It's Just Because He's Black?

With his comments yesterday downplaying Obama's win in South Carolina as a mere echo of Jesse Jackson's wins there in 1984 and 1988 (with the not-to-subtle indication that, "It's just because he's black"), Bill Clinton neglected to mention the 2004 South Carolina primary results.

In case we've all forgotten, that contest included six white men and a black candidate who is clearly "black enough" and has been on the forefront of black causes across America for the past couple of decades: Rev. Al Sharpton.

Do blacks in South Carolina always go for the black candidate, especially one with the racial bonafides of an Al Sharpton?

2004 South Carolina Democratic Primary Exit Polls - African-Americans:

John Edwards              37%
John Kerry                  34%
Al Sharpton                17%
Wes Clark                   6%
Howard Dean              4%
Joe Lieberman             1%
Dennis Kucinich           0%

Link

Edwards and Kerry both won more than twice as many black votes in South Carolina as compared to Sharpton, just four years ago.

Of course, it would be silly to say that Barack's race had nothing to do with it; at the same time, it was never an assumption that he would win the black vote there. All of the major black political establishment leaders either stayed neutral or endorsed Clinton and most blacks continue to have fond feelings for the administration of her husband.

To really understand what happened there, I would suggest taking a look at this Wall Street Journal article (sorry to have to link to a conservative website for it!) detailing the different strategies employed by the two campaigns: Clinton adopted the more traditional strategy of paying church leaders and established political operatives to "deliver" the black vote; Obama organized a grassroots mobilization behind the campaign.

For a flavor of how the Obama campaign did this, I would also invite you to check out this video:

Tags: 2008 Democratic primary, Barack Obama, South Carolina (all tags)

Comments

19 Comments

Re: It's Just Because He's Black?

If I can be honest without being compared to David Duke, I think winning 80% of the black vote is based on a combination of race + viability + liking what he has to say.

As I recall, the black vote in SC was basically split (according to polls) until Obama won Iowa, at which point it jumped heavily to him and never left.

I'm sure there were some people who voted for Obama "just" because he's black in the same sense that some people voted for Edwards "just" because he's from their hometown or whatever.  That doesn't mean you could put the town drunk on the ticket in place of Edwards and they still would have voted for him; obviously you've got to be a serious candidate first.

by Steve M 2008-01-27 05:43PM | 0 recs
Re: It's Just Because He's Black?

There's nothing I disagree with in that statement. Well said.

by dmc2 2008-01-27 05:47PM | 0 recs
Re: It's Just Because He's Black?

Its these types of comments by Bill that are going to end up with him being muzzled starting tomorrow.

He has become a political liability. Unbelievable.

by crackityjones 2008-01-27 05:45PM | 0 recs
Re: It's Just Because He's Black?

Not really. Nobody thought Jesse was viable in 1984. They just wanted their voices heard in the process through him, kind of like Edwards supporters from here on out. In 1988, he was a lot more credible, but he hadn't won Iowa, he didn't have the financing that Barack has, and he was not considered viable as a general election candidate.

I'm sure they considered that Barack is viable as part of their reasoning, but ultimately, he had to win them over as he has anyone else, and he did a great job of it, plus getting them excited and mobilized to turn out in large numbers.

In a way, you could say that Al actually had it easier, because neither Kerry nor Edwards has nearly the credibility in black communities that Hillary does, by virtue of Bill.

by dmc2 2008-01-27 05:46PM | 0 recs
Re: It's Just Because He's Black?

Whoops, this is supposed to be a response to gladiator's comment above.

by dmc2 2008-01-27 05:48PM | 0 recs
Re: It's Just Because He's Black?

Not really. Nobody thought Jesse was viable in 1984. They just wanted their voices heard in the process through him, kind of like Edwards supporters from here on out. In 1988, he was a lot more credible, but he hadn't won Iowa, he didn't have the financing that Barack has, and he was not considered viable as a general election candidate.

I'm sure they considered that Barack is viable as part of their reasoning, but ultimately, he had to win them over as he has anyone else, and he did a great job of it, plus getting them excited and mobilized to turn out in large numbers.

In a way, you could say that Al actually had it easier, because neither Kerry nor Edwards has nearly the credibility in black communities that Hillary does, by virtue of Bill.

by dmc2 2008-01-27 05:48PM | 0 recs
Re: It's Just Because He's Black?

It was because he is both black and a serious candidate. If he weren't serious, he'd get 20% like Sharpton did. But seriously, if he was white, would he have gotten 80% of the black vote?

by OrangeFur 2008-01-27 06:07PM | 0 recs
Re: It's Just Because He's Black?

It's definitely possible that without Barack in the field, Hillary would've gotten close to 80%. Not sure about how much appeal JE has amongst blacks down there, he did win last time, but got crushed this time.

by dmc2 2008-01-27 06:28PM | 0 recs
Re: It's Just Because He's Black?

