I don't usually write columns about stories that appear in a single publication, but one story on the front page of the Wall Street Journal, Nov. 10 grabbed my attention. The story was headlined, "Whites' Great Hope? Barack Obama and the Dream of a Color-Blind America."
In the interest of full disclosure, let me say I believe that among the Democratic candidates, former Sen. John Edwards of North Carolina has the best chance of winning the general election. That's because no non-Southerner has been elected president on the Democratic ticket since John F. Kennedy in 1960.
Still, it's fascinating to see how voters respond to Obama's candidacy, especially Black leaders.
African American voters are supporting Clinton over Obama by a margin of 46 percent to 37 percent, according to the latest Wall Street Journal/NBC News poll.
Obama and Clinton have remarkably similar records. Each received an A on the latest NAACP Report Card – Obama with 100 percent and Clinton with 94 percent. Each is a United States senator. Both are graduates of Ivy League law schools; Clinton went to Yale; Obama graduated from Harvard and was the first African American editor of the prestigious Harvard Law Review. Obama, a former Illinois state legislator, has been called inexperienced, but in reality he has served more time in public office than Clinton.
On major issues, there is little difference between them. And there is no question that Obama, the son a White mother and a Kenyan father, celebrates his Black ancestry. He told one TV interviewer, "I'm rooted in the African American community, but I'm not limited to it."
Few Whites supported Jesse Jackson or Al Sharpton, but many say they can support Obama.
In the Wall Street Journal story Jonathan Kaufman wrote, "After decades of often bitter polarization and racial tension on issues ranging from the spread of civil rights to affirmative action, many Whites say they are drawn to Sen. Obama precisely because they think his mixed-race background reflects America's increasingly diverse population and projects a more optimistic vision of the country's racial future."
Obama's candidacy, Kaufman wrote, "… is prompting significant numbers of white Americans to consider voting for him not despite his racial background, but because of it."
Of course considering voting for Obama is not the same as voting for him. Just as Blacks are favoring Clinton over Obama, White voters support Clinton in that same Wall Street Journal/NBC News by a 46 percent to 32 percent margin. My concern is lack of support for Obama among African Americans.
Billionaire Bob Johnson, Magic Johnson, Rep. John Lewis, Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee and Rep. Kendrick Meek have joined the Clinton camp. Johnson, founder of BET says she's the best candidate.
Based on what?
In experience and voting record, Obama is at least equal to Clinton. African American Democrats couldn't ask for a more qualified candidate to carry the party's banner. Moreover, he stands the best chance among Blacks of attracting White voters.
Mary Pattillo, a professor at Northwestern University, told the Wall Street Journal: "You can't get angry as a Black person working in White America. To get a message across, Black professionals are always thinking about the perfect balance of assertiveness and non-threateningness."
Doug Wilder learned that lesson in Virginia before he became the first African American elected governor. Deval Patrick also struck that "perfect balance" to become governor of Massachusetts. Obviously, Obama has mastered it as well.
Blacks who support Clinton over Obama can't have it both ways. They can't expect your votes partly based on racial appeals, yet refuse to endorse Obama — whose appeal extends far beyond race. The next time one of them makes a purely racial appeal – and most of them will – they should be soundly rejected.
Ironically, Gov. Patrick and Oprah Winfrey – two figures sometimes criticized as minimizing the issue of race – have boldly endorsed Obama. It's too bad that Black leaders endorsing Clinton won't display similar courage or unselfishness.
George E. Curry, former editor-in-chief of Emerge magazine and the NNPA News Service, is a keynote speaker, moderator, and media coach.