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port of harlem magazine
June 13 - June 26, 2008

ivan brown realty

Obama and The “Hardworking” White Working Class
By Wayne A. Young
Before exiting the presidential race, Hillary Clinton’s placement of importance on “hardworking’ White working class voters sparked a debate among African-Americans.  "These are the people you have to win if you're a Democrat in sufficient numbers to actually win the election. Everybody knows that,” she claimed.  (In reality, Blacks are the most loyal Democrats and make up nearly 25% of the party) Her claim sparked a debate on if and how Obama should try to appeal to working class Whites.

The Obama'sFormer Tennessee Congressperson Harold Ford, Jr., who recently lost a Senate race in Tennessee, thinks Obama should try harder to connect with educationally and financially-challenged Whites.  National columnist Ron Walters thinks the Senator from Illinois should better use his resources to encourage Blacks and Hispanics to register to vote and to vote.  Port of Harlem’s Jacqueline Featherston rhetorically asks,  “What is the detrimental affect of Obama addressing mutual fears and concerns about race or the economy with White blue-collar workers or taking the time to share his vision of a changed American landscape and what it would mean for their families?” 

Ford in a Newsweek article seemingly started the debate when he urged Obama to reach out to rural White voters.  Ford said, “Do many rural or Working-class [White] people have questions about Obama? Sure. But these are less about race than about culture. Obama has not lived their lives. That's OK. In the weeks and months ahead, he just needs to show that he respects them and understands the issues that matter to them—that he can make their lives better.”

According to Walters, Obama should instead spend his resources with the Democrat’s traditional base that does not fully exercise its right to vote.  He writes, “In 2004, 35 percent of Blacks and 66 percent of Hispanics were not registered, and 44 percent of Blacks and 72 percent of Hispanics that were eligible did not vote.”  Walters argued that this approach would be better than “lavishing resources on voters in the conservative heartland of the nation that will most likely not vote for Barack Obama in any case.” (See Below,  Video:  Obama Faces Racism in West Virginia / West Virginians Speak Out)

In disagreeing with Walters, Featherston, added, “My hope is some will see that hardworking blue-collar White voters have more in common with (hard)working people of any color than they have with the White owning class.  Indeed the only thing poor White people have in common with the Hillary Clinton's [or the John McCain’s] of the world is White skin.  Perhaps a few will recognize racism as the cultural sop it is, something offered them in exchange for accepting and colluding in their own oppression.”

More On the Common Types of American Oppression
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