Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Will Blacks Vote For Obama?

Trey Ellis says "yes" and I largely agree and for the reasons that he sates.

As one might expect, Ellis' argument will surely lead to much gnashing of teeth in certain quarters (go and look at the comment section in the post above). But so much of what is being argued in his piece is, frankly, common sense. It's entirely plausible that blacks will not vote for Obama just because he's black, but also because he might indeed be the best candidate (or at least the candidate that best represents their interests). If Obama is the best candidate, he will garner a wider base of support, but it shouldn't be shocking that black people would line up like this (someone tell Hillary Clinton, whose supposedly has the "black vote" on lock).

And to those who would begrudge black people for actually voting for a viable black presidential candidate in part because he's black, please spare me. Did these same people get up in arms when people voted for George Bush because he gives off the vibe of someone down home and "authentic", a person you could have a beer with? Yes, racial and personality comparisons are not easy to make, but there is an underlying similarity and that is that people are drawn to ally themselves with people or things they know (or think they know; George Bush is a product of one of the most tony families in America, but that didn't prevent millions of people from convincing themselves that the son of a former president who was governor of Texas - and whose brother is a former state governor - who also attended Andover, Yale, and Harvard Business School was an "average Joe" just like them ). This, despite the fact that the policies of the candidate they most identified with often ran counter to their own interests. All of this, for better or for worse, is simply identity politics in action.

Obama's real problem isn't going to be "Will blacks vote for me"?; it's going to be actually getting people in the voting booth. To me, those aren't the same issue. One feels like something theoretical from a poll ("Would you consider voting for Barack Obama in the 2008 Democratic primary?") vs. catching someone coming out of the voting booth on primary day and asking them who they pulled the lever for and they respond, "Barack Obama". One seems tied to intent, the other to actual action.

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