Most Americans might no longer have an hang-up about race, but Janet Albrechtsen sure does.

The Australian’s other commentators took the Obama victory in their stride. Paul Kelly wrote “this is more than a vote for change. It is a act of renewal, a turning point in American history and a quest for a better nation.” In a video piece with a moment of quite peculiar editing), he spoke about the immense disappointment of the Bush Presidency in strategic, moral, economic and financial senses.

Greg Sheridan was so excited he wrote two pieces, one that began “it is the final tribute to President Bush” and continued in a similar bizarre vein; the other, a far more measured effort that reminded us that once upon a time, many years ago, Sheridan could offer half-decent analysis.

Sheridan dealt with the race issue in a most thoughtful way. While needing to poke at the Left for its reflexive anti-Americanism, he noted “of all the exit polls CNN conducted, perhaps the most revealing was the one that found only 20 per cent of Americans believed race was an important factor in how they voted.”

For Albrechtsen, however, that 20% is far more important than the other 80%:

If it’s racism when an American refuses to vote for Obama because he is black, surely it is also racism when an American votes for Obama because he is black. And can anyone deny that plenty of Americans did just that when they voted for him? Back in June I met some of them in the US. They included black cab drivers and white upper-class educated professionals who admitted they didn’t care about Obama’s policies, but would vote for him because he is black. It’s about time America had a black president, they said. Is that not racism?

….let’s not for a second be so deluded – or hypocritical – as to imagine that race was not a reason why many, many Americans voted for him.

I thought for a while that Albrechtsen – never the brightest of News Ltd commentators, sort of like an Emma Tom without the substance — was trying to jujitsu some of the more absurd ravings of the Left about Obama, which would’ve been fair enough. For months, nonsensical drivel has flowed in a torrent from the likes of The Guardian, which warned Americans not to dare vote Republican on pain of being convicted (again) of racism by the rest of the planet. All that was needed was for Robert Fisk to warn that the “Arab street will explode” and the Looney Left picture would have been complete.

But no, Albrechsten appears to be suggesting Obama only won because he is African-American, or at least giving voice to some resentment that, somehow, Obama got away with something by virtue of his skin colour.

The point that some Americans voted for Obama because of his race is true but facile. People – perhaps a substantial minority of people – vote based on irrelevant, or downright stupid, factors all the time, some of them even more ridiculous than race. How many Australians voted one way or the other last year because “I just don’t like that Howard/Rudd”?

But Albrechtsen has a long-term obsession with race issues. Who can forget her sterling efforts in 2002 in relation to “racially-motivated” rapes in Sydney, when she was pinged for misreporting the views of European experts on Islamic youth (her ready confusion of race and religion is another matter). Or her persistent attacks on multiculturalism, or her ever-delicate handling of indigenous issues. Along with “judicial activism” and railing at teachers, race forms a staple of Albrechtsen’s commentary.

This is not to suggest she has never made a worthwhile observation on any of those matters, but the preponderance of race as a topic suggests someone with a bit of a hang-up about such matters.

Today’s effort let’s that all hang out. Albrechtsen won’t let us forget about Obama’s race, even if the vast majority of Americans thought race was neither here nor there in deciding who will lead them for the next four years.

Peter Fray

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Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey