Monday, November 12, 2012

If you're a Self...then please vote like one.

Like me, you may have been fascinated on election night by CNN senior political analyst John King's virtuoso command of his demographic map of reds and blueseven if the red state/blue state dichotomy, as framed by the media (and seemingly accepted without protest by people who should know better) is a ridiculous (albeit expedient) fraud

Anyway, as the returns came in, I was struck by the phenomenon evolving in Alabama and Mississippi. (It wasn't unexpected, but I was struck nevertheless.) When I looked up several of the precincts/parishes highlighted on King's map, I discovered (as also expected) that these were some of the most poverty-blighted communities in so-called White America. I cannot be persuaded that philosophical reasons drove these people to line up uniformly behind Romney and the GOP; which is to say, these voters weren't worried about the capital-gains tax or even Obamacare (except to the extent that the latter term has Obama in it). Indeed, I'd bet that many among this constituency live their lives without health insurance and thus, all things being equal, would avidly support the rationale behind Obamacare. So what really underlies their diehard GOP voting preferences?

Part of it is religionwhich is to say, their tunnel-visioned concept of religion. They long for a world devoid of faggots and baby-killers, because, see, "that's what Jesus wants," too. Even though there are far more references in the Bible to good will toward others, to caring for the poor, to being your "brother's keeper," etc., these Southerners fixate on the hot-button issues that Karl Rove taught conservatives to sing from the rooftops. But there's another part of it, too...

...and that part is their blind rage at the fact that there's a black man in the White House who is eating dinner instead of serving it. Some of these good folks are still fighting the Civil War, and to prove it they'll vote against their own self-interests as well as the interests of their blameless kidskids whom, by the way, they'd never dream of aborting or even contracepting*, but will bring into the world in mass numbers and doom to a life of poverty, subpar health care and even premature death.

But let's move away from the Mason-Dixon Line, shall we? Can it be sheer coincidence that fully 88 percent of those who voted for Mitt Romney were white? Or as Slate puts it, descending only slightly into hyperbole:

"The GOP bubble remained as tight as ever: Only white people voted for Mitt Romney."
So I ask myself: If it weren't for the white (racist) vote, how bad of a drubbing would Romney have received last Tuesday? Would the electoral skew have been more like 400-138? (There are 538 EVs total, and by now we all know that a candidate needs 270, a simple majority of half-plus-one, to win.)

BUT...the story isn't over. At this point.I am forced to confront a related/corollary question, to wit: If it weren't for the black racist/Hispanic racist vote, how much less support would Obama himself have?

Please forgive me the dreadful (unintended but recognized pun), but I am astonished at the media cynicism that allows people like King (and Blitzer, and Prancer) to simply accept this turn of events at face value without calling a spade a spade, as it were. By accepting identity politics, and discussing it in casual, matter-of-fact terms, we implicitly legitimize it. If CNN were doing a story about a hospital that refused to treat blacks, would it simply say, "Well, that's life"? No. The scandal would be the headline story for days if not weeks, or until further details on Petraeus' affair became available.

If you follow politics at all, you know that arguably the biggest takeaway from last Tuesday is that politicians and parties must learn to court the Hispanic vote. Naturally, political strategists and pundits think the preferred way to do this is with a Hispanic candidate. (Was it even possible for the talking heads to say "Marco Rubio" more than they did this past week?) But why so? Are Hispanics that shallow and bigoted? Similarly, in my local paper today, a spokesman for the Lehigh Valley Latino community laments the fact that Hispanics have no one to vote for who "looks like them." Huh?? It's permissible to say this openly in America 2012? I wonder what more striking reproach/rebuke there could possibly be to Martin Luther King's line about "content of character."

Remember this: When we are talking about divisive concepts like race, gender and religion, you can not be pro-A without being anti-B.
  • If you are pro-woman in a monolithic kind of way (i.e. if it singularly benefits women, you favor it, straight on down the line), then you are also anti-male.
  • If you are are anti-white.
  • If you are are anti-non-Hispanic. (Immigration-reform notwithstanding, I imagine that there must be Hispanics who voted for Obama because, "OK, he's not Latino, but his skin is darker than a white man's, so he's more like me..." I find that more disturbing than I can even express, especially if it's passed down from parents to innocent children, a la Mississippi above...)
So let me say it straight out: If you are black and you voted for Obama in part because he's black, then shame on you, that is racist. As racist as if you voted against him because he's black. (There's no such thing as positive racism, folks. It all flows from the same well.)

Needless to say,  if you're a woman who lives in dreamy anticipation of the first female president, because you think "the time has come," then I'd urge you to rethink that sentiment. The time for a female president will come when a female candidate who thoroughly deserves the office for every reason except gender steps front-and-center in the national dialog. If you were part of the constituency who voted Obama in 2008 because you thought "the time had come" for a black president, then you were wrong to cast your vote in such a manner. I admit that I was part of that constituency, and I admit that I was wrong. The time had not come. If I didn't think Obamathe man, not the romantic mythdeserved the office, I shouldn't have voted for him. Even if I'm glad I did.

