Race: the elephant in the room

If you look behind the numbers of most polls, President Obama is losing the white male, and to a lesser extent, the white female voter.  Why you may ask yourself are these folks voting against their own self-interest?  There is a fear of change.  Fear of loss of power.  And race is at the core.  If I had any doubts about this, they were ended with the reactions of John McCain and John Sununu about Colin Powell’s endorsement of President Obama yesterday.

John Sununu who is not known for his rationality said in an interview with Piers Morgan

“When you take a look at Colin Powell, you have to wonder whether that’s an endorsement based on issues or whether he’s got a slightly different reason for preferring President Obama,” Mr. Sununu said.

Mr. Morgan asked flatly, “What reason would that be?”

Mr. Sununu responded, “Well, I think when you have somebody of your own race that you’re proud of being president of the United States, I applaud Colin for standing with him.”

Do you think Sununu has endorsed Mitt Romney because Romney is white?  I don’t think so.

Sununu later released this statement

Colin Powell is a friend and I respect the endorsement decision he made, I do not doubt that it was based on anything but his support of the President’s policies. Piers Morgan’s question was whether Colin Powell should leave the party, and I don’t think he should.

John McCain was not as overt saying

Mr. Powell had “harmed” his legacy by endorsing Mr. Obama a second time. Appearing on Brian Kilmeade’s radio program, Mr.  McCain said “General Powell, you disappoint us and you have harmed your legacy even further by defending what is clearly the most feckless foreign policy in my lifetime.”

Remarks like these from leaders of the Republican party help to fuel the ugly streak we see in the election.  The billboards in minority communities telling people voter fraud is a crime, the t-shirts with the logo “put the white back in the White House”, and the persistent view that the President is not a citizen and certainly not Christian.  David Sirota wrote a piece titled “5 Signs Racism Still Rules Politics”  which is quite instructive.

1. Joe Biden Is almost never called a socialist or a Marxist. Despite a Senate voting record and presidential policymaking record that align him with moderate Republicans from a mere decade ago, Obama is regularly derided as a socialist, a communist or a Marxist. By contrast, Obama’s own white running mate, Joe Biden, has as liberal — or at times even more liberal — a voting record as Obama, but (save for the occasional Newt Gingrich  outburst) is almost never referred to in such inflammatory terms.

2. Romneycare is Obamacare, yet the latter is criticized. It’s a well-known, undisputed fact that Romneycare was a conservative health insurance model constructed by the right-wing  Heritage Foundation , and that it was Massachusetts’ state-level  model for the federal healthcare bill ultimately championed by President Obama. Nonetheless, under the first African-American president, the very same healthcare model the GOP championed is now being held up by the GOP as a redistributionist boondoggle

3. A white president would never be criticized for these statements about Trayvon Martin. No white president has ever been blamed for the varied and disparate transgressions committed by white folk.

What the President said was

“When I think about this boy, I think about my own kids, and I think every parent in America should be able to understand why it is absolutely imperative that we investigate every aspect of this, and that everybody pulls together.”

4. America would neither ignore nor laugh off a young black male relative of Obama publicly fantasizing about violence against a presidential candidate. As I reported last week, Romney’s son, Tagg Romney, cheerily riffed on his fantasies about committing an act of violence against a sitting president of the United States.

5. If one of Obama’s teenage daughters was unmarried and pregnant, it wouldn’t be considered a “private” matter.When Sarah Palin was put on the Republican ticket in 2008, Bristol Palin’s pregnancy did not initiate a national discussion about the issue of teen pregnancy, unprotected sex or promiscuous fornication outside of wedlock.

Pictures show the difference between the crowds at rallies.  You rarely see any brown or black faces at Romney rallies.  His crowds tend to be older and whiter.

Mitt Romney arrives to campaign at Worthington Industries, a metal processing company, in Worthington, Ohio, Thursday, Oct. 25, 2012.  | AP Photo

Let me end with some observations from Eugene Robinson.

