White Presidential Candidates Need Not Apply?

November 4, 2011


In 1968, at the Mexico City Olympic Games, Tommie Smith and John Carlos deliberately posed for one of the most infamous political, if not sporting, photographs of all time. Two champion African-American athletes conveyed to the watching world a sign of, at best; racial pride and determination; at worst, anger and lingering racial division, manifesting into social fragmentation. Irrespective of contrasting interpretations of the salute, Smith and Carlos undoubtedly placed the issue of being African-American at the forefront of international and domestic news coverage and discussion. 43 years later, according to numerous polls, the world could soon once again be transfixed with two immensely successfully African-Americans; namely Barack Obama and Herman Cain, as they could potentially compete in the 2012 Presidential election campaign.

1968 Olympics Black Panther Salute

First and foremost, the remarkable political transformation which has occurred in the United States since the 1964 Civil Rights Acts should be observed. The 1964 Civil Rights Act first granted voting rights to African-Americans; yet symbolic of the endemic societal opinion of the era, it still received 29 rejections in the Senate, out of the 100 voters. Hence, the potential election between two African-Americans in the 2012 election should be viewed as a remarkable and rapid emancipation of African-Americans in the American political arena. Furthermore it should force reevaluation of the African-American position in contemporary American society; by not only others, but also by the African-American community itself. What does it mean to be an African-American in America today?

Yet even more remarkable than the emergence of a potential all African-American election is the vast contrasts in the political opinion of Obama and Cain. One has frequently been vilified as ‘socialist’ while the other advocates tax cuts for the richest and “a $2,700 tax increase for people with incomes between $10,000 and $20,000”. How did this happen? Both men are from a similar generation (Cain is 65, while Obama is only 50) and both have considerably achieved academically (Obama more so), so why is there such a vast divergence in the political perceptions and economic agendas of these two African-American men? Taking into account our own readings, specifically Malcolm X’s calls for African-American solidary under the banner of ‘Black Nationalism’, how has the African American community’s perspective become so polarized? Or was it ever monolithic?

One major potential consequence of the possible Obama-Cain Election would be the possible detachment of the African-American vote from the Democrat Party. This attachment is evidence by voting statistics. Poignant examples would be that since 1965, no Republican Presidential candidate has received over 15% of the African-American vote and in 2004 African-Americans voted 88% in favor of John Kerry, the Democratic candidate. Could Cain lure African-Americans back to the Republicans? If so why? Has there been a formation of a African-American middle class who seek Republican tax cuts and a reduction in federal spending on ‘entitlement programs’; programs which once arguably held up the African-American community?

MLK and Malcolm X - The Main Architects of the 1964 Civil Rights Act

Furthermore what does the potential Presidential Election between Obama and Cain signify for the identity of Caucasians, African-Americans and even politics in America? What do you think? Would you be happy with this potential Presidential choice?

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One Comment on “White Presidential Candidates Need Not Apply?”

  1. jgurwitch Says:

    The African American community has continually grown stronger as the years have passed. It is interesting to see the change from Republican to Democratic over the years, which is why your question of if they will go back to being Republican is a great one. It raises a lot of questions and makes people look back and see what made the change, or if it is even plausible that they will go back. Initially, as you mentioned, African Americans favored the Republican Party. This was because of its efforts including achieving abolition (most well known through Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation). Another factor had been the Ku Klux Klan being Democrats, so obviously African Americans would be swayed towards being Republican. But they began changing over to becoming Democratic when Franklin Roosevelt’s New Deal helped out minorities with economic relief. After them, when JFK and Lyndon B Johnson supported the Civil Rights Movement the Democrats gained a huge supporting cast from African Americans, and since then they have pretty much been Democratic.
    It would be hard to sway African Americans to change back to Republican if they have been satisfied with how Democratic politics have taken place, but I think some might definitely start to entertain the idea now that there is Cain leading them. A lot of the African Americans have probably put off even looking into the Republican ideals but now they could open up back into it, especially since a lot of people have been very unhappy with how the Obama administration has been taking control and leading the government and country. It is just very interesting to see how far society has gone in the last fifty years and how many things have changed. Years ago two potential African American presidents would have been unheard of and not accepted but today people are open to the idea and more than okay with it. I think it is phenomenal that this is how things have changed and I support it completely. I think there is no issue with having these two as the potential Presidential choices, from a society perspective. I personally would not want Obama being president again and have not been a supporter of his but having two presidents like this has really shown the positive changes society has made.

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