From NBC's Don Teague
I've heard some things over the past few weeks that raise alarm bells in my head. Among the most concerning, coming from members of the media and pundits, is that racism is the only way Barack Obama can lose the presidential election.
As a person who's worked in "red states" for much of my career, I feel compelled to offer an alternative view.
Specifically, I want to give you the perspective of my neighbor, Dan. Yes, you can call him "Dan the neighbor."
"Dan the neighbor" is not a racist.
For the record, I've known racists before. Some of them are obvious. Others drop hints about their views, hoping to find a like-minded person to share their fear or hatred with.
"Dan the neighbor" is not one of them.
I know this because I've spent plenty of time with Dan over the three years that he's lived next door. We've tossed a football back and forth over the fence and talked politics. We've had beers and barbecue at each other's homes. I've borrowed his tractor (this is Texas). He has even let me drive his boat. He's a good guy.
He's also a conservative. He doesn't consider John McCain a perfect candidate, but there's a McCain/Palin sign in his yard.
Dan didn't vote for Walter Mondale.
He didn't vote for Michael Dukakis.
He didn't vote for Bill Clinton, twice.
He didn't vote for Al Gore.
He didn't vote for John Kerry.
He won't vote for Barack Obama.
For Dan, it has nothing to do with race, and everything to do with liberalism. Clarence Thomas is his hero. He would vote for Condoleezza Rice in a heartbeat.
"I think his ideas are bad for the country," he told me the other day. "And since when do you prevent a recession by raising taxes?"
Dan is a professional, with a college degree. His wife is an attorney, and a vegetarian. They have a toddler and another baby on the way. I don't know how much money they make, but the boat is really nice.
Dan is also former Marine. He flies an American flag in his front yard. He believes Obama's past promises to pull out of Iraq would have guaranteed defeat. He believes Obama's refusal to acknowledge the success of "the surge" shows the kind of inflexibility that President Bush is often accused of.
Not that he thinks Bush is perfect. He thinks the administration stuck to a plan for too long in Iraq that simply wasn't working. And thinks former Defense Secretary Rumsfeld should have been replaced much sooner than he was.
Dan is particularly miffed by the president's immigration policies, and what he considers a lack of fiscal responsibility by the Bush administration. Allowing budget deficits to soar goes against Dan's conservative values.
"But seriously," he asked me, "is the answer to elect the most liberal guy in the senate to be president? I don't get it."
Barack Obama's past associations matter to Dan. He wonders why the media seems to pay scant attention to William Ayers, Tony Rezko, and Jeremiah Wright.
Dan listens to Rush Limbaugh…every day. Like millions of listeners of conservative talk radio, he worries about "the fairness doctrine." He's convinced that President Obama, with a Democratic house and senate would quickly move to silence conservative opposition by re-instituting "the fairness doctrine," thus shutting down Rush, Sean Hannity and others.
"Dan the neighbor" loves Sarah Palin. He doesn't understand why her limited experience should be an issue, when in his view she has as much experience as Obama…and he's at the top of the ticket. The attacks against her, in his view, have been sexist and remarkably unfair.
And the list goes on:
Redistribution of wealth.
Supreme court nominations.
You can argue whether Dan's views on any of the above points are actually correct. But there's no getting around the fact he shares those views with many others.
"Dan the Neighbor" is not going to vote for Barack Obama. And race has nothing to do with it.