Archive for July, 2007

so. carolina african-americans doubt obama?

July 31, 2007

In an article published in newspapers throughout the country yesterday, Associated Press (AP) writer Nedra Pickler claimed that African-Americans in South Carolina doubt America is ready for its first black President in Barak Obama. This view is “prevalent among blacks” in the palmetto state, wrote Pickler.

In large part, Obama’s inability to gain traction in Carolina is due to Hillary Clinton, a formidable opponent who, according to Pickler, easily crosses lines separating people by gender and race. “Much of her lead comes from women and blacks, and it’s strongest among black women. According to Associated Press-Ipsos polls taken this summer, 59 percent of black women said they support Clinton and 27 percent Obama.”

Recent findings by the Hastings Wayman’s “Southern Political Report: An Insider Advantage Publication” underscore trouble for Obama. “[Poll] results now reflect the same 15% spread between Clinton and Obama shown in other recent surveys in South Carolina. More importantly, they beg a strategy by Obama to find a way to win back African-American support and to find a way to expand his support among whites.”

But, whoa nelly, hold your horses! To paraphrase Mark Twain, reports of Obama’s death in South Carolina are greatly exaggerated.

Let’s step into the Democratic time machine and go back to 1984 and 1988. Who won South Carolina against considerable opponents in Walter Mondale and Gary Hart in ’84, and Dukakis, Gore and Gephardt in ’88?

Jesse Jackson.

And not by a squeaker either. In 1984 Jackson won over 30 percent of the vote in a somewhat crowded race loaded with significant names, and he bested that four years later in garnering 54 percent in ’88.

Jesse Jackson’s victories call into question contemporary claims by talking heads about Obama’s chances in this southern state. Greenville County Democratic chairman, Andy Arnold, is quoted in the AP article as saying, “A lot of the African Americans are with Hillary because I think they don’t believe white America is ready for a black president.”

Hmmmm . . . there’s something squirrelly about this. So, let me get this right: the AP writer and Arnold are saying African-Americans in South Carolina are not now ready for a black President even though they clearly indicated otherwise twice over 20 years ago? To be sure, many voted for Jackson because he is originally from South Carolina. But the point remains that voters in large numbers, including many African-Americans, supported Jesse Jackson.

So, what does this tell us? What is the lesson for Team Clinton, Obama, Edwards or Richardson? It tells us this: throw out the polls for now. While the finding that “59 percent of black women said they support Clinton” is consistent with national trends, there’s something intuitively unreliable about this.

In all likelihood polls in this state for now are meaningless for reasons pertaining to historic relations and inequities between races, and how people of color negotiated and continue to negotiate that minefield. While thankfully the confederate flag no longer flies over South Carolina’s public institutions and African-Americans there hold numerous positions of power, it is important to remember that, in the larger scheme of things, all this occurred only recently, and that there persists many all too familiar symbols of the continuing struggle for equality between the races, among them the controversial Bob Jones University. Findings from polls, in which an anonymous caller asks a South Carolina voter who she or he supports, need to be evaluated against this backdrop .


a breath of fresh air

July 30, 2007

A breath of fresh air. That’s what I call Barak Obama’s response to the CNN-Youtube question about whether candidates, if elected President, would meet with leaders of rogue nations without conditions.

While he did not explicitly verbalize this, I assumed Obama meant to say that he would condition such meetings on benchmarks with respect to human rights, peace and security. Clinton subsequently hammered Barak, saying in effect that she would not meet with leaders of rogue nations unless certain conditions were met.

But, honestly, does anyone really think Obama (or any other Democrat) would pick-up the phone and cold call North Korea’s president? Or, similarly, take unsolicited telemarketing calls from leaders from Venezuela, Iran, or Syria?

But the politicking surrounding the CNN-Youtube debate interested me as much as the candidates’ responses to questions. By calling Obama’s response “irresponsible and naive” the day after the debate, Team Clinton sought to call attention and add extra lustre to Hillary’s leadership experience; and, simultaneously, shine a white hot light on Obama’s relative inexperience.

But in slamming her opponent, Hillary opened herself up unnecessarily to Obama’s right-back-at-you attack of her initial vote on the Iraq war, which he called “naive and irresponsible.”

And what were Sunday morning TV talking heads at shows like Meet the Press chattering about? Not about Clinton’s leadership experience but rather how she messed up and gave Obama an opening.

There’s no doubt in my mind that, from here on out, Obama is not going to skip a beat at spinning what originally was an “experience versus inexperience” narrative into “politics of the past (i.e. not engaging the world)” versus “politics of hope (i.e. engaging the world).”

It remains to be seen how long Obama can surf the wave he’s caught. But one thing is certain: in the future, Team Clinton needs to refrain from snatching defeat from the jaws of victory. Stay on message — progressive leadership experience in health care, education, foreign policy and economic opportunities. Let the media draw stark contrast between candidates, which the media is all-too-happy to do anyways.

quote of the day

July 3, 2007

“Even Paris Hilton served SOME of her time,” Dave Johnson¬†on commutation of Scooter Libby’s sentencing by GW Bush.