Register vs. Slate: Round two!

Tom Jackson
Mar 23, 2010

In yesterday's blog, I challenged as simplistic Jacob Weisberg's Slate article claiming that if Sen. Barack Obama loses the fall election, it will only be because he's black.

I want to follow up yesterday's post by talking about a political career that I think challenges the racism-is-everything theory of American politics.

Remember, I'm not saying there's no racism among American voters; if you are unclear on that point, go back and read what I wrote yesterday. I am arguing that racism is not as strong a factor as observers such as Weinberg suggests, and that the vast majority of voters are interested in issues, not race.

Before I moved to Ohio in 2003, I was a political reporter for an Oklahoma newspaper called The Lawton Constitution. Lawton, Okla., is part of the Fourth U.S. House district in Oklahoma. From 1995 to 2002, four terms, the congressman for the district was a black Republican, J.C. Watts.

The Fourth District is largely white and largely rural. In 1994, when Watts ran for an open seat, he defeated a white state lawmaker in the GOP primary, Ed Apple, and then defeated another white candidate, Democrat David Perryman, in the general election.

Watts got 52 percent of the vote, Perryman got 43 percent and an independent got 5 percent.

That's not close, and the gap opened up wider in later elections. In subsequent elections, Watts rolled up 58 percent, 62 percent and 65 percent.

The Fourth District was not a Republican district until Watts won. From 1981 to 1994, it was held by a Democratic congressman, David McCurdy. McCurdy replaced another Democrat, Tom Steed, who had held office since being first elected in 1948. The district probably would have stayed Democratic in 1994 if McCurdy had not made an ill-fated decision to run for the U.S. Senate in what turned out to be a Republican year.

My point is this: If race is all-important, why didn't all of those racist white voters help keep the district in Democratic hands? Shouldn't they at least have allowed a conservative Democratic candidate in a historically Democratic district to run a close race?

Comments

Anonymous

but Mr. Jackson you fail to mention that J.C. Watts was a former football star for your beloved Oklahoma Sooners. Wouldn't that have some how been a factor? Especially in a football crazy area such as Oklahoma?? At least in the first election his name recognition would have skewed the vote. Once he got in he must have done a good job since the per cent of votes received climbed in each election after that. Mr. Watts was not a typical candidate and certainly not running for national office. Name recognition is big big factor in any election wouldn't you agree Mr. Jackson???

Anonymous

Watts for VP!

Anonymous

The headline of this blog ("Register Vs. Slate") implies that there was some interaction between Tom Jackson and Jacob Weisberg. Was there? Or does the writer of these headlines make them up without even considering what is contained in the blog entry?

Anonymous

Yes,
Of course it helps that J.C. Watts was a football star in Oklahoma, but that doesn't guarantee a victory. Jack Mildren, another famous University of Oklahoma football quarterback, ran for governor in Oklahoma and lost. Remember, according to the Jacob Weisberg view of the world, white people don't care he humiliated Florida State in the Orange Bowl, or is a Christian, or is a nice guy. They just see a black guy.

The Dude,
Yup, I wrote the headline. I was just trying to have a little fun and draw attention to my blog post.

Anonymous

J.C. Watts has a long list of accomplishments as a 4 term U.S. Congressman, who chose not to run for another term. A lack of credentials will be the cause if Obama loses the Presidential Election. And those party line voters who do not recognize his lack of experience and therefore political strength, will effectively perpetuate the racism arguement. The Honorable Hillary Clinton would have been my choice. Does that make me a "non-sexist"? "

Anonymous (not ...

Mr. Jackson:

I enjoyed reading your piece.

I remember former Cong. Watts and even though he’s a Repub, I respected many of his views based on my limited personal knowledge of him.

I recall him as often being one of the 'go-to' guys on TV during the Pres. Clinton impeachment ruckus.

In regards to Pres. Clinton's Oval Office trysts, I recall Mr. Watts saying, ‘Character is doing what is right when no one is looking.’ Sounded like words of wisdom to me.

I’ve read a seemingly incredulous rumor that he’s backing Sen. Obama. True?

(Mr. Jackson: My spouse was born in Anadarko. Also, I love listening to Cross Canadian Ragweed.)

Anonymous

Interesting Blog Mr. Jackson.

Do you think that JC Watts may seek a national candidacy in the future?

It seems that JC Watts' credentials trump Obama's credentials.

Anonymous

The only thing that will cost Obama the election is his lack of experience.

Anonymous

Tom, I can appreciate the fact that you want an audience, but since many consider you to be the best writer currently working for the Register, it is most important that you lead the Register with high ethical standards. That means not writing sensational/misleading headlines.

Anonymous

Winston,
Shoot me an email, I need help with a story.

Anonymous (not ...

Tom Jackson wannabe:

You obviously believe that everyone's as stupid as you.

Have an nice day Sunshine.