Washington Post columnist Richard Cohen writes:
“If the polls are right, if it don’t rain and the creek don’t rise, the winner of the presidential election is sure to be . . . Lyndon Baines Johnson. When he signed the epochal Civil Rights Act of 1964, Johnson knew he was also signing away the South and, with it, much of the white vote elsewhere as well. “We have lost the South for a generation,” he supposedly said back then.
A significant number of southern whites, even men, figure to vote for Barack Obama. Cohen cites blacks who have excelled in high-profile fields like politics and entertainment. Since most southern and conservative white men don’t care about politics and are unmoved by Oprah and Denzel Washington, what would make them vote for a black man?
Consider where they might have interacted with or observed blacks in positions of authority? Some no doubt have been supervised by blacks on jobs. But that’s more likely to build resentment than respect.
But there are four other positions accorded unalloyed respect, where blacks are found more and more often these days: 1. Drill sergeants. 2. High school quarterbacks and coaches. 3. NFL quarterbacks (especially the toughest, like Steve McNair). 4. NFL coaches, like Art Shell and Tony Dungy.
Serving under and observing blacks in military and sports leadership positions — and learning that they’re at least as capable as whites of leading them to success — has probably done more to soften up conservative whites to consider voting for Obama as much as anything.