The 2008 election was what they call a “watershed moment” in history, one of those rare moments when the promise of America and all that it has grown to symbolize seemed to materialize before our eyes. Many Black republicans, like Colin Powell, rose in support of the prospect of the nation’s first African-American president. Even Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, who never verbally supported Obama, opted not to throw her full weight behind Sen. John McCain, the Republican presidential hopeful.
In 2008 Rice vowed to “not get involved in the political campaign,” but her recent public endorsement of presumptive Republican nominee Gov. Mitt Romney is a signal that the times have certainly changed. While there's no evidence of what her thinking may have been in not stomping for McCain four years ago, there’s a part of me that wonders if she did not want to stand in the way of history if it turned out that the people of the United States were ready make way for the first Black president. Her restraint during the 2008 campaign and the subsequent congratulatory remarks she made about the Obama victory spoke volumes.
But Colin Powell seems to have taken a different approach this election cycle as well. While he was a vocal supporter of the president during the 2008 campaign, breaking from Republican Party ranks, he has remained a bit tepid during this campaign season. So far, he has yet to renew his endorsement, refusing to throw his weight behind anyone at this time. He went on to say on NBC’s Today show that “It’s not just a matter of whether you support Obama or Romney. It’s who they have coming in with them.”
White House Spokesman Jay Carney was asked about Powell’s hesitation to endorse any candidate at this time saying, "It's up to him and every American to decide whom they will support going forward.”
Like the canary in the coal mine, the lack of a true commitment from Powell coupled with Rice’s visible support for Obama’s opponent may send a signal about the new atmosphere surrounding the current political climate. If these two powerful and influential Black Republicans are taking a difference stance this time around, it may be cause for concern.
Back in 2008, African-Americans across party lines may have done a bit of self-censoring. Even if they didn’t support Obama, many held their tongue in a show of political sportsmanship. There were countless Black Republicans who were “closet Obama supporters.” It makes you wonder if the romance and luster of a presidency that captivated so many from all political persuasions has dissipated after four years of real-life governance.
The so-called Obama mystique, while still influential, doesn’t hold the same political cachet as it used to. The economy is still in the midst of recovery and apathy appears to have dampened some of the fervor that buoyed President Obama during the last election. Perhaps the Obama campaign should take stock of the lukewarm temperature of the electorate and ask if the “hope and change” moniker that swept the country during the last election, carries the same weight today.
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(Photo: AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)