McCain or Obama? Some black Republicans
are conflicted over who to choose
By Shannon Epps
While campaigning for Republican Bobby Jindal in his bid for Louisiana governor a few
years ago, Donald Scoggins was surprised at how many Republican Indian-Americans he
saw supporting Jindal.
After Scoggins expressed his surprise to some of the supporters, they told him that they
were not Republican. In fact, they were proud Democrats.
The reason Scoggins said that most gave for supporting Jindal was, “He’s one of us, and
he makes us proud.” Jindal went on to become the first Indian-American governor in U.S.
“They didn’t get into whether he’s liberal or conservative, they recognized the historical
moment and they felt they should support the guy,” said Scoggins, president of
Washington, D.C.-based Republicans for Black Empowerment.
Today, Scoggins said he sees a similar situation facing some black Republicans when
debating whether to vote for U.S. Sens. John McCain, R-Ariz., or Barack Obama, D-Ill.
“There are two schools of thought on this,” Scoggins said. “One is that while they’re
proud that a black man has reached his [Obama’s] heights as far as being a candidate …
many [others] feel that he is too liberal and he does not represent their principles.
“Another school of thought is that the Republican Party over the years has not been
particularly welcoming to blacks and other minorities, so as a result many of them feel
that there’s no particular reason why they have to exercise such undiluted loyalty to the
Others have noticed the dilemma that some black Republicans are dealing with.
Kendra Hill, political affairs liaison for Howard University College Republicans, said she
believes that all black Republicans are free to make their own decisions about whom to
Hill, who works as a staff assistant to a member of Congress, said that she has decided to
support Obama in the general election because she agrees with some of his policies and
believes that he will do a better job as president than would McCain.
“I do respect the fact that he’s a black man,” Hill said. “He’s making strides for us. He’s
breaking down barriers that we’re going to have to overcome. This is the first time we’ve
had a [black] candidate that has been taken seriously,” said Hill, who is a junior political
science major at Howard.
Although she is proud of Obama’s accomplishments, she said her decision to vote for
him is based on policies and not race.
Hill said that Howard’s chapter of College Republicans, which has about a dozen
members, does include some staunch McCain supporters.
“Our vice president is supporting McCain because he really believes in his policies,” said
Hill. “He’s had a little bit more of a Republican influence in his childhood than I did.
He’s going to remain faithful to his party.”
Howard University College Republicans is not endorsing any particular candidate, Hill
said, because the organization respects individuals’ right to choose.
Scoggins said he will save his decision for after the presidential debates, but he shared his
thoughts about the candidates.
“Obama, to me, quite frankly is more liberal than I would prefer,” Scoggins said, “but all
that aside, from an intellectual standpoint, he’s clearly superior to McCain.”
Scoggins said he thinks more black Republicans support Obama over McCain. Part of the
reason may be the Republican Party’s relationship with the black community, he said.
“When you look at it, the Republican Party is not that invested in the black community to
really earn our blind loyalty,” Scoggins said.
He also said that his views that Obama may be a better candidate than McCain do not
compromise his role as president of Republicans for Black Empowerment.
“We want everyone to be independent, critical thinkers,” he said. “We decided people are
free to make their own decisions.”
The writer is a junior at the Hampton University Scripps Howard School of Journalism