Friday, June 27, 2008

The Minority Vote for Obama

Imagine African-Americans, who voted 88% Democratic in 2004, voting 95% for Obama in November. Imagine Hispanics, of whom 60% voted for John Kerry in 2004, voting more than 80% Democratic in 2008. Further imagine Asians, 65% Democratic in 2004, also voting more than 80% for Obama.

It looks like it could happen, especially if the racist attacks continue.

Robert Novak, in yesterday's Washington Post said this of Colin Powel:

His tenuous 13-year relationship with the Republican Party, following his retirement from the Army, has ended. The national security adviser for Ronald Reagan left the present administration bitter about being ushered out of the State Department a year earlier than he wanted. As an African American, friends say, Powell is sensitive to racial attacks on Obama and especially on Obama's wife, Michelle.

Polls show that among Hispanics, traditionally wary of African-Americans and being too closely aligned with the Democratic Party, Obama leads McCain by more than 20 points. Geraldine Ferraro's comments about the advantages Obama enjoyed by being a minority particularly galvanized Latinos, who saw that same line of attack working equally well against a Hispanic candidate. This is a typical reaction to Ferraro's comments on a Latino blog:

…the whole implication that Obama is the front runner because he's not white really gets to the essence of her racism and stupidity. I don't think that Obama is the token minority candidate. He could not be leading in the delegate count and popular vote if he were such. And doesn't Ferraro remember Alan Keys? He's black, and he has run for president a couple times. The country wasn't caught up in "the concept" of Alan Keys. And what's with this whole "concept"? Can we not fathom having a president who isn't a WASP?

I wonder if she would have said something similar if Bill Richardson had achieved the success that Barack Obama is having. You could just as easily swap out Obama's name for Bill Richardson's in the above statement and have something as equally offensive

McCain's options for reaching out to minorities to counter these trends are limited by his need to try to hold onto the Republican party base which is already very wary of him and noticeably non-energized about his candidacy.

Remember that in 2000 and 2004 the country was pretty evenly split between Democrats and Republicans. Think what taking 10% or 15% of the minority vote away from the Republicans and giving it to the Democrats does to that balance.


Matt said...

ah, yes. during the last month of the Clinton-Obama matchup, i think i developed a severe case of Ferraro Fatigue, and i wasn't quite sure if it was well-founded or not. see, a close friend and i recently had a discussion on the parts of this particular subject related to obama, race, claims of tokenism, and all that jazz. it's rather interesting just how complex all of our individual opinions are on those matters. it is going to be a discredit to try to boil the rather lengthy discussion down to one comment here, but i'll have to:

my friend was saying that she felt a particular pride about having Obama as our presidential candidate, and that the emotions she felt were directly tied to him being black. we talked a long time about that, and about similar feelings tied to Clinton being a female candidate that made it down to the last wire. as socially progressive 30-somethings it wasn't surprising to either of us that we ended up with these two candidates as "finalists," but i was surprised to hear someone with my similar political tastes saying Obaba's *race* gave her a positive emotional smack to the gut - brought a tear of pride to her eye. i could see how important this cycle's outcome was in terms of historical significance - as in, "we finally got there" socially, but that's as far as any potential pride" went for me.

we talked a lot about this and it became clear just how complex our feelings and opinions on that subject can be. in the end i came to realize that without thinking about it, i tended to be coming from the camp that took Dr King's dream approach - not only does one's content of character trump skin color in terms of judging — negatively or positively — it does in terms of an emotional pride (e.g. i'm proud to have Obama as our candidate because i think he is a remarkably intelligent thinker, not because he is black). my friend countered this by talking about what Obama's blackness "means," as in, his race is an integral part of all the other facets of his being that I enjoy. well, perhaps, and perhaps not. i had to disagree with her (it's a long-winded discussion as to why), and i think that might have me agreeing with the people who commented on the Latino blog you've quoted. however, the more i listened to her, the more i realized i shouldn't be so quick to judge her feelings as antiquated tokenism. if Ferraro is indeed coming from a background like I *thought* my friend was - a mindset that successful black people automatically evoke an emotional swooning because of the hardships they've endured in their lifetime, i'd disagree with her. i think we're beginning to move past race-based thought like that and more towards class-based thought.

all in all, this is neither here nor there when it comes to relating directly to your post and *votes*, but i thought i'd share anyways.

actually it all sounds jumbled and disjointed to me right now, so i apologize if it's difficult to follow me this morning.

Dave Barrett said...

Thanks for the comment.
To be non-racist does not mean that you are color-blind in the sense that you do not even notice someone's skin color or ethnicity. It means that you do not pre-judge people based on their race.
If Barack Obama becomes our President it will be a great accomplishment not only for him but for America as a sign that we have made a lot of progress overcoming our history of racial prejudice and intolerance.
I am also hope that electing Barack Obama president will be something of a short-cut in starting to repair the great harm that the last 7 years has done to our international reputation and our status as a beacon of hope and freedom in the world. I also hope that having a black president will speed up the process by which we regain the trust of people of color around the world that we are on their side in their struggle for democracy and freedom.