Friend or Frienemies?: Black Conservatives Weigh In On the Presidential Candidacy of Barack Obama

As a true vision of George W. Bush’s hallmark catchphrase, is Barack Obama the true “uniter, not a divider” as the one man black Republicans and Democrats can agree on?

Photo from Men’s Vouge

A lot of people talk about Sen. Barack Obama in the terms of him bringing Democrats and Republicans together by being willing to cross the aisle and reach out to Republicans. While this notion is nice, I don’t quite see that happening if Obama makes it to the White House. Most Republicans, with a few rare exceptions, have been unwilling to cede any ground to the Democrats, or even the center in some cases. It’s typically the Democrats capitulating as many Democratic senators and representatives were elected as centrists in Republican or moderate districts.

No, the great unification I’m more interested in is the myriad of reactions from black conservatives, politicians and pundits to Obama’s ascension from freshman senator to Democratic sensation.

My curiosity was initially piqued with Colin Powell outted himself as a foreign policy advisor to Barack Obama. It only grew as various black conservative pundits wavered between reserved admiration and dulled dislike for Obama. It’s only grown since Secy. of State Condeleeza Rice recently chimed in on Obama’s recent speech on race relations in America, largely agreeing with the sentiment of the speech and adding that America has a “birth defect” from being founded by liberty seeking revolutionaries and the black slaves brought here as their beasts of burden.

While Obama has received his fair share of criticism and Liberal boogyman beatdowns from black conservatives, he’s also received a lot of praise. There seems to be a “two-ness” in the black conservative response. As a black person, they’re proud to an extent. But as a Republican they’d rather be rooting for Michael Steele or Alan Keyes. But even with that caveat there are still fissures in the façade. The first black president, ever, is still to delicious of a dream to pass on completely causing many black Republicans to do the same thing that many anti-war, Liberals have done – see what they want to see and hear what they want to hear.

Because I’m willing to take one for the black Liberal team, I took the time to research the opinions of fourteen prominent black conservatives and conservative-leaning moderates and found some surprising (and not surprising) results. While I don’t usually agree with the black Right, I do understand their reasons for being Republicans and/or conservatives. I don’t usually agree with those reasons, but I can see why they came to these conclusions.

“The Talented Fourteenth,” as I’ve so dubbed them, will be profiled throughout the next two weeks with one black conservative a day. Sunday’s installment features CNN gadfly and regular “Real Time with Bill Maher” guest, Liberal-Conservative-Independent-Republican, Amy Holmes.

Holmes, a conservative pundit and former speech writer for Sen. Bill Frist, gets on TV, a lot. It doesn’t hurt that she’s physically attractive. She talks with confidence in every subject, even those she’s not particularly versed in, even when she’s flat out wrong. She sort of reminds me of White House Press Secretary Dana Perino, only I don’t like Dana Perino, yet I am somewhat partial to Holmes, despite never agreeing with her. I can’t really explain or justify it. But I’ll be honest – it’s probably because I’m an educated light-skinned black woman with naturally curly hair who can also talk really, really fast. Plus we both had the “that could have be me!” outrage over Don Imus flippantly tossing around “nappy headed ho” remark about academically exceptional black female student-athletes at one of the United State’s oldest institutions.

Our similarities end there. Her opinions on Obama follow below.

On Barack Obama’s “race speech,” from the National Review Online blog – The Corner:

My first reaction? Race speeches are rarely good, and this was no exception. For all of Obama’s new talk of change, courage, politics you can believe in, I heard a whole lot of liberal boilerplate dressed up in euphemism and offering no fresh solutions …

(I)n an effort to lay blame everywhere, Obama called out his own grandmother for admitting to her, now, not so secret fear of young black male strangers. He said that when he was growing up her remarks sometimes made him cringe. Well, for my part, hearing him compare a woman who sacrificed for his well-being to a pastor who’s only benefited from his association made me cringe. Real courage and real candor is Chris Rock standing on stage telling a packed black audience that seeing young black men on dark lonely night near the glow of an ATM can make him feel nervous, too.

On Anderson Cooper 360’s blog, defending Obama against former Democratic Vice President nominee Geraldine Ferraro attack that Obama was lucky to be in the situation he is in right now, benefiting from being both black and a male:

The answer is simple and on message. Barack is lucky, and he should say so.

He’s lucky to be an American, a citizen of the greatest nation in human history. He’s lucky and blessed to have a smart and beautiful wife who loves him and sustains him, two strong and healthy daughters he has the privilege and responsibility of raising.

He’s lucky to be on the campaign trail meeting his fellow citizens everyday and asking them to spread his message, “Yes we can.” And with luck, hard work, and the support of the American people, he hopes to bring that message to the White House.

And again on The Corner, defending Obama’s blackness credentials:

Certainly, there are powerful forces in the black community to define oneself in political grievance terms. But it seems to me that a lot of the pressure to “keep it real” has been deflated by the fact that so many who make that silly claim are demonstrable and obvious phonies.

