6, 2009 - Issue 336 - Summer Hiatus Issue #1 of 4 Best of
was in January 2007 that first-term United States Senator Barack
Obama officially entered the campaign for the Democratic Party
presidential nomination. Twelve-months later Senator Obama, 46
years old, gained victory in the Iowa Caucus primary on January
3, 2008—Obama 38%, Edwards 33%, Clinton 29%. Obama's Iowa victory
warranted the following headline in the New York Times
(January 4, 2008): “New Face And A Call For Change Shake Up
The Democratic Field.”
for a minute just how politically stunning Senator Barack Obama's
victory in the Iowa Caucus primary was. Obama's campaign demonstrated
that an African-American candidate for a major political party's
presidential nomination could emerge victorious in a primary where
the state's voters are 95%-plus White Americans, besting two major
White candidates of high prominence. This is my ninth article
for Black Commentator.com on the Obama campaign.
writing my first article for the January 17, 2008 issue of Black
Commentator, I had a fervent feeling about the Obama campaign's
political-culture roots, so to speak, and I thought it useful
to inform Black Commentator's readers of this. The Obama
campaign's political-culture roots were, for me, clear and unambiguous.
Namely, the Obama campaign stood-on-the-shoulders-of-Jesse
Jackson's 1984 and 1988 campaign quests, which were undertaken,
of course, at a less politically propitious point in time.
campaign-quests occurred in an era during the consolidation of
a systemically reactionary Republican oligarchic-plutocratic conservatism.
A conservatism which—after two Reagan administrations and a Bush
I administration and two Bush II administrations—has literally
ravaged social-equalitarian patterns and opportunities in American
life. In my Black Commentator (January 17, 2008) article,
I formulated the crucial historic linkage between Jesse Jackson's
primary campaign innovations and the 2008 Obama campaign as follows:
no doubt that Obama's current 2008 quest for the Democratic
presidential nomination is a unique electoral phenomenon, paving
a way to new political possibilities in our country's oligarchic
and plutocratic politics. But Jesse Jackson's 1984 and 1988
campaign-quests also represented a unique Black American-connected
electoral thrust, though at a lower level of systemic political
impact than Obama's campaign.
all, Jackson's campaign-quests –beyond any previous electoral
undertaking by Black political personalities—afforded African-Americans
a preliminary sense that their ethnic-bloc political culture
and its leadership personalities contained attributes of national-level
long presidential-primary road from Jesse Jackson to Barack
Obama was, as it were, dirt-and-gravel in composition. The Barack
Obama presidential-primary road is a bona fide modern turnpike,
and on this modern presidential-primary turnpike a Black politician
of exemplary caliber and capabilities is now traveling en route
to the White House. Can he arrive there victoriously?
am writing this article during the last week in September— just
five weeks before the November 4th election— and I am inclined
toward an affirmative answer to the above-mentioned question.
This inclination is influenced by what I call “electoral building-blocks”
that produced the victory path for the Obama campaign during
the long primary contests. Two crucial “electoral building-blocks”
for the Obama campaign during the primary contests were the following:
1) Mobilizing a “Liberal White Voter Bloc”. 2) Mobilizing a “Maximal
Black Voter Bloc”. If these two core “electoral building-blocks”
can be put in place between the end of the Democratic Nominating
Convention and November 4th, the Obama campaign will win the office
of the president of the United States.
TO AN OBAMA VICTORY: MOBILIZING LIBERAL WHITE VOTERS
are good grounds for being hopeful regarding the Obama campaign's
chances of mobilizing just enough “Liberal White Voters” into
one of that campaign's crucial “electoral building-blocks” for
victory in November. These grounds were pointed out by the Pew
Research Center's polling director, Andrew Kohut, in an Op. Ed.
article that appeared several days after the New Hampshire primary
election in the New York Times (January 10, 2008). According
to Kohut, although Barack Obama lost the New Hampshire primary
by 3 percentage points, there was a certain kind of victory-in-defeat,
as it were, in the way that the votes of White voters “divided
along socio-economic lines.” Among White voters in New Hampshire,
Kohut reported the following:
Clinton beat Mr. Obama by 12 points (47 percent to 35 percent)
among those [White voters] with family incomes below $50,000.
By contrast, Mr. Obama beat Mrs. Clinton by five points (40
percent to 35 percent) among those earning more than $50,000.
