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The Obama Factor

recorded 11/27/07

1) 2:48 Radio Essay short - Mp3

1) 4:25 Radio Essay long - Mp3

The Obama Factor: Can a 'Brotha' Win?

[col. writ. 11/27/07] (c) '07 Mumia Abu-Jamal]

    While the US presidential election is a year away, the first wave of primaries, less than seven weeks away, will go a long way towards determining who will be the final candidates for the election of Nov. 2008.

    The presence of Barack Obama, poses a powerful political conundrum.

    Initially, some wondered, 'Is he Black enough?'  This question pitched, in part, because of his biracial background, as the son of a white Kansas mother, and a Black Kenyan father.

    The question really gets to the central Black concern - does he 'get' it?  Does he know what our lives really are? It is an historical oddity that he emerges as a quite serious presidential candidate in the same year, the same election, as the well known wife of a former president, Sen. Hillary Rodham-Clinton (D. -N. Y.), is widely regarded not merely as the front runner, but as the heir apparent of the seat vacated by her husband, Bill, some 7 years ago.

    The early primaries, in the predominantly white Northeast and Midwest, will tell the tale.

    In Iowa, according to early reports, Obama is leading Clinton, albeit barely.

    The question that really dogs the Obama campaign isn't 'is he Black enuff?', but 'can he win?'

    Several weeks ago the Washington Post printed a piece on musings by Black women in a South Carolina beauty shop. South Carolina is particularly relevant because it is, of all U.S. states, the blackest state, with its 30% population, and nearly 50% of the state's votes.  A young Obama volunteer speaks with a 50ish accountant, who expresses a view that goes much farther than the Palmetto State:

                    "I'm voting for him.  I'm old school, I know what's going on. He's trying to take this country someplace it's never been before.  It's going to take a lot for him to win, I know that. I know the system is not set up for him to win. It's going to take a miracle and a lot of prayers for him to win.  If you can get us to vote....."

    A recent poll released by the Joint Center for Political & Economic Studies found that, among African-American potential voters in the primaries and caucuses, Sen. Clinton has a 84% favorable rating; versus a 10% unfavorable rating.  For Sen. Obama, the favorable rating is 74% versus 10% unfavorable.*2

    There are a number of reasons for this surprising development.  It boils down to name recognition, and simple electability.

    Hillary has been, in a sense, a known quantity, for over a decade. With the exception of Chicago residents, Obama was virtually unknown 4 years ago.  When he spoke at the 2004 Democratic Convention, he emerged, if not a star, then certainly a known and appealing character.

    That was only 3 years ago.

    And remember the words of the sister in the beauty parlor, getting her hair done, "...the system is not set up for him to win."  That point of view has resonance because the majority of Black voters are Black women; some 80%. How women go almost always determines who will sit in the White House, and since 1950, the majority of Americans are female.  That doesn't mean they always, or often come out to vote, or even that they  favor women, but when women vote, they make the difference.

    In 1980, Reagan got 46% of women's votes, to Carter's 45%; in 1984 Reagan received 56% of the women's vote; in 1988, Bush I got 50% of the women's vote; in 1992, Clinton received 45% of the women's vote; and in 1996, he got almost 10% more, with 54%.

    According to U.S. Census projections for 2000, there were 7 million more females in the population, than males (of course, distributed over all age groups.)

    With the 2000 election decided by less than 200 votes, it's clear that very few votes can change the outcome.


--(c) '07 maj

{*Sources: William, Krissah, "A Candidate to Dye For." The Washington Post {Nat'l Wkly. Ed.} Oct. 22-28, 2007, p.19; Dr. David Bositis, Joint Center for Political & Econ. Stud., Survey of African-American Voters, Press Conf., 11/27/07, C-SPAN, 9:30 a.m. EST, Nat'l Press Club, Wash., D.C.; The World Almanac - 2001 (Mahwah, N. J.: World Almanac Books, 2001), pp.372,40.}



[Mr. Jamal's recent book features a chapter on the
remarkable women who helped build and defend
the Black Panther Party: *WE WANT FREEDOM:
A Life in the Black Panther Party*, from South
End Press (http://www.southendpress.org); Ph.


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[Check out Mumia's latest: *WE WANT FREEDOM:
A Life in the Black Panther Party*, from South
End Press (http://www.southendpress.org); Ph.

"When a cause comes along and you know in your bones that it is
just, yet refuse to defend it--at that moment you begin to die.
And I have never seen so many corpses walking around talking about
justice." - Mumia Abu-Jamal

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