Some have argued that you have to take any conservative opinion Holmes has with a grain of salt. Her conservative credentials have been questioned due to her pro-choice stance on abortion, as well as some other “Liberal” views. She’s registered as an “independent” and many people
have alluded that she touts herself as a conservative purely out of the fact that as an attractive young black woman she would get more press and more work if she leaned conservative.

The question for Amy Holmes is really this: are the things she says on CNN, FOX, and Real Time with Bill Maher really her opinion, or is she just spotlight-seeking? After all, this is the woman who in 2000 admitted to The Daily Princetonian that “I love photo shoots. I understand now why celebrities get addicted.” – Teague Bohlen, Demver Blog, Westworld

But, for what it’s worth, she did donate $250 to black Republican Michael Steele’s failed bid for senate in 2006.

Holmes has been, at best, mixed on Obama. She’s both defended and criticized him. Her criticism has mostly centered on Obama being a “Liberal” and accusing him of reinforcing anachronistic notions of race when Holmes feels Americans, black and white, have evolved past some of the issues bolstered by the, ahem, race hustling poverty pimps of the black progressive Left.

Shock of all shocks, I actually think Holmes is sincere in both her defense and, to a lesser extent, her criticisms of Obama. While she does brandish the Scarlet “L” around, I can’t tell how much of her heart is behind that. I’m not a mind reader, but from what I’ve seen of Holmes repeatedly on CNN, she doesn’t seem particularly interested in bashing Obama besides getting in a few talking points. She’s typically more interested in tearing into his opponent, Hillary Clinton.

This isn’t saying that Holmes will be plunking $250 down for Obama, but I wouldn’t be shocked if she came out for him or voted for him either. Although Holmes and I haven’t agreed on anything other than “Don Imus should be fired” and “Republicans should reach out to the black community more,” she seems to be – I don’t know – reasonable. She’s just as excited about the prospect of a black president as the next black person despite the fact he doesn’t hold the exact same views as her.

This is not so much different as Irish Catholics voting for Kennedy in 1960 and Mormons voting for Mitt Romney in 2008. There is something intrinsically exciting and visceral about one of your own, a favorite son, making a go of it. Black people, even black Republicans, are not immune to this.

Final conclusions

Chances of endorsing Obama: What? And ruin her chances of getting on TV all the time? As if!

Chances of voting for Obama: This is a no brainer. Conservative or no, she’s voting for him in the general. That’s just my opinion, mind you. I have no facts or imperical evidence. But I’ve seen her teeter-totter on the Liberal-Conservative divide, and I have a gut feeling of “truthiness” that she’s going to fall into the Obama camp, albeit secretly, if he’s the nominee.


Check back to The Black Snob all this week on my series “Friend of Frienemies: Black Conservatives On Barack Obama,” concluding on April 18th.

Monday: Condoleezza Rice
Tuesday: JC Watts
Wednesday: Shelby Steele
Thursday: Alan Keyes
Friday: Ward Connerly
Saturday: Colin Powell
Sunday: Armstrong Williams
Monday: Michael Steele
Tuesday: John McWhorter
Wednesday: LaShawn Barber and Herman Cain
Thursday: Star Parker and Eric Wallace
Friday: A final analysis, “Who Would Clarence Thomas Vote For?”

21 thoughts on “Friend or Frienemies?: Black Conservatives Weigh In On the Presidential Candidacy of Barack Obama

  1. Interesting. I’ll check back. In answer to your general question, though, I think a fair amount of black Republicans will vote for Obama, much in the same way that Republican women may cross over for HRC, but probably in greater numbers on the Repubs for Obama side, in part because of his genuine willingness to be inclusive for the right reasons.I’m a white woman and would love to see a woman president, just not this one particularly. A friend of mine, a black woman, is HRC all the way, doesn’t really care for Obama, but I’m pretty sure she would vote for him in the general, as I would for Hillary. (And yes, while holding my nose!) Thanks for an interesting perspective.

  2. Oh Lord!Star Parker, Shelby Steele, Armstrong Williams??? Ok, I’ll keep an open mind. I actually kind of like John McWhorter now ’cause he’s with Obama.Count me In

  3. I know black conservatives seem scary, but they aren’t. Their policy decisions are. We can’t help it that two black people looked at the same racial situation in America and one of us came to a dramatically different conclusion. Lord knows, I wish their “every things great now” notions were the reality or that I at least believed that so I wouldn’t be stressed out as much.And I still think that the must really, really, really believe in that whole small government thing to be in a party that isn’t always helpful in getting blacks elected to office, case in point JC Watts and the cruel indifference of Tom Delay.They’re happy to appoint you to things, of course, if you’ve been vetted and there is no popular vote involved.To me they would have been better off to stay Democrats and push the party to the center. That’s why all the Midwestern Dems stayed it seems. But I suppose I shouldn’t say that too loudly, lest it comes true!fantastically misunderstood me: Scout’s honor. I will keep up my regular coverage of men I find attractive and why. Along with my other musings. In the black conservative beauty pageant none of the menfolk are winners, so I will still need my TJ Holmes to give me the strength to get through this long, arduous task.

  4. what a great concept. As young, black a political scientist I think this is a wonderful. Side note: I just stumbled on this site a few weeks ago and I love it!

