Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Barack Obama and White Southern Democrats

Now that the dust is settling on the Democratic side and Barack Obama assumes the role of the party's candidate for President, how will those white southern Democrats, wary of an African-American candidate, vote? Obama's nomination is definitely a problem for them, and they are torn between their disgust of Bush and McCain's apparent embracing of Bush's policies and voting for a black man.

Yesterday, I was party to a conversation about Clinton and Obama. The two people involved were white male veterans over the age of 65, who obviously had a strong distaste for Bush. One of the men is U.S. Army, ret. Both were concerned about Obama, and were Clinton supporters. Although nothing was said about race, it was very clear that it was the issue, and both were very concerned about how to vote. Neither had made up their minds and one asked the other if Clinton's presence on the ticket would make a difference to him. The response was "I don't know...I just don't know."

I can imagine that this conversation is going on all over the South, but I expect that it is also taking place throughout the country among Democrats, Independents, and some moderate Republicans, who cannot stomach another four years of a Bush-like administration. They have also not come to terms with an African American president. Do they have an alternative? Will they hold their nose and vote for McCain or will they look to Bob Barr's Libertarian Party? Or, will they not go to the polls at all.

At this point, I haven't studied Barr's platform. I do know that the Libertarian philosophy is very easy to agree with in many ways, especially for one who is politically conservative. Less government, less government intrusion into the personal life of citizens, and lower taxes is very appealing, as is their opposition to the Iraq catastrophe.

Obama is definitely going to have to take this group of people into consideration. I think that right now, they are on the fence and free for the taking. He must carefully choose a running mate to help balance the ticket, and he must choose his words carefully. His speech last night was a good start. Not once did he mention the fact that he is African American or that he is the first of his race to reach this point in a presidential campaign. He talked about America and Americans, united in a common cause to put this county back on track as a world leader and working together to reverse the trends of the past eight years. He also talked about the campaign being a contest between opponents and not enemies. The Bush Republicans have run their campaigns and their Administration in such a way that anyone who differs with them is an enemy, who must be completely devastated, not just defeated.

The coming weeks and months will be interesting to watch as we see what form the campaigns will take. Will those white, conservative southern Democrats and their counterparts elsewhere be won to the Obama side? Will the Republicans resort to "Swiftboat Veterans," take no prisoners, devastation? Will Obama and McCain be able to stand up to scrutiny, especially McCain, who has changed his views on issues, and who has questionable issues in his past.

Oh what fun we face!