A Black vs. White Issue Is More Like It

After last nights Pennsylvania primary TAS put up a post that was bound to spark some controversy. The crux of his argument went like this:

In short, white people aren’t voting for the guy.

This is a problem. I’ll be very blunt here — and this is tough because I don’t want to say it — but with Obama’s performance in Pennsylvania, he hasn’t proven to me that he can win. To me, Ohio is a huge warning flag but I wanted to see how he did in Pennsylvania. Unfortunately, he’s fallen flat on his face again.

Now I am clearly an Obama supporter but there is no question in my mind that TAS has hit the nail on the head with this one.

Around the time of the Ohio primary I remember distinctly having a conversation with Kyle that basically could be summed up like this – so goes Ohio and Pennsylvania so goes the primary.

No, I am not a sociologist and I did not sleep at a Holiday Inn Express last night but I did spend the past decade working in Pennsylvania and Ohio along side the very working-class, white people Obama is struggling to convert. They are basically of mine and my parents’ generation. They can be described as the Fiscal Democrats if you will because, while they make a large constituency in the party, they are by no mean socially liberal.

These are the union workers, laborers, blue-collar, salt-of-the-earth type folks – a good portion of whom were co opted by Ronald Reagan and became Reagan Democrats. People who vote Democrat because they know in their hearts that this is the party of with their best financial interests in mind. These people have names like Mullins, Sullivan, Schindler and yes Tedesco and they harbor deep seeded resentment toward many other wings of the Democratic party.

So here is where I cross that line that TAS only gingerly tapped his foot upon. The reason Obama is not winning these people over is simply that these voters will never vote for a black man.

Actually, let me amend that because I have been listening very carefully to these folks since this 2008 race for President began (back in 2006 – ugh), it is not so much that they will not vote for a black man – were it only Obama in vacuum they could embrace him – but they will certainly not vote for a black man who has the “audacity” to be married to an obviously black woman and go to an obviously black church. Can I say this any more blunty – it is a racial issue period.

Ok, let that one sink in for a minute.

Are you sick yet? I sure am and have been since I came to this realization about a year ago but like it or not, it is true.

I watched one person in particular who I know to be a bell-weather of this demographic show promise early on. She and her husband both seemed genuinely interested in Obama as he vaulted onto the national stage. They seemingly resisted the overwhelming temptation to lean on their “Donnovan McNabb-type hate”, the ugly kind of hate that we only hear vocalized on Sunday afternoons at the safe corner bar or in the basement entertainment room.

They resisted this and went along until they heard Michelle Obama’s comments about her new found pride in America. It was at that very precise moment that these people caved. And this is not because what Michelle had to say was bad or even wrong, but because it allowed the opening of the window of reality, a reality that said, “hey, let me just remind you that this is a black guy you are about to nominate.”

Now, this does not mean that Obama is sunk.

I believe that he can win. It may mean that PA turns red in the general but that can be offset by some combination of states like New Mexico, Colorado, Arizona, Virginia or North Carolina turning blue. Whatever it takes it is precisely Obama’s message of change that will win him this election. And only with that change can we expect to challenge the ingrained racism that exists in the minds of the Fiscal Democrat.

5 Responses to “A Black vs. White Issue Is More Like It”

  1. Fargus says:

    I think this is a subtly different issue than what TAS brought up. TAS was saying that the primary results are an indicator of performance in the general election. You’re saying that racialized voting patterns will emerge, and I couldn’t agree more. But it’s more compex than simply saying that because Barack Obama lost the Pennsylvania primary to Hillary Clinton, he’ll lose the general election to John McCain.

  2. I think I am just taking a slightly different look at the same thing.

    Tas rightly pointed out his fear that Obama could not win over the Fiscal Democrats I talked about specifically because he knows there is an underlying race issue. I personally believe we can still win but it will take a change in the electoral map that I am not convinced can happen. Obama will need to redraw the red/blue state map drastically in order to make the electoral vote math work. Particularly if he does not win either PA or OH in the general. Something that I am begrudgingly coming to believe.

