It’s been whispered about, written about, blatantly expressed and just as vociferously denied. RACE. How it does or doesn’t play into politics, how it will or won’t have a significant impact on the outcome of the election today and how, exactly, it defines – or doesn’t – the great, obvious, divide in our country.
As much as many would like to pretend, as much as more optimistic minds would like to hope, one need only take a step back and view this election from the wider perspective to see the obvious: this race between President Barack Obama and Mitt Romney is both energized and diminished by racial politics.
Rachel Maddow had an interesting segment on her show last night (November 5th). As she wrapped up her segment, she began a discussion about the conspicuous disparity between the supporters of the two candidates. Displaying photographs of their campaigns at various stops, she pointed out the unmistakable difference in the crowds’ racial composition: Obama’s crowds came in a wide range of ages and colors, while Romney’s skewed older and were predominately…White. Shockingly so. So much so that Rachel’s focus asked the obvious question: Is the great unspoken divide between Mitt Romney supporters and those of Barack Obama abashedly one of race?
I can hear the caterwauling in response, the usual litany of denials and deflections, the rapid-fire lists of all that is wrong with Obama that has nothing to do with race, but let’s look at reality without the cackling Greek chorus (or “columns” as Limbaugh would put it!).
The GOP (grand old party has never seemed a more appropriate label) is positioned as the “old guard,” the party that fiercely upholds “classic American ideals” while embracing an increasingly outdated paradigm: predominately White, Christian majority, socially conservative, tapped into middle class privilege and opportunity, focused on building wealth that’s disproportionately available and often unfairly protected, flanked on the lower economic end by those bound to the party by shared fundamentalist religious dogma (…and, perhaps, racial animus).
Then there’s the Democrats: trending younger, certainly more diverse, with an emerging majority of mixed religions and ethnicities; focused on “big tent” (aka, progressive) policies and platforms unencumbered by the limitations of any one religion’s dogma. Their mission statement includes building wealth through small business and wise investing, but also looks to create safety nets to help pull up the lesser privileged, protect the needy, and promote the civil equality of all. While both parties are staunch protectors of the union though a strong military, Democrats are more likely to consider removing bloat from military budgets to put towards domestics needs.
Holler all you like but if one looks at the unvarnished reality of the historical and expressed core beliefs of both parties, you cannot, in all honesty, find much to counter these thumbnails. Just look again at the photos at the top of this piece, emblematic of the two campaigns, and tell me; how do these differences play out in an election?
In an article in The Daily Beast today, Team Obama’s Election Day Anxiety: Fear of a Big White Vote, reporter James Warren drags the issue out of the campaign closet. In speaking to a official on the Obama team, he uncovered their largely unspoken concern:
What do you most fear, I asked. Said one: “A huge white turnout. Kind of like what Bush hit us (John Kerry) with in ’04.”
The Obama constituency is primary black, Hispanic, single females and well-educated urban whites. Polling suggests black and Hispanic are overwhelmingly Democratic in the same percentages as four years ago; roughly 90 percent for blacks and more than 70 percent for Hispanics.
With voter turnout expected to be less than the exuberant numbers of 2008…
That reality, combined with at least the possibility of a white-dominated, pro-Romney surge, was the cause of stress for Obama’s re-election strategists.
A strange time, indeed, when the actual facts of a campaign, the actual policies, prevarications and questionable profits of one of the candidates, are pushed aside – ignored, excused or diminished – by those so zealous to protect their “vision of America,” they’re willing to turn a blind eye. But the fact remains that never before in the history of a presidential campaign has one of the two major candidates faced ethics charges just days before the election (UAW Files Charges Against Romney on his Auto Bail-out Profiteering), only to have it fall on deaf ears in the delusion of “taking America back.”
The big secret? America never left. We don’t need anyone to “take it back.” It’s still the America founded in the name of freedom those many years ago. It just grew up, changed; evolved as any great country does. We don’t need the placeholders of old to keep us tied to what America was; we need bold leaders with a new and inclusive worldview – leaders like Barack Obama – to lead us into the next chapters of the very vibrant and eclectic America we live in today.
I hope “the Big Diverse Vote” comes out in droves to make sure we get that chance.