Racism and Other Electoral Narratives


“I’m not saying he’s dishonest, but in terms of judgment, in terms of being able to answer a question forthrightly, it has two different parts to this. The judgment and the truthfulness and just being able to answer very candidly a simple question about when did you know him, how did you know him, is there still — has there been an association continued since ’02 or ’05, I know I’ve read a couple different stories. I think it’s relevant.”

Sarah Palin

Porcine Cosmetics

Ahhh Sarah Palin. She’s really the best thing to happen to this election. Because of her, Democrats became alarmed and the Obama campaign raised more money that month than at any other time during his campaign. Obama supporters had a sense of renewed urgency.

For Republicans, the choice became almost comically clear. Vote for someone who can’t put together a proper sentence, and the man who chose her as his running mate, or vote for anyone who can speak English.

The good news is that the Obama campaign is the best well-organized campaign I’ve ever observed. They don’t take anything for granted. They are canvassing in states that the previous two Democratic candidates conceded. The volunteers are passionate and hopeful. And they’ve helped register the largest number of voters in US electoral history. Not bad. Now we just need those people to vote.

An Election Reader

I’ve been getting most of my election info from the New York Times and Los Angeles Times. Most of the articles are spins and platitudes. But I’ve found a few that I recommend.

  • This New York Times article talks about the role of racism in the election. It claims that Obama would get an additional 6% of support if he were a white man. It describes the psychology of aversive racism. To read more click on “Racism without Racists”.

Research suggests that whites are particularly likely to discriminate against blacks when choices are not clear-cut and competing arguments are flying about — in other words, in ambiguous circumstances rather like an electoral campaign.

For example, when the black job candidate is highly qualified, there is no discrimination. Yet in a more muddled gray area where reasonable people could disagree, unconscious discrimination plays a major role.

White participants recommend hiring a white applicant with borderline qualifications 76 percent of the time, while recommending an identically qualified black applicant only 45 percent of the time.

John Dovidio, a psychologist at Yale University who has conducted this study over many years, noted that conscious prejudice as measured in surveys has declined over time. But unconscious discrimination — what psychologists call aversive racism — has stayed fairly constant.

  • To get an on-the-ground look at the role of race in the elections, read this Los Angeles Times article about a white Appalachian community in Virginia. Even though, it’s a heavily Democratic area, many voters will abstain from voting because they can’t get over the idea of a black President. The article looks into how local leaders are trying to get people to vote in their interest rather than their prejudices.
  • For a more cerebral look at the underlying narrative of the election, read “The Real Americans”. This opinion piece describes how the idea of an authentic and inauthentic American has been exploited throughout US electoral history.

By constantly promoting the notion that Republicans are just a bunch of NASCAR fans and that Democrats are effete, the GOP has successfully divided the country not between red and blue politics but between one version of America and another, between the allegedly authentic and the allegedly inauthentic. But in reality, Republicans have only been exploiting a vein deep within the American consciousness. And who can blame them? What Republicans realize is that most Americans always have been desperately afraid of being seen as phony, and they are actively hostile toward anyone with airs

  • I also found this biography of John McCain’s subpar military career very illuminating. Were it not for the fact that his father and grandfather were distinguished admirals, his naval career would probably have ended much earlier. Not only did he finish almost last in his military academy class, he had crashed three planes during training. Here’s a description of one of them.

In his most serious lapse, McCain was “clowning” around in a Skyraider over southern Spain about December 1961 and flew into electrical wires, causing a blackout, according to McCain’s own account as well as those of naval officers and enlistees aboard the carrier Intrepid.

I get the feeling that he has been trying to live up to the lofty expectations of his family name. Much like Bush 2. And he’s shown the same kind of impetuous hubris of a spoiled underachieving rich kid. I’d rather be led by the kid who worked his way up from poverty.

6 thoughts on “Racism and Other Electoral Narratives”

  1. “Research suggests that whites are particularly likely to discriminate against blacks when choices are not clear-cut and competing arguments are flying about — in other words, in ambiguous circumstances rather like an electoral campaign” –

    Is that actually racisim though? I don’t think so. When you are unsure of something in life you tend to head for the safety of what you are most familiar with. That is not necessarily a racist thing, it can be a geographic thing, height thing, fat thing, educational thing, it just so happens that black/white or any color skin is very obvious difference, easily identified.

