Roundtable: Blacks Turning Red States Blue? This year, more than 30 states will allow any registered voter to cast an early ballot. Early voting numbers show a heavy black turnout across the country — especially in states that typically favor Republicans. Meanwhile, the debut of D.L. Hughley's new politically oriented CNN show is being met with controversy.
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Roundtable: Blacks Turning Red States Blue?

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Roundtable: Blacks Turning Red States Blue?

Roundtable: Blacks Turning Red States Blue?

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Now we've got our Bloggers' Roundtable with Arlene Fenton who runs the blog Black Women Vote and Wayne Bennett, an attorney who blogs as the Field Negro. How're you guys doing?

Ms. ARLENE FENTON (Blogger, Black Women Vote): Great.

Mr. WAYNE BENNETT (Blogger, The Field Negro): I'm great, Farai.

CHIDEYA: So this year more than 30 states are going to allow any registered voter to cast an early ballot, and there's a heavy black turn out that exit polls are showing. So Wayne, why do you think that early voting is appealing to black voters in particular?

Mr. BENNETT: Well, I think it's partly because of the Obama ground team and his organizations in various cities and states down South. I think that's the primary reason. I think they're getting people out. They realize that if you get people out now, you won't have the problems that everyone is, you know, thinking that we're going to have come Election Day. So I think it's a good move on their part and apparently it's been working. In places like Georgia and North Carolina, they've been having record turnouts of African-American voters going to the polls early.

CHIDEYA: One thing I noticed, Arlene, is that a lot of people, although there is this, you know, big early turn out, a lot of people are sending these emails and posting online like, OK, well, the polls are looking good for Obama, but don't tell anyone because these fools ain't going to go out and vote. Have you seen stuff like that?

Ms. FENTON: I've definitely seen them. And I actually think they have a point. It is possible to get overconfident and stay home and adversely affect the elections. So I think it's appropriate for them to do that.

CHIDEYA: But does early voting really solve that issue? I guess it doesn't.

Ms. FENTON: No, no. I don't think it does at all. In fact, you know, my parents voted early, I think they voted yesterday. But that's because they're headed to the Ukraine. But the thing is I think that people are very fearful that something will happen on Election Day. We still have these recollections of dimpled and hanging chads and all of this stuff. So I guess some people are thinking if I go early and do something wrong, I can at least go back on November fourth and vote correctly. So it's a historic thing and everybody wants to participate. I think it's a very good sign, with so people coming early.

CHIDEYA: Let's talk a little bit about this TV special. Senator Obama has been spending huge sums of money on this 30-minute special airing on several major networks. So that means he's had to buy all of the airtime. But ABC and the CW Network are saying, no thanks. Why do you think, Wayne, that they chose to take a pass?

Mr. BENNETT: I have no idea, but as someone who's in Philly now, and I'm caught up in this wave of Phillie mania, I can't think of a worse time for - I know the Obama people are hoping for a sweep the other night, because then they wouldn't have to deal with the World Series. But I think ABC - I don't know why they decided not to do that. I think they've been trying to kind of come down. They feel - this is what I think - I think they view NBC as the left and FOX as kind of going right. So they're trying to kind of play it down the middle, and I think there is some political overtones involved. I'm sure people on the right are not pleased that he's buying up this infomercial, and I think they kind of wanted to play, you know, well, we're real journalists here, and even though he's paying for the time we're not going to allow it in prime time.

CHIDEYA: Arlene, we've just heard from Ron Christie who basically said Senator Obama is reaching saturation, media saturation, and that he's going to start turning people off if he turns up too much. Do you think that's possible? You know, over-familiarity?

Ms. FENTON: I think in some markets yes. I think that there is getting some traction with the argument that he has so much more money. Of course, the argument would not have been made if the opposite was true. But the reality is there are some people out there who think that he is essentially buying this election. And so for people who are bent toward that, I think it would be a turn off to see him, you know, do something that they know McCain cannot afford.

However, if there is a significant amount of undecided voters, I think that this would be very appropriate, because I think this is basically their last chance to really hear from the man straight up. So at least in the markets where I am, that's the New Jersey, New York, Philadelphia area, I don't think they've reached market saturation. Now the problem is, if it starts to interfere with the World Series, they're not going to care about saturation or nothing, they'll turn that thing off.

(Soundbite of laughter)

CHIDEYA: That's saturation right there.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Ms. FENTON: Right, instant saturation.

