JC Watts and Barack Obama Both Made History (Only Obama’s Is the Only One People Talk About)

JC Watts during his first term in congress with former leader of the Joints Chiefs of Staff Colin Powell.

This is part of a series on Black conservative thought on Barack Obama’s candidacy. So far I’ve reviewed the views of Amy Holmes, Condoleezza Rice, Ward Connerly, Shelby Steele and Alan Keyes.

JC Watts, no matter how you feel about him, did something very remarkable that few black politicians can do – get elected to Congress from a majority white district. Watts went against local party leaders, running where the establishment did not want him to run and succeeding. I don’t always agree with Watts, but that is something to be celebrated.

His story isn’t celebrated because Watts is a heretic in the world of black politics. His aspirations are tainted by many blacks’ opposition to his views, often seen as insensitive and rooted in the need to kowtow to white authority.

Watts, and his back story, would argue differently.

He was born in Oklahoma, his father was a Baptist minister and as a youth, Watts and one other black student were the first to integrate his elementary school. Later he was the first black quarterback on his high school football team and was talented enough to play professional football in Canada. When he ran for office in Oklahoma he was a “favorite son” of his district. A high profile star.

Watts, like many black centrists who leaned conservative, became disillusioned with the Democratic Party after 1989. The race in ’88 was the last time he voted Democratic. He was against a paternalistic relationship developing between blacks and whites that he viewed as being rooted in guilt and governmental over-reliance. As a Republican, he was elected to the House in 1994 after an intense campaign and became rising star in the party.

Unfortunately for Watts, not everyone was keen on his ascension.

A New York Times profile from 2000 Watts touched on his sometimes adversarial relationship with House Majority Whip Tom Delay. Delay had either a dislike or a disinterest in Watts, later dooming his re-election bid. Delay, counter to his political ideology, backed a more moderate Republican to run for Watts’ seat.

In the last year, Mr. Watts has battled other top House Republicans, notably Representative Tom DeLay of Texas, the majority whip, for control of the party’s message. He insists those feuds are over.

“Our styles are different,” Mr. Watts said of himself and Mr. DeLay. “Tom is smack in the face, 100 miles an hour. I’m a lot more laid back, wanting to build coalitions and bring in new people. He uses a hammer. I use a carrot.”

The infighting often took a toll on Watts and he did not serve a second term. He retired from political office. His critics, from other Republicans to members of the Black Congressional Congress to black political commentators who, at best, deemed him as clueless and at worst, a sell-out.

In a letter by Marcus Williams on BlackPressUSA.com, Williams lays out the typical charges that Watts was being played as a stooge by his own party despite them putting him in positions of influence.

J.C Watts was fourth in the GOP leadership but was never consulted in matters concerning the party. He was in the Republican hierarchy but found out the Crusader (the next generation 155mm self propelled howitzer) weapons program was being discontinued the same time and way I found out, on the evening news. Ironically the weapon system was being built in his home state of Oklahoma. Would large federal programs of been cut in the congressional districts of Dennis Hastert or Tom Delay by a Republican administration without them knowing about it? Probably not. I have no idea what Mr. Watts political acumen is, but by virtue of his position in the party you would think he would be solicited for ideas, yet his mission statement was simple, seen but not heard, a poster child for this compassionate conservatism. J.C Watts’ position in the Republican Party personifies the GOP’s view on blacks, seen but not heard.

There is a grass roots campaign to get Watts on the short list to be John McCain’s running mate, but I don’t see this being anymore likely than a McCain-Rice ticket or a McCain-Powell ticket. There is a better chance of McCain co-opting former Democrat Joe Lieberman, who’s already been a VP candidate once, than select Watts. Despite his popularity among Republicans, Watts has consistently been dismissed by party leaders. Someone people praise with words, but don’t back up with actions.

Watts, naturally, has had adversarial relationships with black Democrats. He famously called members of the Congressional Black Congress “race hustling poverty pimps” in reaction of being called a “sellout.” Needless to say, he did not join the organization and saw it as counterproductive to black progress.

