Friday, September 19, 2008

Clarification

PG has distressed me greatly by writing:

(((However, I don't hew to the theory that THERE IS NO WHITE PRIVILEGE AT WORK HERE AT ALL.)))

Well, I can't speak for Joel, but I don't hew to that either.

As I wrote many responses ago, "I didn't say that it wasn't a factor, I just (a) don't think it's the deciding factor people keep claiming and (b) think it's a pretty defeatist thing to be focusing on at a time when defeatism is a really bad idea."

I wrote my post in response to Joel's response to two different posts:

This one, and this one, both of which focus heavily on the mistakes and drawbacks of the Republican ticket and come to the conclusion that Obama is so utterly lacking in flaws by comparison that his lack of clear victory must the the result of white privilege or racism, the first article going so far as to snot that the article is "For those who still can’t grasp the concept of white privilege.*"

What they are missing is that many of those "drawbacks" aren't drawbacks at all when they are viewed in the light of Republican voters' clear and often-stated preference for candidates who aren't too eggheaded and have "lived it" in some sense or another. I'm sorry, people who think "If only John McCain had been an Ivy League constitutional scholar he would be doing SO MUCH BETTER in the polls" have no freaking clue how electoral politics works in this country.

Obama isn't just "not like me" because he's black. Yes, that's a part of it and you won't see me ever denying it. But it's not the whole story and in my view to say that the entire election turns on white privilege or racism (as the above-mentioned articles at least strongly imply) is first of all incorrect and secondly insane from a strategy perspective.

I do think that there are stupid people who won't vote for Obama straight up because he's black. I don't think there are very many people like that and I don't think that the stupid racist vote is a vote Democrats have often had in the past anyway, so I'm confused that all the sudden people appear to have been counting on it and are stressed about the fact that we won't have it.

Also, Bill Barr has a bit of a point in that I think that there are a lot of people who like the fact that Obama is black. I voted for Gore and Kerry and was basically pleased to do it, but when I vote for Obama, there's going to be a special thrill there because I know I'm going to be voting for the guy that I still think will be the first black president. I'm going to know that I'm doing my tiny part to make history**. That's pretty cool.

For the record, I don't think "making history" is a deciding factor either. If, say, Condoleeza Rice were running, the fact that she's black and a woman wouldn't be enough to get me to vote for her by any means***. But I do think Barr is right that the "making history" factor is in the mix, though he didn't put it the way I just did.

But anyway, I really think these articles focusing on the white privilege and racism elements are a bad idea even if they are correct.

I think doing anything that looks like either whining or justifying why we lost is, ahem, THE WORST THING WE COULD POSSIBLY BE DOING at this point when we need to be focused on energizing people and making people want to vote for our guy.

After all, if the election is already lost because of something our candidate can't change, we might as well all stay home, right?

Nobody likes a loser, so we need to stop talking about Obama like he's destined to be one.

We're ahead in the polls, kids. Let's not blow it now by talking like noble losers. Say what you will about the Republicans, they do not talk like losers. They play to win. Let's do that.

I don't want a moral victory. I want an actual one.

CC

*WHERE did liberals get the idea that talking to people who disagree like they are stupid is sound electoral strategy, and HOW can I disabuse them of this notion?

** And I don't know that many Republicans will be thrilled to tell their grandchildren that they voted AGAINST the first black president because they didn't like his stand on taxation. But that's just me talking.

*** But oh, goodness that election would be fun to watch. Condi vs. Hillary is still my dream matchup from an entertainment standpoint.

13 comments:

Bill Baar said...

WHERE did liberals get the idea that talking to people who disagree like they are stupid is sound electoral strategy, and HOW can I disabuse them of this notion?

It's built into Liberalism I'm afraid. Progress implies a vanguard, and advanced group of thinkers, and they lead the masses who are trying to catch up.

My Social Justice Committee seeks to educate and make our congregation aware, but I suggested it's pretty educated, well read, and opinated bunch e.g. I couldn't think of a member who I believed hadn't thought seriously about war and peace over the past few years.

I suggested we on SJ Com may have more to learn from our congregation than we could teach them.

Did not go over well... although we dropped the word educate from our mission statement.

As a footnote, Palin reminded me of College back in the 70s. I knew feminists who flocked to Women's Studies programs. I knew women who flocked to Accounting classes (I was in some Biz programs that in the space of a couple years went from 95% male to over 50% female).

There is a revolution but the beneficiaries don't always buy into the assumptions or ideologies.

We can destroy but the new world order isn't always exactly what the liberated will build the way you think.

