Letters to the Editor
Readers write about the extent of Barack Obama's appeal and the specifics of his campaign.
South Carolina's effect on the Obama campaign
Regarding the Jan. 28 article, "Can Obama extend his appeal?": I am disappointed that the article on Sen. Barack Obama's victory in the South Carolina Democratic primary attributed his win only to black voters and questioned whether he could reach white voters in other states.
Senator Obama got more votes than the combined vote totals of Sen. John McCain and former Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee in the South Carolina Republican primary. His level of support from white men was comparable to that drawn by Sen. Hillary Clinton.
Obama has shown that he can compete in all 50 states, including Republican strongholds such as South Carolina. That's why "red-state" senators such as Ben Nelson of Nebraska, Claire McCaskill of Missouri, Kent Conrad of North Dakota, and Tim Johnson of South Dakota have endorsed Obama in the Democratic primary. All of these states have a relatively small African-American population – clearly Democrats there understand that Obama has an appeal that can cross party lines and unify a deeply divided America.
Regarding the article on Senator Obama's South Carolina win: If Obama hopes to prevail over Hillary Clinton on Super Tuesday, he needs not more white voters in general but rather more white male voters in particular – many of whom have already left the Democratic Party. One book title says it all: "The Neglected Voter: White Men and the Democratic Dilemma," by David Paul Kuhn.
Regarding the article, "Can Obama extend his appeal?": I have been an expert witness in several voting rights cases in South Carolina. Part of my testimony has been based on statistical analysis of voting by blacks and whites. Black candidates running in Democratic primaries against white candidates in South Carolina usually receive 90 percent of the black vote or more. Obama received only 80 percent. Such black candidates sometimes receive 25 percent of the white vote, as Obama did. So Obama did not do better among either race than is typical in that state.
Black candidates usually lose the general election in South Carolina, because neither the vote of blacks nor the crossover vote by white Democrats is enough. Of course, white Democratic candidates don't win very often in South Carolina either. That state is not much of a bellwether.
Why Obama may finally lose
In response to your Jan. 28 editorial, "Obama isn't 'the black candidate,'" which predicted that Sen. Barack Obama's win in South Carolina will mean "the presidential election will be more about ideas than the politics of identity": On the contrary, Senator Obama's South Carolina win confirms the politics of identity and shows that many Americans are willing to put real issue positions aside in order to convince themselves that race is irrelevant.
Shelby Steele, author of "A Bound Man: Why We Are Excited About Obama and Why He Can't Win," comments that Obama will have difficulty being elected because voters can't know at this point what his deep, abiding convictions are.
Obama's supporters should press him for specifics quickly. If he should win the Democratic nomination on the wispiness of his current campaign, the Republican candidate will run right over him.
The Monitor welcomes your letters and opinion articles. Because of the volume of mail we receive, we can neither acknowledge nor return unpublished submissions. All submissions are subject to editing. Letters must be signed and include your mailing address and telephone number. Any letter accepted may appear in print or on our website, www.csmonitor.com. Mail letters to Readers Write and Opinion pieces to Opinion Page, One Norway St., Boston, MA 02115. E-mail letters to Letters and Opinion pieces to OpEd.