Today Watts still largely advocates a Republican agenda to facilitate black progress, a model based on personal responsibility, self-reliance and small government. He remains very critical of large government programs created to augment the disparities in wealth and education for African Americans. He can also be a bit wearing with his toothy grin and “chippiness,” but if you’re an iconoclast spouting what many blacks hear as hostile polemic you’re going to piss people off.

Watts, like other black Republicans, has been steadfast in his assertion that the Republican Party needs to make a serious play for the black vote rather than ceding it to the Democrats. He restated that view last year on CNN when all of the top tier Republicans running for president dismissed a debate being held by Tavis Smiley in front of a largely black audience.

I don’t have a problem with Watts. I typically don’t agree with him, but I feel his concern about black issues is real. I know his desire to see his views get as equal a billing as the Democrat views get in the black community is real. Unfortunately the antagonistic relationship between him and other black politicians is so unhealthy things typically melt down into name-calling and finger-pointing.

When it comes to Obama, like Condoleezza Rice, Amy Holmes and even Ward Connerly, Watts can’t help but to admit his excitement over an Obama candidacy. While their views on progress and struggle are vastly different, Wat
ts feels the same pride and sense of acknowledgment that irregardless of political posturing, this election is one for the books.

In a pair of columns Watts wrote about Obama that appeared in the Las Vegas Review Journal, Watts focuses on Obama’s success and the roots behind it.

Despite the fact that some think he is rallying crowds and new voters with platitudes and fluff, you have to admit this guy has a special sauce for which no one else — Republican or Democrat — has the recipe. He really does have the persona of a candidate who is very special.

In fact, when the primary season ends, he may have a tailwind behind him that Republicans won’t be able to cut through.

Watts defends Obama against critics who accuse him of lacking substance.

Obama’s opponents say he’s offering no specifics. Not true.

He’s offering health care for everyone who has none. As a result, the cost of health care for the rest of us will increase dramatically over the next two to four years. Offering no proposals to trim spending and cut out waste in the federal government, he will have no choice but to increase taxes on not just the rich, but on working class men and women as well.

I chuckle when I hear the talking heads say they can’t believe he is creating such a following. It shouldn’t be surprising.

People of all colors want to be inspired, and Sen. Obama is indeed inspiring, regardless of what one may think of his policies.

In the second column, Watts compares Obama’s successes to that of another phenom, Tiger Woods.

They have analyzed Sen. Obama just as the other golfers have analyzed Tiger, but Sen. Clinton has yet to conclude what I have concluded about Tiger Woods. He’s just a better golfer than the other guys. Well, Barack Obama has raised more money, he’s better organized, he’s a better communicator, and finally — notwithstanding the serious Rev. Jeremiah Wright-induced bump in the road — he’s just a better candidate.

Watts finds a lot of parallels between Woods and Obama. By focusing on their tasks with discipline and not being distracted by some overly attacks, Watts said they overcame adversity. He also uses this column to discuss how racism exists in both political parties, only Democrats get to use their greater inclusiveness as an immunity badge against the label racist. He also criticizes Republicans for not using the current racial rift in the Democratic Party to their advantage by offering blacks an alternative.

He ends his column declaring that because of Obama’s ability to withstand attacks, “the general election is up for grabs.”

Based on what Watts has said on CNN and in writing, he has not publicly taken much issue with Obama’s policies, were are more Liberal than his, and instead focuses on what they would have in common – being trailblazers. All of Watts’ words beam with an enthusiasm because Obama is tackling the race question the same way Watts had aspired to – by treating it as a non-issue. The excitement is undeniable. Watts is very energized by the campaign. So, how do I think Watts would answer the big two questions?

Chances of endorsing Obama: Normally I wouldn’t say this about a committed member of the Republican Party like Watts, but considering he isn’t holding any office and runs his own business there is an opportunity for Watts to show his support for Obama if he chooses to do so. But doing anything too openly could threaten his ability to maintain relationships with other Republicans. It’s sort of a toss up. On the other hand, I don’t see him becoming an attack dog for the Republicans. I think he genuinely likes both Obama and John McCain.

Chances of voting for Obama: He might do it. But like Shelby Steele, I’m pretty sure he’d like to hear some specifics about Obama’s views on inner-city blight, failed education systems and Affirmative Action before he makes a final decision. If Obama takes a more centrist view on these issues, Watts is likely to pull the lever for him come fall.