Let me be offer one caveat here. If people are organizing into a voting bloc because they believe in an important social idea/ideal that happens to benefit a given demographic identity, then that's not necessarily some kind of ism. If you believe that women are paid less than are men to do the same work, and if that is the most important problem on your radar screen, then that belief surely justifies voting for a candidate who pledges to rectify the imbalance. However, there should be no reason why that candidate needs to be female. (Have we forgotten that it was Lincoln, a white man, who freed the slaves?)

To put this in personal terms, I am white, and I was born into an Italian family. I do not look to  support candidates who are (a) white and/or (b) Italian. Hell, if I found myself supporting a candidate named Joe Convolucci, you'd better believe I'd second-guess myself and play devil's advocate, questioning my stance until I was satisfied that such support did not flow in the slightest from "ethnic pride," which or course is also ethic prejudice. See prior post on the subject.

Just as employment discrimination is illegal (at least when we're refusing to hire someone), it should be illegal to vote against a candidate due to race, though of course there is no practical way to enforce such a statute. Of course, it should also be illegal to hire someone because of race, though affirmative action laws have muddied those waters, too, in myriad cases.


OK, so maybe some of you still haven't quite figured out why this post deserves a place on my blog; you think it's just a warmed-over post-election rant. Here's the thing: The kind of group-think that results in racial- or ethnic- or gender-based decision making is exactly what today's so-called self-help encourages and catalyzes. Under the guise of "actualizing" you, self-help, through its bullet-pointed, formulaic, one-size-fits-all dogmatism, does exactly the opposite. It reduces all of humanity to a common set of traits and behaviors that supposedly bode for success (wait, let me rephrase...that supposedly guarantee success in today's post-LoA world). Though it never stops selling individuality, it implies that the path to success is found in conformity: 7 Steps, 10 Secrets, 5 keys, and so forth. "Do this, get that.""Why be you when you can be this other thing and do even better?"

Self-help further assumes that success itself is the sort of generic, cookie-cutter phenomenon that distills to the top three or four responses to some poll question asking, say, "What makes a person successful?" While it is true that most people will enjoy the greatest odds of a stable, reasonably successful (in mainstream terms) life if they embrace the tried-and-true, it is beyond dispute that society's greatest advances (pick a realm) have been born of iconoclasm and rule-breaking and a refusal to hew to tradition: "the road less traveled." In short, society is moved forward by people who are true to what they need to do, and damn the torpedoes, not people who bend their very natures to the will of some homogenizing puppet master.

These peoplelet's call them True Selvesrefuse to bear the labels society would foist on most of us.

These people...

...are not black or white or Hispanic.
...are not Christians or Jews or Muslims.
...are not men or women.
...are Don, or Beth, or Tom, or Amanda. Period. Their respective histories began when they were born, and not a moment before (determinism doesn't apply here). And they'll be damned if they'll let anyone diminish them by cataloging them.

I invite your responses, if any.

* it ought to be a word, if it isn't.


Pasquale di rago said...

Hi Steve; I hear what you say, but believe it may be too idealist for some. Yes it would be nice to Follow M L King and view each other via the content of their character, but in a real world how likely is that.

Perhaps there is value in pointing it out, but then you have to consider the audiance you are preaching to.

I don't know who actuallly reads your blog, but assume it is people like me who have an interest in a more balanced sane existence, one not dictated to by the whims of bigots and extremists you get on some of the Media, but all I can say is that unless it can be stopped in the Home there is little chance that people will move beyond surface appearances.

I hope you continue to point out our failings and do reach as wide an audiance as possible. But somehow feel that my comment about being too idealistic stands firm.

There is a German word "Weltschmerz", which probaly describes what I mean, when I read you post.

I hope that Obama will go on and do what is necessary and benefical for not only Blacks and Hispanics, but for all people no matter where. Oh and let's not forget the environment.

Cheers Pasquale (A fellow White Male Italian) not that that means much.

Anonymous said...

So it doesn't occur to you that "whites" might have common interests that account for their voting patterns that have nothing to do with racial prejudice? If I honestly believe that the government has no idea what it's doing in giving away my hard-earned tax dollars to the undeserving and lazy, and that the programs that administer those efforts are horribly run and wasteful, that makes me racist?

Please THINK, man, before you post this kind of name-calling nonsense!

Anonymous said...

Roger, sane governments take care of the disenfranchised poor for the pragmactic reason that they are aware of what happened historically when the differential between the rich and poor became too great. (Very bloody revolutions in the case of France and Russia)
Sane governments fear a growing mob of disenfranchised poor as that mob is always more powerful than any vested capital interest,
read up on some revolutionary theory--the US is not so exceptional that it is immune from the political forces that have historically shaped our world.

It is not idealism that underpins the quasi-socialist governments that are functional, it is pragmatism and a wish for those governments to survive and have some longevity themselves. A fairer(it is never unilaterally equal) society just works better for all.

