Okay, I know this is going to dominate the news cycle for at least a day. So, let me point out a few facts that should be taken into consideration with this Michelle Obama NASCAR flap.
In case you were living under a rock or didn’t watch or hear any news yesterday, NASCAR fans booed First Lady Michelle Obama and Second Lady Jill Biden at the Ford 400 race in Florida. No one can tell if it was a large group or a small group but the booing was audible and noticeable to reporters and the First Lady alike. Several thoughts come to mind about this whole event:
1. What is wrong with the White House scheduling team? They should have known better than to have the first lady at a NASCAR event, which is one of the top three most popular sports among Republicans. If Rudy Giuliani can get booed at a Yankees game in New York, then you can be sure that some yahoos are going to make noise about Michelle at a NASCAR event at in a swing state. They should have planned better.
2. Remember when NASCAR Dads were the hot presidential demographic? They were the pithy pollster and pundits gender balancing response to “Soccer Moms.” NASCAR Dads were supposed to be middle aged working class White guys in the south and Midwest who were socially conservative but more moderate on government and economic issues (Get it? They like NASCAR??? That’s a good blue collar sport right?). Of course NASCAR Dads was just a 2004 name for Reagan Democrats, and Reagan Democrats was just a 90’s term for the Silent Majority – a term which Nixon coined in the late 60’s. Well, they only made up about 9% of the total voting population in 2008, Obama lost them by over 30% and still won the presidency. So please: let’s avoid over analyzing what yesterday might have meant.
3. This whole event reflects poorly on NASCAR as well. The sport has been desperately working for the last decade to shed its well deserved reputation as a Stars and Bars Redneck sport. These kinds of events don’t help them draw in the ‘Soccer Moms’ and suburbanite money that the sport needs in order to continue to grow. Add insofar as the fact that the first Lady was there to celebrate Joining Forces, an organization supporting military families, this just looks worse and worse for NASCAR’s public image.
4. Here’s the BIGGEST part of this Boo-Gate that gets me. And apparently no one in the mainstream press seems to be picking up on this point. Is it possible that boos weren’t just for Michelle Obama? The first thing that struck me about the video showing her and Jill Biden was the family that was being honored at the event as well. A VERY OBVIOUSLY Interracial family. White Husband, Black Wife and a grip of four little bi-racial kids. Maybe alone Michelle Obama wouldn’t have drawn boos, and maybe an interracial couple (military vets or not) wouldn’t have drawn boos, but you put them together and you’re bound to get some surly responses. I’m not saying NASCAR fans as a whole are racist, but it doesn’t take that many people in a crowd to make noise before the whole group is tainted. And the first Black First Lady and an interracial couple with kids is going to push the envelope for a certain segment of the population.
We’ll see how far the news cycle goes with this. I’m sure ESPN will run with it more tomorrow, and it’ll be on all the major talk shows. None of that really interests me. What I want to see is what happens the first time someone asks OBAMA about this event the next time he’s interviewed. He may be a softy on policy but Barry the Bomber has always been pretty hardcore when it comes to the wife and kids.
Dr. Jason Johnson, Politic365 Chief Political Correspondent, is a professor of Political Science at Hiram College in Ohio and author of the book Political Consultants and Campaigns: One Day to Sell. You can read more at www.drjasonjohnson.com or follow him on Twitter @Drjasonjohnson