There was an education gap, too. College graduates voted for
Mr. Obama 39 percent to 34 percent; Mrs. Clinton won among those
who never attended college, 43 percent to 35 percent.
another way, what the director of polling for the Pew Research
Center is telling us is that in the New Hampshire primary, what
I dub the “Liberal White Voter Bloc”—solid middle-class and upper
middle-class White voters—favored Barack Obama over Hillary Clinton,
while lower middle-class and working-class White voters favored
Clinton over Obama. Furthermore, Andrew Kohut's New York
Times article also informs us that underlying a “Liberal White
Voter Bloc” support for Obama in the New Hampshire primary was
not just an income dynamic but also an education dynamic among
White voters, because the “Liberal White Voter Bloc” was equally
defined by college-educated voters.
Andrew Kohut identified in his New York Times article
the role of a “Liberal White Voter Bloc” that supported Obama
over Clinton in the New Hampshire January primary, he was also
identifying what eventually became a crucial “electoral building-block”
for the road to victory for Senator Obama by the end of the Democratic
presidential primaries in July 2008. Now we must ask what
are the constituent middle-class and upper middle-class White
voter-bloc units that make up what I dub the “Liberal White Voter
constituent White voter-bloc units are the following: 1) Middle-class/Upper
middle-class persons in 18-40 Age Group; 2) Middle-class/Upper-middle-class
persons in the 40-60 Age Group; 3) White ideological-independents;
4)White ideological-moderates; and 5)White women in the 45-under
Age Group. This list of constituent White voter-bloc units who
at this time juncture (September 20th, 2008) make up what I dub
a “Liberal White Voter Bloc” is portrayed in TABLE I.
aggregate terms, the potential Obama-supporting “Liberal White
Voter Bloc” constitutes between 35% and 40% of the White electorate
nationwide. If the Obama presidential campaign can mobilize behind
Obama most of these White voters, combined with a majority vote
among White independents/moderates and strong majorities among
African-American and Hispanic voters, Senator Obama will win in
should note, however, that ensuring a viable mobilization of
a “Liberal White Voter Bloc” in support of Senator Obama in the
November election will involve surmounting some real obstacles.
Basic among those obstacles is the simple fact that many White
American citizens are not ready to undergo an important development
in the character of what might be called “their American identity”.
They are not ready to “multiculturalize their American identity”.
Which is to say, they aren't ready to graft-an-African-American-cultural-ingredient
on to their White American identity, especially in regard to
political attitudes and voting preferences favorable to an African-American
as president of the United States.
the concluding section of this article, I will discuss more fully
the problem— here in the early 21st century—of getting a majority
quantum of White American voters to “multiculturalize their American
identity”, to close-the-curtain-on-racism, that is. Meanwhile,
the data shown in TABLE II provide us a glimpse of what might
be called the “attitudinal obstacles” that confront the Obama
campaign's endeavor to obtain a maximal mobilization of a “Liberal
White Voter Bloc” in support of Senator Obama in November.
curious set of figures in TABLE II sort of stand out in regard
to the issue of what I call “attitudinal obstacles” among White
voters that confront the Obama campaign's goal of a viable mobilization
of a “Liberal White Voter Bloc”. Namely, that as of a September
15th Siena Research Institute Poll published in
the New York Post (September 16, 2008), only 32% of the
Jewish Voter Bloc in New York state support the Obama campaign,
while 54% favor John McCain.
anti-Obama preference pattern among the Jewish Voter Bloc in New
York is clearly counterintuitive. Why do I say this? Because the
Jewish Voter Bloc is reputed to be more liberal toward the civil
rights activism African-American leadership pattern. Which
is to say, toward the mainstream African-American leadership pattern
as represented by politically effective activist African-American
organizations like the NAACP, National Urban League, NAACP Legal
Defense Fund, National Bar Association, Rainbow Coalition, Southern
Christian Leadership Conference, National Council of
Negro Women, Children's Defense Fund, etc. Therefore,
insofar as Senator Barack Obama's political career has been associated
with the mainstream African-American leadership pattern, one
might have thought that the Jewish Voter Bloc in the Democratic
Party-leaning state of New York would welcome an opportunity to
vote for a high-caliber African-American candidate like Obama.
a depressing thought that the Jewish Voter Bloc in New York would
turn-its-back on a top-flight African-American presidential candidate
like Senator Barack Obama! Indeed, I consider the current poll
data showing 54% of New York state Jewish voters favoring McCain's
rightwing Republican campaign rather hard to believe. However,
being an optimist among progressive African-American intellectuals,
I also suspect that during the final six weeks of the presidential
campaign a majority of New York Jewish voters will retrieve their
liberal values and support Obama.
doubt as every American college student probably knows, the process
of grafting-an-African-American-cultural-ingredient on to White
Americans' cultural identities has been a slow uphill
Sisyphean-type endeavor since the end of the Civil War in 1865.
