Every Issue Isn't a Voting Issue for Everyone

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There's some interesting reporting buried inside this piece:


Rev. Joseph Lowery, the civil rights leader who prayed at Obama's inauguration, has long supported civil unions and predicted black churchgoers will continue to support Obama even if he backs same-sex unions. "The president has overwhelming support from the black church because people are looking at the bigger picture," Lowery said. "He will not be hurt by one issue."

Sanders agreed, remembering the 1996 political fight over the Defense of Marriage Act. "I personally don't really remember a whole groundswell of support from African Americans for the Defense of Marriage Act [when it] passed. That was a white evangelical issue," said Sanders, who also teaches Christian ethics at Howard University. "We are tolerant and that might not be a bad thing. It may be ethically messy, but I think that's the best you can do."

The first thing that needs to be said here is that Barack Obama may well be the most popular person in black America. I suspect that the only people closer are Oprah, Cosby and his wife, all of whom support him. The second thing that needs to be said is that--on a presidential level--it's never been proven that gay marriage is really a voting issue for black people. I've heard tales of Ohio and Kerry, but never seen the case persuasively argued. 

The third thing that needs to be said is that many of the loudest voices on the right have spent the last three years taking thinly veiled racial shots, or, more recently, calling his wife fat. (The latter may well be infuriating, but it should not be. Whenever people are reduced to mocking my name, I know I've won. When the hulk of Limbaugh and Breitbert are calling Michelle Obama fat, it's akin to saying, "We've got nothing.")

And the last thing that needs to be said is black voters are generally good at naming their interests. The party that embraces white populism--whatever party it may be at the time--has generally not been judged to be in the corner. I see no reason why this will be different.
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Ta-Nehisi Coates is a national correspondent at The Atlantic, where he writes about culture, politics, and social issues. He is the author of the memoir The Beautiful Struggle.

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