Monday, January 28, 2008


‘Nevada Phenomenon’ Bigger Peril to Obama than the Bradley Effect
Earl Ofari Hutchinson


A confident Democratic presidential contender Barack Obama shrugged off the buzz that he’d crash and burn with Latino voters, “Not in Illinois, they all voted for me.” But not so fast; there was this retort from a reader, yeah, but you ran against Alan Keyes. Keyes, being the luckless and hapless Eleventh hour Republican political sacrificial lamb who Obama annihilated in his smash victory for the U.S. Senate in 2004. But this time around, Obama faces a far bigger opponent than Keyes could ever hope to be, or even for that matter archrival Hillary Clinton. It’s the ‘Nevada Phenomenon’. It poses a far bigger danger to Obama’s White House drive than even the much debated ‘Bradley Effect’.
The Bradley Effect is named after former Los Angeles. mayor Tom Bradley who lost his bid for California governor to a white opponent in 1986, though Bradley had big leads in polls. Many white voters told pollsters and interviewers that they had no problem voting for an African-American, but once in the privacy of the voting booth voted for his white opponent.
The ‘Nevada Phenomenon’ by contrast has nothing to do with the supposed penchant for white voters to deceive pollsters and interviewers on race. In the South Carolina primary white voters went in reverse. The polls had Obama winning only ten percent of the white vote but in his smash win he more than double that percent. The ‘Nevada Phenomenon’ instead is the mix of wariness, fear, indifference and even hostility of the majority of Latino voters toward a black candidate.
It is more troublesome and intractable than potential white voter resistance to Obama. Even though in South Carolina and other Deep South primary states Obama lags behind Clinton among white voters, he’s still likely to get a respectable percent of white votes. That’s not true with Latino voters. Obama’s poll popularity with Latinos hasn’t budged very much despite his heightened name identification, media boost, energizing change pitch and personal charisma.. And if the history of black candidates, even popular well known and victorious candidates that ran for office and bombed with Latino voters is any indication, Obama won’t do much better than they did.

Start with the politician that gave the ‘Bradley Effect’ its dubious tag. During his 20 year reign as Los Angeles mayor, Bradley won election five times, and built a solid coalition of black, Jewish, and suburban Anglo white voters. However, Latino voters played only the barest of bare roles in Bradley’s coalition and elections. Even though Latinos then made up nearly one-third of the city’s population and were a rising percent of the voters, Bradley made few direct appeals to Latino voters for support.
Since then the political polarization between Latino voters and black candidates has been a virtual trademark in every other race where a black candidate has squared off against a white or Latino candidate. In 1993, Rudolph Giuliani, a tough law and order, conservative Republican running in heavily Democratic New York city against liberal African-American Democrat David Dinkins got nearly forty percent of the Latino vote. Nearly a decade later, Lee Brown, the former New York City police commissioner, got less than 30 percent of the Latino vote in his run-off race against Orlando Sanchez for Houston mayor. The even more popular, veteran former Congressman Ron Dellums received barely thirty percent of the Latino vote in his race for mayor in Oakland against a Latino challenger in 2005.
In each case the black candidates won their races with overwhelming support from black and substantial support from white voters. Their challengers were conservative Republicans or centrist Democrats They actively courted the Latino voters, and even won the important endorsements of prominent Latino elected officials and business leaders. That did little to dent the vote barrier between the majority of Latinos and the black candidates.
In Nevada, the pattern was the same. Obama got the endorsement of the leaders of the heavily Hispanic Culinary Workers Union. But getting the vote of the rank and file union workers was a far different matter, as the subsequent vote showed. Latino voters, many of them almost certainly members of the culinary union, defied their leaders and helped propel Clinton to victory.
This was yet another danger sign that the continuing reluctance of Latino voters to back black candidates could have a blowback effect on Obama.
The Super Tuesday primaries on February 5 will be a big test for him with Latino voters. Their numbers have soared in the key primary states of New Jersey, New York, Florida and his home state, Illinois. So much so that the black vote, even assuming that he will grab a far bigger share of that vote than Clinton, and split the white vote, will not insure an Obama victory. The Latino vote looms as the X factor for him. Unlike the subtle, much harder to finger ‘Bradley Effect’, the ‘Nevada Phenomenon’ is an open challenge to any black candidate that needs Latino votes to win. Obama is now the black candidate that faces that challenge, and danger.

Earl Ofari Hutchinson is an author and political analyst. His forthcoming book is The Ethnic Presidency: How Race Decides the Race to the White House (Middle Passage Press, February 2008).

7 comments:

Latino said...

"hostility of the majority of Latino voters toward a black candidate."

Do you think all Latinos hate Blacks?

