Getting back to Joe Biden - as far as I know, Sen. Biden has been an honorable public servant, and I fear that the accusation of racism has become the new McCarthyism. Those of you over 50 will recall that in the 1950s, Sen. Joe McCarthy of Wisconsin intimidated his political opponents through his mastery of "red baiting," i.e. accusing them of being "soft on Communism."
If Biden's candidacy was effectively side-tracked by accusing him of using a racial slur by calling an African-American "articulate," then wily political operatives might see this as an effective method to intimidate their opponents in 2008.
As a footnote, one might suggest that Sen. George Allen of Virginia was defeated in his re-election bid a couple years ago after he called a pesky dark-skinned "paparazzo" of Asian descent a "macaco." The incident got international media coverage.
Also, there was controversial "shock jock" Don Imus' not so amusing depiction of the Rutgers University women's basketball team, a remark that got him fired - rather justifiably.
After the New Hampshire primaries, a new controversy surfaced over the discrepancy between the political polls and the actual results of the voting. A couple of commentators suggested this was because the white voters lied to the pollsters about their intention to vote for Obama.
In effect, the commentators were accusing New Hampshire voters of racism for telling pollsters they would vote for Obama when they really intended to vote for Sen. Hillary Clinton. However, CNN analysts contradicted this theory by showing that the polls had accurately predicted the eventual 37 percent result for Obama.
The error in the polls was due to underestimating the 39 percent result for Clinton. The poll predictions of 30 percent for Clinton significantly underestimated the turnout of women who voted for her.
Accusations against Bill Clinton
One or two commentators even accused Bill Clinton - who has been described by former Atlanta Mayor and civil rights champion Andrew Young as our "first black President" - of using racial innuendo with the expressions "rolling the dice" and "fairy tale" when referring to the Obama campaign.
It was suggested that these remarks represented some sort of veiled racial slur, but other (perhaps more objective) commentators said the remarks referred to Senator Obama's relative inexperience and possible flip-flopping on his stance toward the Iraq war.
The danger in all of this, of course, is that any scrutiny of an African-American candidate's past could be dubbed by political operatives as motivated by racism.
In legal slang, this is called "playing the race card." Thus, the voters might be deprived of knowledge of who the candidate really is.
In effect, they could be asked to vote for an unknown entity, who may "articulate" the desires of many Americans in a charming and engaging manner. (An excellent interpretation of the Obama political phenomenon is found in the book "The Bound Man," written by Dr. Shelby Steele, Hoover Institution Fellow at Stanford University.)
One past politician famous for his ability to sway the crowds with oratory was Gov. Huey Long of Louisiana. He used to say: "I don't care what the newspapers say about me as long as they spell my name right."
My trusty dictionary says: "an orator or political leader, who gains power and popularity by arousing the emotions, passions and prejudices of the people" is the definition of a "demagogue."
In 2008, if we use our common sense, we the voters should ultimately have the final say on which candidates we think are genuine and which are trying to manipulative us.
Dan Norvell is a community columnist for The Advocate.