CHIDEYA: Well, we are going to be joined in a second by Kevin Ross. He is a former Los Angeles Superior Court judge and of course blogs over at Three Brothers and a Sister and hosts "The Kevin Ross Show" on BlogTalk Radio. So I'm going to give him a chance to settle into the seat. And really there is an issue here that you referenced, which is financing. CNN Host Campbell Brown wrote an online piece referencing the expensive ad buy and saying that Obama quote "pledged to accept public financing and to work with the Republican nominee to ensure that they both operated within those limits" - that is campaign finance limits. "He broke his promise." Kevin does that matter to you?

Judge KEVIN ROSS (Former Judge, Los Angeles Superior Court): No. Not at all. Because when you really look at what's going on with this election, you have a situation where - I mean I had someone send me an invitation saying, we're having a $10 rent party for Barack Obama. You know, when you have people that want to be engaged in the process of this electorial historic, unprecedented race. And in Obama's case, while he said, I'm not going to just take moneys from anywhere, I want to, you know, comply with the rules of campaign finance, I think his situation just allowed for it to just go as far as he can take it. I'm excited about it, as you can tell in my voice. So it's not one of those things where I spend a lot of time thinking about it.

CHIDEYA: Arlene, there's also been - we had a nice conversation on the show yesterday about endorsements with some people from the newspaper industry and some observers of the newspaper industry. But there have also been some unusual ones. There was what the New York Times called the endorsement from hell, and that is that an al Qaeda website came out in support of McCain and went into great detail about why they thought that electing Senator McCain would further their goals of starting world war. What do you when something like that comes out? Anything?

Ms. FENTON: What do you do? I don't think there's anything you can do. You can't stop people from endorsing you or not. And in fact, I don't think that the average citizen is swayed one way or the other. Americans are fiercely independent thinkers, I think that the only thing that endorsement is going to do is probably further entrench someone who agrees with them in the first place.

But I think the days of any one person or small group of people influencing an election through an endorsement are over, probably from the days of, like maybe Nixon and Watergate, just, you know, offending the public trust. I don't think people are going to buy that endorsement coming on high.

CHIDEYA: Wayne, there was Colin Powell's endorsement, but then former White House Press Secretary Scott McLellan announced during a taping of comedian D.L Hughley's new show on CNN that he's voting for Obama. So you know, he released a book, McLellan did, deriding his time working with President Bush. But do you think that those cross-party endorsements actually make a difference?

Mr. BENNETT: He just did that because he was on a black show.

Mr. ROSS: Oh, listen to you.

Mr. BENNETT: He endorsed the black guy.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. BENNETT: No, I don't think Scott McLellan - no. I don't think - in fact, I'm not even sure if a lot of people on Obama's team really welcome that endorsement. Although it does show that, you know, here's a guy who used to work for the president and he's, you know, he's seen it from the inside what goes on in the White House and he says, you know what, I'm going with the other guy. But I don't think his endorsement's going to make any difference, like Arlene said.

Republicans are going to vote, you know, how they're going to vote. The Independents might be swayed somewhat by Colin Powell because he does have credibility among Independents still, so I think his endorsement was much more - much more significant than Scott McLellan.

Mr. ROSS: I totally disagree here. I - if you look and see, give me one black Democrat who has said, I am voting for John McCain. I mean, when you look at the people who are coming out on the Republican side voting for Barack, and you contrast that with high profile Democrats who are saying they're voting for McCain, you can't even compare it. These endorsements are for me really compelling.

CHIDEYA: All right. Kevin, let me stay with you for a second. So D.L Hughley is the one who got the, you know, the announcement on his show.

Mr. ROSS: Oh, here we go.

(Soundbite of laughter)

CHIDEYA: His show on CNN has stirred up some controversy, but he's no stranger to incendiary comments. Now this is not from his new show, but these were his comments last year about Don Imus and the Rutgers women's basketball team.

(Soundbite of comedy bit)

MR. D.L. HUGHLEY (Comedian): And then lets' face it. You know, he called them hoes, nappy-headed hoes. And they weren't hoes. But there is some nappy-headed women on that team.

(Soundbite of laughter)

MR. HUGHLEY: Shut up, I will say it. I don't give a damn if y'all like it or not. You know it's true. Them is some of the ugliest women I ever seen in my whole life.

(Soundbite of laughter)

MR. HUGHLEY: Thank you, goodnight everybody.

CHIDEYA: OK. Yeah, that got him the title Black Imus, and the wrath of a lot of sisters. So Kevin, I understand you grew up with this man.

MR. ROSS: Hey, I have known D.L. Hughley since I was what, 14. We went to high school together. When he talks about the fact that he was a thug, he was. And when he talks about the fact that he didn't go to class, he didn't. When he talks about getting high, yes. I saw it, I can give a testimonial.