  5. This anaylsis is dead on! Amy Holmes staunchly defends Obama on what appear to be personal slights against him; especially early on when Bill tried to deem him the black candidate and her pride in him being an African American is apparent. I would sometimes forget she introduces herself as an “independent” conservative Republican.

  6. Is Amy related to TJ? I know you thought about it………..If so, girl get her contact info to get TJ’s contact info 🙂

  7. “Anonymous said… Is Amy related to TJ? I know you thought about it………..If so, girl get her contact info to get TJ’s contact info :)”Dude, they’re both on the same channel (CNN), you know TJ’s been hittin’ that..

  8. Amy Holmes is a complete and total sellout.I hope Colin Powell votes for or endorses Barack Obama. Time for a change, ladies and gents.

  9. Amy Holmes is a confused SNOB who’s commentary usually leaves me yawning. I’ve been trying to imagine how she became a commentator. She definitely has a identity problem and she is trying desperately to find out where she fits in this society. As a Black American I look forward to and appreciate diversity among the media. But Amy is the wrong choice. For a SNOB to label others as snobs is so hypocritical. Amy you’re a LOSER and I honestly believe that you days in the limelight are numbered. For the sake of our country I certainly hope so.

  10. I just saw amy holmes on cnn and she is a major self-hating minority. everytime i see her face i get pissed off . SHM’s SUCK!!like your blog btw!

  11. Amy on CNN -;- can’t beleive she just said that obama is “unpatriotic”. She is the only one on the panel putting a “party” spin on the discussion. It’s ridiculous. She and Sarah really do have a lot in common. Palin just accused Obama of being linked to terrorist. (did they talk today and plan this line of attack)

  12. Amy Holmes to me represents one of the great dilemmas of Black America, how can I share the hue of a popular Black leader when I have a different philosophy? Firstly, I must state that I am a Black non-American living in this country so I too also share in this internal conflict to a degree but I think a lot of it is born from the polarity that exists in American politcs. The Blue, the Red or the Black and White. The sad reality is that there are many shades of grey and many Americans fall in this category yet are forced to commit between one party or the other. I would consider myself conservative in upbringing but in no way could I share the politics and party that is supposed to uphold conservative ideals. Some beliefs may be liberal or conservative. Amy, by her very heritage and beliefs is very much a product of this ambivalence. Or is it actually ambivbalent? I think we as a people must learn to understand and put these differences into a certain perspective rather than put the focus on the political platform. Basically a rethinking and re-awakening of the political landscape is what is needed rather than emphasise on pigeon holing pepole into one hole or another

  13. I just watched Real Time… and Amy Holmes was a guest. All I can say is WTH? So I checked into her background and found out that she is from Lusaka, Kenya and I was once a supporter of the sister cities program that sponsored Lusaka. I shutter to think that my contributions may have helped this little unaware child become successful in America. I am glad that I am no longer active in that organization. America, this kid can not speak for Black people. She has absolutely no point of reference or reality of being Black in America. Growing up in Seattle, Washington, born on foreign soil at at time when all the hard struggles were over. She has no idea of the groundwork that was laid in order for her to be where she is today. Forgive, but please forget her. She truly knows not who she is a Black person in America nor what she does. Life will indeed teach her. She can count on it.

  14. Amy is just what I call “Little Black Girl Lost”. It’s amazing how her and other black republicans can down Obama and call him unpatriotic, socialist, imply he’s a terrorist etc. I’m like what world do you live in. It’s the same as those that say no need for affirmative action. Until there is Actually REAL equal opportunity and I can ride down my streets at night and down have to worry about get asked for my ID by 3 cop cars and I’m not even driving, you can’t tell me everything is all good cause i’m not buying it. They need to really wake up.

  15. As in everything about America, the reality is more complex than the slogans. The truth about slavery can only be found out by extensive reading of many sources – but “black in America” is about racism, not just slavery. There is more racism today Massachusetts and Indiana than anywhere in the Old South. Furthermore, Conservative principles are very good, as principles, so it is just shameful that Republicans give only lip service to these principles while violating them wildly in practice when governing. The “liberal” Clinton Administration was more true, in fact, to “conservative principles”, than either the Ronald Reagan or G.W. Bush Administrations, once you got past the hype to the actual programs and their actual effects. That said, Republicanism is for the “haves”, black or white, while Democratism is for the “have nots.” If everyone voted their pocketbook instead of their “values”, race would be not a factor at all by itself.

  16. Amy Holmes – What a black back-stabbing bitch. If you have any shame left, make a public Apology to Obama. I can understand that beauty w/o brains PIG from Alaska for being so dumb, but how can a Princeton educated b#$%^ like you support such a DUMBASS like Palin and a 75 year old dude who feels proud announcing that he came in second from the bottom of his class. How can a Princeton educated be so dumb to support such sorry & dumb loosers for another 4/8 years after 8 years of such DUMBNESS. I am so happy and elated that a smart Harward educated intellect is my and the world's president. Only thing you can be proud of if you elect to be is that the guy is of your color.Feel sorry for you.

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