Identity and Ism

Ism #1: Racism.

Jonathan Darman reports for Newsweek that, even though Hillary Clinton is more popular among white voters than Barack Obama, John McCain is even more popular among white voters than Hillary Clinton. However, for a Democrat,

Clinton’s white support is unusually high: at a comparable point in the 2004 election, Democratic nominee John Kerry received the support of 36 percent of white voters, compared to George W. Bush’s 48 percent, and in June of 2000, Bush led Al Gore 48 percent to 39 percent.

I believe I read somewhere that African Americans are the only voting demographic that never gave George Bush a majority of popular support, even during his glory days after 9/11. This, I believe, gives African Americans bragging rights as the smartest voting demographic.

Conversely, we might ask ourselves, Why are so many white voters so stupid? I’ll give that some thought.

A recent Newsweek poll suggests a “lurking racial bias in the American electorate,” Darman writes. Do tell. I’m not surprised by racism. I’m surprised people are surprised by racism.

Shortly after Obama declared his candidacy last year, I got a call from some guy from BBC radio who wanted to know if Americans were ready to elect a black POTUS. I said I didn’t know. In truth, I figured in a general election an outstanding black candidate might win some northeastern and West Coast states, but not much else. Now it appears Obama is a serious contender in most states outside the Deep South-Appalachia axis. This is heartening. Darman continues,

In 2000, only 37 percent of voters thought the country was ready for a black president. Now, 70 percent of voters think a black candidate like Obama could win the White House.

Responders weren’t being asked if they personally wanted a black candidate to win the White House; just whether they thought one could. They might have been overestimating the racism of fellow voters in 2000 and underestimating it now. Or, perhaps the difference is that in 2000 those polled were presented with a Generic Black Candidate, whose blackness was his only identifying feature. In 2008 there’s a complex and multifaceted flesh-and-blood human being running for president who is black. That’s a whole ‘nother thing.

And Obama is not running as The Black Candidate. If he had, he would have done even worse among whites, I’m sure.

Ism #2: Sexism.

Hillary Clinton, on the other hand, is running as The Woman Candidate. It’s a sales point she seems to emphasize more and more as time goes on.

I recall the first time she brought up Being the First Woman President in one of last year’s “gang” debates with the multitude of Dem candidates. I thought it odd that she would present herself as a groundbreaker while there was an African American on the stage with her. It spoke volumes that she didn’t take him seriously.

As someone who is close to the Senator’s age, I well remember Second Wave feminism. Those were heady times, as the movement helped women achieve positions previously held only by men. Clinton is trying to evoke the spirit of Second Wave feminism in her campaign.

But I thought the ultimate goal of feminism was to create a society in which women would be treated as individuals, not as stereotypes. Clinton seems to want to have it both ways, complaining about sexism while presenting herself as the Generic Woman Candidate. However, Senator Clinton is a complex and multifaceted flesh-and-blood human being. There are a great many reasons one may choose to support or not support her that have nothing to do with her being female.

Further, some of Clinton’s supporters will, on Monday, complain that Clinton is only losing the nomination battle because of sexism and on Tuesday argue that Obama is unelectable because of racism. Well, then, I guess we’re screwed either way, huh?

In a recent interview, Clinton denied the campaign had been particularly racist but complained it has been way too sexist. IMO there’s some truth in this. The racism so far (other than what the Clintons have churned out themselves) has been kept low to the ground or confined to Faux Nooz and affiliates. Sexism, on the other hand, has been woven tightly into most news coverage and commentary about Clinton. But it’s not as if the sexism is going to go away for the general election, or that she’ll be awarded extra Degree of Difficulty votes if it’s her against the white guy.

And to argue, as Clinton did, that somehow sexism is a worse problem than racism is offensive. As I said above, if Barack Obama had run as The Black Candidate he would have been out of the race a long time ago. Clinton, however, has gone a long way as The Woman Candidate.

Does she honestly think that Obama’s strongest non-racial demographic groups — younger and better-educated progressive voters — are especially sexist? Or that these voters are more sexist than general election voters as a whole? Please.

I predict the first woman president will be an accomplished politician who will not run as The Woman Candidate, but as herself.

Ism #3: Ageism.

I don’t have the numbers in front of me, but I’ve heard that in polls older voters are more concerned about McCain’s age than younger voters. Interesting, if true.

Inasmuch as voting for POTUS is, for some, about electing a National Daddy, I would think age by itself might not be that much of a handicap. Age combined with apparent infirmity is another matter, however. As JFK used to say, a President has to have vigor. (JFK was, of course, hiding some of his own infirmities.)

Being a silvery-haired white guy buys McCain some support that Obama or Clinton would have to work for, but being a really old silvery-haired white guy does work against him, I suspect.

Spot on commentary by Terence Samuel.

9 thoughts on “Identity and Ism

  1. Speaking from the vantage point of being in the McCain age bracket, it is not surprising older voters would not favor him. We know what we have lost. We may not admit it out loud but we know

  2. I don’t know what Second Wave feminism is, but at 75 years of age I’m probably in the No Wave feminism bunch. My curiosity about Hillary prompts me to ask if the Second Wave group carried a tinge of woman the victim because I get that from Hillary.

    Her recent remark, “People have been trying to push me out of this (the campaign) ever since Iowa,” would indicate that she thinks of herself as a victim. And then a quick replay of her past remarks, actions and reactions would indicate that she seems incapable of taking responsibility for anything she says or does because, of course, she’s not the actor. (Disastrous trait in a president, by the way.)