The nasty tenacity of features of the racist ethos among far too
many of our White compatriots has been depressing, and challenging
this racist ethos must therefore remain a persistent goal of
liberal and progressive forces in American life.
course, this goal of pressuring the racist ethos into a multicultural
and cosmopolitan Americanist identity has been a center
piece of the African-American civil rights activist leadership
tradition (the tradition of the NAACP, the National Urban League,
Southern Christian Leadership Conference, etc.), and it was within
the legacy of this African-American leadership tradition that
Senator Barack Obama evolved as a major American politician.
Fortunately for American politics here in the first decade of
the 21st century, the full-fledged social movement dynamics
that shaped and defined the Obama campaign throughout the 2008
Democratic primaries, have helped to reduce the negative impact
of America's racial legacy in today's presidential contest.
Accordingly, I believe it is a realistic goal for the Obama campaign
to seek a viable electoral mobilization of a “Liberal White Voter
Bloc” for the November election.
ON COUNTERVAILING WHITE DYNAMICS: (I) WHITE WOMEN VOTERS
that as it may, attention must be given to what might be dubbed
two potential “countervailing White socio-cultural dynamics” among
today's White voters. I label these dynamics as “countervailing”
because, if they are operating at a “hyper-level” rather than
“moderate-level”, they could derail the Obama campaign's goal
of a viable electoral mobilization of a “Liberal White Voter Bloc”.
two potential “countervailing White socio-cultural dynamics” I
have in mind are the following. One is a rather long-standing
tradition among White women voters of favoring Republican Party
presidential candidates over Democratic Party presidential candidates.
The second is the persistence of what I call “racist predilections”
among about one-third of White Americans—racist predilections
that might be stirred to consciousness and thus influence the
votes of a critical minority segment of White voters in November.
liberal Democratic presidential candidates during the 1960s gained
a majority of White women voters—namely, John F. Kennedy, Lyndon
B. Johnson, Hubert Humphrey—subsequent liberal Democratic presidential
candidates between 1972 to 1992 failed to gain a majority of White
women voters. The data shown in TABLE III relate this pattern.
The young, charismatic, Southern liberal Democratic candidate
Bill Clinton, former governor of Arkansas, interrupted the Republican
pattern when he won a majority of White women voters in 1992 and
repeated this achievement in 1996. However, the two subsequent
presidential elections saw White women returning to the tradition
of favoring the Republican presidential candidate—George W. Bush.
situation regarding the interface of White women voters with Democratic
Party and Republican Party presidential candidates during the
2008 election season is revealed by data in TABLE IV.
only one good word to describe what might be called the “electoral
demeanor” of White women voters during the 2008 election season
toward the Obama-McCain candidacies for president of the United
States. That word is “mercurial”.
shown in TABLE IV, poll results produced by ABC News/Washington
Post Poll show sizable fluctuations in White women's preferences
as between Obama-McCain. From a 16-point advantage for McCain
in June 2008; to a much smaller 7-point advantage for Obama by
late August 2008 (three days befor the start of the Democratic
Convention); swinging back to a sizable 11-point advantage for
McCain by early September 2008 (just after the end of the Republican
Convention); and at the start of the last week in September there
was a shift toward Obama, a small 2-point advantage--49% Obama
to 47% McCain.
the “electoral demeanor” of White women voters toward the Obama-McCain
candidacies has been a mercurial one. As the analyst for the
ABC News/Washington Post Poll (September 24, 2008) put
there are white women. They've been a changeable group this
year, shifting, for example, from +7 Obama to +11 McCain from
late August (before the conventions) to early September. They're
back to a dead heat now [Sept. 24], precisely where they were
in mid-July. But the fact that they've backed McCain by as much
as a 16-point margin (in June) keeps them a group to watch.
should be noted, however, that, as the 2008 presidential campaign
enters its final five weeks, there are a variety of forces at
work in the ranks of White women voters that I believe will
tilt a solid majority of these voters toward Senator Obama in
the November election. One crucial force that's been operative
since the end of the Democratic Convention on August 28th is
the powerful political personality of Senator Hillary Clinton.
