While African American Democrats wonder who Sen. Barack Obama will select as his running mate, another bloc of African American voters finds itself conflicted as it watches these historic developments within the Democratic Party. Many African American Republicans are entering the general election campaign season balancing their concern that their political views be represented with their admiration for a black man who is a viable candidate for president.
“We are individually weighing the cost of the policy differences that we have with Barack Obama, with the benefits of the positive impact on black America’s psyche and the impact on young people who will be inspired by his successes,” says Lorin Crenshaw, vice president of Republicans for Black Empowerment, a grassroots organization based in Washington, D.C.
Those policy differences are not a small matter, black Republicans are quick to say. “Some of the policies he has voted for are far left-wing,” says Frances Rice, chairman of the National Black Republican Association. “He’s been deemed the most liberal senator in Congress.”
Crenshaw agrees, saying that many black Republicans disagree with Obama’s plans for dealing with a stagnant economy, addressing education reform, and whether to raise taxes. “There’s a gulf between Obama’s platform and traditional Conservative views. He provides very little of even centrist or middle-ground policies that you can stand on,” he says.
But as the National Black Republican Association considers campaigning for Sen. John McCain—to show how McCain’s policies will benefit the black community, says Rice—some wonder if black Republicans will be tempted to switch sides, if not for the long term, at least for the chance to support Obama’s historic run for the White House. “No one is going to come out and say it, but I wouldn’t be surprised if many black Republicans vote for him,” says Don Scoggins, president of Republicans for Black Empowerment.
Though Scoggins stops short of endorsing Obama, he acknowledges that the senator has run an admirable campaign thus far and that Obama’s success boosts all African American politicians, regardless of party affiliation. For that reason, Scoggins thinks black Republicans will be less likely to publicly criticize Obama, even if they don’t vote for him. “I think we’d be doing ourselves a disservice as black Republicans if we castigated the guy and chimed in with his detractors,” Scoggins says.
However, some African-American Republicans are more vocal in their support of Obama. Yvonne R. Davis, president and CEO of DAVISCommunications, a public relations firm in Windsor, Connecticut, has been a Republican for 14 years and even served as a co-chair of the group African-Americans for Bush during the 2000 and 2004 elections. Though she remains a staunch Republican, Davis says she’s “100% behind Barack Obama,” partly because of racial pride and partly because of Obama’s commitment to change.
“I really believe that the nation needs to go in a new direction,” says Davis. “The way the world is changing, we need a leader that’s going to be more cutting edge, that understands how global politics plays a role in our society. I