Wednesday, May 14, 2008

On Racist Democrats and Clinton


A widely circulated clip of Saturday Night Live shows Amy Poehler playing Hillary Clinton. At one point in the sketch, Clinton proclaims that she is the better Democratic candidate because her supporters are racist.

How funny the gag seems to you probably depends on how accurate you think it is.

Clinton’s win yesterday in West Virginia (67%, vs Obama’s 26%) is being played up as a victory based on race. Two out of ten white WV voters polled admitted that race was an important factor in their vote. Eight out of ten of these voters said they voted for Clinton.

Elsewhere in the nation Clinton has polled well with white working-class voters, while Obama has polled well with black voters in all economic brackets.

Friends had warned me not to vote for Obama because regrettably America remains a racist nation on the whole, and since whites still outnumber blacks, a black Democratic candidate is sure to lose to a white Republican.

How do I feel about this?

I can understand why blacks might vote for Obama and whites for Clinton without taking into consideration factors other than whether the candidate’s race matches their own, especially since the two candidates’ stances on most issues are closely comparable.

I’m only a little surprised that today a large number of Americans still feel kinship with people whose skin color most closely resembles theirs.

It may well be that the racists were right all along in saying that humans respond to racial cues naturally and instinctively.

It may well be that we Americans have been acculturated to be superficial in the choices we make—whether by racial typing or by responding to packaging and branding in the products we consume. We do, after all, live in a society where Image Is Everything.

America has an educational system based on multiple-choice items—we pick the “best” answer among a number of preset options, based entirely on easily observable external features of each option—through a process of elimination, not critical thinking.

As a people, we lack creativity and the ability to devise positions on our own—from scratch, so to speak. We accept the limits of choice given to us at the shopping mall and the voting booth and then make our choices on the bases of feeling and easiness, not on analysis of available evidence and mulling things over.

In politics, dress, celebrity endorsements, hot button issues (gay rights, abortion, etc.), age, attractiveness, religion, family, gender, and race provide “short cuts” taking the place of real thinking about the direction our country’s leaders take.

Racism, then, is just one symptom of the nation’s overall imbecility.

It may well be that the Republicans will win in November. The more Democrats try to second-guess the Republicans, the more like the Republicans they become.

Fearing to lose the “white” or “religious” or “homophobic” vote, Democrats often hypocritically appeal to the same prejudices and fears that the Republicans do—and the voters are equally vulnerable to appeals to their worse natures.

Most Americans will vote for the real Republican instead of the Democrat wearing a Republican mask.

What I like about Obama is that he tries to appeal to the public’s better natures. He may not succeed—and it’s possible that the appeal is insincere and purely tactical.

Still I like the openness and directness that he speaks for.

I’m tired of the second-guessing. If Americans (even Democrats, white and black) are racists, let that fact be clear in the record.

Make the racists, bigots, misogynists, homophobes, and haters show their ugly faces in public.

If this nation is evil, mean, and ignorant, it’s probably for the best that we come out in the open about it. Concealing the problems behind political correctness and plausible deniability will only make the problems worse.

We won’t solve the problem of racism in America by mimicking the racists or by manipulating their ignorance and fear.

Whether we can win votes this way remains to be seen.

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