    These polling numbers that show Hillary voters who, if faced with an Obama candidacy, will vote for McCain are real. They are not people who are being hyperbolic but rather expressing their deep racism. To them, it is better to vote for the old white guy than the black guy.

  3. B.T. McDermott says:

    I can only speak for myself. I am 58, a union member, white, and a life long moderate democrat. I was open-minded through Iowa to New Hampshire and read each candidates’ sites to learn all I could on their planks. I heard Ms. Brazil’s intention to leave the party if she thought her guy was robbed. I asked quite a few friends who they supported and what issues and what positions of the various candidates influenced their decision. I found that it is now politically correct to support a candidate because he or she looks like you and you can be accused of being not black enough or not feminist enough. If racism or sexism can be used to create support then it is apparent to me that democrats are racists and sexists. These are the liberals, so what can you expect from the republicans. Jay Leno actually asked John Edwards “What were you thinking running as a white guy”. In my opinion there is no historic moment, no broken glass ceiling, only proof that we all play the race/ gender card to our advantage every chance we get. I am saddly more sure that there is no difference between the parties, both groups of politicians use any advantage they can to gain power. My question is to Howard Dean, are you trying to give the republicans a win? What are you thinking?

  4. Call me silly, call me upbeat, I’m personally not all that worried over this. A recent poll indicated that fifteen percent might vote against Obama because he’s black. That’s pretty bad. But then, that still leaves eighty-five percent of the vote to work on.

    Indeed, of that fifteen percent, I still say you work on them. If you put a clear contrast between what McCain means for this country, and what Obama means for this country, what it will mean in regards to improving the economy, and in establishing a saner, safer, and more effective foreign policy, you may be surprised; some of those folks very well may get over their racial reservations and cast their vote for the black guy.

    But really, what it boils down to is what we have seen in this primary. Obama shouldn’t have won; Hillary had the party support, she had the fundraising apparatus, she had the name recognition. By all rights, Obama should have been knocked out on Super Tuesday.

    Why wasn’t he? Why is he the presumptive nominee? Because he looked at the landscape and he plotted out a course that worked for him. He employed a fifty (or forty-eight if you prefer) state strategy that allowed him to bulid up delegates where Hillary wasn’t looking, and now we have a guy who is essentially untouchable by the metric that matters; delegates.

    I’m pretty sure he’s going to do something similar come time of the General Election. He’s going to look at the landscape and he’s going to plot out a course to victory and it may confuse and baffle a lot of long time pundits who won’t understand why he’s putting so many resources from Kansas to Montana when that’s clearly Republican territory.

    But that’s what’s going to happen. Also, he’s going to unleash upon the electorate a grassroots/netroots effort the likes of which we’ve never seen before, and that’s a key point too. You look at the percentage of eligable voters who actually do vote, and it’s pretty low. One of the key strategy points that I think the Obama campaign should and probably will employ is to really bump that number up, energizing new swaths of voters that may cancel out the racist vote.

    So I’m not worried. I do see it as a challenge, but that’s fine, nothing worth having is easy. And if we lose, we lose, but we lose on our terms, and we send a clear message that we’re done playing Republican lite games, that we’re going to challenge them on every issue with alternative ideas, better ideas, and whichever candidate embodies that is the candidate that’s going to be our nominee from here on in.

    And we’ll continue to lose those battles, but that, my friends, is what we call a “good death”. But to be frank, I don’t think our good death is coming this November.

  5. I read an article in “In These Times” by David Sirota a while back that is kind of related to this issue.
    He calls this phenomenon the “race chasm” which he explains occurs in states whose populations are more than 6 percent but less than 17 percent black. Pennsylvania fits that profile.

    He also goes on to say that the Clintons are manipulating this ‘trend’. It’s a pretty interesting article, but I hate this type of casting. It’s like “profiling” profiling… if you catch my meaning. I was a bit disappointed with the whole Pennsylvania scenario from the start, but it’s brought with it a wider recognition of what we are up against in this country as far as racism goes.

    As far as I’m concerned, I’m remaining colorblind – I never really had a choice in that matter…


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