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Monday, Mar 31, 2008, 12:39 pm

Race and social democracy

By Adam Doster
It's an argument that's been made time and time again, but one that I think is too often pushed aside in our general political discourse. America isn't a strong social democracy because of racism and the politicians who exploit our differences for their gain. White Americans love a strong safety net and programs that protect the general welfare until they are framed as welfare for the "other." Then, they are abhorrent. Eduardo Porter makes the case quite convincingly in the Times.
As obviously sensible as Mr. Obama’s proposition might be in a nation of as many hues, tongues and creeds as the United States, it struggles against self-defeating human behavior: racial and ethnic diversity undermine support for public investment in social welfare. For all the appeal of America’s melting pot, the country’s diverse ethnic mix is one main reason for entrenched opposition to public spending on the public good.
Encouragingly, in his big speech on race, Obama addressed this reality with more clarity than any Democratic politician in some time. The Clinton campaign, through their tacit race-baiting strategy, have only heightened these tensions. In doing so, they might be inhibiting the progressive economic programs so many have lauded.

Adam Doster, a contributing editor at In These Times, is a Chicago-based freelance writer and former reporter-blogger for Progress Illinois.

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