Barack Obama has swayed many conservatives into his camp with his message of hope and change. Black conservatives, especially, are taking a second look at the Democratic candidate.
Just as Obama has touched black Democratic voters, he has engendered conflicting emotions among black Republicans. They revel over the possibility of a black president but wrestle with the thought that the Illinois senator doesn’t sit beside them ideologically.
J.C. Watts, former GOP Oklahoma congressman and soon-to-be Black news network exec, blames his party’s dismissal of the Black community and suggests that he may join other GOPers like Armstrong Williams who are seriously considering voting for Obama. Watts recently gathered other Black Republicans for a meeting with John McCain to urge him to continue engaging the Black community despite the outlook.
Included in the group were Texas Railroad Commissioner Michael Williams, former Ohio Secretary of State Ken Blackwell — who ran lost to Ted Strickland in 2006 for Ohio governor — and former Rep. J.C. Watts, according to the campaign. Lynn Swann, the pro football Hall of Famer who ran for Pennsylvania governor in 2006, participated by conference call.
Michael Steele, the former Maryland lieutenant governor, also joined the meeting and acknowledged that McCain would probably not garner a tenth of the Black vote in November. But Steele reiterated the importance of reaching out to Black voters and urged McCain to speak before the NAACP and the National Urban League. If McCain does appear before these historic civil rights groups, he should be prepared to do more than offer an apology for his past wrongs. He should be ready to present policies that would benefit Black voters.