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What About Bobby, Cont'd, Cont'd

A few last thoughts (promise!) on Bobby Jindal's 2012 prospects and the role race may or may not play in them. Ross Douthat responds to my previous comments here. And Daniel Larison has some thoughtful things to say here and here.

Ross and I (unsurprisingly) disagree about the extent to which the Obama-as-scary-Other narrative has been driven by his race, name, etc., on the one hand, and his political, academic, and spiritual connections in Chicago on the other. While it's a disagreement that's unlikely to be resolved, one discrepancy may be that Ross seems to be thinking more in terms of the (mostly high-political-information) people who are pushing the Obama conspiracy theories, and I'm thinking more in terms of the (mostly low-political-information) people who are receiving them. (And yes, of course, the categories are not entirely distinct.)

More broadly, I think Ross (and Larison and David Weigel) overestimate both a) how easy it will be to put the racial animus that's emerged on the margins over the past few weeks back into the box in time for a successful Jindal run in 2012; and b) how much we can infer about race and the GOP electorate from a single race in Louisiana--which, with its French, Spanish, West-African, Cajun, Creole, etc., etc. legacies, has more multicultural experience than most of the South (or, for that matter, Appalachia).

A final thought: It's generally assumed that if Barack Obama wins the presidency, it will make it easier for other nonwhite candidates to do the same in the near-term. While I certainly hope that's the case, it seems possible to me that it won't be. In particular, it's not hard to envision an Obama - Jindal general election being perceived as highly threatening to certain, mostly downscale, white voters in both parties--including some who are voting Obama this time around. For now, Obama is a clear exception to the rule, and any white voters uncomfortable about his race can at least reassure themselves that they had the option of voting for the familiar, old white guy if they'd prefered. A race in which voting-for-the-white-guy isn't even on the table could conceivably provoke deeper anxieties--or, again, the emergence of some third-party alternative.

As noted before, however, I would be very pleased to be wrong about all this, and think an Obama - Jindal race in 2012 would say good things about both parties, and about America.

--Christopher Orr

RELATED: For Suzy Khimm's reply, click here.