Obama faces black resistance in SC

Presidential hopeful Barack Obama faces two major obstacles in South Carolina, the first Democratic testing ground for black support: the popularity of the Clinton name and doubts among blacks that white America is ready for a minority president.

The candidacy of the 45-year-old Obama elicits genuine excitement in a state where blacks comprise about half of the primary electorate. Yet coupled with that emotion is a strong degree of skepticism about the freshman senator’s experience and whether he can win.

Obama also is up against the formidable Hillary Rodham Clinton, the Democratic front-runner who enjoys strong support in the black community and is married to former President Clinton, who is wildly popular in the community.

The Associated Press interviewed Democratic voters across the state, including about a dozen blacks, and found evidence of excitement and doubts.

Ashley Torrence, a 27-year-old college instructor in Greenville, S.C., is torn between voting for Obama and Clinton, and considers her vote crucial because either candidate could smash barriers. Torrence has talked to Clinton and was disappointed when all she got from her encounter with Obama was a handshake.

“I wanted to ask him how he had planned to combat the feeling that unfortunately a lot of people have about just not being ready for a black male to be president and particularly a lot of people with old South mentality,” she said. “How is he going to deal with that? Because you can’t campaign as though it doesn’t exist.”

It was an issue Obama confronted on his first trip to South Carolina in February, telling those who doubted he could win because he’s black: “Don’t tell me I can’t do something. … I don’t believe in this can’t do, won’t do, won’t even try, style of leadership. Yes we can. Don’t believe in that.”

Obama’s plea was directed not only at voters, who will participate in the Jan. 29 primary, but Democratic state Sen. Robert Ford of Charleston. Ford garnered headlines when he said he was backing Clinton in part because he was skeptical that Obama could win the presidency and feared that his nomination could hurt other Democratic candidates.

“Every Democrat running on that ticket next year would lose — because he’s black and he’s top of the ticket. We’d lose the House and the Senate and the governors and everything,” said Ford, who is black.

He drew widespread criticism for his comment and later apologized.

But the AP interviews suggested the view is prevalent among blacks, along with concerns across racial lines about whether Obama has enough experience to be president. Greenville County Democratic Party chairman Andy Arnold hears it frequently among blacks, who are supporting Clinton in greater numbers in recent polls.

“A lot of the African-Americans are with Hillary because I think they don’t believe white America is ready for a black president,” said Arnold, who is white and uncommitted in the race. “They want to win and so in a way, I think it is a barrier to him. And it may be more so in the South where the remnants of the old South are still in the older folks mind. They just can’t believe in their right mind that white folks will elect a black man president, so let’s not put ourselves through that agony.”

Clinton is a favorite of black women in current polls, due largely from goodwill for her husband and her lifelong focus on issues affecting families and children. Much of her lead comes from women and blacks, and it’s strongest among black women. According to Associated Press-Ipsos polls taken this summer, 59 percent of black women said they support Clinton and 27 percent Obama.

The South Carolina primary, coming after heavily white Iowa and New Hampshire vote, and Nevada casts its ballots, is crucial for Obama. In 1984 and 1988, Jesse Jackson won the state’s primary.

The Obama campaign argues that doubts about whether a black man can be elected is not widespread. They cite a Winthrop Poll of South Carolinians in May in which 79 percent of respondents said they think the country will be ready for a black president in the next 12 years. However, the poll did not ask whether they would be ready in 2008.

The Obama campaign launched radio ads this week with a direct appeal to black voters and has embarked on a labor-intensive effort to reach voters in their homes. Obama has about 40 staffers in the state, more than double any of his rivals. His top-ranked fundraising — he has raised nearly $60 million — allows him to invest in advertising and staff through the primary race.

Part of the campaign’s strategy is to host small meetings in voter’s homes, in the style of a Mary Kay or Tupperware party but where the pitch is for a candidate instead of cosmetics or plastic containers.

Iris Gladden was one of nine to attend a party this week in Timmonsville, a rural community not far from Interstate 95. Obama field organizer Ryan Cooper, 22, talked about the candidate’s appeal across racial lines and showed the group a video about the candidate that focused on Obama’s modest background and accomplishments, then asked to hear their concerns.

