Like me, you may have been fascinated on election night by CNN senior political analyst John King's virtuoso command of his demographic map of reds and blues—even if the red state/blue state dichotomy, as framed by the media (and seemingly accepted without protest by people who should know better) is a ridiculous (albeit expedient) fraud.
Anyway, as the returns came in, I was struck by the phenomenon evolving in Alabama and Mississippi. (It wasn't unexpected, but I was struck nevertheless.) When I looked up several of the precincts/parishes highlighted on King's map, I discovered (as also expected) that these were some of the most poverty-blighted communities in so-called White America. I cannot be persuaded that philosophical reasons drove these people to line up uniformly behind Romney and the GOP; which is to say, these voters weren't worried about the capital-gains tax or even Obamacare (except to the extent that the latter term has Obama in it). Indeed, I'd bet that many among this constituency live their lives without health insurance and thus, all things being equal, would avidly support the rationale behind Obamacare. So what really underlies their diehard GOP voting preferences?
Part of it is religion—which is to say, their tunnel-visioned concept of religion. They long for a world devoid of faggots and baby-killers, because, see, "that's what Jesus wants," too. Even though there are far more references in the Bible to good will toward others, to caring for the poor, to being your "brother's keeper," etc., these Southerners fixate on the hot-button issues that Karl Rove taught conservatives to sing from the rooftops. But there's another part of it, too...
...and that part is their blind rage at the fact that there's a black man in the White House who is eating dinner instead of serving it. Some of these good folks are still fighting the Civil War, and to prove it they'll vote against their own self-interests as well as the interests of their blameless kids—kids whom, by the way, they'd never dream of aborting or even contracepting*, but will bring into the world in mass numbers and doom to a life of poverty, subpar health care and even premature death.
But let's move away from the Mason-Dixon Line, shall we? Can it be sheer coincidence that fully 88 percent of those who voted for Mitt Romney were white? Or as Slate puts it, descending only slightly into hyperbole:
"The GOP bubble remained as tight as ever: Only white people voted for Mitt Romney."So I ask myself: If it weren't for the white (racist) vote, how bad of a drubbing would Romney have received last Tuesday? Would the electoral skew have been more like 400-138? (There are 538 EVs total, and by now we all know that a candidate needs 270, a simple majority of half-plus-one, to win.)
BUT...the story isn't over. At this point.I am forced to confront a related/corollary question, to wit: If it weren't for the black racist/Hispanic racist vote, how much less support would Obama himself have?
Please forgive me the dreadful (unintended but recognized pun), but I am astonished at the media cynicism that allows people like King (and Blitzer, and Prancer) to simply accept this turn of events at face value without calling a spade a spade, as it were. By accepting identity politics, and discussing it in casual, matter-of-fact terms, we implicitly legitimize it. If CNN were doing a story about a hospital that refused to treat blacks, would it simply say, "Well, that's life"? No. The scandal would be the headline story for days if not weeks, or until further details on Petraeus' affair became available.
If you follow politics at all, you know that arguably the biggest takeaway from last Tuesday is that politicians and parties must learn to court the Hispanic vote. Naturally, political strategists and pundits think the preferred way to do this is with a Hispanic candidate. (Was it even possible for the talking heads to say "Marco Rubio" more than they did this past week?) But why so? Are Hispanics that shallow and bigoted? Similarly, in my local paper today, a spokesman for the Lehigh Valley Latino community laments the fact that Hispanics have no one to vote for who "looks like them." Huh?? It's permissible to say this openly in America 2012? I wonder what more striking reproach/rebuke there could possibly be to Martin Luther King's line about "content of character."
Remember this: When we are talking about divisive concepts like race, gender and religion, you can not be pro-A without being anti-B.
- If you are pro-woman in a monolithic kind of way (i.e. if it singularly benefits women, you favor it, straight on down the line), then you are also anti-male.
- If you are pro-black...you are anti-white.
