Thursday, September 18, 2008

So, what happens when people quit talking about Palin's personal life and focus on her record?

Obama starts winning again.

And I substantially agree with what Joel has written here about the claims the McCain is winning through "White Privilege," with "white privilege" being defined as "being a flawed human being who uses dirty, but effective political tactics."

Of course the Obama campaign fights dirty, too. But that's not "playing the race card" or anything, I take it.

I'm not voting for McCain, but I'm pretty offended by the entire "If my candidate isn't winning, it must be because people voting for the other guy are racists" line of thinking and not just because it's so incredibly illogical given the voting record of the country over the past couple of decades, though that is the primary reason*.

That said, I think what bothers me most is how defeatist it is.

Obama's not getting whiter before November, kids. If racism is going to decide this election, it's over.

Of course, it's not over, we're even ahead as of this writing, and I, for one, would like an ACTUAL VICTORY more than a MORAL VICTORY for once, despite my maschochistic habit of voting for Democrats.

So can we quit talking like we've already lost?

CC

* Also because I have a fundamental objection to the entire "Anybody can be called a racist at any time. A racist is a horrible, inexcusable thing to be and there's no defense from the charge at all, no matter how you've lived your life, what you've done for other people and who your friends are" way charges of racism are generally leveled. Around the time that I was called a "self-hating reverse racist" and a regular "racist" within the same month I kinda got over it personally, but it still violates my sense of justice. Of course, lots of things do.

19 comments:

Bill Baar said...

I watched Obama's campaign against Bobby Rush. Obama only won the Irish 19th Ward. So I always get a hoot out this talk about racists voting against him.

When he first started running for Senator he was more popular in white suburban districts than he was in the city among AAs. Bobby Rush was endorsing Blair Hull over Obama and Obama still carried this legacy from the fight against Rush of being a Hyde Park Liberal out of touch with AAs in the City.

Every Dem in Illinois is for him now with the expectations of payback, but he's still considered a bit of an oddity by those who play the Dem Politics game here. And awfully thin skinned in a town where everyone makes a point of being tough.

uumomma said...

I'm just jumping into this, but I think there is a fundamental difference between being ignorant of the idea of white privilege (which I would guess a majority of white people over age 45 are--I have nothing to prove or disprove this) versus being a racist. To me, racism is a conscious act; White privilege is not understanding that the way you experience the world is not the way others do. Correct me if I'm wrong.

Chalicechick said...

Fair enough, on the "not being aware of white privilege" distinction, though Eclectic Cleric's version did go ahead and call it "racism."

But I don't know that you're right that people over 45 don't see white privilege. I don't think people outside liberal circles call it white privilege, but I think if you phrased it something like:

"True or False? All other things being equal, is it's easier to be white in America than black."

A huge majority of people over 45 and otherwise would say "true."

CC

PG said...

I disagree with the idea that there is no white privilege underlying this election. There is a huge difference between "I find this situation less troubling when white people are in it because white people generally have certain resources and lack certain community pathologies that other groups seem to have, so that this situation is less problematic for the white person," and "I am a racist who never would vote for a black person." Most people who think seriously at all about the problems of institutional racism and who understand what "privilege" means do not believe that you can label people as RACIST just because they see differences that track with race.

It's the old Jesse Jackson quote about hating the fact that he is relieved when he is out late at night, hears footsteps behind him and sees that it's a white instead of a black man. Many people who are fighting racism have nonetheless internalized it to some extent.

The claim that white people are OK with all white girls' unwed pregnancies clearly is inaccurate, as demonstrated by Jon Stewart's juxtaposition of how O'Reilly talked about Jamie Lynn Spears's pregnancy versus Miss Palin's. However, because Miss Palin is in a rural area, highly Christian, where girls who get pregnant tend to marry the guy (in contrast to Hollywood, where marriage seems barely optional for having babies together; and in contrast to many black urban communities -- like Chicago -- where ditto). However, there is an intersection of race with the factors that make people think Bristol Palin's pregnancy will be OK, whereas if Obama's daughter were 16 and pregnant, there'd be much more concern.

Finally, I have been emphasizing to a lot of people who seem to see race as an on-off switch -- either it's what dominates someone's mind or it's totally not there at all -- that Obama presents an excellent case study on intersectionality (Kimberle Crenshaw) and covering (Kenji Yoshino).

