICHIGAN

Nate Silver has a smart piece in TNR about the election in Michigan, where the Democrats are showing a lead within the statistical margin of error. Silver gets the Wolverine State mostly right, not surprising, giving that his blog fivethirtyeight.com offers the smartest analysis of polls and political trends out there. But I might offer an even more pessimistic take on the state's deep, deep racial divisions. Silver, like most commentators on Detroit (who haven't read The Origins of the Urban Crisis) focuses on 1967 as the racial turning point. Metropolitan Detroit's racial tensions are, however, even deeper. He rather modestly suggests that "Michigan is not devoid of racial politics."

I visit Michigan several times a year, I speak there often, I'm a regular commentator in the local press, and I have lots of family in metro Detroit and up North. Silver understates the depth of racial animosity there in his argument that "racial tensions aren't as overt as they once were, but nevertheless, the de facto segregation between Detroit and the suburbs creates little interaction between the state's black and white communities, and the combination of Kilpatrick and the difficult economic situation may evoke some latent prejudice." I am afraid that the prejudice in Michigan is not at all latent. Even minor political battles, like one over Detroit's management of the zoo (a city property located in the suburbs) turned into major brouhahas that can scarcely be imagined in many other metropolitan areas, hinging around overtly racial charges of mismanagement.

Silver states that although he is "generally not a believer in the Bradley Effect, Michigan is one state where it might be worth keeping an eye out for." On this point I agree. Obama needs to pull up his numbers big in Michigan. If he maintains his three percent margin in the polls, it won't be pretty come November.

3 comments:

-414- said...

Always wondered if this blog was run by that Tom S.

I think Palin's selection was an effort to reposition Obama as a threat to white supremacy. It seems McCain and Co. are certainly banking on the Bradley effect. Unfortunately the subtext of the campaign seems to be working in Wisconsin. Tons of McCain signs have cropped up in Milwaukee's white neighborhoods recently.

America plays like a broken record sometimes.

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