Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Obama overwhelms others as “voice of black America” – or so says the poll

Remember back just over one year ago when people speculated that Oprah Winfrey was going to use her influence over the nation’s female population to bolster the presidential dreams of Barack Obama?

Well, if a recent survey is any indication, things are now reversed.

IT COULD VERY well be Obama who uses his personal touch to reach out and convince the people of this country that the queen of talk show television is still worth watching.

The Gallup Organization released the results of a poll asking people who they thought represented the voice of the black population in this country.

Surprise (heavy sarcasm intended). It’s Obama!

All the public attention he has received during the past year has made him a known commodity across the country. Remember back when people used to argue with a straight face that Obama couldn’t win because no one had ever heard of him?


The poll released this week contends that 29 percent (or almost one of every three people) think Obama is representative of the way black people think.

Of course, what this poll really shows is that black people themselves do not think in a monolithic voice. Obama may have received significantly more support than any one other individual, but so many others received some consideration.

Heck, even Bill Clinton (who takes a certain pride in the pundits who have unofficially labeled him the U.S.’s “first black president”) got some votes in this survey, as did failed Democratic presidential hopeful Hillary R. Clinton (both got 3 percent support).

IN FACT, THE concept of “no one” speaking for the black population received more support (7 percent) than any individual other than Obama.

This particular poll was inspired by the Rev. Jesse Jackson’s crude comments last week that implied Obama’s views did not represent the majority of black people in this country.

But this survey indicates differently. Obama expresses the viewpoint of 29 percent of the black population, while Jackson only speaks for 4 percent.

The one-time head of Operation PUSH who liked to think of himself as the leading voice for black people across the country, and particularly in his adopted hometown of Chicago has been surpassed by the Honolulu native who was just a punk kid out of college when Harold Washington advanced the concept of black political empowerment in this city.

JACKSON HAS EVEN been surpassed by New York’s resident black preacher. Rev. Al Sharpton got 4 percent support in this survey.

And what about Miss Oprah?

The talk show host who produces her nationally syndicated program out of a Near West Side studio only got 2 percent of those surveyed saying she speaks for them when it comes to race.

Then, there’s one other Chicagoan who got a mention. Rev. Louis Farrakhan of the Nation of Islam (remember their mosque on Stony Island Boulevard?) was picked by 1 percent of recipients – which makes him just as prominent to those surveyed as such out-of-towners as Maya Angelou, Colin Powell, Bill Cosby, Tavis Smiley and Cornell West.

NOW ONE CAN argue that Obama is nothing more than the “flavor of the month” when it comes to this survey. He’s now, he’s happening, unlike all the other Chicago area people and national figures included in this national survey who have years of public exposure due to their varied activities.

A year ago, Obama probably wouldn’t have been given a second thought by people being questioned by the Gallup gurus.

Now, he’s the predominant black person from Chicago.

Of course, we’re going to hear from the crackpots that he’s not really black; he’s bi-racial. That may be true technically, but I am willing to give Obama the right to define himself, and he has always in the 12 years I have been aware of his existence defined himself as a black man.

THAT OUGHT TO be the end of the story.

Yet when it comes to this Gallup poll, my personal favorite statistic is 6 percent.

That is the number of poll participants who said they think they themselves are the best voice for what they believe in when it comes to issues of race. Any time that people indicate they are not letting someone else speak for them or think for them, I consider that to be a great accomplishment.

Independent thought – it’s what we ought to be all about as a society.


EDITOR’S NOTES: Most black people do not think of Barack Obama as their personal spokesman ( on racial issues, although they think more highly of him than they do many other outspoken black personalities in this country.

Republican presidential opponent John McCain plans to address the NAACP on Wednesday ( in hopes of gaining some electoral support come the Nov. 4 elections.

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