There's little doubt, of course, that Senator Clinton and her
inner-circle of loyalist women supporters found it emotionally
wrenching to lose the nomination to Senator Barack Obama. At the
same time, however, forces representing political commonsense
and political pragmatism have prevailed at the top leadership
level of the Democratic Party since the vibrant-and-mature
Democratic Convention in Denver.
the one hand, one such force was the sincere and pragmatic Democratic
Party-unifying-outreach-to-Clinton (and her loyalist supporters)
by Obama and his campaign mechanism. On the other hand, a second
such force was an intellectually and politically mature Democratic
Party-unity orientation fashioned by Senator Hillary Clinton
during the Democratic Convention in Denver – as epitomized in
Clinton's astute and brilliant address to the Convention—and put
into action afterward through extensive campaigning in behalf
of Obama's candidacy. As I remarked above, when push-comes-to-shove
on November 4th, a solid majority of White women voters will support
ON COUNTERVAILING WHITE DYNAMICS: (II) RACIST PREDILECTIONS
are, I suggest, two main types of what I dub “racist predilections”
(that i., racist feelings, orientations, suspicions, etc.) on
the part of White Americans toward African-Americans and also
toward Latino-Americans. One type might be called “implicit
racist predilections”, and the second type might be called “demonstrative
racist predilections”. As the Obama campaign for the presidency
enters the final 5 weeks, its goal will be to minimize the electoral
impact of White voters' “racist predilections” . Which is to
say, the Obama campaign will be seeking over the next 5 weeks
to reduce the capacity of “racist predilections” to derail
the Obama campaign's goal of a viable electoral mobilization of
a “Liberal White Voter Bloc”.
example of what I dub “implicit racist predilections” among White
Americans can be seen in poll data produced by a USA Today/ABC
News/Columbia University Poll (September 11-14, 2008) and
published in USA Today (September 23, 2008). One of the
questions asked of 1,941 adults was as follows: “Have Blacks achieved
the poll discovered gibes with responses to the same question
in numerous other polls over the past decade. Namely, that while
only a small proportion of African-American poll participants
respond “yes” to this question, three times or more White respondents
say “yes”. In the USA Today/ABC News/Columbia University Poll,
this is precisely what occurred. Some 11% of the African-American
respondents said “yes”, while nearly two-fifth of the White
respondents (39%) said “yes”.
it is this “yes” response by nearly two-fifth of White respondents
that might be labeled an “implicit racist predilection”. By which
label I mean, those White respondents either hesitate or refuse
to admit that the racial-caste legacy (the racist pariahization-oppression-marginalization
of Black people) from, say, the end of the Civil War into the
1960s significantly restricted access to equality-of-status/opportunity
for most African-Americans. The Voting Rights Act was not enacted
until 1965, for example.
so, it is a sign of notable progress in White attitudes toward
our society's racial-caste legacy that today some 60% of adult
White Americans admit, in polls like the USA Today/ABC News/Columbia
University Poll, that there are still restrictions upon the
realization of equality by African-American citizens. By such
admission, some 60% of Whites are saying that it is not true
that “Blacks have achieved racial equality”; and they are
also saying that public policy and private policy practices might
be required to bring about this result.
in regard to what I dub “demonstrative racist predilections”,
only a few polls have been successful at uncovering solid data
on this. Occasionally, however, a major poll does so, and this
has occurred recently by an AP[Associated Press]-Yahoo News
Poll (August 17-September 5, 2008). A full-some report on
this very important poll appeared in The Philadelphia Inquirer
21, 2008). In an overall summary of the AP-Yahoo News Poll, Associated
Press reporters Ron Fournier and Trevor Tompson observed as follows:
to an AP-Yahoo News Poll in which one-third of white Democratic
respondents [a total of 2,227 polled] said they harbored negative
views toward black people—many calling them 'lazy', 'violent'
or responsible for their own troubles. ...Given a choice of
several positive and negative adjectives that might describe
blacks, 20 percent of all whites in the poll said the word 'violent'
strongly applied. Among other words, 22 percent agreed with
'boastful', 29 percent 'complaining', 13 percent 'lazy', and
11 percent 'irresponsible'. ...The poll sought to measure latent
prejudices among whites by asking about factors contributing
to the state of black America. One finding: More than a quarter
of white Democrats said they agreed that 'if blacks would only
try harder, they could be just as well off as whites.' (See
The Philadelphia Inquirer, September 21, 2008. p. A15)
is important about the foregoing evidence of “demonstrative racist
predilections” among something between one-fifth and one-third
of White Democratic Party identified adults is this. Namely, that
their existence among potential Democratic voters complicates
the quest by the Obama campaign to fashion what I call a viable
mobilization of “Liberal White Voters”.
