Great Black Hope?
The reality of President-Elect Obama.


Is Barack Obama’s election good for blacks in America, as distinct from whites in America? Can or should he be? If so, how? National Review Online asked. Ward Connerly, Linda Chavez, and others answered.

Clint Bolick
Barack Obama’s grabbing of the golden ring proves once and for all that America is the land of opportunity, regardless of race. So the already thin case for racial preferences has evaporated.

That is good news for blacks. Racial preferences are trickle-down civil rights, bestowing benefits on the most-advantaged members of preferred groups while leaving intact the underlying problems that cause racial disparities. Programs like school-choice and college admission policies that focus on disadvantage rather than race are far more effective in increasing the numbers of qualified minorities who can compete on an equal playing field.

But Obama is bad news if he expands entitlements for health care, college, mortgages, and credit card debt. Blacks who hitched their wagon to the welfare state mired themselves in a cycle of poverty. Enterprise, education, and self-reliance are the keys to progress in America. It would be tragic if Obama replaced the keys with new shackles of dependency.

Much depends on whether Obama is a statesman or a liberal ideologue. He has an unprecedented opportunity to heal racial division in America, to inspire people and preach tough love. Or he can give vent to his inner ACORN and foment class division. Let’s hope he steers a course based on universal American values. If he does, he could be one of our greatest presidents; if not, a tragic missed opportunity.

– Clint Bolick is director of the Goldwater Institute Center for Constitutional Litigation.

Linda Chavez
If there was any glimmer of hope for conservatives in Tuesday’s election, it was that the election of the first black president will finally settle the question of whether America is a racist country. Many of us have been arguing for years that — despite a history of slavery, Jim Crow, and, at one time, widespread prejudice — American society is today the most colorblind in the world. Those who have resisted this argument include not only most blacks but many white liberals. However, after Barack Obama’s impressive electoral victory, it will be impossible to refute the evidence of how far we’ve come — and this will benefit both blacks and whites.

A President Obama could also take on issues that others have avoided: the breakdown in the black family, the latent racism inherent in holding blacks to lower standards than whites, the enervating aspect of perpetual victimhood. But while he might take on the first of these — he has experienced firsthand what it means to be abandoned by one’s father — I won’t hold my breath for him to endorse an end to racial double standards and preferences. But perhaps he’ll surprise us.

– Linda Chavez is chairman of the Center for Equal Opportunity.

Roger Clegg
Yes, in this way: The principal hurdles facing African Americans in 2008 America are not discrimination but illegitimacy and, too often, a culture-driven tendency to fail to take advantage of the opportunities available to them. Simply having an African American president ought to underscore the fact that today there are indeed opportunities available to those who seize them. It is a powerful rebuke to the victim mindset.

But no, in this way: The liberal tendency to shirk personal responsibility, or tolerate those who do, generally is bad for everyone, but especially for those from disadvantaged backgrounds — who, in 2008, are disproportionately black.

— Roger Clegg is president and general counsel of the Center for Equal Opportunity.

Ward Connerly
The election of Barack Obama is good for black people in a way that it is not so, necessarily, for whites or others: it liberates blacks from the debilitating mindset of seeing themselves as victims in America. Obama’s victory enables blacks to be, in the words of Martin Luther King Jr., “free at last.” Free to be Americans stripped from the legacy of second-class citizenship. Free to be seen in the eyes of one’s fellow citizens as inherently as capable as others without the historical restrictions imposed by skin color. While it may also be said that the election of Obama is good for whites in that it ends what many characterize as “white guilt,” ending black victimology is without rival with respect to the good that instantly came to blacks with the election of Obama.

It remains to be seen whether the election of Obama is “good” for any American measured by his policy pronouncements. Yet, one could see from the excitement and jubilation expressed throughout the nation that a new day had dawned for America’s blacks. It was almost as if Obama’s election represented the first day of the rest of most blacks lives, symbolically.

In addition to freeing blacks from their historical legacy of victimology, the election of Obama provides blacks with a real, living example of a Dr. Huxtable family. For whatever else might be said of his politics, all evidence points to Obama as a genuine family man. Given the level of abandonment of their children by black males, a President Obama provides an incomparable example of a good father who accepts the responsibility of parenting much like that of Bill Cosby in his famous sitcom. The benefit of this alone is incalculable.

— Ward Connerly is founder and chairman of the American Civil Rights Institute.

Kay Cole James
Election days are all pretty much the same for me. Vote early, work the polls, make phone calls, pray, go to a movie, have dinner, avoid the “victory party,” check out the results around ten and go to bed. This year was no different. The movie was The Secret Life of Bees. A little strange, but interesting and entertaining. One scene caught me emotionally off guard. To see a black woman beaten for trying to exercise her right to vote was a fitting end to my election day. A day that began with approaching a polling place to volunteer and being ignored by the Republican worker, and being greeted warmly by the Democrat.

I am a black conservative. I have many policy differences and grave concerns about the direction that President-Elect Obama will lead this country. I will spend his entire administration fighting what I believe to be his bad policies. Am I thrilled about seeing a Black man as President of the United States? Does his election have special implications for me as a sixty year old “child” of the civil rights movement? As my new hero Sarah says, “you betcha!”

 – Kay Cole James is president of the Gloucester Institute.

Deroy Murdock
As he stood in Chicago’s Grant Park Tuesday night cheering Barack Obama’s election as president of the United States, TV cameras captured tears trickling down the Rev. Jesse Jackson’s face. “We have overcome,” Jackson must have been thinking. Or was it “I’m out of a job?”

Both sentiments would have made sense.

Obama’s 52 – 46 percent victory over Republican John McCain would have been beyond fantasy in 1961, the year Obama was born. Back then, blacks did not even have secure voting rights. And now, a black man decisively was elected leader of the free world with typically Republican (and particularly white) states like Colorado, Indiana, Nevada, and New Hampshire standing with him.

What a country!