That's the liberal dilemma.

Chalicechick said...

I'd say it's a neocon dilemma, too.

My impression is that one of the serious ways the neocons fucked up was assuming that if we install a democracy in a country that has never had one, the people will always vote for leaders who will support American interests. IMHO, that's one of the general themes of the Plan for a New American Century and it couldn't be more wrong.

CC

Satori said...

WHERE did liberals get the idea that talking to people who disagree like they are stupid is sound electoral strategy, and HOW can I disabuse them of this notion?

It comes from believing that you're so obviously right that if you can just make the other person see how obviously right your viewpoint is, they'll have a sudden epiphany.

A lot of conservatives do it, too. I've known a few people who thought that if only everyone would read Atlas Shrugged, then they all would embrace conservatism.

PG said...

I was responding specifically to Joel when I wrote that, whom I had not seen acknowledge that white privilege was a factor in this election at all. I apologize if it distressed you. I generally don't talk to people who are not Obama supporters about the role that a literal xenophobia -- a fear of that which is strange -- has played a role in this election, because as you say I don't want to be defeatist or whiny. I do still think Obama can win, although I have the occasional still-awake-at-2am-and-thinking-"Saying 'President Barack Obama'? Never going to happen." I think of blogs as an acceptable forum in which to discuss issues that I wouldn't bring up when canvassing door-to-door for the candidate. (I also don't plan to talk to undecided voters about my own laundry list of annoyances with Obama, like his implying that Thomas is intellectually inferior to Scalia, which is a standard uninformed-liberal thing to say and completely unworthy of anyone who taught con law.)

Some of this may be driven by my own sense of identification with Obama and my distress over the kinds of things that people find problematic about him that seem like could be equally well aimed at me or my dad (who is extremely supportive of the GOP) -- no decorating with flags, non-mainstream religion, non-European name, etc.

As I've repeatedly emphasized, anyone who normally votes Republican and who doesn't agree with Obama on policy isn't someone for whom the xenophobia is a factor. Someone like Bill Barr who seems to have a personal antipathy to successful Chicago politicians isn't someone for whom the xenophobia is a factor. (Although I do find it odd to let such a personal dislike drive one into being pro-McCain/ Palin unless one has *some* liking for the Republican platform.)

You and Joel might see this as me treating voters like they're dumb, but voters have told the Washington Post about all the e-mails they've gotten alleging Obama's contempt for the flag, secret Islam, etc., and that these e-mails have given them pause about voting for Obama even though they normally vote for the Democrat. I'm not talking about "the stupid racist vote" that Dems haven't had since 1968; I'm talking about the voter who is traditionally Democrat and has been scared specifically about Obama. That is a vote Dems normally could have counted on.

I volunteered for the Obama campaign in Philly in March, and when I was out in the suburbs I overheard some people talking about the upcoming rally. I introduced myself and asked if they wanted to get tickets. One of the men asked me whether I believe in "God bless America" or "God damn America." That's not racism per se -- that's a voter who has been convinced that Obama despises the country of which he's running to be president. There is a set of people who normally would consider voting Democrat, but who find it more plausible that Michelle Obama hates "whitey" than that Sarah Palin's husband belonged to a party that wants Alaska to secede from the U.S.

That's why I keep talking about Jindal as a comparison point -- to reassure myself that someone who is a even more of a minority (Indian-American) can become a very successful politician in a state where national Democrats don't win, which is a sign that flat-out racism isn't a big factor. But it's also a sign that the instinctive distrust of someone who is different from voters in ways other than skin color is most easily overcome by erasing those differences as much as possible. It is better to assimilate -- to have the easily-pronounced name, the same religion, the cultural similarities.

Bill Baar said...

CC... Bush's plan to export Democracy is a very Liberal notion.

I for one don't disagree either with the notion that there is such a thing as progress and that there are indeed vanguards building a better world (and destroying those who would take us back to a kind of medievalism).

I just think the United States is the vanguard and we're leading the way despite failures and mistakes.

I think UUism a very American sort of Religion too.

And I wish we'd do a better job of leading the way.

Chalicechick said...

To be honest, PG, I think you know enough about this stuff to not come off as whiny or defeatist when you talk about it.

But to me those articles DO come off as whiny and defeatist. And one of them was an email that has been circulated widely, and the other has been on every blog in the world.

I don't think that you are treating the voters like they're dumb, but your reaction is not representative of the rest of the reaction I've gotten*, and the treating the voters as dumb was specifically directed at the bit people not being able to grasp white privilege in one of the articles.