existence of such potential Democratic voters who harbor “demonstrative
racist predilections” might function as a countervailing obstacle
to this crucial goal of the Obama campaign.
Associated Press reporters Ron Fournier and Trevor Tompson make
this point in quite explicit terms in their article on the AP-Yahoo
News Poll for The Philadelphia Inquirer:
online poll, conducted with Stanford University, suggests that
the percentage of voters who may turn away from Obama because
of his race could easily be larger than the final difference
between the candidates in 2004—about 2.5 percentage points.
Absent racial prejudice, Obama would receive as much as 6 percentage
points more support, according to statistical models in the
enough, the very latest poll by a major polling organization—ABC
News/Washington Post Poll (September 24, 2008)—tested the
issue that I call “demonstrative racist predilections”. Happily
for the Obama campaign as it enters the closing five weeks of
the presidential campaign, the most recent ABC News/Washington
Post Poll has good news to report. Namely: “Far fewer [Whites]—16
percent, a new low—say race is an important issue, and that view
does not meaningfully impact vote preferences.”
ON COUNTERVAILING WHITE DYNAMICS: (III) REFORMING RACIST PREDILECTIONS
quite good news in regard to reducing the negative impact of
“demonstrative racist predilections” among White voters on the
Obama campaign's goal of mobilizing a viable “Liberal White Voter
Bloc”, was reported in an interesting article in the Philadelphia
22, 2008). The article was a case-study of endeavors, during
September onward, to reform feelings and attitudes that amount
to “demonstrative racist predilections” among working-class and
middle-class White voters in Philadelphia. These endeavors have
been initiated by liberal White trade union leaders–AFL-CIO leaders—and
by liberal White election ward leaders in the city of Philadelphia.
by Dave Davies—a reporter for the Philadelphia Daily News--his
article provides keen insights regarding the task of rolling-back
racist predilections among White voters that Obama's candidacy
stirs up. From an interview with the president of the Philadelphia
AFL-CIO union, one Pat Elding, the reporter Dave Davies gained
this response. “I'm hearing a lot of people saying, 'He's
too young, he's too inexperienced', said Philadelphia AFL-CIO
president Pat Elding. “What they're really saying is 'He's black'”.
AFL-CIO official told the reporter Dave Davies that whenever
he encounters these racist predilections he stands-his-ground,
so to speak, or as Davies puts it: “AFL-CIO leader Elding said
that he raises the issue directly whenever he can.” Here's how
Pat Elding himself relates his endeavors to challenge racist predilections
among White workers in Philadelphia:
I'm talking in a union meeting, the first issue I put out is
'In case you haven't noticed, Barack Obama is black'.... Then
I say, 'Now let's talk about your issues, your lives, your kids.
Close your eyes and listen to what's being said in this campaign.'
Davies, the reporter, proceeds to inform us that “Elding said
that he urges other labor leaders to have such conversations”.
We need to do this one-on-one, not in rallies, not with megaphones....
I tell them they need to go to their [union] members directly,
let them hear about this from experienced people who know the
remainder of the Philadelphia Daily News case-study article
by Dave Davies discusses the application of the AFL-CIO president's
strategy among the leaders of Democratic Party election wards
in Philadelphia. Davies informs us that “Several Democratic ward
leaders said that they're committed to convincing voters that
Obama is on their side.” He continues thus:
Tartaglione, veteran leader of the 62nd Ward in the Northeast
[a White enclave] said that she'll bring her ward in for Obama.
'If I say this person is good, they'll go for him.'
