This is the latest installment on my series looking at the opinions of prominent black Americans on Barack Obama’s candidacy. The first time around I highlighted black conservatives. After an overwhelming response for more opinions from more people, I’ve decided to continue the series, widening the scope to political leaders, activists, authors, journalists and other influential individuals. These posts will run twice a week on The Black Snob and on Blacksnob’s DailyKos journal.
I was originally going to kick-off the next phase of my “Critical Thought on Obama” series with former San Francisco Mayor Willie Brown, but when I saw a Bloomberg article on former Virgina Governor Douglas Wilder and his thoughts on Barack Obama’s candidacy I decided to choose Wilder, another man who ventured on a historic first as the first black Governor since P.B.S. Pinchback held the distinction for 35 days in Louisiana during Reconstruction.
The grandson of slaves, Lawrence Douglas Wilder had the unlikely distinction of becoming governor of a southern state, specifically one that had once held the capital of the Confederacy. After winning the Democratic nomination in 1989, pollsters predicted that Wilder would win with as much as 10 percent of the vote, but Wilder barely squeaked through a victory with less than half a percentage point.
Some attributed the sudden closeness of the win to the “Bradley Effect,” now dubbed the “Wilder Effect,” which opines that white voters would say one thing to pollsters and do another at the polls.
After serving one-term due to a Virgina law that does not allow governors to serve consecutive terms, Wilder has entertained runs for senate and president, switched his political affiliation to “Independent,” is currently the Mayor of Richmond, Va. and is backing Barack Obama for the Democratic presidential nomination.
While he is for Obama, Wilder has first-hand knowledge of what it is like to swim in uncharted waters. He remembers his wisp of a win after predictions of a windfall.
“He’s struggling with them in terms of the nomination,” Wilder said. “I don’t think that struggle will emanate through the general election because they have far more in common with him than they do with the Republican candidate.”
Still, he said, Obama should be prepared for a discrepancy between polling and election results … Wilder predicted a tight race for Obama against the presumptive Republican presidential nominee,, if Obama does win the nomination. He said he had advised the candidate on how to handle the race issue.
Wilder, like some other black politicians backing Obama, has praised Obama for his handling of “the race question” and thinks Obama should continue to take the “higher ground” and let the surrogates do the dirty work.
“Let the rest of us do what needed to be done” in responding to attacks (he said).
“I told him it’s going to be very difficult, particularly running against a woman,” he said. “And racially it’s going to be even more difficult.”
As per the biggest racial controversy Obama has had so far, Wilder admits that Obama has “been hurt” by comments made by Rev. Jeremiah Wright, but the ex-governor isn’t too worried.
“(I)f that’s all they got in the tank, we’ll be going up for Obama’s inauguration.”
Republicans will see few gains from focusing on race, he said.
“They will do so at their own risk of damaging the Republican Party forever,” he said, because “people are always ahead of leaders.”
I like Wilder and I respect his sage advice, but I can’t say that I always share “Sun’ll come out to’morrow” point-of-view that Obama’s race speech settled things even remotely or that the bigots won’t continue to ding the Rev. Wright bell until the white voters come home and vote for John McCain. As I type this Republicans are using Rev. Wright through Obama to tangentially attack random Democrats running for office.
Willie Horton was a smear and the Swift Boat drama was a fabrication, but this is a distortion with videotape. Poppy Bush didn’t have video of Horton committing rape. There was no old film of Kerry preparing for his so-called “Band-Aid Purple Heart.” But how does one put a mute button on “God damn, America” and FOX News braying about Obama sitting in Wright’s church for decades?
One would think individuals will tire of it and ignore it, and I hope they do, but considering a minister recently put up “Obama, Osama Humm Are they brothers?” on his church sign, nothing that so easily appeals to our Lizard brains will die a short, violent death. These traumas will need to be triaged as long as Obama is in the race. The fact that two contradicting attack memes (one that Obama is a “secret” Muslim and the other that he is a “whitey-hating” black Christian fundamentalist) shows you do not need logic to push a lie. Mere truthiness is enough.
Also, if Wilder is arguing that Obama’s surrogates need to take up the knee capping mantle, would he ready his mallet and commence with the wallops? It has been a continued criticism that Obama is in a “damned if you do, damned if you don’t” bind where if he attacks Clinton too hard he’ll be accused of going back on his promise of a “new kind of politics,” but if he does nothing he risks accusations of being a milquetoast elitist who is all split and no banana.
Save for some sparse members of the chattering punditocracy, the heavy-hitters are largely sitting on their hands, whining about Clinton’s gall for staying in the race, as if merely wishing her away would actually make her retire to her laurels.
So, while I like Wilder, admire him, he knows more than anyone how tough it is. He has been there and has proverbially done it, so I would suggest that he considering doing it again for Obama.
No one becomes history without first making their opponents history.