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Monday, May 5, 2008

Hillary, the Black Vote, and "Electability": Winning Without the Black Vote

On this eve of the Indiana and North Carolina primaries, the word it that Hillary Clinton is making inroads into the black vote in North Carolina. Black surrogates for Hillary defend the behavior of the campaign. It will be interesting to see how this plays out in this Post-Pastor Wright period. The polls seem to say that Wright has not hurt Barack among Democrats and its questionable that how much the episodes have hurt him at all except the constant press bashing. All the above notwithstanding and in light of the white nationalism of the Clinton campaign, it will be very interesting should Clinton make any inroads into the black vote. On the other hand, should she become the nominee what are her chances of getting elected without the black vote? Maybe she feels if she kills Obama's candidacy this time around she will be available for 2012 -- by that time blacks will have forgotten???


From: Cafe, Election Central, Muckraker

How Hillary Lost This Black Vote (And Maybe Many Others)

By Boyd Reed - May 5, 2008, 1:29AM

One of the most remarkable things about this Democratic primary season has been the almost complete defection of the African-American vote from Hillary Clinton to Barack Obama. She started out with about 80% of the Black vote, but in the last two primaries, Obama has won 92% of the Black vote.

There are simple explanations (for example, Black voters are voting for a Black candidate). However, the truth is much more complicated. I don't pretend to speak for all Black voters, but I can definitely write with some knowledge about how my vote was lost to her. Perhaps, this discussion will also lead to some conclusions about how this massive swing occurred.

First, let me talk a little about my background, so you can understand where I come from. I'm a 34-year-old African-American male. I have been interested in politics since I was eight years old, making posters for the mayoral race in East St. Louis, Illinois, where I grew up. For the purposes of context, in the 1990 census, East St. Louis had 99.8% Black population.

East St. Louis is part of St. Clair County. I've always said my home county has two political affiliations available: Democrat, and Deceased. So, my leanings aren't terribly difficult to discern. I have been known to vote a split ticket on occasion, but when it comes to the top of the ballot? Nothing but left, baby!

I've always been skeptical that a Black candidate could ever be President in my lifetime. Despite a lot of hometown enthusiasm for Jesse Jackson in 1984 and 1988, I told any adult who would listen that Jackson had no chance of being elected. I felt he was not someone that White voters would want to elect. (Back then, words such as "polarizing" and "electability" weren't in my lexicon.)

When Hillary Clinton decided to run for President, I figured she couldn't miss. After all, she'd have the name recognition, the War Room alumni at her disposal, tremendous connections, and the most powerful Democrat in the country as her surrogate-in-chief. She'd also get to face a weak GOP nominee, given that national disgust with The Decider was growing daily.

I took brief notice of a Senator who announced his candidacy in January 2007. "Barack Obama?" I thought, racking my brain for information. I know he was the second Black to be elected to the US Senate from Illinois, and that he'd given a well-received speech at the national convention in '04. Other than that, I knew absolutely nothing of him.

Meanwhile, I didn't see any reason not to vote for Hillary. Yes, I knew she had some shadiness in her past. But I figured she was the strongest candidate, and I knew that my family couldn't financially survive more Republican rule.

I figured Obama would be competitive in the four early contests, but I really thought Super Tuesday would end his candidacy. I just thought the Clinton machine would crank up for that day and give her a monster lead.

I was surprised at Bill Clinton's comments after South Carolina. Yes, it's not that surprising that the state went for a Black candidate. However, I never thought that Slick Willie would slip on the racial banana peel.

Then, I realized one day what really bugged me about Clinton's "fairy tale" comment and comparison of Obama to Jackson. I never thought Bill was a racist. However, I knew he was race-baiting in his comments. He was essentially trying to reassure White voters that Hillary's loss in South Carolina was to be expected due to the Black vote there.

That prompted me to take another look at the Clintons' history. After all, past is often prologue. I started to remember some of the scandals - and recalled that very little of Hillary's history had ever really been explored. That was the first time I ever really considered voting for anyone other than Hillary.

Then Super Tuesday dawned. By the end of the day, Obama had effectively battled Clinton to a draw, which absolutely floored me. I began to seriously consider the possibility that Obama could, you know, WIN.