- If you are pro-Hispanic...you are anti-non-Hispanic. (Immigration-reform notwithstanding, I imagine that there must be Hispanics who voted for Obama because, "OK, he's not Latino, but his skin is darker than a white man's, so he's more like me..." I find that more disturbing than I can even express, especially if it's passed down from parents to innocent children, a la Mississippi above...)
Needless to say, if you're a woman who lives in dreamy anticipation of the first female president, because you think "the time has come," then I'd urge you to rethink that sentiment. The time for a female president will come when a female candidate who thoroughly deserves the office for every reason except gender steps front-and-center in the national dialog. If you were part of the constituency who voted Obama in 2008 because you thought "the time had come" for a black president, then you were wrong to cast your vote in such a manner. I admit that I was part of that constituency, and I admit that I was wrong. The time had not come. If I didn't think Obama—the man, not the romantic myth—deserved the office, I shouldn't have voted for him. Even if I'm glad I did.
Let me be offer one caveat here. If people are organizing into a voting bloc because they believe in an important social idea/ideal that happens to benefit a given demographic identity, then that's not necessarily some kind of ism. If you believe that women are paid less than are men to do the same work, and if that is the most important problem on your radar screen, then that belief surely justifies voting for a candidate who pledges to rectify the imbalance. However, there should be no reason why that candidate needs to be female. (Have we forgotten that it was Lincoln, a white man, who freed the slaves?)
To put this in personal terms, I am white, and I was born into an Italian family. I do not look to support candidates who are (a) white and/or (b) Italian. Hell, if I found myself supporting a candidate named Joe Convolucci, you'd better believe I'd second-guess myself and play devil's advocate, questioning my stance until I was satisfied that such support did not flow in the slightest from "ethnic pride," which or course is also ethic prejudice. See prior post on the subject.
Just as employment discrimination is illegal (at least when we're refusing to hire someone), it should be illegal to vote against a candidate due to race, though of course there is no practical way to enforce such a statute. Of course, it should also be illegal to hire someone because of race, though affirmative action laws have muddied those waters, too, in myriad cases.
OK, so maybe some of you still haven't quite figured out why this post deserves a place on my blog; you think it's just a warmed-over post-election rant. Here's the thing: The kind of group-think that results in racial- or ethnic- or gender-based decision making is exactly what today's so-called self-help encourages and catalyzes. Under the guise of "actualizing" you, self-help, through its bullet-pointed, formulaic, one-size-fits-all dogmatism, does exactly the opposite. It reduces all of humanity to a common set of traits and behaviors that supposedly bode for success (wait, let me rephrase...that supposedly guarantee success in today's post-LoA world). Though it never stops selling individuality, it implies that the path to success is found in conformity: 7 Steps, 10 Secrets, 5 keys, and so forth. "Do this, get that.""Why be you when you can be this other thing and do even better?"
Self-help further assumes that success itself is the sort of generic, cookie-cutter phenomenon that distills to the top three or four responses to some poll question asking, say, "What makes a person successful?" While it is true that most people will enjoy the greatest odds of a stable, reasonably successful (in mainstream terms) life if they embrace the tried-and-true, it is beyond dispute that society's greatest advances (pick a realm) have been born of iconoclasm and rule-breaking and a refusal to hew to tradition: "the road less traveled." In short, society is moved forward by people who are true to what they need to do, and damn the torpedoes, not people who bend their very natures to the will of some homogenizing puppet master.
These people—let's call them True Selves—refuse to bear the labels society would foist on most of us.
...are not black or white or Hispanic.
...are not Christians or Jews or Muslims.
...are not men or women.
...are Don, or Beth, or Tom, or Amanda. Period. Their respective histories began when they were born, and not a moment before (determinism doesn't apply here). And they'll be damned if they'll let anyone diminish them by cataloging them.
I invite your responses, if any.
* it ought to be a word, if it isn't.