Check back to The Black Snob all this week and next, the series concluding on April 14th.

Sunday: Amy Holmes
Monday: Condoleezza Rice
Tuesday: Ward Connerly
Wednesday: Shelby Steele
Thursday: Alan Keyes
Friday: JC Watts
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: Larry Elder and Thomas Sowell
Saturday: Juan Williams
Sunday: A final analysis, “Who Would Clarence Thomas Vote For?”

11 thoughts on “JC Watts and Barack Obama Both Made History (Only Obama’s Is the Only One People Talk About)

  1. Mademoiselle Snob . . .You and the Field Negro are my favorite bloggers. Wanted to commend you on the writings, especially this week on Black conservatives and their stance on the Obama candidacy for the nations highest office.A quick word of advice: Spell check is your friend. Found the word “irregardless”in the JC Watts post. Also upgraded where I think you meant upgrade in the MLK post.Be careful!

  2. Watts at least seems to be more stable than most black republicans. But, just like with Alan Keyes, it seems he loves them far more than they love him back.

  3. mo: Thanks. I couldn’t find the “irregardless.” I did find some other errors (does this mean I have to re-edit my DailyKos entry? Eh. I’ll do it later.)But I did see the “upgraded.”Spell check is good, but it can be an imperfect beast. If I was disciplined I wouldn’t write and post in the same day. A lot of times I need a good two hours away or more from my work before I can proofread it with any interest.Most of my time my desire is just to slap that sucker up there and be dunzo.But thanks! I’m glad you’re enjoying the blog. I’m enjoying the extra company. Not that I don’t love my regulars. They’re awesome. Some are even left from when I started the blog in August last year and didn’t update it for more than two months.

  4. Being a right leaning Negro(suprise!) I like JC Watts. Delay was my Congressman. He is an ass! I am glad to see his style of politics begin to fade away. Clearly we have seen the rise of racism in the Democratic party this election. I have always stated that Liberals are the most racist people I know. I will be voting for Obama, but if he does not make it(you never know with the Clintons) I will be voting Libertarian.

  5. vonn: I think racism is a problem whenever you’re dealing with people who come from a homogeneous background and are disinterested in people different from them. Being a “big tent” party means black Democrats have to share time with Liberals, Guilty White Liberals (I like him, but GOD he can be ridiculous, Keith Olbermann fits that model), blue collar union types, elitists, artists, peaceniks, broke people, ethnic whites, Catholics, first generation immigrants, a fair share of gays and a healthy dose of feminists.I mean, who’s surprised that the Dems are trying to murder each other? We’re all always trying to murder each other. Why would this year be any different?In that sort of scenario you’re going to have some friction. But people who are racists within the party do use the Democrat label as cover to claim they are not racist. But I don’t think you can be more racist. That’s kind of like being a little bit pregnant.Both parties have bigots. Some just have their own radio shows.I often have to remind my mother that the white Democrats who run St. Louis aren’t Republicans. They don’t have Republican platforms or voting records. They’re just racist. All the racists didn’t leave the party after ’68. Hell, ex-Klansman Sen. Byrd’s still kicking around. I’m starting to think he’s the Highlander.But until there are more black Republicans elected to office on the local, state and federal level the party will won’t be taken seriously when it comes to black/white relations.I think that if things were so caustic right now between black Democrats and conservatives both sides could help each other out for the benefit of all black people, but no one wants to give. And I can see how frustrating it must be to be accused of being a “sellout” all the time. To me, you’re only a sellout if you willfully inflict harm on other people. (Like Ward Connerly, who wants to destroy Affirmative Action, but not offer an alternative since, gasp, there are still huge disparities based on income and race). Like a slave who rats on the other slaves trying to run away. Or Flavor Flav. Or BET.JC Watts doesn’t embarrass me. I just don’t agree with him. Other than that, he seems like an all right guy. I think people need to chill out about it. Take a reprieve on the name-calling. There’s a lot of demonization going on from in political warfare, but things are so harsh on you when you don’t tow the NAACP approved line in black politics. And they can do this because we’re such a small community. We need each other for support and strength, so to be rejected out of a close-knit society like that really hurts.And I’m a Liberal! Most black people, as you know, really aren’t “true” Liberals. So my pro-gay rights ass isn’t exactly popular either. I just never took my fight public (like a lot of people), for fear of getting kicked out.I just wish someone would print up the rules of blackness so I could officially know what I am and what I am not supposed to be.I guess I have a slight Libertarian streak which says people should be able to do what their conscious wants them to do. Fuck’em if they don’t agree. That’s what I say. If I don’t agree with you I should offer an alternative and let the people choose who’s right. This is (allegedly) a Democracy. We should just fight and debate it out then have a vote and be dunzo.

