Thursday, February 01, 2007

Obama's Biggest Skeptics

In watching video of Charlie Sykes' television show from last week, one thing in particular struck me during the discussion of Barack Obama. In the reading I've done, there seems to be one group that is most skeptical of Obama's chances of being elected President. That group?

African-Americans.

Ask white people whether they think Obama can be elected president or not, and you'll get an almost unanimous, "well... yeah - he can." Whether he actually will, or whether they would vote for him is a different story - for instance, I think he can be elected, but I'd never vote for him.

Take, for example, this Washington Post article, which talks about the tenuous line Obama has to walk with black voters. If he does the things necessary to become President, he has to take positions that risk alienating the African-American vote. If he adheres to philosophies of his South Side Chicago constituency, he'd be seen as too liberal, and therefore lose the support of valuable moderate voters.

Even if he were able to walk that tenuous line, blacks still seem to be skeptical of Obama's electability. African-Americans may not believe America has progressed to the point where they would elect a fellow African-American. I strongly disagree with this sentiment - all Colin Powell would have to do is wave his finger and it would send flocks of white people to the polls as if they were giving away free John Mayer albums.

The more cynical interpretation of this sentiment would be to say that blacks don't want to believe that America would vote for a black president. If there could be an African-American president, would white people think that racism is now no longer a problem? Would blacks worry that white people would wash their hands of issues of racial equality once they elected a black president, as if everything's on an even plane now? Wasn't electing TWO Palmer brothers within two years of each other enough?

On a somewhat related topic, I enjoyed this column by Peter Beinart of the New Republic on the root of Obama's popularity (free registration required). I think he gets it right.

100% of the research for this post was drawn from the song "Black Republican" by Nas and Jay-Z.