It's not exactly about race, it's more about Obama's failure to "cover." Compare him to one of the people suggested for McCain's VP, Louisiana Gov. Jindal. Jindal was born Hindu and named Piyush, with parents who were Democrats. By the time he graduated from Brown, he was a Catholic named Bobby and he has aligned himself with the GOP. He's a Rhodes Scholar who went to college and grad school out of state and was not athletic, but he noted LSU's victory when inaugurated as governor and used their colors and mascot (against the school's request) when running for governor. He has assimilated himself as much as possible with the majority of Louisianans (Catholic, conservative, sports-loving).

If Obama had understood the need to cover in order to be accepted by many Americans, he would have taken his mother's maiden name and a Europeanized first name. We wouldn't be seeing Barack Obama, but Barry Dunham. He wouldn't have attended a church that preached black liberation theology; he'd be at First Baptist.

The visceral disinclination to vote for Obama, from people who would have voted for Clinton and know that their policy stances are almost identical, stems from a differentness that intersects with race but is not purely racial. (The disinclination to vote for Obama from people who are Republicans presumptively is due to his being, you know, a Democrat. I'm not sure why Joel is acting offended like someone personally called him a racist.)

[in response to the claim that Jindal is a victim of racism too]

It depends on whether you think Jindal is less Indian-American, now that he goes by Bobby, converted to Catholicism and does his best to be a bubba. There's no "forced" assimilation here, and obviously none of these things are "immutable." It's not like he's bleaching his skin or pretending to be a very tanned white guy.

As for Ivy League meaning elitist, Jindal's career demonstrates how to deal with that. He lost his first political campaign. Some people ascribed it purely to racism -- Louisianans would rather have a Democratic white woman than a Republican brown man. But I think it had more to do with Jindal's not knowing back then that he needed to mask some of the intelligence that had enabled him to achieve so much in health care policy. The bubbas would accept an Ivy League grad so long as he didn't ACT like an Ivy League grad. (See also Clinton, Bill (you're still expected to GOVERN like an Ivy League grad); cf. Bush, George.) Jindal hasn't lost a political contest since. Football! Yeehaw! Is Jindal less Indian-American for cheering LSU football games instead of watching cricket matches on ZeeTV?

Certain forms of going with the majority are seen as "just good marketing," while others are seen as acceding to racism. Yet Jindal hasn't disowned his race -- he's just zoomed straight into the middle of Louisiana culture, and to the top of its politics. Expect him to take up an interest in baseball and a great fondness for apple pie in 2016.

PG said...

A huge majority of people over 45 and otherwise would say "true."

I don't know if that is correct. A lot of conservatives believe that the effect of affirmative action makes it easier to be black than white. They'd agree that black people *on average* are poorer, etc. but would ascribe that to a lack of personal responsibility, not to institutional racism. In other words, if you're black and poor, it's because you're shiftless, just like if you're white and poor.

The fact that lots of people found David Horowitz's 10 Reasons against Reparations wholly convincing indicates that those people do not believe that there are inherent disadvantages to being black in America. I don't mean that being anti-reparations means you don't see racism -- I'm VERY anti-reparations -- but that Horowitz could say something like, "Black people already have gotten reparations in the form of welfare," and some people would nod along and not think, "Wait, don't white people get welfare too? In fact, prior to the 1996 reform, weren't white people the majority of the welfare rolls?"

(Incidentally, there is a historical correlation between growing antagonism toward welfare and the increasing access of blacks to use the system, though it is difficult to tell how much the correlation was affected by the simultaneous increase in access for never-married women.)

Chalicechick said...

(((I disagree with the idea that there is no white privilege underlying this election.))

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 defeatest thing to be focusing on at a time when defeatism is a really bad idea.

And again, while the "white privilege" post that UUMomma and Clyde put up doesn't call it "racism," I'm also responding to Eclectic Cleric's This is how Racism works post that does.

As for the rest, could you explain the claim that racism is a deciding factor in the race being essentially a tie in light of the fact that at least the last two elections have also been extremely close? If 2004 wasn't a statistical tie (and it might have been,) 2000 certainly was.

About half the country voted for Bush in 2000 and 2004. How are we certian that race or white privilege is a deciding factor in half of the country voting for McCain?

CC

Chalicechick said...

(((A lot of conservatives believe that the effect of affirmative action makes it easier to be black than white. ))

Most of the folks I know who are against affirmative action I think would still say that it's easier to be white in America than black.

I don't think most people who are against affirmative action deny that being black in America is, at the very least highly inconvenient and that it's hard to get a taxi, easy to get accused of shoplifting and that African-Americans have to deal with racism in their social interactions.

They just don't see affirmative action as a reasonable solution to these problems.

David Horowitz is a rather extreme example of a lot of things.

