It’s probably even less likely than a brokered convention, but should the Democratic race come down to the final two primaries on June 3, could Indians be the key to the nomination? Afterall, Native Americans are more than 6% of the population in Montana and 8.5% in South Dakota. Ketaki Gokhale explores how the race is playing in Indian Country, particularly on Tsunami Tuesday:
In states like Alaska, where 16 percent of the population is Native Alaskan, New Mexico, where 10.2 percent of the population is Native, and Oklahoma, where is 8.1 percent of the population is Native, the way Indian Country votes, if it votes as a bloc, could influence the Democratic Party pick for a presidential nominee.
Like in other communities, Obama is stirring enthusiasm, but hasn’t closed the deal. In last night’s South Carolina victory sppech, Obama was careful to include the “black and white, Latino and Asian” components of his coalition. It might behoove Obama to add Native Americans to that list.
Barack Obama is big in Indian Country, even though he’s done everything wrong. He hasn’t attended the annual National Congress of American Indians meet, or rolled out a comprehensive Native American agenda, or even addressed the rumors of his own Native heritage—but he has still, somehow, managed to capture the imagination of Indian Country, say Native American commentators and community activists.
On the other hand,
Sundust Martinez, of the San Jose, Calif.-based Native Voice TV, says that Obama needs to meet with more groups and come up with a clear Indian Country agenda. “There’s just nothing out there,” he says. “[Obama] hasn’t really taken a stance on a lot of issues.”…A recent column in Indian Country Today, however, argued that Obama is reaching out to Native Americans, and that he is the only candidate to have a page on his website dedicated to his Native American supporters. The site, First Americans for Obama, includes a post on a bill Obama cosponsored last year that aims to improve the Indian Health Service, a federal program that operates medical clinics and hospitals on Indian reservations.
Hillary, meanwhile, was a visible presence at last year’s National Congress of Indian meeting, and she has support from many tribal leaders– and Bubba good will– in her favor.
Obama campaign co-chair Tom Daschle surely recalls the Pine Ridge’s role in Tim Johnson’s Senate squeeker in 2002:
Denny McAuliffe, a University of Montana journalism professor and the director of Reznet, an online journalism program for Native American college students,…. recalls another close contest—the 2002 congressional face-off between the Democratic incumbent Rep. Tim Johnson and John Thune, in which Johnson won by 524 votes, because of late returns from the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation. Over 90 percent of the votes cast there were for the Democrat.