Polls indicate that in South Carolina, a crucial primary state where voters say race plays an important role in how they will vote, Hillary Clinton enjoys a 14 point lead over Barack Obama. Clinton enjoys a significant edge over Obama even among blacks. You wouldn’t know it, however, by the black women that I talk to.
One friend caught me the other day with some “Hillary for President” buttons in my purse. “What are those for?” she asked disdainfully. “I just came from a meeting with a couple of Hillary’s campaign people,” I said, “and they handed me these before the meeting ended.” She changed the subject. I politely stuffed the buttons back down into my purse.
“So, you would choose a white woman over a black man?” another woman asked point blank when I talked about my reservations about Obama. “Well, let’s just say that he doesn’t automatically get my vote just because he’s black.” I said. I think my wireless server went down, but I’m not sure. Our IM conversation ended.
But here’s how I know that my friends who otherwise hang on to my every word have not been paying much attention to me lately. After hosting one of my infamous after-church Sunday brunches the other weekend at my home, which consisted of mostly women, I noticed that no one had bothered to take one of the “Hillary for President” buttons I’d left dumped on my dining room table.
“Now you know black women love themselves some black men” is the way a young woman graduate student explained it to me. By that, I take it she means: Obama’s got charisma. He’s articulate. He’s smart. Above all, he’s good looking, that is, if you go for his kind of good looks (I don’t, but many black women, and evidently a whole lot of white women, do). She’s probably right. Early in his run for the U.S. Senate in 2004, Obama’s pollsters discovered that women loved Obama, especially nice church ladies who like personalities more than politics and who definitely don’t like political arguments.
If I believed charisma, good looks, and speaking well enough to make my Baptist aunt in Atlanta burst with pride were enough to change the direction of this country I’d vote for Barack Obama in a heartbeat. But they are not enough. At least I don’t think so. And even though my suspicions are that when my aunt talks about being proud to see a black man have a chance at the White House and when Obama talks about what it means to him to be black, the two of them are not talking about the same thing, I still support his run for office and secretly root for Obama despite my better judgment. After all, whatever Obama’s feelings are about being black, he’s certainly blacker than any one else running for president.
But for the mess we’re in here in this country, it’s going to take someone with a lot more going for themselves to change the direction of America. It’s not enough to be handsome. We need someone with high level foreign policy experience to get this country out of Iraq in one piece. Charisma won’t cut it. It will take a skilled leader, someone who knows where the skeletons are buried and how to rattle them, to persuade this Congress to get off its butt and stand up to health care lobbyists and pass a universal health care plan that covers all citizens.
I was as proud as my auntie as I sat listening to Obama repond and jostle last week during the YouTube Presidential debate in South Carolina. But, so what? Congress is full of demagogues. We need someone who can take on the Republicans when the race gets nasty and dirty, someone who’s had experience in a dog fight (no disrespect to Michael Vick intended). Someone who’s had her arse kicked by the Republicans in the past and has learned from it. An experienced woman with something to prove fits the bill for president just perfect.
Now, will you take one of these buttons?