Saturday, November 1, 2008

Spin Cycle: Why Race Matters

This is my first ever Spin Cycle, hosted by Sprite's Keeper. Being that I live inside the Beltway and worked in DC for several years, national politics are local news in these parts, so I just couldn't resist putting my spin on the elections. So, here goes.

A few weeks ago, former Secretary of State, respected republican, and African American Colin Powell endorsed Democrat Barak Obama for president. This is not terribly surprising, considering Powell has always been a moderate Republican at best, particularly considering Republican candidate John McCain's choice of uber conservative Sarah Palin as his vice presidential running mate.

A fairly good friend of mine who is a republican basically said that the reason Powell endorsed Obama is because they are both African Americans. I think he's using race to minimize Powell's endorsement, and it pisses me off. Here's why.

So, here's the thing. Is it true that African American voters have consistently broken for Obama in all the polls at extremely high levels? Yes, it is. Even if you take into account that African Americans generally break for the democratic presidential candidate, Obama's polling numbers in this demographic group have been staggering.

While I don't doubt race has something to do with these numbers, I do not think is has everything to do with these numbers. It is very exciting for all of us to see a person of color so close to being elevated to the highest office in this country, and I'm sure it is even more exciting if you are also African American. I know when I saw Hilary Clinton's name on the Democratic primary ballot, I cried. I did not vote for her, but just to see her name there, as a major party candidate in contention for the presidency touch me in a way I cannot explain. It is very moving to see a minority group you identify with breaking barriers and succeeding where no others have before, and I have not doubt Obama's candidacy will help to turn out the African American vote.

HOWEVER, There are also two groups that have been consistently breaking for McCain in all the polls. Voters over 65 and white men.

Voters over 65 and white men. Last time I checked, McCain was over 65 and a white man. So, why isn't anyone saying the elderly and white men are only voting for McCain because he's also elderly and white?

Because THAT, my friends, is taboo. And I'm calling bullshit on it. I mean, are you KIDDING me? Yeah, African Americans are casting their ballots only based on race, but elderly folks and white people? They are just using their smarts. Race has nothing to do with it for them. Nothing at all. White people would NEVER support a candidate based on race or age, right, Senator Liberman?

Lets call it like it is - there some old white guys (not ALL, but SOME) who are going to vote for McCain simply because he is OLD and he is WHITE and they feel most comfortable with that scenario as president. And they may never admit this is the reason, but it absolutely, totally is. And just because we don't talk about it doesn't mean that it's not happening.

Like I said, yes, I think Obama being African American will help turn out the African American vote. But I also think African Americans are a diverse voter group and will be voting based on many other issues, include national security, health care, education, choice, and the economy.

So don't you tell me people are only voting for Obama because he's African American. That's just offensive, and not juts to African Americans but to all of us, all Americans who will be making our way to the polls on Tuesday to cast our vote for the candidate who we think will best serve this country.

Feel free to disagree with my politics, but if you think race doesn't matter in this election, you are only fooling yourself. It matters, and it matters to everyone.


Casey said...

Yay, welcome to the spin cycle! I think your point is very accurate. I know several people who lean towards being Democrats and are wishy washy on the election because our candidate is black. I'm even related to (by marriage) someone who is a die hard Democrat and is voting Republican, it's terrible. It's true though, a lot of people are voting based on race, on both sides. It makes no sense to me because we should vote on the issues and for the more qualified candidate. People are immature, this election just drives that point home. Not you, of course. Other people! ;)

Sprite's Keeper said...

Great Spin! I have heard this accusation before too and have felt the same way as you. I hope everyone looks at the campaign strategies and votes for how this election will effect THEM. Thanks, Jenni and welcome to the Spin Cycle! You picked a sticky Spin to start, but great views to back it. You're linked!

Anonymous said...

I also think it's BS to say that Powell endorsed Obama simply because they are both African American.

Powell's endorsement was the most thoughtful and well reasoned piece of rhetoric that I've heard since the conventions. He laid out all his reasons, one by one, on Meet the Press and they were sound. One of his main reasons, was, hello? Sarah Palin.

And you're so right. Old white dudes tend to vote for other old white dudes. Anything else scares them.

Great post!

Anonymous said...

Oh yeah, race matters, just not in the way people are comfortable thinking. Barack Obama is an excellent candidate for president--he HAS to be, he has to freaking FLY to be even considered as a candidate, given that he is black. Same with Colin Powell. Same with any notable black person to speak of--the ones that succeed are the kinds of people who would succeed in any group. White people? Not so much. Sure, there are exceptional people among whites, but you don't have to be particularly exceptional to succeed if you're white. Like John McCain, OK, pretty noble that he let others go ahead of him in being released from POW camp, but other than that? Hardly exceptional. George W. Bush? Hardly exceptional--a Yale legacy and a C student. The only thing, as it turns out, that is exceptional about GWB is the fact that he was able to collapse not only the economy of the USA in 8 years, but also the entire world. He's so colossally bad that it's almost a talent.

I'm rambling but basically yeah, I totally agree with you. And I find it insulting that people say that about Obama. If things were that simple, I'd be voting for Palin because she's a woman--and that's exactly how people like McCain/who are voting for McCain think. So simplistic.

Anonymous said...

I think it goes both ways... there are also people who aren't voting for Obabama simply because he IS an African American. Trust me, I know. I hear it every day where I live.
I think most people vote for who they believe in, and don't take race and age into consideration. The ones who do are just ignorant.
Great post!

Michele said...


In 1921 when women got the vote (which was a fluke mind you)old white guys were sure that we would vote as a block. Because at that time there were more women than men it scared the living crap out of them. In the last 70+ years women have not voted as a block. We vote for who we think will make the best leader of our country. Just as all Americans will do on Tuesday.

Anonymous said...

That's the first time I've read it plainly stated about McCain's voter demographic and about it not being discussed, good angle. I think it's accurate.

It's certainly an exciting time and I'm happy to see that there has been such a turn out at the advance voting booths.

EllenMarie said...

Nicely said Jenni...

Fran said...

Colin Powell the man is a Republican. I'm Demacrate but if Colin Powell would hqave ran a few years back I would have voted for him. I don't go for the race card I vote for the right person who will lead us out of bondage and diliver us to the land of promise.
Great spin

texasholly said...

I totally agree with you because I believe people vote based on how they live their life. They choose the candidate with the closer life experience which often includes race.