The group discussed their worries about health care costs, the quality of education, the difficulty to earn a living wage, opportunities for their young people and ending the war in Iraq. At Cooper’s encouragement, they also talked about what they liked about Obama after seeing the video. Gladden mentioned that as a single mother who raised four children, she was proud to see someone from a single-parent home achieve great things.

But as she left the gathering, she was still undecided about whether to vote for Obama or Clinton. Gladden said one of her sons was in the Naval Reserves and came close to being sent to Iraq. She said her top priority is a president who will end the war, and although both Obama and Clinton are running solid campaigns, she’s not convinced they could win.

“I see problems with both,” she said. “Obama because he’s black and Hillary because she’s a woman. Are we ready? Is America ready to go there?”

Rep. Jim Clyburn, the only black member of South Carolina’s congressional delegation, said he thinks concerns about the war are more prominent in voters’ minds than issues of candidates’ race or gender. But he said if anything, Clinton’s gender might help her in that regard.

“When it comes to issues of war and peace, women hold out hope for peace more than men do,” said Clyburn, who hasn’t endorsed a candidate but hasn’t ruled out doing so later. “If the election were held today, Clinton would carry the state. It’s not going to be held today.”

Another candidate, 2004 Democratic vice presidential nominee John Edwards, has been arguing that he will be more electable in the South. He denies that’s because of Obama’s race or Clinton’s gender but says it’s because they have never run in the South while he won the primary in 2004 and was elected senator in North Carolina.


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  1. Carl Nemo

    “Blacks have doubts that Obama can win”

    He surely won’t with their lack of support and such negative, deterministic thinking on their part!

    It’s amazing how black people will embrace the Clintonistas just because Bill and Hillary know how to suckup to the black community by pressing the flesh;i.e, handshakes, baby kissing, and their phony “downhome” schtick, when in fact they are up to their armpits in facilitating the NWO agenda along with Bushco. Both of them are elitists and the concept of “we the people” means nothing to them as long as they can have power over our lives 24/7/365.

    Black people now have a “chance” for the first time in America’s political history to elect a black man as their president. Obama’s educated, articulate has a commanding voice and presence and has more than enough experience to handle the presidency. George Bush is not part of this comparison either, but we can use far better examples of presidents throughout our history.

    Of course we’re talking about South Carolina and North Carolina too. I have black friends and former associates that live in these two retrograde states and blacks are treated quite well as long as they keep their heads down between their shoulders and don’t get too “uppity”. Things have not changed in the Southland it’s just morphed into a situation of passive aggression;i.e, states filled with “smiling cat” white people that are still thinking the “n” word 24/7/365.

    So why on earth would they embrace the Clintons over Obama is truly a statement as to how several hundred years of conditioning and brain-washing at the hands of their oppressive white masters both in olden and modern times can influence a group of people?! I guess it’s fine example of a race level Stockholm Syndrome.

    I suggest black people “risk it” nationwide and make the effort to elevate the first black man to the Presidency of the United States. If there’s any choice left for all the people of the U.S. and this was it; i.e, Hillary Clinton vs. Barack Obama for the Democratic nominee then the choice is ever so clear. Barack for President in 2008!

    When he accused Hillary of being Bush/Cheney Lite he was actually being kind towards her! The Bushistas and the Clintonistas have had an unholy pact to help each other to the top since the days when Bill was governor of Arkansas and helped H.W. Bush, Ollie North, Admiral Poindexter, Barry Seal, and a long list of shadowy CIA operatives facilitate the Iran/Contra scam by flying guns, munitions and drugs between the illegal CIA airport in Mena, Arkansas and Central America under the ever so “unwatchful eye” of “Jelly-Bean” boy Reagan. This is not conspiracy theory 101, it’s a fact and a fact that they surely want Americans to forget.

    Electing Hillary will insure at least four more years of her and Bill wasting our time with public aw shucks eupehmisms, waving at the crowds while facilitating the NWO plan for a North American Union simply turning this once great nation into a minor plantation in the greater global plantation;ie,another enterprise zone controlled by the shadowy planetary oligarchs. Bill was pro-NAFTA and we see where that’s gotten us. Rest assured Hillary will be pro-North American Union…!

