Why Some Blacks Still Might Not Vote for Obama

Earl Ofari Hutchinson, Washington Post, October 16, 2008

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A New York Times poll taken this past July showed that 6 percent of black respondents say that they wouldn’t vote for a black candidate (presumably Obama). Just 5 percent of white respondents said the same.

What’s behind this black resistance to Obama?

More than a few blacks grumble that Obama will be blamed for the financial mess, which may only get worse on his watch. {snip}

Then there’s the age-old rap that blacks who don’t support other blacks for political office or anything else are filled with self-loathing and color phobia—in reverse. {snip}

And there’s also the persistent fear that if Obama wins, he will be in perpetual danger of being assassinated.

But none of this totally explains the trepidation and reluctance of some blacks to back Obama.

Here’s the point that’s often missed: Blacks aren’t and never have been of one mind on anything, nor should they be. Blacks are as varied and diverse in their social and political views as any other demographic, and that includes embracing conservative social and religious positions.

This was plainly evident in the presidential battle in Ohio and Florida in 2004. Bush racked up double digit vote percentages among black voters. He did it by shrewdly appealing to the hard opposition of many blacks to abortion, gay marriage, and their support of school vouchers.

Polls have also shown that a significant number of blacks oppose welfare, back the death penalty, and support black anti-affirmative crusader Ward Connerly’s state initiatives banning affirmative action programs in public hiring. {snip}

But while conservatives are still a very distinct minority of black voters, it doesn’t mean that all blacks will instinctively back a black candidate. {snip}

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Blacks have even backed white Democratic incumbents against black challengers in Democratic primaries. The issue for them was the real and perceived notion that the incumbent had done and would continue to do a better job in improving education, getting increased funding for job programs, and neighborhood services.

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But the few black who won’t support Obama are proof that blacks, like anyone else, make political choices based on many factors—and color isn’t always one of them.

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