Friday, October 31, 2008

Secret racists

In every past election, it was tacitly assumed that, for a small but significant set of voters, the choice ultimately came down to which candidate they 'liked the look of,' for reasons they couldn't explain. Such voters were, in past elections, thought ignorant but benign, an inevitable aspect of a democratic process in which you need not prove you're informed in order to vote. (I should note, by 'look' I mean in part physical appearance, but also just the general idea of the candidate, anything but issues, imagined impact on America's image abroad, or anything else substantive).

In this election, the 'I like the look of him' voters are all assumed to be making choices based on subconscious feelings about race and (to a lesser extent) gender. Which brings up the question: are there any voters who simply like the look of McCain, without being secret racists? Or who like the look of Obama, without caring about the racial-justice angle of electing the first non-white president?

I ask this because there's a certain assumption going around--especially about elderly Florida Jews and Appalachian residents, but about others as well--that behind each anti-Obama vote is a racist, conscious or subconscious. For some Obama supporters, it's inconceivable that a rational being would not support their candidate; if only we could remove the factor of race, he'd have a unanimous win. This of course ignores the votes Obama will get, from voters of all races, because he's black. But more importantly, there are reasons having nothing to do with race why some will vote for McCain: 1) belief that abortion is murder, 2) belief that the older the president, the better, 3) belief that McCain's about to keel over, and that we need a female president, 4) fear that if Obama wins, political comedy will lose, 5) loyalty to the Republican party, and so on. Whether these reasons are good is not the point. They are reasons, and they've got nothing to do with race.

But what of voters with no reasons, who simply prefer McCain to Obama, because that's how they feel, because they prefer the word 'maverick' to the word 'hope'? They're mediocre citizens, fine, but are they racists? Some surely are, but all?

As an Obama supporter myself, I'm not sure what great help it's been to the Obama campaign that so many of its fans are looking for ways to show the racist side of all political opponents. This is precisely what will give the pro-Obama side false confidence.


Petey said...

"I'm not sure what great help it's been to the Obama campaign that so many of its fans are looking for ways to show the racist side of all political opponents."

It's actually the secret to his success.

And it's not only greatly helped his campaign, but it'll also greatly help his administration.

It delegitimizes criticism in an incredibly useful way.

It turns opponents into enemies of progress and modernity.

Phoebe said...

He hasn't won yet. What you're ignoring is that while it might be socially unacceptable (in some circles) to be anti-Obama, people are alone when they actually vote.

Petey said...

"He hasn't won yet."

This election was over in early October. Seriously.


"What you're ignoring is that while it might be socially unacceptable (in some circles) to be anti-Obama, people are alone when they actually vote."

Sure. We vote as we dream, alone. Ron Paul's supporters voted too, but they didn't get up to 50%. Everyone is special, but in first-past-the-post democracies, only majorities matter.

What is crucial about the racist-ization of Obama's opponents is that it prevents the coherent organization of opposition to Obama. It gives Obama durable teflon by calling foul on anyone who tries to scratch the teflon.

If you try to tear down Obama, you become an opponent of progress and modernity. And while folks are perfectly free to vote against Obama, the snuffing of coherent organized opposition makes it far easier for him to win and maintain majority support.

He's going to have to make titanic mistakes and suffer considerable bad luck not to win in 2012.

william randolph brafford said...

I'm a sort of stuck pro-life independent conservative. I have my "reasons" for not supporting Obama, though we don't need to hash them out here.

I've noticed that on some level I prefer Obama to McCain, and I think it has mainly to do with his academic credentials and his way of thinking, which I find very impressive and appealing respectively. I've tried to be introspective about this, and I really don't think race has much to do with it. It seems to have much more to do with my academic aspirations: I like intellectuals.

So it doesn't seem at all weird to me to think that people could look at John McCain's military service and instinctively like him, while not being very excited about Obama.

David A. said...

I am curious: are those who vote for Obama, although ignorant of the issues or conveniently dismissive of his many, many, flaws, "mediocre citizens," as you put it for those who vote for McCain.

Are there any "mediocre citizens" in NYC who will vote for Obama, who are very much voting for him based on a great deal of ignorance?

Apart from these rubes who vote for McCain, who else is a "mediocre citizen?"

Phoebe said...

It's clear, I think, from the post that I'm calling "mediocre citizens" those who pick a candidate on the basis of nothing substantive. That candidate could obviously be McCain or Obama (or Barr, etc.) in the upcoming election.

David A. said...

Yeah, I re-read your post--before reading your reply--and I think that you might have been trying to say that mediocre citizens were in both camps.

Although, I will say to my credit, it really was only used in reference to the McCain partisans. But, in that reference you were actually trying to give faint praise in giving them the better of the two descriptions ("mediocre citizens" or "racists").

I still don't think it was as obvious as you state, but I don't think it was as biased as I might have made it seem in my remarks.

I like your site, though I am sure that I will not agree with you on a lot of things. I, myself, am a native NYCer, though with a different perspective.

Still, I can understand not driving or even knowing how and there not being a Wal-Mart in NYC (blame the unions) and tiny apartments and so on.

But, I came to being a conservative in a liberal town.

So, we'll see what comes.