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.