I, for some strange reason, have been watching a lot of the pundits on CNN, CBS and MSNBC try to grapple with that thing called race in the South Carolina primary. And while they were, are, and will be wrong in many colorfully different ways, one way in which they were especially batshit was about the importance of the black vote.
At different times different pundits at CNN and on MSNBC would just throw out numbers on blacks in South Carolina. Sometimes they would be 50 percent. Sometimes they were 60. Then 75. Some reporters would remember to qualify that this was the estimate on black voters in the Democratic party in South Carolina. But then many others would fling out how more than half of all SC’s voters are black.
What the hizzle?
If half of the SC were black how did Strom Thurmon’s reanimated corpse keep getting elected in the senate?
But if you want an even greater yuckfest, watch the pundits try to spin Barack Obama’s black vote bad/black vote good win.
On last night’s Anderson Cooper 360 a pundit, I can’t remember which one, was recapping the Clinton/Obama race. He remarked that if Obama wins SC with the help of the black vote, that’s good, unless it’s too much of the black vote then people can label Obama as the “black” candidate.
Labeling the black man as the black candidate? What a novel idea! It had never occurred to me that Obama was black! Then, as usual, the pundit explained that an overwhelming black vote for Obama could signal to white voters he was more of a “Jesse Jackson” candidate, re: black candidate, rather than, say John Edwards, the non-black candidate who is running on a de-blackified version of Jesse’s platform in ’88.
Once again, what the hell? If Barack works too hard to appeal to the rock of the Democratic base – black people – then he will fail through winning. OK? Mind you, this is all ludicrous. Obama is a black man. People see that whether he is running on a civil rights platform like Jesse or not. Danny Glover, famously, could not get a cab in New York City, so being the world’s most inoffensive black man does not protect you from racism. The black candidate thing is defacto. It is moot. There is nothing else to discuss here. Whether he’s hanging out with Alfonso Ribeiro doing the “Carlton dance” or wearing a dashiki shouting “Ungawa, Black Power,” it will be obvious that he’s the black dude.
Secondly, what the hell, people? Is Barack supposed to ignore black people, the most solid part of Democratic base? Black people aren’t stupid. They are not going to vote for a candidate on skin tone alone, otherwise evergreen black Republicans JC Watts and Alan Keyes would be in Congress. If Barack had ignored the black people who wanted to hear him out and possibly embrace him most of us would have written him off as either the lesser of uppity or the worser of sell-out. Ignoring the black vote would be segueing the black vote to the Clintons, where Bill could “black it up” for days, relishing in all his glory. Thus sinking any hopes of making it to the nomination. That’s why there’s been such vicious fighting from the Clintons who want to taint Obama’s likely win. A sort of proverbial, “If I can’t have the Negroes, no one can!”
So, pundits are stupid. Barack should keep talking to everyone — black, white, Latino, rich, poor, educated, blue collar — like all the Dem candidates are. Obama’s going to get crap from people about being black or not black enough or whatever no matter what he does. This is America.
Blackness is an issue that is always on the table for dissection.