THE WANING POWER OF RACE IN THE DIRTY DIRTY.

Last night was the second southern election in which Republicans tried to derail a Democrat in a conservative congressional district by tying him to Barack Obama. Nevertheless, Democrat Travis Childers defeated Republican Greg Davis by eight points, despite Davis' attempts to make Mississippi think he was really running against Rev. Jeremiah Wright. E.J. Dionne noted last week that a similar attempt to use race against Democrat running in a conservative southern district failed when Don Cazayoux defeated Woody Jenkins in Louisiana.

Oddly enough, Michelle Malkin claimed that "the Dems pulled the race card" in order to "smear Davis as a KKK supporter". She was referring to a DNCC mailing that claimed Davis wanted to honor KKK founder Nathan Bedford Forrest with a statue in his hometown. Well it turns out the mailing was correct: Erik Kleefield at TPM points to this 2005 article in the New York Times, in which then and current mayor of Southaven Davis is reported as saying "he would be happy to have the Forrest equestrian statue" in his town.

Think she'll issue a retraction?

Much has been written about the allegedly racist tendencies of working class white voters, but in my experience people with money are just more discreet about it. Rikyrah points to results from the ABC News/WaPo poll that show Obama doing about the same as Clinton with working class whites against McCain.

The narrative of the racist southern and/or working class white voter serves disappointed liberals by giving them a way to cope with rejection, and it serves Republicans by reassuring them that people can still be easily manipulated by racial bias. The stereotype is further reinforced by disturbing anecdotes that have a tendency to skew our perception of the situation. Someone flinging racial slurs at Obama campaigners on a highway is easy to remember. Harder to recall is the actual number of people who say race determines their vote. Anecdotes make far more compelling copy than statistics do, but neither tells the whole story. Despite some pretty disconcerting numbers coming out of West Virginia, the story is more complicated than it seems.

But despite Tim Russert's Buffalo set-calling, the voice of the white working class and poor is still largely absent from our media discussion, usurped by the broadcast version of studio gangsters. The voice of the black working class and poor is also still largely absent, despite the recent influx of black folks of varying political persuasions as political analysts for the 2008 presidential race. So what you really end up with is some very privileged people trying to tell stories about people they don't understand, and whom we have learned to regard with a kind of condescending and suspicious reverence. The result is coverage informed by a self-confirming bias that seeks to tell us only what we think we already know.

Last year, Bob Novak said Republicans were given "hope" by the possibility Democrats would nominate a woman or a black man for president, as though bigotry would just sweep the GOP into the White House.

Think they still feel that way?

--A. Serwer

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