Ta-Nehisi Coates: Reagan is the pres, but I voted for Shirley Chisholm

Ta-Nehisi Coates

Reagan is the pres, but I voted for Shirley Chisholm

 It does not follow that, even if you eliminate ideology as a factor, that race is the only reason to support Barack Obama. Indeed, there are an infinite number of other reasons, flimsy and otherwise, why Powell could have made his choice. He may respect the fact that they’re both the children of immigrants. He may have been particularly touched by Obama’s memoir. He may like Obama’s Ivy-League background. He may simply like his haircut. We don’t know, because we aren’t in his head. 

There is something else–Barack Obama isn”t the first black person to run for president. Did Powell endorse Al Sharpton? Did he endorse Jesse Jackson? Did he even endorse fellow conservative Allan Keys? Did he endorse Doug Wilder? Did he endorse Carol Moseley Braun? If you are arguing that race is the primary reason, you have to explain why Powell didn’t support any other black candidates for president–some from within his own party. And this doesn’t just apply simply to Powell, but to all black people. Anyone who claims that blacks are simply voting for Obama because he’s black must grapple with the fact that, in 2004, both John Kerry and John Edwards destroyed Al Sharptonamong black voters in South Carolina, while Barack Obama did the opposite. If black people–and Powell–are blindly supporting the black guy, what explains the paltry support for all the other black guys?

Again, conservatives frequently argue for a high-bar for branding someone a racist. But this evidently only applies to white people. Think on it–If you say the “primary” reason Powell is supporting Obama is race, then the corollary must be that the “primary” reason Powell isn’t supporting McCain is race–an unquestionably racist act. That is, to accuse Powell of supporting Obama primarily because he’s black, is to accuse Powell of racism. So what we have here is a double standard. Deploy the high bar for people spreading Muslim smears and peddling Obama-bucks, but then abandon all skepticism when it comes to a four-star general.


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