So to see this brother go from being the biggest of knuckleheads to, you know, dropping out of high school and then making the decision, I'm going to man up, get my G.E.D, marry my high school sweetheart who's a sister, have three kids including one who - and I mean, when I says sister, I'm not talking about - and I love the light-skinned black women, but I'm talking about, she's a sister. And for him to raise his family, to still have stayed married through hard work, I mean he is the American dream. So for me, when folks clown D.L., I'm like, no no, you've got to step back.

Now, I'm not real crazy about the show right now, I hope it's going to grow on me, because it wasn't - I wasn't feeling it. But he as a person, you just can't get any better in terms of someone who really personifies what all of us as African-Americans would want for ourselves, family and friends.

CHIDEYA: Arlene, a lot of women's groups are coming out and saying, but he's a misogynist. What do you feel?

Ms. FENTON: Kevin, sorry. I can't step with you on this one. He said let's face it, no, let's really face it, OK? D.L. Hughley is not the brightest bulb. He's a one-trick pony, and every joke has the same formula. You get some unsuspecting white folk from middle America, you add a caricature of black ignorance and pathology, you stir to a froth, you heat and serve. He does not have the talent, the critical thinking...

Mr. ROSS: Then how come we don't have brothers all over the place having shows on CNN? This brother is 45 years old. He has been in the game from entertainment shows...

Ms. FENTON: I don't care how old he is.

Mr. ROSS: No, but I'm just saying, when you look at it...

Ms. FENTON: Kevin, no.

Mr. ROSS: When you look at...

Ms. FENTON: Kevin, listen to me for a second.

Mr. ROSS: All right. All right, my sister.

Ms. FENTON: Before I let you speak.

Mr. ROSS: My queen.

Ms. FENTON: He's not the first black man to marry a dark-skinned black woman.

Mr. ROSS: I didn't say that.

Ms. FENTON: He's not the first black man to care for his children, OK? I don't - he doesn't get brownie points, that's what you're supposed to do, OK? And I don't think, personally, that he is producing anything of value on CNN. CNN is one of my favorite channels, it's a place that I go to escape stereotypes.

Mr. ROSS: Farai, I...

CHIDEYA: All right. Wait. Wayne, let me - let me toss you this curve ball.

Mr. BENNETT: Oh, me, me, me, me.

(Soundbite of laughter)

CHIDEYA: Yes. Yes. But as you give us our final thought for the day...

(Soundbite of laughter)

CHIDEYA: Who else do you think should get a show in a post-elections sweepstakes? Just add that in to whatever you were going to say.

Mr. BENNETT: Who else? I was focused on D.L. and this show.

CHIDEYA: Go for it.

Mr. BENNETT: You know what? I really am disappointed in CNN for giving D.L. Hughley his show.

Mr. ROSS: Oh, come on, my brother, come on.

Mr. BENNETT: Oh but here's the thing, Kevin. It's a political show. It's a political show. Why would you give a black comedian a show? I mean, and I saw it and I agree with you here, Kevin. I saw some of the first ones, they were horrible. I mean, the pimp. Oh, don't even get me started, man. I mean...

Mr. ROSS: We've got to (unintelligible)

Mr. BENNETT: We have HBO for a reason. You just don't put D.L. on CNN, I'm sorry.

Mr. ROSS: Can I just say one thing?

CHIDEYA: OK, Kevin, micro.

Mr. ROSS: We have to have this conversation, so Wayne and I on BlogTalk Radio, we're going to keep talking about D.L. tonight, and really get deep into this.

Ms. FENTON: I might have to call in.

Mr. BENNETT: Yeah, (unintelligible).

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. ROSS: Tonight on BlogTalk Radio, me and Wayne are going to head up about D.L.

Mr. BENNETT: We're going to talk about it. I'm sorry, I can't (unintelligible).

CHIDEYA: I think Arlene probably will call in.

(Soundbite of laughter)

CHIDEYA: But we've got to wrap it up.

Ms. FENTON: (Unintelligible) around Kevin. I'll meet you tonight.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. ROSS: Uh oh.

CHIDEYA: It sounds like a threat and a promise. Guys, thank you so much. We've been talking with Arlene Fenton from the blog Black Women Vote and attorney Wayne Bennett, who blogs as the Field Negro, both were at Audio Post Studios in Philadelphia. Plus incendiary former Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Kevin Ross, who blogs at Three Brothers and a Sister. He also hosts "The Kevin Ross Show" on BlogTalk Radio. And he was with me at NPR West. You can find links to their blogs and ours at

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