A pollster on the racial panic Obama’s presidency triggered — and what Democrats must do now

A CNN special that aired December 8 included rare, candid moments in which Barack Obama and his former adviser David Axelrod each acknowledged that racism contributed to negative attitudes toward the first black president.

“I think there’s a reason why attitudes about my presidency among whites in Northern states are very different from whites in Southern states,” Obama told Fareed Zakaria in an interview for “The Legacy of Barack Obama.” “Are there folks whose primary concern about me has been that I seem foreign, the other? Are those who champion the ‘birther’ movement feeding off of bias? Absolutely.”

This public admission was a first from the president, and Axelrod was even more direct, saying, “It’s indisputable that there was a ferocity to the opposition and a lack of respect to him that was a function of race.”

“Wow, I’m gonna pick myself up off the floor now,” Cornell Belcher, who served on the polling team for both of Obama’s presidential campaigns, said when he heard this. Why? He said the statements represented a long-awaited “massive breakthrough.”

What Obama and Axelrod said relates directly to an idea that Belcher lays out in detail in his new book, A Black Man in the White House. CONT.

Jenée Desmond-Harris, Vox