The whole "if he weren't black he wouldn't even be a viable candidate" thing is so lame

Does it occur to you at if Hillary were male and not married to a president, she wouldn't be running for president either ?  She never would have ended up representing NY in the Senate - she'd just be another white male corporate lawyer making lots of money and working in obscurity somewhere.

Like it or not, candidate's life stories are part of what make their candidacies. That holds for your candidate as well as mine.

by lifelongdem 2008-01-28 05:08AM | 0 recs
Re: It's Just Because He's Black?

If "qualifications" were the very relevant to the question of who should be the nominee, the race right now would be between Joe Biden, Chris Dodd, and Bill Richardson.

by dmc2 2008-01-28 11:21AM | 0 recs
Re: It's Just Because He's Black?

Hey, to read some of the posts around here, you'd think Obama was dealt a death blow on Saturday.

by Drummond 2008-01-27 07:53PM | 0 recs
Re: It's Just Because He's Black?

Long term he probably did a pile of damage to himself. Short term winning probably gave him a small boost.

by Ga6thDem 2008-01-28 02:34AM | 0 recs
Re: It's Just Because He's Black?
That remains to be seen. If you're right however, it shows what a sad state of politics this country is in. A HUGE portion of a untapped demographic comes out to be part of the democratic process, and thier candidate may get punished. The Democratic Leadership main concern should be on how to NOT alienate Edwards/Obama supporters should Hillary win.
If anybody can turn conventional wisdom on it's ear though, it's Obama.
by Bruticus 2008-01-28 05:36AM | 0 recs
Re: It's Just Because He's Black?

Yeah, I bet he and his advisers are sweating over that horrible 30 point win.

by Drummond 2008-01-28 07:28AM | 0 recs
Re: It's Just Because He's Black?

Yes.  At the start, there was discussion about how amazed that AA voters there were not really considering race- sometimes Clinton was up, sometimes Obama, but it was split.  I had enormous respect for that and even commented I didn't know if I could separate it if I was in the same situation- and they were amazing to do that.  To win, Obama played to their weaknesses and biases- he played the "Oprah" and "race" card and they flocked to him.  It made him win, but in the process, he has set race relations backwards and their votes are now discounted as just a vote for their own race, which is sad- because if it had been more even-handed, there would have been a much more tremendous amount of respect given to the community.

by reasonwarrior 2008-01-28 04:06AM | 0 recs
Re: It's Just Because He's Black?

I guess Barack has remote-control powers over Bill Shaheen, Bob Johnson, Hillary Clinton, Bill Clinton, and others in the Clinton campaign.

by dmc2 2008-01-28 05:15AM | 0 recs
Re: It's Just Because He's Black?
I think you misread. Oprah was bought in to pull at Hillary's core of white women. I'm not sure if you know this or not, but Oprah's audience and supporters are not Black.
As far as Barack pulling the race card first, welll, that's a discussion left for the ages. We do know that race has never been part of his stump speech or any of the speeches that I  have heard. He still remains as a unity candidate.  Ultimately though, I think history will say that Bill Clinton remarks toward Obama before (and even after) the SC primary is what pushed the thousands of Black democrats to vote for Obama.
Bill SEVERLY misplayed the race angle in trying to win over Black voters in SC. Instead of focusing on Barack, and making it a Black vs. White thing, he should have focused on the 1990's, the period where his support among AAs caused Toni Morrison to make that first Black President remark.
By focusing on Barack directly, he leveled the playing field and eliminated his own advantage.
If he would have focused on himself, Barack wouldn't have stood a chance.
Some say he was setting Hillary up for a win in the long run. That's assuming that mainstream White Democrats will somehow be turned off by a Black candidate that can win the Black vote. The problem with that thinking is that it assumes that White Dems will vote for Hillary  based on color, and that Baracks message doesn't transcend race.
Well, Dems in NV, IO and NH seem to think it does.
by Bruticus 2008-01-28 06:01AM | 0 recs
Never any doubt Obama would capture black vote

Wake up folks. Step back. Was there ever the remotest chance that an attractive, articulate, inspiring and viable black candidate was NOT going to capture the vast majority of the black vote. It's not a racist thing it's a clan thing. Just like women are going for Hillary in large numbers. All this race talk over the past couple of weeks has only served to marginally reinforce a tendency that was already massively present. The facts show us that so far Obama captures around 80% of the black vote. Thus it has been and will be in every contest going forward. The fact that about 80% of AA voters even in MI voted uncommitted was not serendipity. This race has basically assumed the shape it is going to have going forward. Clinton has her coalition and Obama has his. I expect to see further reinforcement of this basic fact in FL tomorrow. If her coalition holds up in FL it's a fair bet it will next week in states where the intensity effect of SC/IA/NH/NV is just not there although I expect generally increased turnout because Democrats are clearly energized this year.      

by ottovbvs 2008-01-28 04:07AM | 0 recs
Re: Obama's black support was DOWN

lol... yeah, from 83% to 81% -- that's a huge drop - maybe Obama is losing the black vote

by lifelongdem 2008-01-28 05:09AM | 0 recs

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