I don't know how the voter reaction would differ if McCain's preacher was all over youtube and the news saying "God Damn America" while Mrs. Biden was the one who had belonged to a wacky separatist political party. We could speculate all day on the likely differences, and I still don't think it would get us anywhere.

And I don't think the speculation on one blog would hurt the deomcrats of course, but this discussion is going on on hundreds of blogs and that really scares me in the "sounding like a loser" department.

As for the assimilation, I'd say Obama's done a pretty good job of it given what he started with. I'm not entirely sure that Wright wasn't personally trying to sabatoge Obama, but at the very least he made a huge point of Obama's membership in a Christian church, which yes, some people still don't believe.

His name is foreign-sounding, but at this point I'd say most people are pretty used to it. He's done very well indeed for a man whose middle name is Hussein.

And I don't think he's done badly culturally, either. I think most people middle class and up know a few well-educated african-americans who mesh african-american culture and upper middle class white culture skillfully, who bump fists while wearing designer clothes and looking very much in love. At the very least, people saw that sort of thing on the Cosby show.

I do get that white privilege is still an issue. I don't know how much of one, and if I think it's less of one and you think it's more of one, fine, we've both said our pieces to that effect and I think we both can see where the other is coming from more or less.

But the defeatist talking and thinking, especially on a national scale, really scares the hell out of me.

CC

*After all, the guy who was stupid enough to think my "if this guy wanted to murder liberals, why not shoot up a campaign office rather than a church" was an actual endorsement of shooting people is still out there and lying to people about what I said.

ogre said...

Bill, Bush's plan to export Democracy is a very Liberal notion, is a neocon wingnut talking point. Drop it, will you?

Show me the list of countries that the US invaded to install democracy into under liberal governments.

The idea that democracy could be, can be, should be shared with the rest of the world is simply a form of evangelistic fervor. But there's a shitload of difference between sending missionaries to preach the One True Politics and imposing it, "Convert or Die," at sword point. And that really is not far off what the neocon ideology (where it actually gives a shit about the belief and practice of the subject states of the American Empire it embraces) has attempted.

Very Different Things--even if nominally with the same objective.

I just think the United States is the vanguard and we're leading the way despite failures and mistakes.

Cool. I wasn't clear that Manifest Destiny wasn't extinct, but I think that's a bona fide sighting.

I think that there was a time we were leading. It's certainly possible that we might again. I think that the very thing that seriously calls into question the idea that we have been leading--or are in any position to lead--are things ranging from a governmental policy of violating human rights coupled with a terrified acceptance/acquiescence to torture as policy to a blind, pig-headed assertion that the Merkan Way of Life circa 1980 is some kind of right and good thing that we're entitled to no matter the consequences.

The rest of the world looks at those actions, attitudes and consequences... and doesn't think "oh yeah, we wanna be like that!"

But I guess it matters a great deal whether the vanguard is leading by attraction and moral example--or simply by a healthy dose of Might Makes Right and White Man's Burden.

Joel Monka said...

Black conservatives who are against affirmative action- and there are more than you think- resent the fact that some people look at them and wonder if they really derserved their position or not.

I have a similar emotion in this election, which is why I did the "just stop it" post- CC nailed it: "** And I don't know that many Republicans will be thrilled to tell their grandchildren that they voted AGAINST the first black president because they didn't like his stand on taxation."

This will be the ninth Presidential election I've voted in. To date I have voted for 6 Republicans, 2 Libertarians, and 0 Democrats. But to many Obama supporters (not pg, who acknowleges the lifelong conservative), the facts above are meaningless. I've even been accused of making it up as an excuse to vote against the black man. (How's that for logic? He said if I was really a UU, he knew I wasn't a Republican, so I must be a racist. It didn't occur to him that if I were really a UU, I wouldn't be a racist, either...)

Yes, there are people for whom race is the deciding issue- although I still can't see that someone that purist would like a candidate with a daughter of color, and a running mate with a mixed race husband. Be that as it may, yes there are racists. But there are also people voting for Obama strictly on race, too. And those who want to be a part of history. Given the way things have changed the last few decades, I believe that the latter motivations outnumber the former, making his race a net asset.

Bill Baar said...

Show me the list of countries that the US invaded to install democracy into under liberal governments.

I think Wilson set us on the path with his 14 points speech when he concluded,

An evident principle runs through the whole program I have outlined. It is the principle of justice to all peoples and nationalities, and their right to live on equal terms of liberty and safety with one another, whether they be strong or weak.

