Monday, March 10, 2008

Black Voters Can’t Put Obama in the White House
Earl Ofari Hutchinson

African-American voters will help insure that Democratic presidential contender Barack Obama keeps his slight edge over Hillary Clinton—for now. They will not help him beat John McCain if he eventually gets the Democratic nomination. Yet it’s still a virtual article of political faith that a strong, united, and crusading black vote can tip the scale for a Democratic presidential candidate. This is a myth and it’s risky business for Obama and the Democrats to believe that. It’s easy to see why Obama might be tempted to think that. When Obama needed a surge early on in the campaign, he called on Oprah, and she delivered. She made a blatant racial pitch for blacks to in the crucial South Carolina primary to vote for him, and they did in near record numbers. That put him over the top and propelled his campaign.

With the black vote firmly in hand, that gave him the freedom to craft his hope and change message in broad, bland, and especially non-racial terms. The idea was to avoid any appearance of a Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton racial tilt. That would be the political kiss of death with many white voters.
But that didn’t change the political reality that black votes still provided the decisive edge for Obama in key primary state wins. And even in his losses to Hillary Clinton in Ohio, California and Texas, black votes kept the race close. Those votes, though, will never be enough to put him over the top in the big states against Clinton, let alone against John McCain in the South and Border states.

The myth that the black vote wins presidential election has been bandied about for so long that it’s taken on the proportion of a political urban legend. In 2000, black voters made up nearly 11 percent of the overall voter. They gave the Democratic presidential contender Al Gore 90 percent of their vote. In 2004, black voters made up nearly 12 percent of the vote and gave Democratic presidential contender John Kerry 88 percent of the vote. Gore and Kerry lost.
The Clinton wins in 1992 and 1996 also helped fuel the myth that black votes put Democrats in the White House. Clinton managed to pry four Southern states out of the GOP orbit but he did it by downplaying racial and social issues and stressing family values, tough defense, and a strong economy. He got lots of white votes, especially, white male votes, and that made the difference since he got the same percentage of black votes that Democrats traditionally got in prior elections.
In 2004, then presidential contender Howard Dean openly worried that Democrats could not beat Bush unless they got a bigger share of white male votes. He quipped that the Democrats had to court beer-guzzling white guys who wave the Confederate flag. That brought howls of protests from Dean’s Democratic rivals and the charge that Dean was pandering to unreconstructed bigots to get more white votes in his column. A livid Sharpton called Dean a turn coat Democrat and warned that heeding Dean would be a betrayal of black voters. They could have saved their breath. Kerry made only a weak, half-hearted effort to court white male voters in the South. Bush still got nearly seventy percent of the white male vote there, a second sweep of the South and a second term.

A chastised Dean got it right. He simply crunched the numbers and recognized that white males make up more than one-third of the electorate. .
In 2000, exit polling showed that while white women backed Bush over Gore by 3 percentage points, white men backed him by 27 percentage points. Four years later the margin was 26 points for Bush over Kerry among white males.

A huge first red flag waved high for Obama and the Democrats in the recent Ohio Democratic primary that warns that they can’t win without white votes. Clinton won a smash victory over Obama in large part with white votes. And even more ominously, blue collar lower income white voters roundly rejected Obama. In fact, nearly twenty percent of white voters defied political correctness and said that they would not vote for an African-American. That contrasted with national polls, which showed that more than 90 percent of whites said that race would not be a factor in determining their vote. The Ohio mini-white backlash to Obama doesn’t bode well for the Democrats if he’s the eventual nominee. No Republican or Democrat has won the White House in the past four decades without winning Ohio.

Black voters will cheer and dash to the polls en masse for Obama, but their votes won’t be enough to put him in the White House. Despite the myth, they haven’t put any other Democrat candidate in the White House either.


Michael Fisher said...

And your point is what? Black folks shouldn't vote for Obama, but rather for Mrs. Clinton 'cause she, being white, got a better shot at it?

Shall we bow to white racism?

Shall I marry a white woman 'cause she'll open doors for me a black woman never could?

That piece you did about Ferraro came straight outta that same mentality.

Let's face the fact, that if Mrs. Clinton or Mrs. Ferraro were not white neither would be where they are. Period.

Anonymous said...

Wow, you are certainly detached. Shall I remind you that you are included in the group of black voters, "they", of which you speak in the previous post, unless my eyes deceive me?

Good Luck with those book sales. However, I think this article and the one for Huff Post should help them to escalate.

I can see how you could show such affinity to Clinton willing to do whatever it takes to be successful.

I hope in the future you show some respect for the intelligence and judgment of the people who look like you.

Anonymous said...

I used to have a lot of respect for you, Mr. Hutchison. However, after this hit piece on Senator Obama - I dunno.

NEWS FLASH!!! Barack Obama is carrying the voting electorate of all races, nationalities, sexual orientation and gender.

It is exactly these views that you exspouse -that is are so sickening-and precisely why Barack Obama has the support of the independent critical thinking electorate.

Thank you, sir. Please go back to sleep for another three decades. You'll be surprised how the world has changed again when you wake up.

Anonymous said...

Mr. Hutchinson,

The rancid nonsense that you wrote in your March 11 article for 'The American Chronicle' is not merely false, but patently absurd. If you really believe that Ferraro is correct and that what she said wasn't a blatantly racist attack on Obama (would anyone in their right mind say that Hillary is only doing well in this election because she's a woman?) I question not merely your political opinion but your SANITY.

I always thought you were a rational and progressive individual but the article in the Chronicle supporting Ferraro is MINDLESS. Where''s your sense of integrity and fundamental respect for truth Mr. Hutchinson or have you lost any connection to them as well.

I have read many of your books in the past and I have always been impressed by your intellectual clarity, political acumen, respect for scholarship, and commitment to radical/progressive ideas but clearly you are turning into Mr. Hyde on us...

Anonymous said...

When discounting the power of the Black vote, it's usually done by people who don't really understand how candidates get elected. Yes, if you look at percentages of Black voters nation wide vs. this or that group, you will think, "Well, the Black vote isn't as important as people think." However, when you look closely at this year's Democratic primary, you can understand how a winning Black voters as a block can benefit.

Take Philadelphia. A large concentration of Black voters will help Obama win the city, and he will take all those delegates in those districts. Perhaps Clinton wins the state's popular vote, however she ends up having to share the delegates with Obama to a degree dependent on how well he's done in certain districts.

If Black voters were spread out all over rural Pennsylvania, their allegiances wouldn't matter as much, but the fact that they're concentrated within districts matters. Our electoral system is, for better or for worse, set up that way so that people outnumbered have the opportunity to have their voice heard.

OTOH, that's why you have White politicians visiting Black churches regularly during election season. White politicians know where the power is, certainly.

Anonymous said...

Brother Earl-

I have been reading and listening to your commentary for years and have no doubt that you not only love and respect Black people but will speak and write the truth even when we don't want to hear, or read it.

Black America cannot get Obama in the White on the belief in his vagueness about "Hope" and "Change" alone anymore than Obama can Hope to Change Black America's status-quo of even if he does get elected.

Stand firm, brother Earl.

Anonymous said...

I don't give a rip about Obama's race. I do not like his liberal/socialist ideas. The same with Clinton. Her ideas are out to lunch, too. Both are pandering for votes. The welfare state is a loser. They both are willing to give as much taxpayer money to those looking for big daddy government to handle all problems. Embarrassing. Take personal responsibility and quit blaming all your problems on others.