Report warns of race card in 2008 elections

History shows race-baiting — both implied and overt — may loom large over the 2008 elections, according to a new report by the University of California, Berkeley, School of Law and Goldman School of Public Policy.

Race-Bait ’08: Lessons Learned from the Political Dirty Dozen” reviews 24 years of campaigning and examines 12 campaigns in which the use of race made the difference; candidates who played the race card to mobilize or drive away voters soundly defeated their opponents, often coming from behind to win.

“It’s not only Barack Obama who will have to combat race-based tactics,” said Berkeley Law School Dean Chris Edley, an Obama supporter who co-sponsored a Piedmont fundraiser for the candidate in June. “Any politician who backs positions that appeal to minorities is vulnerable.”

In coming to grips with this political tactic, Edley — who was among Obama’s teachers at Harvard Law School — says it is vital to understand how appeals to racial bigotry, both subtle and unsubtle, have been used in the past. And it’s critical to assess how—with new media, new messages and new messengers—the race card may be used in the 2008 campaign.

Josh Richman

Josh Richman covers state and national politics for the Bay Area News Group. A New York City native, he earned a bachelor’s degree in journalism from the University of Missouri and reported for the Express-Times of Easton, Pa. for five years before coming to the Oakland Tribune and ANG Newspapers in 1997. He is a frequent guest on KQED Channel 9’s “This Week in Northern California;” a proud father; an Eagle Scout; a somewhat skilled player of low-stakes poker; a rather good cook; a firm believer in the use of semicolons; and an unabashed political junkie who will never, EVER seek elected office.