When Barack Obama won the South Carolina primary, he announced it was a victory for change. If so, it appears while African-Americans were overwhelmingly for change, other Democrat voters were not – because 80% of the African-Americans voted for Obama, while 75% of the white Democrats voted for Edwards or Hillary.
Given the first real opportunity to elect a Black candidate President, it is no surprise African-Americans overwhelmingly supported Obama. But why white Democrats – the most liberal, ‘open-minded’, ‘enlightened’ of voters – cast their ballots almost equally overwhelmingly against him raises the issue of race in the oddest of places, a Democratic primary.
Let’s make the issue a bit more complex. The white Democrats in South Carolina who voted for Hillary and Edwards did not – according to the polls – dislike Obama. They held no animosity toward him because of his race. They liked him; they simply preferred Hillary or Edwards. But, still, forty-years after their Party lead the fight for Civil Rights, after four decades of steadfast support of affirmative action, and after repeatedly condemning Republican candidates for using race as a wedge issue, Democrats in South Carolina suddenly appear to have voted along racial lines.
What does this mean in future primaries? More interesting, what conclusions do the Clinton campaign and the Obama campaign draw from the vote in South Carolina and how do they respond?
After Iowa pundit Dick Morris predicted on Fox News that Hillary would subtly start raising the ‘race issue.’ The host immediately asked, “Do you mean Hilary is racist?” Morris said, “Absolutely not. But she’s not above using race to win an election either.” In that light, was Bill Clinton’s comment, “Well, Jesse Jackson won South Carolina,” a slip or a strategic harpoon?
In a similar light, is Ted and Caroline Kennedy’s endorsement Obama’s counter to Clinton’s harpoon – a way to move the Democratic primaries away from polarization on race?
Whatever the answer – at least in South Carolina – race mattered. We’ll see what conclusions Obama and Hillary draw from that in the next round of primaries.
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