  6. [quote]Both parties have bigots. Some just have their own radio shows.I often have to remind my mother that the white Democrats who run St. Louis aren’t Republicans. They don’t have Republican platforms or voting records. They’re just racist. All the racists didn’t leave the party after ’68. Hell, ex-Klansman Sen. Byrd’s still kicking around. I’m starting to think he’s the Highlander.[/quote]Black Snob:I am glad that you are on record stating this fact.Unfortunately I still don’t understand your focus on the “Black Republican”. He and his party are already excommunicated out of the Black community via the voting booth.In your title you made the statement “Only one of them is talked about”. I wonder, again, why JC Watts who you even said DID NOT COME FROM A BLACK DISTRICT is the subject of your indepth inspection. Shouldn’t you be spending the bulk of your time NOT JUST inspecting what people’s views are of a “PRESIDENT OBAMA” but instead being the INSPECTION OF OBAMA and the assumptions that BLACK PEOPLE WHO CAN GET ELECTED IN A BLACK DISTRICT bring to the table as at a period where there are MORE OF THEM IN OFFICE THAN AT ANY OTHER TIME IN OUR HISTORY as Americans…….the problems that plague our community are either still present and in some cases have intensified. I must again ask you as I ask Black America – What is your objective?Is it to have a BLACK PRESIDENT or is it to ADDRESS THE KEY INTERESTS OF BLACK PEOPLE in a measurable way?[quote]But until there are more black Republicans elected to office on the local, state and federal level the party will won’t be taken seriously when it comes to black/white relations.[/quote]Black Snop – I 1000% REJECT this perspective from you – as I do when I hear it from other people.This sets up the notion of Black people as the CONSUMER of what the political parties have to offer. We are PASSIVE in our receipt and consumption of what they have to offer. If they don’t offer, we don’t have any items on the shelf to pick from.INSTEAD the Black community, keying in on our OBJECTIVES and reaching out toward a directed end is CLEAR ON WHAT WE WANT. A portion of this is from the American political system – NOT ALL. In being clear about our objectives we CHOOSE to achieve our collective racial ends via the American political system – THOSE ENDS that are achievable via this system.Thus it is incongruent to have your idea that “until an attractive Black Republican comes to be…….they will not receive our votes”. Can we flip this around for a second? There is an entire arena full of Black DEMOCRATS (9,900 of them in my estimate) who DO RECEIVE OUR VOTE today. Even though they have IDEOLOGICAL alignment with what is POPULARLY THOUGHT TO BE the Best Interests of Black people…….their monopoly domination by them and their non-Black Democratic party mates over our communities has NOT translated into the promised benefits.Black Snob – this leaves those of us (I am an Independent) who are focus on achieving benefit for our community MORE THAN for any particular party left to ponder……beyond ‘what is our objective’ when it comes to the Political Activism that we see so much of……but also – How do we get our people to focus upon USING THEIR VOTE to achieve a certain measurable end WITHIN THEIR COMMUNITY? Today we have a one off assumption. “What is good for the Democrats is ultimately good for the Black Community”. This has been proven FALSE to anyone daring to take a step back, detatch and see that that party is more powerful than ever WITHIN our community.Black Snob – when you have a candidate who no longer has to SELL YOU on his ideas in competition with another BUT INSTEAD who needs to MAKE SURE YOU GET TO THE POLLS because he knows what you are going to do – do you see a problem? WORSE YET – I believe I have made a sufficient argment that HIS CLAIM that he has POLICIES that YOU SUPPORT has not proven to be policies that have lead to COMPREHENSIVE BENEFIT as they are in power ALREADY, TODAY…..what are we left with as we distill all of this?I’ll tell you – nothing more than “I hate my conservative/Republican enemey more than I LOVE MYSELF/seek to obtain my own goals”.These are great times for “Democrats Who Are Black”. I wonder if this is the case for “Blacks who are Democrats” though. It is NOT up to the Republicans to field a Black candidate who is acceptible to the Black Community. It is the job of the BLACK COMMUNITY to realign our interests in MEASURABLE RESULTS, test various theories that promise to achieve that end, PURGE the ones that have FAILED, retain the ones that work, keep trying until this end is met.Again I ask you – why more time is spent on those individuals who have little or no traction WITHIN the Black community than those who ARE SITTING IN THE CONTROL ROOM ALREADY and scratching up the side of the vehicle as they drive?