This election is only tangentially a fight over policy. It is also a fight about meaning and identity — and that’s one reason voters are so polarized. It’s about who we are and who we aspire to be.President Obama enters the final days of the campaign with a substantial lead among women — about 11 points, according to the latest Washington Post/ABC News poll — and enormous leads among Latinos and African Americans, the nation’s two largest minority groups. Mitt Romney leads among white voters, with an incredible 2-to-1 advantage among white men.
It is too simplistic to conclude that demography equals destiny. Both men are being sincere when they vow to serve the interests of all Americans. But it would be disingenuous to pretend not to notice the obvious cleavage between those who have long held power in this society and those who are beginning to attain it.When Republicans vow to “take back our country,” they never say from whom. But we can guess.
Robinson concludes

Issues may explain our sharp political divisions, but they can’t be the cause of our demographic polarization. White men need medical care, too. African Americans and Latinos understand the need to get our fiscal house in order. The recession and the slow recovery have taken a toll across the board.

Some of Obama’s opponents have tried to delegitimize his presidency because he doesn’t embody the America they once knew. He embodies the America of now.

I can’t help but feel that if President Obama wins a second term we will have turned a corner –  whether the Republicans can accept it or not.  If the country is not to continue on this divided path the Republicans deal the elephant of race.

UPDATE:

Charles Blow has an interesting chart in Saturday’s New York Times.

Both photographs by AP.

4 thoughts on “Race: the elephant in the room

  1. 1: No one even remembers Joe Biden even exists outside of election time. He’s so blanketed under the personality of Obama that no one even remembers to criticize him.

    2: It’s already well known that Romneycare is Obamacare. This, in addition to him being a fascist, is why libertarians refuse to support him. Just as Democrats tow the party line every election, so do Republicans. Big surprise there; They want their team to win, even if the two people are identical.

    3: This is pure speculation on an event that never happened. The main reason why people made a deal out of this is because the case was still fresh and had many holes in it, yet the highest man in government was basically condemning Zimmerman without a trial by ramping up the popular opinion against him. Several presidents have been criticized in the past for playing the part of the judge in the past.

    4: This was hardly ignored. A lot of criticism was thrown at Tagg, as that very article you linked does. And again, you bring up a speculative non-event.

    5: AGAIN! Another speculation of an imaginary event. These last three have been absolute straw-men.

    Finally, in any intelligent discussion falling back almost immediately on baseless insults is just admitting you want to slander, not actually discuss a real issue. I support neither Romney nor Obama, and I can think of many, many fact based and solid arguments against them. If you want to play the race game, in 2008 only 55% of white people voted for McCain, 43% Obama. Black people on the other hand voted an astounding 95% in favor of Obama. These numbers are from Roper Center, so no, they’re not fake. Feel free to draw your own conclusions from those statistics.

    The two pictures you present are also hilarious. For one, around 3/4 of the voting populace is white. Not sure if you noticed, but America was mostly settled by European people. In addition, you choose a picture of a crowd for Romney, then you choose a picture of the behind the podium crowd for Obama. If you’ve been involved with political campaigns at all, you’d know that the crowd behind the podium is always hand selected. I’m familiar with this through Ron Paul’s campaign, as well as some independent candidates. They always seek out minority supporters and women in the crowd to populate that spot. They wont allow just anyone there, otherwise they may get someone who’s not supporting that candidate on camera and they could spoil the image.

    In summary, while there obviously are racist voters on both sides, it hardly makes up the bulk of the voting base. Your arguments are entirely unconvincing and half of them aren’t even arguments, just slanderous speculation. Try harder next time. If you have approval required for posts on, I doubt this will get approved, posting anyways. If want to try and say I’m just a Republican trying to defend Romney, I’d suggest you first check out my blog which can be accessed through my Gravatar profile, so as to not look foolish. If you’ve actually read this far, I’m impressed and grateful. Have a wonderful day!

      • So because some old dudes are racist, your conclusion is all people that do not vote for Obama are racist. Yeah, have fun with that. That’s the kind of mentality that makes it impossible for people to have a legitimate critique of the Obama administration, as they know they’ll just be called racist regardless of how good their argument is.

        “I do not support Obama because he continues and even intensified the drone warfare program from the Bush administration. A recent independent study by NYU and Stanford has shown that drone strikes are far more harmful to our foreign policy than the administration would ever let on. From their study, drones only kill 1 militant for every 49 innocent civilians killed. The administration defines “militant” as any male who is old enough to serve in the military. Meaning according to the official statistics, all of the civilian casualties inflicted are women and children. The NYU/Stanford study gets rid of the administration’s definition and only counts militants as those confirmed or very likely, showing an immensely higher civilian death rate. Because of these genocidal practices, I could not in any good conscious support Obama.” RACIST

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