Wednesday, February 6, 2008

Clinton, Obama: Identity Politics and the Bradley Effect

By Joe Sims

It’s bigger than Iowa and South Carolina. And it’s bigger than New Hampshire and Nevada. The real story on Super Tuesday is that in several states with very small Black populations, Barack Obama got the majority of the white vote. In the Plains states, the deep South through the far West white voters in large numbers stretched out their hands for unity and change. Yes there were exceptions, like Oklahoma and Tennessee, however even in these states, Obama scored twice better than most would have expected, pulling better than the vote earned in South Carolina and tripling what other African American candidates received in previous contests. Remember Jessie Jackson’s seven percent in South Carolina’s caucuses?

Yesterday’s vote was nothing short of historic. It will certainly lay a firm basis for coming contests in Ohio, Pennsylvania, Washington DC, Washington State, Texas, etc. in the coming days and weeks. Voters, Black, Brown, Asian and white, reading the voters patterns and desiring a new direction are likely to join hands in greater unity.

This growing trend makes all talk this morning’s talk of “identity politics” and division particularly nauseating. I swear the capitalist press makes me sick. When the media was giggling about Obama not being Black enough and Hillary Clinton was polling well in African American communities, no one said anything about “identity” being an issue, even if Black women at one point might have viewed her as more electable. And in election after election when white voters, cast their ballots for white male candidates, the issue of “identity” is never brought up in polite conversation.

Now suddenly when a woman and an African American candidate are the two front runners, and both respectively cast ballots for their historically repressed favorites, identity is suddenly a problem.

Even with the injection of racism into the campaign by the capitalist press and the Clintons, this writer does not see the women’s vote or the African American vote on Super Tuesday in negative or divisive terms. Both votes come from profoundly democratic movements and struggles, both votes seek to reverse centuries of denials and despair. The struggle of Black people and women are motivated more by the demand for equality, than by self-definition, which by itself is certainly not a negative. The fight against suppression, not separation is the motivating factor here.

Yet underplayed and seemingly unnoticed in press accounts of Super Tuesday’s vote were the votes of working-class and middle-income white men, widely and stereotypically (to say nothing of wrongly) portrayed as the greater obstacle to racial and gender equality. And it is here that big strides were made not only out on the range and in the plains, but also in the heart of the former Confederacy. In California Obama received almost half the white vote and again in Georgia, 40 percent. And also in California and particularly Arizona, the Mexican American vote was beginning to move. In Illinois of course, Obama won the majority.

Why is this occurring? My guess is that throughout the country voters – disgusted by the playing of the race card – are looking past the politics of division and toward hope and change. The “Bradley effect” was not a big factor – unity was. I certainly can identify with that!

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Joseph said...

Well said. IMO, it just shows one more bonus the country would get from an Obama Presidency. Because after 4 or 8 years with him as President, this racial nonsense (and probably much of the gender nonsense too) would pretty much be put to rest forever.

CV said...

Same is true in CT, a state with an overwhelmingly white and aging population, went for the young black guy. And Democratic turnout was very strong.
Now, if Obama picks Edwards as a runningmate, they've got it locked. CT would have gone Edwards had he stayed on the ballot.