There’s much chattering among the blogs today about Kevin Merida’s Washington Post story about racism and the Obama campaign. In particular, young volunteers working “on the ground” are encountering unvarnished, full-frontal racism for the first time. For example,
Victoria Switzer, a retired social studies teacher, was on phone-bank duty one night during the Pennsylvania primary campaign. One night was all she could take: “It wasn’t pretty.” She made 60 calls to prospective voters in Susquehanna County, her home county, which is 98 percent white. The responses were dispiriting. One caller, Switzer remembers, said he couldn’t possibly vote for Obama and concluded: “Hang that darky from a tree!” …
… On Election Day in Kokomo, a group of black high school students were holding up Obama signs along U.S. 31, a major thoroughfare. As drivers cruised by, a number of them rolled down their windows and yelled out a common racial slur for African Americans, according to Obama campaign staffers.
Of course, the rightie bloggers deny that reactions such as this to the Obama campaign have anything to do with racism. Nor does a T-shirt portraying Obama as a monkey with a banana have anything to do with racism, according to this guy.
When a story hits this many outlets simultaneously it’s pretty clear that there is a coordinated effort to establish a new “meme.” This meme: if you’re white and vote against Obama, you’re an ignorant racist.
This will be a common theme right through the election in November: racism may cost Barack, the post-racial candidate, the election (white racism that is, blacks voting over 90% for Obama isn’t “racism.” It’s payback, just like the verdicts in the Reginald Denny case were payback).
This is what decades of affirmative action and racial victimhood politics have done to American society.
Perhaps the above is what decades of brain-cell-destroying chemicals in drinking water have done to American society.
Most of the anecdotes in the story take place in Indiana and Pennsylvania, where the famous white working-class voters gave their votes to Hillary Clinton. Publius writes,
… letâ€™s face it â€” race is playing a big role not just there, but throughout the Midwestern white working classes.
Thatâ€™s not saying all white working-class Americans feel this way, or even that most do. But a lot do â€” and everyone knows it. And thatâ€™s a big reason why Clinton is up by such obscene margins in West Virginia and Kentucky. We should stop pretending otherwise.
There are legitimate reasons one might prefer Clinton to Obama as a presidential candidate. However, when we see consistently that white, older, less-educated voters tend to prefer Clinton, it’s, um, naive to assume that all those folks made their decisions based on those legitimate reasons.
Coming from a white, small-town, working-class background myself, I suspect many of those Clinton voters are profoundly ignorant people with limited experience of the world outside their (often racially homogeneous) communities. And if you’ve spent much time with die-hard white racists, you might notice they are not so much sinister as they are profoundly unremarkable. Without race, they’d have little self-identity at all.
And although racism trumps sexism with this group, better-educated Clinton supporters shouldn’t kid themselves that those older, white, working-class Clinton voters won’t prefer McCain in November. Time and time again, these are the same voters easily manipulated into voting for whatever knuckle-dragging troglodyte the GOP is selling. Of course, it’s not “CC” (conservatively correct) to say this out loud.
Iâ€™ve bitten my tongue. Iâ€™ve tried not to essentially point out what I have personally viewed as the â€œracist vote.â€ Iâ€™ve refrained from looking at the split in West Virginia, and while Iâ€™ve whispered it here and there, Iâ€™ve held back at saying, â€œOF COURSE HEâ€™S GOING TO LOSE THERE! THOSE PEOPLE ARE RACIST AS FUCK!â€
And why? Because the campaign hasnâ€™t done that, and because Iâ€™m afraid of, what? Pissing off white people? Making them feel guilty? Stirring up racial tensions that I know to exist?
Because I still want them to vote the Democratic ticket in the fall?
Donâ€™t cause too much of a ruckus. Folks are going to be racist, but itâ€™s not the American thing to do to call them out on it. The folks who wave the Nazi flag, theyâ€™re okay to call out, but heaven forbid you should discuss the racial tensions the Bars and Stars evoke.
And all of a sudden it seemed silly. Weâ€™re looking at how Obama canâ€™t win the white vote in the Appalachians and the Rust Belt and the SOUTH of all places, and weâ€™re pretending it has something to do with him being elitist because weâ€™re all too afraid to insult white folks by claiming maybe some of them, maybe just an eensy teensy bit of them might be just a little itty bitty bit racist.
On the positive side, I understand younger votes in these same areas are more likely than not to support Obama. But if Obama wins the nomination and then the election, it might signal to politicians going forward that you don’t have to pander, wink and nod at the racist vote to win elections. And wouldn’t that be grand?
On the other hand, Gary Kamiya writes,
McCain isn’t running against just any Democrat but against a black liberal named Barack Hussein Obama. Obama’s name may be the most potent weapon in the GOP’s armory. If you want to believe that America is a governable country of informed citizens and not a nation of ignorant, Fox News-watching sheep, the single most depressing fact to come out of the Bush years is that vast numbers of Americans continue to believe that Saddam Hussein was personally involved in the 9/11 attacks. According to a 2003 Washington Post poll, nearly 70 percent of Americans believed that. And in a poll taken last September, 33 percent of Americans still believed it — presumably the same 30-odd percent of Americans who will vote for a Republican even if he is running on a platform of sacrificing all the nation’s firstborn children to Beelzebub.
Call it the Dumbshit Factor, the Nobody Home Problem, the Absentee Ballots from Mars Issue. Whatever you call it, it’s the Republicans’ built-in advantage this fall. If you’re not in the “reality-based community” infamously derided by a senior Bush official, then you won’t care if Iraq is a quagmire and the Middle East is a powder keg and the country is falling apart and the economy is on the verge of a depression and gas is $4.30 a gallon. You won’t care because you won’t know, or if you know you’ll blame it all on liberals, feminazis, evil bureaucrats and gays. As you watch Fox News from your Barcalounger orbiting somewhere beyond the confines of space, time and logic, you will vote for the old white guy with the Anglo-Saxon name, not a Muslim terrorist sympathizer who helped his cousin attack America.
Kamiya also says,
The issue is whether America is still the scared, reactionary, sclerotic, profoundly creaky nation that it has been for the last eight years, or whether it’s ready to shrug off the Bush era and begin anew.
That is the question, isn’t it? Are we going to continue to be led by the lowest-common-denominator candidates? Will ignorance and bigotry continue to be treated as virtues? Can we shake off the demagoguery of the dumb and apply something resembling intelligence to our national policy decisions?