Unless this principle be made its foundation no part of the structure of international justice can stand. The people of the United States could act upon no other principle; and to the vindication of this principle they are ready to devote their lives, their honor, and everything they possess. The moral climax of this the culminating and final war for human liberty has come, and they are ready to put their own strength, their own highest purpose, their own integrity and devotion to the test.


We're bringing Justice to all peoples and nationalities.

Call me an old Wilsonian.

The list of countries would start with those Democracies created at the end of WWI, and a saliant failure being Vietnam where Wilson ignored Ho Chi Minh, and Armenia where the US refused a mandate despite Gen Harbord's advice.

Bill Baar said...

Someone like Bill Barr who seems to have a personal antipathy to successful Chicago politicians isn't someone for whom the xenophobia is a factor.

Well... the Illinois Senate Dems were meeting Monday night and the booze was flowing and I was drinking right alongside them Monday night on Mich Ave... Obama buttons galore... but don't think this crowd was fooled about BHO. They know everyones biz..most of all their own.

Comrade Kevin said...

If you want to know why we've been behind and second to the GOP, it's because periodically we feel compelled to engaged in pointless discussions like this one.

Concern troll arguments like this one foster nothing but frivolous mental masturbation and as CC points out, takes our eye off the ball.

PG said...

The list of countries would start with those Democracies created at the end of WWI, and a saliant failure being Vietnam where Wilson ignored Ho Chi Minh, and Armenia where the US refused a mandate despite Gen Harbord's advice.

Wilson didn't get anywhere with his 14 points because America withdrew back into isolationism after WWI. Congress refused to join the UN. What role did the U.S. play in creating democracies then?

A much better case can be made for America's role in writing a democratic constitution for Japan after WWII, but it's not as though we fought in Japan in order to bring them the delights of democracy -- we fought there because they had bombed U.S. soil. Japan's lack of democracy didn't bother us a damn bit so long as they stayed on their island. Ditto the reconstruction of West Germany.

If you need to crush a dictatorship that has invaded you or your democratic allies, then by all means, replace that government with a democratic one. But for heaven's sake, don't invade *because* you are bringing people democracy. The natives are likely to find the whole project implausible. Such things must spring from the desires of the people themselves, and then they can be given support by outsiders.

That, incidentally, was part of the problem in Vietnam -- the French were motivated not by a concern that Vietnam would have an undemocratic government, but because they wanted to hang onto their colonial possession. Vietnam had no democracy and self-determination under the French. When Americans showed up to fight, to many Vietnamese it looked more like a continuation of Western imperialism than like the blessed angels of democracy.

PG said...

Yes, there are people for whom race is the deciding issue- although I still can't see that someone that purist would like a candidate with a daughter of color, and a running mate with a mixed race husband.

So far as I know, there was never a law against white people's adopting a child of color, although such a child presumably still would have been expected to use the "colored" facilities. Moreover, the McCains after their experience in SC in the 2000 GOP primary sent out a mailer in SC this year explicitly stating that their daughter of color was ADOPTED. (They also photoshopped the image to make it look like Mother Teresa was walking with Mrs. McCain while the latter carried baby Bridget.) Lots of people who are uncomfortable with the idea of having a black president nonetheless would consider it praiseworthy to have taken in some poor brown baby from a Godforsaken country. This is even easier than George HW Bush's "little brown ones."

The laws against miscegenation also never barred a white woman from marrying a man who was 1/4 Native American. The idea that racism significantly affects people who are one quarter Native, visibly look white, and never lived on the rez is ludicrous. Even Todd Palin's grandfather is unlikely to have faced a great deal of opprobrium even at the time he married a NA woman; Alaska never had prohibitions on such marriages.

In Oregon and Washington State, miscegenation applied to people who were more than 1/2 NA; in Nevada, you could marry a full-blood NA, just not fornicate (have sex outside marriage) with him; Maine, Mass. and RI prohibited marriage with full-blood NAs; SC prohibited marriage with half- and full-blood NAs; Georgia didn't include NAs among people of color at all. Incidentally, I think AZ is the only state that specified Hindus to be among the prohibited colored "races," a reasonable categorization given the Supreme Court's ruling on the subject.

You get the idea. Native Americans have been horribly mistreated in the U.S., but at least in the 20th century there was no sense of their having a racial taint in the way people of African or Asian descent had, where even 1/4 or 1/8 or one-drop made an otherwise white person a "colored." This probably had something to do with the romanticization of NAs by that point in time, as well as the racial theories that figured NAs were just descendants of Caucasians who had gone over the Bering Strait. There was a lot more racial antagonism in the 20th c. toward NAs in Mexico, Central and South America, but not in the U.S.