In the rush to credit the nation’s demographic changes for President Obama’s victory on Tuesday night we might be missing another far more important point. The population segments that comprised the President’s voting bloc had specific and fairly clear reasons to support his re-election.
For women, there was the issue of pay equity, preservation of self-determination over their bodies, and resentment toward Republicans who continually showed disrespect and utter contempt toward our mothers, sisters and daughters. Latinos were tired of being treated like interlopers when it is clear that they contribute greatly to the nation’s economic well-being and cultural diversity. The President gained the lion’s share of votes cast by Asian-Americans because they too were incensed by the manner in which they were characterized as some model robotic ethnicity by conservatives and quite a few of Chinese heritage were probably also sick and tired of the demeaning caricature of their homeland. Young voters saw in the President the prospects for a brighter future rather than the politics of division they saw in the rhetoric of the Republican nominee and decided that hope was a far more powerful incentive to vote than hate. Our gay brothers and sisters felt relief that a President finally and formally recognized their humanity by ending a policy – “Don’t ask, Don’t Tell – that however well-meaning was demeaning, and was uplifted when the nation’s leader stated that government had no business dictating love and relationships.
While it is assumed that Black voters cast ballots for the President out of racial solidarity, that analysis is also misguided and shortsighted. Racial unity might have been a rallying cry for African-Americans but many could point to the President’s efforts on behalf of the auto industry, a segment that was partially responsible for the emergence of the Black middle class, his leadership on health care and the First Lady’s resolve to tackle childhood obesity and the administration’s efforts to reduce the burden of loan debt on college students. African-Americans, who were also overwhelmingly opposed to the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, also credit President Obama for his resolve to end U.S. involvement in both conflicts. It was also not lost on Blacks, as well as most of those who favored the President, that he inherited the current economic crisis from a predecessor who was reckless and irresponsible in the manner in which he let private industry run hog wild.
The racial split in the electorate voting in this presidential election that has become the talk of mainstream media is no real racial split at all. What occurred was not racial stratification but white male alignment behind a white male candidate. The President garnered support from all segments of the American family. Mitt Romney’s candidacy was buttressed by white male desperation. In other words, they voted for the white guy. The economic anxiety we so often heard about had little to do with the voting preference of white men as we are being led to believe. If that were the case their support of President George W, Bush would not have been as strong as it was during his presidency. The real motivator was their refusal to honor the legitimacy of an African-American President and their inability to accept the intellectual equivalency of a Black male in a leadership position. It wasn’t even about Mitt Romney. Any white candidate running against Barack Obama would have been supported by white male voters. It was apparent by the chatter on social media and comments made in the mainstream media that the overwhelming majority of white men could not reconcile an Obama presidency and by extension a Black family takeover of the White House.
This is an important point to consider because the depths of racial reaction should not be underestimated. It has serious repercussions not just in our electoral politics but in the workplace, on college campuses, in newsrooms, police stations and in classrooms across the country. The inability of white men to come to terms with their own racism has deep implications for equity since white men still dominate positions of power in private industry, the not-for-profit sector and academia. Rallying around the obviously flawed candidacy of Mitt Romney, whose white male primary opponents ridiculed his fitness for office was the real moment of racial unity in this presidential election. The stark differences in the racial and gender composition of the crowds of supporters at both candidates’ campaign headquarters on election night told the story. It was the America of the future at the Obama celebration as opposed to white male mourners at the Romney wake.
When this election is reflected upon 200 years from now, and people of color are a strong majority, and successive Latino, women, Asian, gay and Black Presidents have served, it will be a source of introspection that white men were so fearful of relinquishing their privileged position against a nation bountifully blessed and the model of the truly free world.
Walter Fields is Executive Editor of NorthStarNews.com.