    This sort of decision making process also goes down in loads of other walks of life, from buying brands, to which bar you drink in and where you eat. That is why chains like mcdonalds work so well.

  2. Hell yes! That’s discrimination. I’m not saying that it’s wrong. BO is a ‘gift’ to America to let her see what she’s created. The product of two outstanding parents who were leaders in the academic field. He’s here to put front and center that fact that America is no longer black and white. It’s a melting pot. Blacks, whites, latinos, mexicans, puerto ricans, indians, mulattos, russians, canadians, dominicans are all getting together and changing America’s face to the world. BO is the perfect leader. He’s a biracial child that has been forced to see the world different. That experience gives him a broader view than most and it’s what eating JSM’s ass up right now. He only knows how to talk to “white” people that no longer rule the world. Mr. McCain is a dinosaur whose time has passed. Let BO lead us into the future. Just think how great the world will be in eight years!

  3. omgdidisaythat,

    the article does make a distinction, describing this sort of subtle unconscious racism as ‘aversive racism.’ nevertheless, it’s still racism, discrimination based on race, even if it’s not consciously done. if you discriminate based on those other categories, it’s another ism altogether. i agree, that it could be quite natural to make choices based on the familiar. but we need to be aware of the choices we make and why we make them. instead of blindly stumbling into decisions we don’t mean to make. cool icon, by the way.


    i agree, Barack is the perfect leader for what America has become, and is becoming. being biracial, and living in multiracial communities, spending time in Indonesia, raised by a single mom, gives him a very wide perspective, indeed. plus he plays basketball!

  4. I will keep my thoughts of both candidates to myself 🙂

    I still do not think it is rascism or another ism, it’s prejudice for sure, maybe we getting caught in semantics here.

    I think that there are so many very complicated issues that almost nobody votes genuinly understanding the issues. This often leaves people voting with ‘whatever is familiar’.

    Ahhh.,… I know I said I wouldn’t, but to be honest I think they are both very poor men as leaders of what is still the most powerful job in the world, and thats good, because neither of them will be, I honestly think that whoever is president will, as bush before him, do exactly what he is told to do by those who have paid for him to be there. I think the difference between black and white in America is very small compared to difference between normal people, and their leadership. The leadership is class all of its own.

    So, in the end I think it will, in practical terms make no difference to anyone who is in power. An attack of Iran will happen if it is planned anyway, so will the passing of more budgets/bailouts and the death of the dollar.

    Wind – most people are too scared to see what is happening to America, so they will continue blindly stumbling in to decisions that condemn them and their fellow Americans to a poverty they can only begin to imagine.

    Fear and racism have always been close bedfellows, but while they are not connected, it is time to get in there and show there is nothing to fear, so no chance of racism growing can occur – its my hope.

    Franknitty41 – I hope BO does not win, it will be a disaster for you and every other black American. The country is in such a mess, that even if he pulls of a herculean effort and gets everything right, these next years will be very tough years, and you know what they will say then…. “put a black man in charge and look what happens” … thats the polite version.

    Better to let McCain win and kill the republicans and that old white school mentality from politics for good when he commands the country on it’s way to a 3rd world nation.

    I have real pity in my heart for the people of America; I hope that one day your faith that someone like BO can show what America is/can be is fully vindicated Franknitty41.

  5. Nah, No matter who wins I know that my real destiny is not in their hands. God has given me the authority to govern my own life and that’s the only acceptable thing for the wife and I. No matter the reasoning for not wanting BO to win, it’s not based in right thinking. Blacks can’t consider NOT being great to appease other races or for fear of what they might say or think. Greatness is within every man’s grasp and BO ought to take it and ride the hell out of it for as long as he can. He’s inspired people and made them believe that all things are possible. No matter what. Greatness is NOT an option!

  6. omgdidisaythat,

    well, i agree that Obama will be inheriting one of the crappiest eras of american history. and he’s certainly had to be perfect during his campaign. the double standard is astounding, but not surprising.

    yet, he has the opportunity to achieve greatness, because of how low the US is sinking. i think of Lincoln who presided over the Civil War, and Roosevelt who presided over the Depression AND WWII. and they both came out of it as heroes. they reached greatness. i think Obama could be made of the same stuff.

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