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Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Race To The Bottom

by digby

Chris Cilizza has written another column on Obama's eroding support of "the white vote." He does make sure to include the information that Obama actually won a higher proportion of the white vote than most Democrats, so the erosion in his standing among whites isn't necessarily a reflection of racism.

But this does beg the question. If the administration were to focus on regaining its mojo among white voters, what are the policies that white voters are unhappy about and everyone else is fine with? Are they related to race at all and, if not, then why is there a difference between whites and the rest of the country? Class? Social strata?

I'm genuinely curious about this. I don't know how the White House is supposed to respond to concerns of "white voters" without understanding this and if it has nothing to do with the fact that they are white, then I don't think it's a very useful way of delineating this cohort.

On the other hand, if white voters tend to gravitate toward one party, while people of color gravitate toward the other, is it strange to question whether race and ethnicity might have something to do with it? But none of these discussions of "the white vote" ever seem to do that. Indeed, it's almost as if such a question is out of bounds because it implies that race might have something to do with why people of different races vote differently. It's very odd.

And speaking of which, Sarah Palin's comments yesterday deserve a little comment:
HANNITY: You know, Governor, you have been one of the strongest, most outspoken members in support of the Tea Party Movement. I've met a lot of members, organizers in the Tea Party Movement. I've been at some of their rallies. I've witnessed it up close and personal.

Members of the NAACP are going to vote tomorrow on a resolution that condemns what the group calls — the NAACP — explicitly racist behavior by supporters of the Tea Party Movement.

Wanted to get your reaction to that.

PALIN: Yes. This is some typical divisive politics that is so absolutely unnecessary, especially at this time of turmoil within our country. Turmoil when you consider the state of the economy and so many other challenges that we are facing. This is just so unnecessary.

No, the Tea Party Movement is a beautiful movement, full of diverse people, diverse backgrounds. Folks of all walks of life who, for the most part, happen to oppose President Obama's policies. Not the color of his skin. They don't care that he's half white or half black. It has nothing to do with the person's skin tone —

That's an unusual way of putting it don't you think? It's true that his mother is white, but Obama identifies as black and most Americans accept that and see him as black. And people these days don't normally think of themselves or others as "half" anything, what with the old unpleasantness about having "drops of negro blood" and all that. Now Palin may very well not be aware of all that --- in fact I'd be shocked if she had any idea that the way she put that is freighted with some other meaning. But it does reveal that she associates with those who are very well aware of what that means.

Certain people commonly refer to him as "half black" and they do it for a reason. People like Ann Coulter:

Barack's really been kind of coasting on his record, since his first big accomplishment of being born half-black. I keep hearing people say, "Oh, Obama could never be elected because he's half-black. You know, 'cause we're just such a racist country." What are they talking about? He wouldn't be running for president if he weren't half-black. He'd be Dick Durbin with less experience.
It's basically an affirmative action slam, saying that Obama's a white guy who has used his "half blackness" to unfairly go to the head of the line. And it's also a way of "explaining" why he seems like a nice well-behaved fellow, even though he has that dark skin. He's half white, you see. It's just another whine about the victimization of poor white guys like Rush Limbaugh who are being marginalized by reverse racist phonies like Barack Obama, who get all "the goodies:"

It is clear that Senator Obama has disowned his white half, that he's decided he's got to go all in on the black side, and therefore, I think -- I saw this endorsement. Bill Richardson, who has -- grab sound bite 22. Bill Richardson, showing up with a goatee and a dangling mustache, like Fu Manchu with the beard -- with a little goatee there. And that's not by accident, ladies and gentlemen.

You know, there's a big argument in the -- between the Hispanic community and black community over who is the official American minority, because the official American minority gets the goodies.
And this:
It is offensive to the sensibilities of millions of people to hear a member of State-Run Media refer to a half black-half white human being with no experience running anything of substance referred to as a god...

Couple people with an e-mail: "Rush, that was great, why did you have to refer to Obama as half black and half white? You know everybody's going to focus on that." I intend them to focus on it. Remember the context. Evan Thomas said he was above America, above the world, he's a god. Barack Obama is a human being. He is not a god. I was simply trying to, shall we say, emphasize that proclamation by describing his humanity.

That Palin would use this particular description in this particular discussion is revealing. Nobody other than right wingers with racist baggage describe him that way. I give her a break simply because I don't think she's sophisticated enough with language to necessarily know what she's saying. She often parrots what she hears without knowing the sub-text.

The fact is that race is a construct. Most of us are of "mixed race" to some degree and certainly most African Americans are. But society still makes the distinction pretty clear. As Obama himself pithily put it:

"You know, when I'm catching a cab in Manhattan in the past, I think I've given my [black] credentials."

It's more than a little ironic that the very people who are so explicit about his racial make-up being "half-black" are the same people who make that "credential" still carry so much weight.