Speech on Race Won Hearts and Minds, if Not Votes

Columnists impressed that Obama took the high and long road
By Jonas Oransky,  Newser Staff
Posted Mar 19, 2008 4:22 PM CDT

The day after Barack Obama tackled the race issue head-on, journalists are weighing its lasting effects:

  •  Eugene Robinson credits Obama with reframing the dialogue on race, moving it beyond "the sour stasis of grievance and countergrievance.” Its most significant aspect: laying out the reasons some in both races feel alienated and resentful.

  • The Times editorial board says Obama passed his first test of character—“It is hard to imagine how he could have handled it better”—and his performance puts them in mind of Lincoln, FDR, and JFK.
  • Todd Gitlin says the “speech was a triumph,” but it's still uncertain if “it will turn the trick for hordes of parsing skeptics.” The potential “game-changer” might be the expression of family values: Obama stood by a parental figure who is “an imperfect American.”
  • John McWhorter, a voice from the right, is also impressed, saying doubters “must now be satisfied.” “In the black community one does not sass one’s elders,” and it was “truly bold” for Obama to upend the “canard that America has made no progress on race.”
(Read more Barack Obama stories.)

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