so. carolina african-americans doubt obama?

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 .


One Response to “so. carolina african-americans doubt obama?”

  1. obama wins big in south carolina — a not unexpected victory « moderate Says:

    […] Clinton, in what amounts to a not unexpected victory for the Senator from Illinois.  As early as July,  suggested that, if recent history is any indication, Barak stood a strong chance of winning in […]

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