Voters ignore racial pleas in selecting candidates 

Different Parties, Similar Sentiments

Apparently Ford deems the Uncle Tom label applicable only to other blacks who support white candidates, not himself. This may be the first instance of the pot calling the kettle not black enough.

There was similar irony when Sen. Jake Knotts called Rep. Nikki Haley a "raghead," a slur he also leveled at President Obama. Though Knotts and Haley are both Republicans, Knotts felt completely comfortable in disparaging his conservative colleague on the basis of her ethnicity rather than her political philosophy. Knotts offered a half-hearted apology, claiming that his comment was made in jest, but still maintained that Haley was pretending to be something that she was not. Whether he was alleging that she was not a Christian or not a Republican is unclear, but Knotts' verbal broadsides were not enough to prevent Haley from receiving more votes than any of her opponents.

While Alvin Greene's unlikely candidacy might be getting all of the publicity these days, the most significant characteristic about the 2010 primaries may be how South Carolina voters largely disregarded racial affiliation to select candidates based on their political ideas. Haley lapped the Republican field of white men on her message of smaller government, presumably without the support of Indian women (or other racial minorities) to get her there. Tim Scott outpaced a tight field of eight other candidates (coincidentally also all white men) to get into a runoff with the son of Strom Thurmond. And as Sen. Ford lamented, Vincent Sheheen resoundingly won the Democratic nomination for governor with the strong backing of African-American voters and officeholders alike.

One would think that with such results, the Sens. Knotts and Fords of the world would discontinue their appeals to either support or not support certain candidates on the basis of race. South Carolina voters have already shown that they will vote for candidates based on their political beliefs rather than the color of their skin. This revelation is due as much to the sophistication of a new generation of South Carolina politician as much as it is to the maturation of the state's electorate.

Both political parties are seeking to diversify their bases nationwide, recognizing that the white majority of this country is shrinking. USA Today reported recently that record levels of births among minorities within the past decade have moved the country toward greater ethnic diversity, where no racial group will command a clear majority. It benefits both parties to field candidates who can appeal to voters of all races with their ideas rather than divide and separate voters with name-calling.

Sheheen, Haley, and Scott all represent a breath of fresh air, markedly different from the old guard, which Knotts and Ford represent. Their victories show that race does not have to be a prevailing factor in local elections, even though several older politicians still see race as the prevailing factor. On that point, it is interesting to note that in Uncle Tom's Cabin, Uncle Tom was actually a good character who stood up for his beliefs in the face of remarkable adversity. Although it is certain Ford intended the term as a slight, in this sense, maybe he has a point.

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