Davies discusses the case of another Democratic Party election
ward leader, one Alan Butkovitz. “City Controller Alan Butkovitz,
Democratic leader of the 54th Ward, said that he's optimistic
that he and others can deal with the issue of race.”
not the kind of full-bore racism you saw years ago.... It's
become more nuanced, more complex. I don't think people feel
entitled not to vote for someone because they're black. So they
may say he grew up in Hawaii, or he's an elitist. And once
you get it in those terms, you can deal with it.
enough, the New York Times (September 28, 2008) published
a similar case-study article on efforts in Wisconsin by national
trade unions to reform what I call “demonstrative racist predilections”
among working-class and middle-class White voters. Titled “Union
Leaders Confronted By Resistance To Obama”, the author—Steven
Greenhouse—characterized the Wisconsin situation as follows:
Obama's race has complicated labor's efforts. When canvassers
knock on doors, some voters do not acknowledge race explicitly,
said [Anthony] Rainey, the U.A.W. Leader [president of U.A.W.
Local 469]. The main reason you get is, 'I don't trust him
because I don't know him'”. Karen Ackerman, political director
of the A.F.L.-C.I.O., said: “We're very conscious of the fact
that many voters [in Wisconsin] have never voted for an African-American
for any office. For some voters, there is a reluctance.” Ms.
Ackerman said Mr. Obama was also new to the political scene,
so people have not had time to get used to him. “We are trying
to peel away what obstacles people have, union member by union
member”, she said.
Greenhouse then informs his readers about the quite extensive
electoral mobilization campaign that major trade unions are putting
in place to reform as best they can the antipathy toward the Obama
campaign among trade union-based working-class and middle-class
White voters. As Greenhouse informs us:
A.F.L.-C.I.O. says its nationwide campaign effort will involve
knocking on 10 million doors, making 70 million phone calls,
distributing 20 million leaflets and 25 million pieces of mail,
and sending out more than four million e-mail messages. The
nation's unions talk of spending more than $300 million in the
campaign, including $85 million by the Service Employees International
current AFL-CIO nationwide campaign to reform both conservative-predilections
and racist-predilections among working-class White voters is being
executed by a variety of organizations, one of which is called
Working America. Dubbed a “little-noticed group” by a case-study
article titled “Labor Woos Whites For Obama” in the Wall Street
Journal (October 7, 2008), the AFL-CIO political action
organization Working America is described as follows by reporters
Brody Mullins and Kris Maher: “The little-noticed group formed
by the A.F.L.-C.I.O. has no role in workplaces or contract bargaining
and collects no mandatory dues. What it does is sign up members,
2.5 million so far, and persuade them to vote Democratic.” (Emphasis
course, in light of the tight Obama-McCain contest for the presidency
here in the last month of campaigning, what is so crucial about
the task facing Working America is the simple fact that, as the
Wall Street Journal article observed, “working-class whites are
important because they make up just about half of the electorate.”
So the AFL-CIO political action organization Working America shoulders
the special task of overcoming working-class White voters' racist-proclivities.
this end, the Wall Street Journal article reports that “Working
America's 450 paid employees are mostly going after white, working-class
voters in swing states such as Ohio and Pennsylvania”, urging
working-class White voters to set aside whatever racial anxieties
they have. “With leaflets, phone calls and personal visits,” says
the Wall Street Journal article, “they urge those voters to focus
on economic issues like taxes, health care and education....”
Working America proceeds by recruiting volunteers who, in turn, become
formal members of Working America operating as its field agents.
Whereas AFL-CIO in 2004 had 800,000 Working America members,
the Wall Street Journal article reported that “today there are
that many in Ohio alone.”
executive director of Working America, Karen Nussbaum, characterized
the thinking underlying her organization's electoral mobilization
among working-class White voters this way:
to connect to their need for economic changeable so that it's
stronger than their fear of cultural [racial] change. I think
it's a challenge for a lot of white people to vote for a black
candidate. They've never been asked to do it before. (Emphasis
far, Karen Nussbaum's staff at Working America is succeeding
beyond their expectations, as a recent survey shown in TABLE V
has revealed. Whereas McCain led Obama by 18 percentage points
among non-college degree White voters in a Wall Street Journal/NBC
News poll in September, by October Obama lagged behind among working-class
white voters by 11 percentage points. Reporters Brody Mullins
and Kris Maher who authored the article “Labor Woos Whites For
Obama”, interpreted the data in TABLE V as follows:
whites are important because they make up just about half of
the electorate. The latest Wall Street Journal/NBC poll shows
Sen. Obama has built a six-point lead over Sen. John McCain
in part by cutting his deficit among these voters to 11 points.