However, I didn't want to waste my vote. I didn't want to back a candidate who I thought might not win the general election. So, although my background research on Clinton left me nervous, and Obama was rolling up a string of primary wins, I still felt that I would go for Hillary.

Then, the Wisconsin primary happened. As an Illinois native who spent several years in Rockford before moving to Pennsylvania, I knew firsthand that Wisconsin, demographically speaking, couldn't have been much better for Clinton. Wisconsin had been Jesse Jackson's Waterloo against Michael Dukakis. I didn't expect Obama to fare any better against Hillary Clinton.

Final score: Obama 58%, Clinton 41%. When CNN called the race with less than 1% of the vote in, my wife had to reattach my lower jaw. I was absolutely stunned. I looked at my wife and said, "Obama could actually win the whole damned thing. He could really win."

That night is when I started to research his campaign in depth. I pored over his policy proposals, reviewed his legislative record, and played through all his major speeches. The more I heard, the more impressed I was.

What truly began my conversion, though, was seeing his rally crowds. The racial mix in the crowds was absolutely shocking to me. I saw Whites, Blacks, Hispanics and Continentals cheering him on. I saw Abercrombie & Fitch alongside Dickies. I saw Armani alongside thrift-store. I saw people from all walks of life. They all had a common desire and a common purpose. I immediately thought of those classroom and barber-shop political discussions back in the spring of 1988, and realized that Obama was able to draw from much more than the "Rainbow Coalition".

Finally, though, the Geraldine Ferraro uproar - and Hillary Clinton's tacit acceptance of Ferraro's ridiculous statements - put me firmly in the Obama camp. The day Ferraro basically threatened the Democratic Party as part of her resignation from Clinton's campaign, I made my first donation to Obama For America. The ensuing months have done nothing but reinforce my decision.

As I talk to other Blacks, many of them echo similar sentiments:

"I didn't think he could win..."
"I can't believe he's beating the Clintons..."
"I didn't think he could get so many White votes..."

Yes, Black voters noticed Bill Shaheen, the South Carolina comments, the Somali tribal garb photo, " far as I know", and things like that. But the bottom line is, Black voters are diverse. We've been a reliable Democratic constituency, but we have widely varied reasons for voting Democratic. We want to back a winner, and we haven't been able to do that since '96.

There are many theories about what's happened this year. Most of them center around the signs of race-baiting from the Clinton campaign. That is a powerful theory. However, what I believe - and will speculate on, based on my experience and lots of conversations - is that Blacks were waiting for the answer to this question: "Can Barack Win?"

Obama reached out to us, along with every other racial constituency. We watched Clinton as she began to align more and more with the Republican side. We watched Clinton as she tried to make a racial concern issue out of her appearance at the State of the Black Union. We watched Clinton's rallies, where she drew mostly white women, and realized that we wouldn't be comfortable at those events.

Finally, we watched Clinton triangulate, prevaricate and obfuscate her way through this primary season. Maybe, after years of being treated as children by our elected representatives, we just decided to vote for someone who would talk to us like adults. Now, coupled with that assumption is some toxic behavior from the Clintons that's turning off voters of all hues.

In the end, I believe Hillary Clinton assumed that we'd be there for her when needed, and allowed her campaign to exude indifference to everyone except her sisterhood. Barack Obama knew he needed everyone, and wanted to build an electoral base that would stretch across the chasms of race, economic status and politics.

I know which strategy I want to support. And I think a lot of other African-Americans feel the same way.

Come to think of it, a lot of Americans feel the same way, period. So, maybe in the final analysis, true leadership and decency just attract people irrespective of race. It's a concept that just doesn't fit in the poll-tested, micro-trended campaign strategery of Hillary Clinton, which is why she never really grasped it in the first place.

1 comment:

USpace said...

I don't think you mean that people should vote for their race as the reason for their vote. So many talented artists for Obama too. GO Obama! His 'Change', 'Hope' and 'Progress' mantras are actually somewhat self-mocking. Making your own Obama posters is totally addicting, I laughed so hard I almost had a breakdown. LOL!
absurd thought -
God of the Universe says
befriend a bomber

pushing for change at all costs
sacrifices must be made

absurd thought -
God of the Universe says
only feel and hope

please force people to change
change can only be good

Make Some Obama Posters NOW!
Appeasement Talk Bothers Appeasers
Help Halt Terrorism Now!