    Wake up black America…! This is your chance to possibly change the course of American history and if not the ultimate outcome for our once great nation at least slow down the momentum of it’s destruction.

    The following is some post-election emoticons concerning the election results of ’08’ and it’s meaning for Americans. They say a picture or symbol is worth a thousand words…no?! :))

    Obama in ’08’ … : )
    Hillary in ’08’… : (

    Carl Nemo **==

  2. bryan mcclellan

    I’m going to defer to the doctor of Nemo.Minor plantation!!Gene did you hear that? N.A.U.! Is that like a village? Give him(The Doctor) all the AIR he needs….. I am 24karat speechless !!!!! If I could be blind, and Know who to trust,we’d all be blind. As you say DR. Nemo,one more roll of the dice with accountability thrown in and we could avoid the past six years of snake eyes, albeit already history, we may yet, be shaping time and space with open mindedness.. .Great read !!

  3. Carl Nemo

    Thanks Bryan. I write under the pen name Nemo for impact mainly since it’s linked to the mercurial submarine captain of Jules Verne’s “20,000 Leagues Under the Sea”. If readers recall the book was cast during the American Civil War and Nemo’s mission was to ram and sink shipping that were carrying armaments for the weapons of war. More importantely though is to spell my pen name backwards;ie., “Omen” and let it sink in as to what I’m about. My mission as Nemo the writer is to hopefully motivate people to get off their dead, materialistic butts and take a proactive interest in their nation, their lives, and well-being for all time and all places.

    It’s ever so easy to be proactive and if just 60 million Americans kicked the doors of their elected reps next week via phone, emails or better yet “snail mail” demanding we exit Iraq, and demand that Bushco be investigated by the House, then impeached, and that if they don’t do so, they will assuredly “not” be going back to D.C. in 2008 then “we the people” could and should effect change.

    I’ll supply the duty links and I hope people heed my advice and warnings. This is not a dry run, but a DEFCON I threat level situation concerning Bushco’s evil plans for this once great nation. The elections of 2008 won’t mean diddly squat if they’ve declared martial law post another facilitated or engineered debacle such 9/11! There won’t be any courts, nor House or Senate in session, not even the Supremes will be sitting to adjudicate at the highest levels, instead you’ll have the two evil “mad hatters”, Bush/Cheney and their NWO cohorts determining who shall live and who shall die! If people think I’m joking, then they best think again. I don’t joke about such matters.


    I advise folks to signup for Congress.org’s Vote Monitor service. You will get timely emails to your e-address showing how your elected reps voted on issues, also a listing of upcoming measures. There will be no SPAM forthcoming with this registration. Get involved with your country, it’s your country, not theirs. Freedom is not “free”…!

    “The price of freedom is eternal vigilance”…Thomas Jefferson

    Carl Nemo **==

  4. bryan mcclellan

    And you are just being nice,how many, do we have ,when it’s past time to be nice ,and use our voices to be heard, above the din ? Sing my friend ,fore you have a gift given out of the wilderness………….

  5. SEAL

    In my view, the resevations these people in a few southern states have about Obama are more than out weighed by the resevations other people in the many non-southern states have about Clinton. I believe Obama could carry the 2008 election without a single southern state due to his obliteration of any republican opponent in the rest of the nation, especially those with large numbers of electoral votes. He would carry most of those hardcore midwestern and mountain states simply due to his declaration that he will end the war in Iraq and they do not have a major problem with his being black. In fact, they would have more of a problem with a women as president.

    The reality is that Obama does not come across as a black man. He is the perfect candidate to cross the color line. The more national exposure he gets the less people will view him as black. I believe him to be more electable than Hillary Clinton.

  6. jennbeez

    I’m white, live in redneck NC, and have an Obama sticker on my bumper. The guy who does my oil at Jiffy Lube took the opportunity while he was getting my license # and other info to break from his routine questions and ask me if I thought Obama could really win. I was surprised at the question since I don’t think there’s any contest who is the best candidate. On the other hand I’ve had two white people, both middle aged, ask me where I got the sticker so they can get one.

    I’ve seen two other Obama stickers and no Hillary stickers, not even in the liberal enclave of Chapel Hill.

    The “Republicans for Voldemort” sticker has gone over real well, too. I’ve lost count of the number of people who asked me where I got that one.