Two weeks ago , when Sen. Obama trailed Sen. McCain by 16 points
among this group, the presidential race was essentially tied,
according to the WSJ/NBC poll. (Emphasis Added).
me conclude this discussion of the endeavors to surmount racist
predilections among White voters. I do so by referring to fascinating
historical data on racial voting patterns in mayoral elections
in Philadelphia from 1983—when the first African-American mayor
was elected—and 2007—when the third African-American mayor was
elected, the present Mayor Michael Nutter.
shown in TABLE VI, the first Black mayoral candidate to gain
election in 1983—Wilson Goode—received only 20% White votes, and
in his second election in 1987 Mayor Goode received only 18% White
votes, which meant that massive support from the Black voter bloc
ensured victory for Mayor Goode in his two elections. Wilson Goode
was a professional accountant who had worked in the city bureaucracy,
and was a moderate liberal politically, but the political
culture in Philadelphia had been so racially polarized throughout
the 1970s that a Black mayoral candidate was hardly welcome among
Philadelphia's White voters. Indeed, this racial polarization
was exacerbated—rendered tenacious in fact—during the two-term
mayoralty of former police commissioner Frank Rizzo during the
1970s, and his autocratic arrogance and anti-Black posturing led
him to seek revision of the City Constitution so as to allow him
a third term, but happily that cynical maneuver failed owing to
a massive mobilization of the city's African-American voters.
was not until the 2007 Democratic Primary Election (20 years
after Goode's second election) that White votes for Black mayoral
candidates surpassed more than 20%, reaching 4csxfs36% in fact.
Eventually however, it was a politically savvy moderate-liberal
African-American mayoral candidate in the 2007 General Election—Michael
Nutter—who attracted a majority of Philadelphia's White voters,
gaining 64% of them in fact. The White mayoral candidate who ran
against Nutter—Al Taubenberger—received just 36% of the White
the foregoing tale told in TABLE VI suggests is that, given a
politically savvy African-American politician who fashions a solid
issue-substantive appeal to working-class and middle-class White
voters in Philadelphia by the Obama campaign in this 2008 presidential
race, gaining an electorally effective share of White voters (say
40%) is realizable in November. Accordingly, when what I call “an
effective share of White votes in Philadelphia” in November is
matched by the Obama campaign throughout the state of Pennsylvania,
combined with an overwhelming support for Obama from the African-American
voter-bloc, Obama will win Pennsylvania's electoral votes.
let's wish success to the electoral mobilization by the AFL-CIO's
organization Working America that challenges working-class White
voters' racial anxieties as they relate to Senator Obama. Because
combining a viable share of White working-class votes for Obama,
on the one hand—which seems attainable—with a maximal Black voter-bloc
support for Obama on the other hand, will ensure an Obama victory
to read Part II
BlackCommentator.com Editorial Board member Martin Kilson, PhD hails from an African Methodist
background and clergy: From a great-great grandfather who founded
an African Methodist Episcopal church in Maryland in the 1840s;
from a great-grandfather AME clergyman; from a Civil War veteran
great-grandfather who founded an African Union Methodist Protestant
church in Pennsylvania in 1885; and from an African Methodist
clergyman father who pastored in an Eastern Pennsylvania mill
town - Ambler, PA. He attended Lincoln
University (PA), 1949-1953, and Harvard
graduate school. Appointed in 1962 as the first African-American
to teach in Harvard
College, in 1969 he was the first African-American
tenured at Harvard. He retired in 2003 as a Frank G. Thomson Professor
of Government, Emeritus. His publications include: Political Change in a West African State: A Study of the Modernization
Process in Sierra Leone (Harvard University Press, 1966); Key Issues in the Afro-American Experience (Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1970); New States in the Modern World (Center for International Affairs)
(Harvard University Press, 1975); The African Diaspora: Interpretive Essays (Harvard University Press, 1976); The Making
of Black Intellectuals: Studies on the African American Intelligentsia
(Forthcoming. University of Missouri Press); and The
Transformation of the African American Intelligentsia, 1900-2008
(Forthcoming). Click here
to contact Dr. Kilson.
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