    Example: Her remark to Russert that she was always picked on first to answer a question during a (debate) when in fact he had directed his question to neither Obama or her, revealed I am being victimized. Anyway, my question to you is whether the Second Wave feminism movement was based on, loosely or otherwise, woman as victim.

  3. This, I believe, gives African Americans bragging rights as the smartest voting demographic.

    Yeah, but that’s only until history reveals the fullness of Bush’s currently unrecognized greatness. It’s not like we haven’t been told… 🙂

  4. Good one, Barbara. It’s pretty clear many Americans will vote for the stupid and out-of-touch candidate if HE seems to be a regular guy (who seems most like them). They do this over and over. Maybe I am just a pessimist, but I truly fear for this year’s Presidential race and its outcome. I can’t imagine what another four years of Republican rule would bring us.

  5. I think the comment that Hillary Clinton didn’t take Barack Obama seriously is spot on. Last year, she seemed to treat John Edwards as the bigger threat to her campaign.

    Up until a few days ago, I thought Hillary Clinton was, at long last, wisely pulling in the harsher side of her campaign and then bang, she was back at it again. A week ago I could see her as a possible vice president (assuming she could help the ticket). Suddenly, her scorched earth tactics are back and it’s a puzzle because her statements are downright odd and she’s showing a lack of judgment that has to bring into question any future presidential race. If she wants to be on the ticket this year, being the vice president is her only realistic chance and that means she needs to knock off the hyperbole. If she wants another chance in 2012 or 2016, she also needs to back off. I think there are many people who would like to see Hillary as Senate Majority Leader but the possibility of even that is in danger of slipping away. There’s nothing wrong with continuing to campaign but entertaining desperate hopes, self-serving changes in the rules and bizarre scenarios is a bit much.

    It’s exactly at this moment that Hillary needs to show some political grace and common sense for the fundamental reason that the numbers make it impossible for her to win without a profound distortion of the process.

    *****A quick word on McCain. He’s clearly not as sharp as he was eight years ago (never mind how he has caved in to Bush; that’s cynical political calculation). McCain’s many recent gaffes are Reaganesque. Ahh, but that never stopped Reagan. Reagan’s gaffes started early in 1980 and continued through his presidency. Most of Reagan’s early gaffes weren’t because of his age but because he stubbornly lived in an alternate universe on a nostalgic Main Street America that never quite existed. But, by Reagan’s fourth year, it was obvious he was fading. The media ignored it. Reagan got reelected and continued to fade. Most Americans have still not dealt with the fact that Nancy Reagan and then Howard Baker had to salvage Reagan’s presidency, at least superficially, for his last eighteen months. So age may not matter much except that we would risk having another ineffectual president at the helm like the current one. The real issue, of course, is McCain’s odd relationship and ties to George W. and company and the likelihood that McCain would continue the disastrous politics of the last eight years.

  6. McCain’s got hardening of the thought process.He’s crusty and rigid and tempered with arrogance. He’s got nothing more to offer America… he’s had his day in the sun. He’s tried to cultivate an image of vitality and youthfulness by propagating the handle of Maverick when in reality he’s the prisoner of stale thinking. His whole mindset is fossilized. He needs a pat on the back for his wonderful contribution of 40 years ago.. and then put out to pasture

    A McCain presidency would be nothing more than an entertainment for his old age. He should just spare us the grief of exercising his ego and take up gardening or butterfly collecting,

  7. It’s true that idiots like Chris Matthews and his pals have said awful things about Clinton, and treated her badly. It also seems true to me that Hillary complains about things that she has no business complaining about. Like people trying to knock her out of the race since Iowa: that’s not sexism, that’s how primaries work. Seems to me that only becomes something to complain about if you believe you were somehow owed the nomination from the start.

  8. “I believe I read somewhere that African Americans are the only voting demographic that never gave George Bush a majority of popular support, even during his glory days after 9/11. This, I believe, gives African Americans bragging rights as the smartest voting demographic.”

    A history of earned healthy cynicism from most white politicians might account for some of the smarts. We may not get an accurate comparison of black voter’s tendency to be disappointed by a candidate that claims to be one of them (well, if you don’t count Bill Clinton) until they are confronted by a succession of soch choices. It just hasn’t happened yet.

    Quite simply they have not had the luxury of candidates with whom they’d like to sit down and drink a beer.

    None of this explains tendencies of certain white demographic sub-groups, members of which will not be deterred by having their own interests repeatedly ignored by candidates most resembling them. Are memories short? Maybe racial identity politics supersede even economic self-interest and it is enough to have the face most resembling their own speaking when the presidential seal is seen in the background.

    If this is the case things won’t get better until real issues matter more.

  9. Hillary Clinton and her supporters have been frequently saying recently that there is some vast sexist conspiracy out to get her. To me this is the most nonsense in the entire world! Does anyone remember the year 2007? Does anyone remember how often people on the news would crone about how she would be the “inevetiable” Democratic nominee? Was she complaining that that was a sexist statement? She’s lost the primaries! To the victor, goes the spoils! Can’t we all agree on this?

    In regards to McCain: I still think the war is going to sink his ship (no pun intended), its been 5 years and we still have no end in sight, he pretty much admitted what a mess its going to be for him in his la la land speech the other week (if you will recall – it was the year 2013 and all the troops were home – no mention as to how that would happen). As Maha said, older people seem to be more concerned with his age than younger people who won’t vote for him due to the fact he is a lunatic. As I see it that is not a very good record to get elected on! Obama can’t lose this election, I think its going to be a cakewalk.

Comments are closed.