From reading all of your blog post concerning black and brown ethnic groups i would say you feel that way... I'm Latino and im considering voting for Obama , some of my female relatives are voting for Hillary Clinton because they feel a women in the white-house would more likely bring Peace to this world.

and my father , a first generation American is voting for Hillary Clinton becouse he remembers Bill Clinton and how good the economy was during his presidency.

Rasheed said...

Some Latino's are voting for Clinton for the very same reason the U.S negro contnues to vote monolithically democrat.


Rasheed

Laura said...

As a Mexican, I hope Latinos are not more inclined to support Hillary than Barack because they're racist. Hillary got the support of Latino leaders (Villaraigrosa, Doloras Huerta etc) early, before Barack was so well known and before he had big primary victories. A lot of Latinos decided to follow these leaders early. Many Latinas, like other woman, want to break the glass ceiling. Lot of Latino, like other people of color, just love the Clintons. They don't have one of their own runing for president to change that loyalty, like Black do. Barack's campaign decided not to put a lot of effort and money in California because they think Hillary has it tied up already. The California Latinos and other Barack supporters are campaigning with little or no support from Barack's war chest.

While Latinas and older Latinos support Hilary most of the Latino I know that are supporting Barack are young, just like other racial groups. Some Latino leaders like Senator Gloria Romero and labor leader Maria Elena Durazo have endorsed Barack. My nefew is supporting Hillary. My brother-in-law said he is goig to vote for her because the UFW endorsed her. My sister's neighbors fly the confederate flag so she said she might support Barack to piss off her neighbors. A lot of Latinos that love Hillary are surprised because I'm not on the Hillary bandwagon.

Barack should have put more money and effort in California and tried to get more Latino support. All the struggling new immigrants remind us and keep us close to our roots so we're more inclined to be activist. And California Mexicans are good organizers. The culinary wokers voting for Hillary instead of Barack despite the union's endorsement may not have been because of racism. One of my best friends spent the last 10 days before the Nevada primary working on Hillary's campaign. He task was to organize the culinary workers to have a press conference to say that they were going to support Hillary despite the union's endorsement. They vote may have been because of great Mexican organizing and campaigning skills.

Rasheed said...

Blacks have been voting predominately for democrats for over 4 decades now and they still continue to do so. They continue to get burned by big government and complain about public schools, hospitals, and other public entities, but for some dumb reason continue to request more governemnt. You would think, anyone with a brain would say, change does nt come through the government, it has to come through the individual. Sad, Blacks, and Latino's still depending on the same government accuse it of being racist and underfunding, but have not gotting off their butts and did anythng for themselves. How about reduce the number of kids you have so you don't have to send them to that so-called underfunded public school. The underfunded school that pays more than 10k per pupil. Excuses after excuse. Government is not the answer, individual effort is. I know some Blacks will blame failures in education and high violent crime rates on slavery, which is a sorry excuse, but I wonder what the latino's excuse will is? Laura can you tell me the excuse, because I know it's never the fault of the individual.

Angelica said...

I, a Mexican American, am backing Senator Obama. I agree that there is a lot of tension between the Black and Hispanic communities. We (Latinos) tend to forget that the struggle is the same struggle, and that only in uniting our efforts will we be able to overcome the obstacles we face. Rasheed asks, "what is the Latino excuse"? I cannot answer the question. I can only say that ignorance keeps us where we are. Our love-affair with the media and our inability to think for ourselves provides the breeding ground for the excuse Rasheed seeks. We will be able to overcome our challenges when we begin to analyze and think clearly, through all angles any issue that affects us. Education at an early age is definitely the key. It is not just the government's responsiblity, but our individual responsibility to seek that education. The problem is that when all you know is what you see around you (lack of education, the view that working as a dental assistnat or as the manger of the local fast food restaurant is a "good job"), then that is all you aspire to. We have to find a way to bring the world to the small bubble within urban communities and provide our youth with the possibility of doing bigger and better things, which can be accomplished only through hard work, determination, and effective education. Those of us who were born and raised in that urban environment and found a way out, have to find our way back to provide better examples of what can be.

So, it is true. Latinos are backing Senator Clinton. Some becaues of racism. Others because they love the Clintons. Others because they believe Senator Clinton can make a difference. I believe in Senator Obama's message and I hope other Latinos are able to make an informed decision, rather than a decision based on race.

B. Gutsch said...

I tend to think Obama was too cocky about the support he would garner from Latinos. And in Nevada and California they largely supported Hillary Clinton. But more than a racial divide, this was because Clinton is the better candidate more interested in the issues of working people instead of tripping on the yuppy notions of "change" and "hope."

Anonymous said...

Obama's Farrakhan Dilemma:

Here you go again. Why does a Black canditate have a "dilemma" about Farrakhan? If the KKK endorses Bush why does he NOT have to even address it? But Obama has to address every endorsement he gets?