CC

Bill Baar said...

I think the desire for an AA Prez among many Americans is far greater than any racialist opposition to one. There are racists out there but the desire for an AA Prez as a kind of closure to America's past racism is huge. It's more than a a wash and Obama has used it to his advantage.

If you had watched him in local elections in Chicago were there is no such desire at work (although still plenty of racism) it would make more sense.

When he first started running for Senate, it was whites Liberals and Obama's appeal as an AA candidate who wasn't a Reg Dem Org AA Pol that really got him going.

Then Blair Hull imploded (wife beater), followed by Jack Ryan implosion (forcing wife Jeri Ryan --from Star Trex Next Gen into sex clubs) that left a clear path for Obama to the US Senate.

We have plenty of Racism in Illinois but the desire to bring it to closure among many in the suburbs really over came it.

That and a lot of luck is what made BHO.

PG said...

As for the rest, could you explain the claim that racism is a deciding factor in the race being essentially a tie in light of the fact that at least the last two elections have also been extremely close?

Look at how other Democrats did in the recent elections. In the House, 2000 was a wash, 2002 was a big loss, 2004 was a smaller loss. In the Senate, 2000 was a gain (but not enough to hold the majority until Jeffords defected), 2002 was a loss, 2004 was a bigger loss. There evidently was a rejection by voters of what the Dems were selling, up and down the ticket.

In contrast, Democrats took back both houses in 2006 and are looking quite good this year. Genuine conservatives like George Will are pointing out that McCain should run on the virtues of divided government (GOP in the White House, Dems in Congress, yay gridlock!).

Yet Obama polls much less well than the generic Democrat. It doesn't make sense to say that someone is voting on a purely policy preference basis if they like the Democratic Party's policies but not the Democratic presidential candidate's policies.

It's absolutely valid to vote for John McCain if you don't want extra taxes imposed on your above $250k income, don't want capital gains and dividends to lose tax advantage, and don't want the top marginal rate to increase. This is enough to explain my dad's voting for and contributing to McCain -- Dad votes on taxes in EVERY election and he and my mother are well-off, which means he's a Republican.

But if you think higher taxes on the wealthy and lower taxes on the middle and lower classes are a good thing, and so is legalized abortion, more caution in foreign policy and trade agreements, equal rights for gays, limitations on what investments banks can make, more government oversight of the credit rating agencies, a health care plan that covers more Americans... etc., but you don't want to vote for Obama, then it's natural to ask, "What is it you don't like about Obama?"

Almost no one will say, "He's black." Instead, they'll say, "He's elitist, he's not trustworthy, he's a secret Muslim, he is racist and unpatriotic, his wife refers to 'whitey,' he's NOT LIKE ME." And the people who say those things will believe with all their hearts that none of the differences they perceive between themselves and Obama, and that they dislike, have anything to do with race. That's why I keep talking about intersectionality and covering -- Obama has failed to make himself enough like the majority of Americans. In contrast, Congressional Democratic candidates (like their Republican counterparts) tend to be broadly similar to their constituencies, just a little more educated/ monied.

Bill's protests that white people's desire to have a black president will outweigh their concerns about having a president sharply different from themselves seem to be based entirely on Obama's Illinois political career. May I point out that Illinois has voted Democratic in the last 4 presidential elections, has had 2 of the 5 black elected senators in U.S. history, and has a larger percentage of black people than the U.S. as a whole. Estimating what the average white voter will do based on the Hyde Park white liberals who call Bill Ayers friend is not good sampling.

PG said...

Aff. action opponents don't believe that aff. action *remedies* taxicab and Rodeo Drive discrimination against blacks, but they often do believe that it *outweighs* those disadvantages.

Ask someone if they would rather have to spend 10% more time getting a cab than a white person does and be 10% more likely than a white person to be followed in a store; or have a 20% advantage in getting into colleges, grad schools, law review and into jobs or obtaining contracts. I bet most people would suck it up and take the latter.

If you believe that there is a bigger advantage obtained through aff. action than there are disadvantages from skin color, then it is sensible to believe that on balance, black people get more benefit than disadvantage from their race.

Chalicechick said...

First off, I really, really appreciate this response. Thanks!

((But if you think higher taxes on the wealthy and lower taxes on the middle and lower classes are a good thing, and so is legalized abortion, more caution in foreign policy and trade agreements, equal rights for gays, limitations on what investments banks can make, more government oversight of the credit rating agencies, a health care plan that covers more Americans... )))

According to the elections in 2000 and 2004, a majority of people don't believe in all those things, though, or believe that other factors can be more important.