  7. constructive feedback: If you can’t accept my answer that I’m writing about black Republicans out of simple curiosity that’s says more about you than me.I told that I was writing about it because I was curious, that I write for my own amusement and if people like to read it, bully for them.I do not have to explain to you “why.” I already told you “why.” If you cannot understand wanting to learn about something for the hell of it I feel sorry for you. I’m not out here trying to make a statement or change the world. I do not feel as an individual it is my job to explain anything to any one or present any other point of view than my own. This is a blog, sir. It is about giving opinions. That is all.If you want to go into depth about why you think Obama is a weak candidate, please, write about it ind-depth on your blog. I do not get you coming over here and demanding a particular kind of content out of a blog that simply represents my mundane interests.If you are going to remain stuck on this, I’m just going to stop replying. You don’t want to accept my answer, fine. I’m not going to keep restating it for shits and giggles. Intellectually curiosity. My blog. Write what I like. What the hell, man?

  8. Black Snob:I will refrain from making comments that question your agenda since it bothers you so much.I do ask, however, that you address my construct stated above in which I ask you how it is you are “waiting for” more savory Black Republicans to be produced by that particular party on your way to finding the right ideological mix that in fact works for Black America.Is it up to the Republican Party to change so that it might be more appealing to more Blacks on THEIR WAY to insuring more political victories…….OR…..is it up to the Black Community to identify what our objectives are as a people, make note of that which we POPULARLY ASSUME is in our best interests, scientifically MEASURE if these points bear themselves out as such and if not WE ACTIVELY PURSUE other alternative because our goal is THE DESTINATION rather than the METHODOLOGY?[quote]If you want to go into depth about why you think Obama is a weak candidate, please, write about it ind-depth on your blog. I do not get you coming over here and demanding a particular kind of content out of a blog that simply represents my mundane interests.[/quote]Obama IS NOT a ‘weak candidate’. In fact it is not “Obama” that I am worried about. It is the “Verizon Wireless” group of operatives that stand behind him. They ALREADY have dominance of the popular policies WITHIN the Black community. They are poised to gain more unchecked power without ever having to stand accountable for where they have led us thus far.(I don’t want my “questioning” of your ultimate agenda to prevent our discussion on this more central and important question. I will try harder to not challenge your agenda. I am far more interested in the distinction beween what is going on within the American political system and that which is going on within Black America that many assume can be addressed by the American political system despite having ample evidence to the contrary.)

