Wednesday, October 22, 2008

David Palmer and Barack Obama

With so much talk of the Bradley effect and the reverse Bradley effect lately, I began wondering about something that might be a common cause but could probably not be accounted for in quantitative analysis. The character of President David Palmer on the show 24, was a strong, smart, competent African American. Could the prominence of this character have created the archetype of an acceptable African American president in the minds of Americans worried about national security?

The Bradley effect, in which people tell pollsters that they support a minority candidate, but do not vote for him/her, is based upon racial beliefs and those beliefs are affected by what we think is normal. Our perceptions of normality are shaped by what we see, even -- perhaps especially -- fiction. We know that 24 has shaped the national debate on the morality of torture, for example, being cited even by a Supreme Court justice. Could it also be affecting the larger cultural mind about what is acceptable in terms of race?

If so, the idea that a pro-torture, neo-conservative, fear-mongering drama on Fox setting the table for a Democratic President would have to go in the "irony can be so ironic" file.