‘Paradigm Shift’?

Florida Voter: Would an Obama Win Mean a More Tolerant America?

In Tampa, Winston Ross catches up with Chante Jones, a black voter who says an Obama victory will signal that America has become a more tolerant nation. Was 2008 “a fluke,” she wonders, “or a paradigm shift?”

11.07.12 1:25 AM ET

TAMPA—Chante Jones is sipping on what is likely to be her first of several margaritas Tuesday night at a restaurant called Lee Roy Selmon’s in this city’s International District, with one eye on the folks she invited to this election-watch party and another, nervously, on the television screen.

The vice chairwoman of the local chapter of the National Black MBA association doesn’t feel quite as anxious about this election, partly because she feels fairly confident President Obama “has the wind at his back, at this point” and partly because this election is not nearly as historic as the last one: America has already elected a black president. But this election matters too, of course, as a referendum not just on the president’s policies but on his race, Jones said, and on America’s tolerance of the color of Obama’s skin.

She can’t be sure, she said, if the country really overcame the pervasive racism here in 2008 and voted for Obama without reservation about his race. Maybe voters just sucked it up and picked the black guy because they were that sick of eight years with a Republican White House, or that afraid of John McCain and Sarah Palin, Jones said. 

Likewise, Jones can’t be sure about how many of Mitt Romney’s supporters are backing him because they have had enough of watching a black man run the country. Race hasn’t come up much, this time around. But if Obama wins reelection Tuesday night, Jones will be comforted by that, she said—as a Democrat, who believes in his policies, but also as an African-American woman who wants to believe America has become a more tolerant nation.

“Was it a fluke,” she asked, “or a paradigm shift?”

She is about to find out.