  9. constructive feedback:Well, I still stand by that I DON’T have an agenda. I was just irritated that you wouldn’t accept my honest answer to your question.That said …I do ask, however, that you address my construct stated above in which I ask you how it is you are “waiting for” more savory Black Republicans to be produced by that particular party on your way to finding the right ideological mix that in fact works for Black America.I’m not waiting for anything. I was just stating that if Republicans are interested in appealing to blacks that’s what they need to do. They need to address black issues and announce alternatives. It wasn’t an endorsement of any particular view. I know that many blacks within the party want this. I’m just re-stating what they said. It does not reflect my personal feelings towards republicans or their ideas.In your title you made the statement “Only one of them is talked about”. I wonder, again, why JC Watts who you even said DID NOT COME FROM A BLACK DISTRICT is the subject of your indepth inspection.I repeat an earlier answer. Just because. I was curious about his views, wanted to share it with others since I was reading about it already.It’s knowledge for the sake of knowledge. Black Republicans are part of our community for good or no. This was purely an exercise in the psychological. How would black Republicans react to a candidate who is superficially their ideal, but is ideologically opposed to them.They’re more about their own personal conflict of interest than some lionization of Obama at all. It is about them, not him. I am fascinated by the psychology of it. This articles do not serve a larger purpose outside of just mundane curiosity.I like getting into the alternative views and opinions. It didn’t matter whether they held any power or not. I am purely interested in them as a psychological study of the black diaspora. Black Snob – when you have a candidate who no longer has to SELL YOU on his ideas in competition with another BUT INSTEAD who needs to MAKE SURE YOU GET TO THE POLLS because he knows what you are going to do – do you see a problem? WORSE YET – I believe I have made a sufficient argment that HIS CLAIM that he has POLICIES that YOU SUPPORT has not proven to be policies that have lead to COMPREHENSIVE BENEFIT as they are in power ALREADY, TODAY…..what are we left with as we distill all of this?See? this is an example of my annoyance about you’re questioning. You don’t even KNOW my opinion about present black leadership. You are just making assumptions based of a few blogs you’ve read out of the 283 entries I’ve written.That’s why I feel like you are being provocative just for the fun of it. How can you assume when you have read none of my opinion on it? How do you KNOW what you have not read?I honestly don’t know why you keep arguing with me about what I should focus on in my own personal writing. That I somehow “need” to do this as if I’m must earn your approval in some sort of way. That I must earn your respect and prove something to you. I frankly don’t care what you think of me since you assume what I think in the first place based on a series of articles I chose to write “just because.”That said, I am critical of current black leadership. I do think blacks need to be more proactive and put pressure on their leaders. But it is NOT my duty to write about it constantly. It is NOT my responsibility to dedicate my topical/political/celebrity/navel gazing blog to bitching about present black leadership. I’m just not interested in writing about it right now. I write about things when I feel like it. It has nothing to do whether I believe something or not. It is about what I want to write.Obama IS NOT a ‘weak candidate’. In fact it is not “Obama” that I am worried about. It is the “Verizon Wireless” group of operatives that stand behind him. They ALREADY have dominance of the popular policies WITHIN the Black community. They are poised to gain more unchecked power without ever having to stand accountable for where they have led us thus far.I really don’t know how to response here. I think we have an outrage gap. I find complaining about present black leadership boring. If you don’t like them, it’s a democracy, vote them out. Run a better candidate and support them. What good does rehashing their inertia do?Yes, they are flawed, but I’d rather have this flawed bunch in charge than the present administration. It is up to the individual to chose the best path to benefit themselves and others. We all have to ask ourselves what we should, whether we choose complacency or activism. Only action can change these things. All the naval gazing blogs in the world will not stir them from their roosts.Also, I don’t really get your “Verizon Wireless” reference in respect to black leadership. They only came around to him as bunch of Johnny Come Latelys, under the pressure of their constituents. But if you’re referring to the thousands of wide-eyed kids hyped up by the campaign — yeah, they can get a little weird. But once again, I’m not particularly worried about them either.I merely encourage people to get involved in the political progress, be proactive if the want to facilitate change. To vote. To volunteer. To make your opinions and views known and if you cannot protest, support organizations that share your causes and interest

  10. i mean, i just wanted to say jc watts seems more palatable than his predecessors in this series. (you have to admit that “race hustling poverty pimps” remark was ingenious, despite its ignorance. lol.) but probably only because he came after shelby steele and alan keyes, who, by coincidence, can go skipping hand in hand through the fires of hades in gasoline drawers,(hopefully one will slip and pull the other one in w/him…).

  11. fantastically misunderstood me: Alan Keyes is pretty repellent. I tried to give all the conservatives the benefit of the doubt rather than viciously tearing into them, but I could find nothing redeeming in Keyes. Powell and Watts were more palatable for me, but primarily because Powell is a moderate and Watts is relatively harmless. Also, the both were history makers even if you don’t agree with their views.I don’t have any respect for Keyes. His mind seems diseased. He is marginalized, but he, like Ward Connerly, still poses the ability to become cunning faces for covert organizations meant to harm black interests under the guise of racial equality.

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