Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Prejudice in the Polls: Racism is Alive and Well This Election Season

Conservatives are quick to discount racism in this current race. Claims that Obama is the victim of racism, and that this systemic racism is hurting his poll numbers, are thrown out as conspiracy theories–as though America has somehow moved, en masse, beyond the age of racism.

I beg to differ.

While there may be some truth to these claims–and while the Obama campaign should not use this as an excuse for poor polling, and still look for ways they can improve their numbers despite any inherent racism–there is more often than not an emotional, over-the-top quality to these accusations. Obama may very well be justified in saying that racism, should he lose, played a major part in that. Similarly, Hillary was correct that sexism did indeed play a part in her loss. Sexism and racism are not remnants of a dark and distant past. Things have improved, but not so much as we’d like to believe.

For instance, my wife and I, along with our daughter and my in-laws all went to dinner at a small Mexican cafe last night. My father-in-law brought along one of his friends, a car mechanic. They had been working on rebuilding an old VW bug, and showed up late. My daughter is getting her molars, and as such was in a foul mood.

In any case, we ordered, began eating, and inevitably the conversation turned to the elections. My wife is a definite Obama supporter. My in-laws, life-long Republicans who have never voted Democrat, are both leaning toward Obama. See? There are, in fact, Republicans for Obama. They feel very dissolusioned with the current administration, and, like me, with the McCain campaign and the man himself. My mother-in-law has been a long-time fan of John McCain, but she says she barely recognizes candidate McCain.

We’re all Arizonans. We know McCain. We’ve all voted for him. He spoke at our local college graduation. But yeah, this guy campaigning for President is like a stranger to us. I’ve staunchly supported McCain until the last couple of weeks, when I realized what a foolish, betrayal of a choice Palin was for the GOP ticket. I feel absolutely slapped in the face by the Palin choice.

And I said as much at dinner when we were discussing the Friday debate and the upcoming VP debate. Predictions around the table: Palin will tank, but Biden will come across as an ass. No winners. Only losers. Kind of like Friday night.

In any case, my father-in-law’s friend finally spoke up when I said I was disturbed by Palin, and said, basically that Obama also has very little experience.

True, I said, but picking Palin betrays McCain’s commitment to national security. It puts to lie everything he stands for, because she just isn’t ready to be President.

Well, says he, neither is Obama.

Okay, I say, but he seems to at least understand, to grasp the fundamentals of geopolitics better than Palin, who can barely get her words into coherent sentences.

McCain will keep our country safer, he says. We’ve got nothing without our freedom.

Now this is an old line, commonly brought up when Republicans want to defeat Democrats–with the Dems perceived as weak on defense–so weak, even, that we might lose our very freedom if we should elect them. Of course, this has never happened, but it seems to be the perpetual threat associated with electing Democrats. I personally think Obama will take a Clintonian foreign policy approach–plenty hawkish. But certainly not as experienced as McCain. McCain has tons of foreign policy knowledge–an impressive, encycopedic understanding of our relationship to other nations.

And up until the Palin pick excellent judgment. Now I’m back to undecided.

But not the gentleman at the table, who then launched into a speech about Obama only ever having worked in the Black community for Black people and how that’s all he’d do as President, only ever doing anything to help Them.


This, to me, is racism. Plain and simple. Maybe I’m sensitive to it because I have black friends, or because my siblings are adopted and Asian and have been subjected to racism often. Note, he’s not complaining about any white candidates who have, more than likely, spent most of their careers around white people, helping white people. That’s not an issue. But Obama having worked in a community that was Black seems to be enough of a disqualifier.

So of course what ends up happening is my wife and the mechanic get in a big debate. To my wife, Obama has been the more honorable of the two. To the mechanic, Obama is a liar and a cheat. To him Fox News is the only honest news station. CNN, he says, lies.

As a professed moderate, a defense conservative, a social liberal, I have to say this: All politicians lie, and all media is biased. Including CNN and Fox. Including McCain and Obama. I mean, I’m an environmentalist but I don’t believe in global warming. I’m a free-market guy, but I believe in smart oversight. I prefer low taxes when and if possible, but I think some brand of universal health care is ethically and morally essential. With this many conflicting beliefs and ideologies, I find very few pols or media outlets that reflect MY worldview. It’s pretty easy for most of us to see that these people and organizations have agendas. It’s harder when they reflect our own agenda so perfectly.

Now, my wife is no fool politically. She’s sick and tired of the Daily Show because she thinks it’s far too liberally biased. Then again, she can’t stand most of what she watches on Fox because it’s too conservative. So the mechanic claiming that she was naive and that he subscribed not to any ideology but to “the truth” was laughable to me. When anyone claims ownership of “the truth” you can bet that the debate has little distance left in it. What’s the point?

So here we are with a guy who claims Obama’s entire agenda is based on helping Black people and only Black people; who thinks Palin is perfectly ready to step in and take over; and who thinks Fox News is speaking the Truth.

If I were talking to an Obama supporter who believed McCain was an evil neocon, that MSNBC was the Truth and Keith Olbermann the harbinger of said truth, and who thought that Global Warming was the number one issue in the race (and that war could be solved through loving more) I would be just as disgusted.

These extremists do nothing for us. I want more passion to come from the center. I believe in using logic to determine what’s best for this country. Not scripture, not unwavering ideology, not racism or homophobia, not emotive hatred of war or the illogic of the green-movement and their scare tactics. When you peel back the agenda, the fear-mongering, the irrationale of the peacenicks, you start to see that there are reasons for everything.

There are legitimate reasons to worry over an Obama presidency and legitimate reasons to worry over a McCain presidency. It has become less and less clear which is more worrisome after the VP’s were chosen. At this point I feel like neither candidate brings much to the table.

One thing that will most certainly play a role in this election is racism. That’s just a fact, and it’s obvious when you begin talking with people. Agism will also factor in. It does for me. I think McCain could die in office. The likelihood is higher due to his age.

For me, that means a Palin presidency, and I’m not sure I can vote for that possibility.

~cross-posted at NeoConstant