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Monday, January 28, 2008

The Obama Race To Louisiana

Posted on Mon, Jan 28, 2008 at 8:00 AM

 by Sam Winston

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With Barack Obama's latest victory in South Carolina the theme of what role his race played in his success is getting tossed around once more. That includes what role it will play in Louisiana.

Is it too naive to ask again why he is considered only black when he has a white mother?

While New Orleans and Louisiana often seem stuck in the same types of traditional formations of race, Bobby Jindal did overcome Louisiana's own reservations about his "brown skin". It's true that Jindal's easy victory stemmed primarily from a lack of a viable opponent rather than some sort racial healing in the state. Still, I think Obama has the ability to do the same in Louisiana (comparisons ending there considering among other things their opposite political stances).

Wondering previously if any of this would matter by the time Louisiana goes to the polls, its seems likelier than ever that it will.

"Still, with each of the top Democrats having won two primaries, it appeared increasingly likely that the party's presidential nominating fight could extend well beyond Feb. 5, perhaps even to the national convention in late summer."

Indeed the rumor mill/smear campaign against Obama found its way today into a central Louisiana paper.

Below are some of the highlighted comments (and commentary) on the Obama race issue as things head into Super Tuesday and Louisiana.

From South Carolina Congressman Jim Clyburn via

But House Majority Whip Jim Clyburn made clear that he’s had more than his fill of reporters asking about Obama winning 78 percent of black voters and 53 percent of the electorate being African American.

“Four years ago Al Sharpton, a black guy, ran here and a white guy won,” Clyburn noted. “So what’s wrong with black people voting for a black guy? They voted for a white guy four years ago.”

Asked how black voters across the nation would interpret Saturday night’s results, Clyburn, somewhat impatiently answered, “The same way white people are interpreting it. Here is is guy who gives me hope; he’s’ a guy of the future.”

That’s not an endorsement, but no matter — if Obama wins enough of the Feb. 5 contests, then every Democratic elected official will rush to endorse him and the nomination will be his.

The message; Give Obama credit already.

Then there was the rabid red-faced "attack dog" tactics of the loose cannon formerly known as President Bill Clinton (video)...

Reporter: What does it say about Barack Obama that it takes two of you to beat him?

Clinton: (Chuckle) That's just bait, too. Jesse Jackson won South Carolina twice in '84 and '88 and he ran a good campaign and Senator Obama's run a good campaign."

How subtle. Equate the biracial Obama whose leading the Democratic race in votes and delegates with the marginalized Civil rights organizer of yesteryear who never had a chance of winning and has resorted to publicity stunts in recent years. Talk about stoking prejudices. I hope the backlash against swipes like this continues.

Obama, however, did address the statement directly with confidence and poignancy but mainly his victory has assured him to stay on his positive message.

From the blogs of

In response to Bill Clinton’s comments comparing Obama’s South Carolina win to those of Jesse Jackson in 1984 and 1988, Obama suggested Bill Clinton’s "frame of reference" and racial politics may be outdated.

"His frame of reference was the Jesse Jackson races. That's when, you know, he was active and involved and watching what was going to take place in South Carolina. I think that a lot of South Carolinians looked at it through a different lens. . . As long as we were focused on those issues, we thought those would transcend the sort of racial divisions that we've seen in the past," he said.

Finally, there was Andrew Sullivan, the conservative writer who has become an Obama fan, who said it best when he referred to Caroline Kennedy's passionate op-ed endorsing Obama titled, "A President Like My Father"

I've often wondered why even I - who was three months old in a foreign country when he was assassinated - feel the power of the Kennedy charisma from the 1960s. I know the many mistakes he made and the good reasons to criticize his presidency. But the memory of him as a symbol of eternal possibility endures. It endures beyond the shores of this country. Why?

Because America still means something, and every now and again, a person captures it: the restless, liberal hope for a better future, under the sober constraints of a conservative constitution. That was Kennedy. It was also Reagan, as Bill Bennett gracefully recognized tonight. It's real. You can feel it. And who wants to win the presidency by defeating it?

Sometimes, things come together. Watching a black man win the South Carolina primary in a landslide by transcending race: I can't help be moved and inspired. Like so many of my generation and many, many more younger than me, Obama makes me believe in America again, after seven years of brutal, painful, searing disillusionment. I won't let that go. Neither, I have a feeling, will the American people.

Photo Credit: Habitat for Humanity New Orleans

Update: The blogosphere stamps out Clinton's Jackson comparison with the simple fact that Obama got 24 percent of the white vote compared Jackson's 5 -10 percent.

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