I think calling a presidential election on the basis of a congressional election is tricky stuff and I suspect you're oversimplifying. After all, I thought after the Republican Revolution, Clinton was toast.

Besides, from what I've seen of recent polls, the Democrat advantage in congressional elections is pretty slight at this point and a LOT of Republicans picked this year to retire.

CC

Chalicechick said...

(((If you believe that there is a bigger advantage obtained through aff. action than there are disadvantages from skin color, then it is sensible to believe that on balance, black people get more benefit than disadvantage from their race.)))

Unless you think that relatively few African Americans, and the wealthier ones at that*, get a very significant advantage from affirmative action while ALL African-Americans suffer the consequences of a racist society.

If you accept this logic, Affirmative Action is arguably unfair to a majority of African-Americans as well as being arguably unfair to whites.

I favor Affirmative Action, but I've certainly heard this argument.

CC

* After all, excepting jobs, the very examples you cite, "colleges, grad schools, law review and into jobs or obtaining contracts" are generally the concerns of wealthier people rather than poorer people.

Joel Monka said...

Remember also that the major reason Democrats won Congress back in 2006 was the war- people believed they were going to stop it. In fact, there has been considerable complaint about the fact that they didn't, which led to single-digit popularity ratings.

PG said...

Joel,

Sure, but if people are opposed to the war, what are they doing voting for John "bomb bomb bomb, bomb bomb Iran" McCain? He has planned for a longer term commitment to Iraq than even the Bush Admin has. His VP appears to believe still that Iraq posed an imminent threat to the U.S. that justified the invasion. (In fairness, most war supporters have come up with a different reason by now. My favorite is the "flypaper" rationale in which if Al Qaeda is blowing people up in Iraq, at least AQ isn't blowing people up in America. It's Muslim nations' fault for letting terrorism fester in the first place, so they can bear the deaths necessary to America's squashing it down.)

People who wanted to end the war in 2006 may be feeling better about it now after the effects of the surge, but that seems a bit short-sighted. We had a spike in casualties in September and October 2006, but even before that the Dems were predicted to do well in the election.

CC,

According to the elections in 2000 and 2004, a majority of people don't believe in all those things, though, or believe that other factors can be more important.

Yes, I have said repeatedly that if you don't like the Democrats' platform, your unwillingness to vote for Obama has an obvious explanation. The question is why people who do seem to like Dems' policies (i.e. identify as Dems, vote in Dem primaries for Clinton, say they're voting for Congressional Dems this fall) wouldn't vote for Obama. If Dems fail to win in November, then it's just a sign that the party's policies aren't popular and therefore they deserve to lose. If the Congressional Dems win but Obama loses, it's more confusing.

After all, I thought after the Republican Revolution, Clinton was toast.

a) I'm not relying just on the immediately prior elections; I'm looking at how Congressional Dems are predicted to do this year. In 1996, Republicans lost 8 seats in the House and gained 2 in the Senate (none of which were won from incumbents). That's an obvious indication that Americans weren't necessarily as fond of Republicans in 1996 as in 1994.

Compare to the RCP estimates for this year. In the Senate, they're saying 5 tossups, all of which are Republican incumbents; Democrat Mark Warner with a 23 point lead in VA; 5 leans or likely Dems and 2 leans or likely Republicans. In the Generic Congressional Vote, every poll except USA Today/ Gallup gives the Dems an advantage, with the most recently-taken poll giving them a 20 point advantage.

b) Gingrich & Co. had made themselves unpopular by 1996 due to the federal government shutdown, among other factors. The current Congressional Dems at worst can be charged with inactivity, not with making any particular thing go wrong.

c) The Republicans ran 73 year old Bob Dole, who had been in Congress since 1961 (term limits? wha?) and had no identification with the revolutionaries among the kind of people who still liked Gingrich. Obama, though elected in 2004 rather than 2006, has a strong identification, for good or ill, with the current Dem leadership.

d) Except for one thing: Gingrich had whined that he and Dole had to sit at the back of Air Force One when coming back with the Clintons from the assassinated Yitzak Rabin's funeral. Silly Republican - 0, President Clinton - 1. President Bush hasn't done anything to make himself look better than the Congressional Dems.

e) Clinton had a major policy accomplishment in 1996 (welfare reform) as well as a major knuckling under to conservatives and moderates by signing the Defense of Marriage Act. Republicans raised DOMA in 1996 in order to make Democrats look out of touch with mainstream values; unfortunately, most Dems were happy to disrupt the functionality of federal administrative law and throw gays under the bus. Neither of those has occurred with the Republicans this year -- no big legislation, no compromise of their values with Dems. If anything, the Dems are busy compromising themselves toward the middle by approving some offshore drilling -- and the White House reaction is to say no, it doesn't do enough.

