Here’s a trend that’s been staring me in the face for weeks, yet I failed to notice it:
Four years ago, Condoleezza Rice, then one of the top advisers to the sitting Republican president of the United States, refused to say if she had voted for John McCain or Barack Obama. Colin Powell, a longtime Republican, formally endorsed Obama. No prominent black Republican emerged as a major anti-Obama figure in the general election of 2008.
Four years later, racial pride has given way to differences over policy, ideology and politics. Moderate black Democrats, such as former Tennessee Rep. Harold Ford, are airing their disagreements with the administration’s policy regularly. Ex-Alabama congressmen Artur Davis, who had been considered a potential Obama Cabinet pick after the 2008 election, has switched from being a Democrat to a Republican and casts the president as a “disappointment.’
Florida Republican Allen West, who was not a major figure in 2008, is now one of the leading anti-Obama voices in the country with constant appearances on Fox News and at Tea Party rallies blasting the president, as is Herman Cain.
And Rice’s last week endorsed Mitt Romney at a GOP fundraiser in California. And while she didn’t attack Obama by name, she bluntly said, ”the only thing that people dislike more than unilateral American leadership is no American leadership at all,” according to Bloomberg News.
Rice’s move in particular was surprising. Rice, like Powell, has generally been considered a moderate Republican out of step with today’s more conservative GOP. And unlike in 2008, when she was a sitting Cabinet member, she had little need to back Romney, as Rice has repeatedly said her political life is over. She could have chosen simply to not endorse either candidate.
The author, Perry Bacon, adds that “Opposition by Rice and other black conservatives will make little difference in the election. Obama is extremely popular among African-Americans and will likely win more than 95 percent of the black vote, as he did in 2008.”
But that’s beside the point.
Black criticism of Obama — almost unheard of four years ago — makes it “safe” for whites and others to vote against him, without fearing they might somehow be secretly racist. Or, as the joke goes, “You voted for Obama in 2008 to show you weren’t racist. Now who will you vote for to show you’re not stupid?”