Is America ready for a black president? Barack Obama thinks so. “At every turn in our history, there’s been somebody who said we can’t. Some people said we can’t do this, we can’t do that, so we shouldn’t even try. If I have your support, if I have your energy and involvement and commitment and ideas, then I’m here to tell you, ‘Yes we can,'” the senator told a nearly all black audience at Claflin University in South Carolina. This is Obama’s first campaign swing through the early voting southern state.

Obama also responded to comments made this week by South Carolina Democratic State Sen. Robert Ford, who mobilized black voters for John Edwards in 2004, but is working for Hillary Clinton in 2008. Ford said Obama is an unproven first term senator. “The media made this guy bigger than life. This guy isn’t tested and they made him a rock star,” Ford said. He also doubts that Obama can win the presidency, and worries that his nomination could hurt other Democratic candidates.

“Every Democrat running on that ticket next year would lose,  because he’s black and he’s top of the ticket. We’d lose the House and the Senate and the governors and everything,” Ford said. These comments drew widespread criticism, and later Ford apologized. Majority Whip Jim Clyburn (D-SC) introduced Obama by saying, “Run, Barack, run. Obama is able to run today because Rosa Parks sat down. He is able to run today because Septima Clark stood up.” Clack was an educator and activist for the NAACP, decades before the issue of racial equality gained national attention.

Ford’s comments show that some African Americans remain very skeptical that a person of color can win the presidency. Many other voters may consider Obama,”not black enough,” to be supported. Both arguments are way off base. We should be judging our candidates for any office based on their qualifications and positions on the issues. Skin color should have nothing to do with it. No one should dismiss a candidate because of the color of their skin.

The choice to move South Carolina up in the Democratic election calender appears to be having its desired impact. The point of changing the schedule was to let a more diverse group of voters have a voice in the early portion of the nominating process. No candidate should have the nomination sewn up after campaigns in two states. The nominating process should be reflective of the people who make up the party. Whether you think Obama can win or not, this is a statement that we all should be able to agree on. 

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