Re: Aff. Action, the jobs part tends to be the one that voters get most upset about (see, e.g., Jesse Helms's infamous "Hands" ad), and it's the one where poor blacks are competing with poor whites. I was mentioning the educational aspect in detail because it's where aff. action opponents also can denigrate the Obamas' accomplishments as suspect due to the existence of aff. action. Sure, first black EIC at HLR, but he just got it BECAUSE he was black.

Unless you think that relatively few African Americans, and the wealthier ones at that*, get a very significant advantage from affirmative action

I suppose it depends on how you envision mobility in American society. My volunteering in NYC is primarily in the educational area and with kids who are college bound, so I do see a lot of low income blacks and Latinos who will benefit from aff. action. This obviously is less true for the schools that are such shitholes they don't even bring in volunteers to help the kids, but for the decent schools serving low-income kids whose parents are nonetheless ready to commit to forcing the kids to show up on time, do their homework, etc., they are pushing their students toward college, too.

However, I may be biased toward education as a factor in economic mobility. My parents got into this country in the first place because they knew English, had college education, and as a physician my dad had skills that were in shortage in the 1970s. He didn't have a pair of shoes until he was 12, now he's a Republican for the tax cuts -- there's the American Dream for you ;-) But considering our economy's move away from blue collar jobs, I think it's reasonable to see aff. action in education as significant even for low income blacks. Given the trend toward the service sector, it will be difficult for them to move their families into the middle class without some higher education.

Chalicechick said...

PG,

In the latest poll I've seen the Democrats are only up three percent in congress.

Meanwhile, Obama's up an average of two points in the polls.

It seems like you're making some pretty dramatic conclusions from a very small difference.

CC

PG said...

CC,

Here's a more recent poll, which says Obama is up 5 but the Dems up 20. That's a significant gap. Also, according to this poll, twice the percentage of McCain voters say they are voting for him because they dislike the other candidate compared to the percentage of Obama voters who say that.

Moreover, someone who doesn't think the gap between the Congressional Dems' numbers and Obama's is attributable to anything about Obama at all -- he thinks it's because of McCain's personal popularity -- still sees the same oddity in the numbers.

This is not just a recent thing; Obama lagged the Congressional Dems all summer.

Chalicechick said...

The poll you just cited is very much an outlier among the polls over the last few days.

Also, I think the two dozen some republican congressional retirements have something to do it.

I would vote for a liberal Republican who is on powerful committees over a freshman democrat unless I thought the balance of congress was literally coming down to my district. Don't you think that when Chris Shays retires, a democrat will get his seat no matter the political climate?

CC

Joel Monka said...

"Here's a more recent poll, which says Obama is up 5 but the Dems up 20. That's a significant gap."

pg, are you saying that if Senator Obama doesn't win 60-40, that's proof of white privilege and racism? Do you have any idea what you're saying? Candidates sweat blood for every point over 43, the "blue dog" baseline. The greatest victory since they started keeping records was Reagan's 49 state sweep, and that was only 58.8% A 60% victory would be a 50 state, 100% of the electoral vote miracle.

Do you really mean to say that if he doesn't get the greatest electoral victory in the history of not merely the U.S., but the entire G9, it must be because of white privilege?

PG said...

No, Joel, I am not saying that the entire margin of an Obama loss would be attributable to white privilege, any more than I would have attributed the entire margin of a Hillary Clinton loss to the patriarchy. Please tell me where I've said that. It could be attributed to many things:
concern about his inexperience and confidence that McCain wasn't going to die and leave the office to someone even more inexperienced;
a preference for divided government;
McCain's deserving the office because he's suffered so much for his country;
even a strategic effort to have dividends and capital gains taxed as regular income, on the rationale that a Democratic Congress wouldn't push this against its president's preference, but if veto-proof on the issue would happily overrule a Republican president. (I forget which conservative columnist put this idea forward.)

People make their voting choices for a lot of different reasons, most of which have no relationship to race. However, I don't hew to the theory that THERE IS NO WHITE PRIVILEGE AT WORK HERE AT ALL. For one thing, there are people who openly stated that their votes for Hillary Clinton in the Democratic primary were driven by a preference for a white candidate. That's got to be the extreme tip of a larger wedge composed mostly of people with no overtly racist intent but with subconscious white privilege.