RevRon's Rants said...

Sigh... Where to begin...

I have to agree that racism - by both blacks and whites - played a significant role in the last two presidential elections. President Obama has certainly been both the beneficiary and target of what is probably the most blatant racism I've seen in my 60-odd years on the planet. Therefore, it comes as no surprise that responses to many of the initiatives he endorses are also couched in racist stereotypes (Yes Roger, including yours). And as long as we continue to deny that such a phenomenon exists, we will not move beyond it.

No large group can realistically be portrayed as having anything resembling a uniform collective agenda, simply because no uniform label can apply to all members of any demographic. The very implication that all members of any group share a singular objective is a clear statement of tone's racist inclination.

I voted for Obama - twice - not because he is black, but because he seems quite intelligent, reasoned in his thinking, and motivated toward the improvement of this country. His opponents simply didn't manifest the same qualities. His race was and is a factor to me only to the extent that I get a chuckle out of the apoplectic reactions to him that are manifest by so many who so vehemently claim not to be racist. Black dude makes the veins in their heads pop out. Cool. :-)

I find the strawman categorization of recipients of government benefits as being "undeserving and lazy" to be not only inaccurate, but offensive. Since General Electric is one of the largest single recipients of government largess, despite the fact that the company is highly profitable, I would probably consider it to be undeserving, but lazy? I'm a veteran who has worked all my life, and never once accepted any form of welfare. I will be retiring next month and collecting Social Security and seeking VA healthcare benefits, paid for with my own tax dollars, as well as others'. Am I therefore lazy? Undeserving? Well, I AM white.

Finally, I can't help but wonder how the significance of the tale of Christ's feeding of the multitudes might be changed, had he distributed the fish and loaves only to those in the crowd whom he deemed worthy. But then again, I guess he DID distribute the food only to those who were worthy.

Anonymous said...

I want to be sure I've got this straight now. Because I have the politics I have I'm not "sane", and I'm a closet racist anyway, and I'm not Christian either? You guys are too much. Talk about being close-minded!!

Anonymous said...

poWiker 38Roger, speaking as an outside observer I don't care what your politics are or how racist you might be, but all empires crumble and the US empire is currently in that process.

It don't look too pretty from this side of the pond--we had our own 200 year reich that crumbled but we didn't make the mistake of tearing ourselves apart while it was happening.

Get a grip and start looking for solutions to the problems of an imploding empire-- you are on the wrong side of history

RevRon's Rants said...

Roger, to be completely fair, I cannot equivocally state that you are a racist, per se, since you don't directly address the issue of race. With your blanket judgment of all recipients of government assistance as being undeserving and lazy, however, you do pretty clearly identify yourself as being a classist, which is not really that different from being a racist; the attitudes are identical, even as the targets of scorn might be different. If you also believe that the recipients of the largest amounts of our tax dollars (such as my example of GE) also fall within your definitions, you should probably be more clear in stating so, and be willing to defend your statements with more than a huffy dismissal.

Secondly, I for one have never questioned your sanity or made any statement that you are not a Christian. I do note, however, that your stated attitudes toward those who receive assistance are in diametric opposition with the lessons taught by the Christ (again. per my example). If you find my statements inaccurate, please feel free to point out and address the inaccuracies.

Dimension Skipper said...

I found the following NPR article interesting even though it doesn't really say anything much I didn't already know. It mainly discusses atheism and the unlikelihood of such being elected (if the person's atheistic views are made known) anytime soon. It also touches on general inter-group dynamics and perceptions. I figure it goes well along with this SHAMblog post:

Would You Vote For An Atheist? Tell The Truth
by Tania Lombrozo (November 13, 2012)


A 2007 poll of American adults found that only 45 percent would vote for a "generally well-qualified" presidential candidate nominated by their party who happened to be an atheist. The numbers were considerably more favorable for hypothetical candidates who happened to be black (94 percent), Jewish (92 percent), women (88 percent), Hispanic (87 percent), Mormon (72 percent) or homosexual (55 percent).

In another national survey, respondents considered how much members of various groups agreed with their "vision of American society." A whopping 39.6 percent indicated that atheists agreed with their vision "not at all," eschewing moderate options like "mostly" and "somewhat." Respondents chose "not at all" less often for every other group considered, including Muslims (26.3 percent), homosexuals (22.6 percent), conservative Christians (13.5 percent), Hispanics (7.6 percent), Jews (7.4 percent) and African Americans (4.6 percent). When it came to welcoming a potential son- or daughter-in-law, atheists faired even worse: almost half of respondents (47.6 percent) would disapprove if their child wanted to marry an atheist.¹

According to researchers Gervais, Shariff and Norenzayan, the driving factor behind anti-atheist prejudice is
distrust. Many people see religion as the foundation for morality, with supernatural surveillance and the promise (or threat) of an afterlife as crucial mechanisms for keeping people in line. Without belief in God, the reasoning goes, what's to keep someone from lying, stealing, cheating and general chicanery?

In a set of clever experiments, the researchers found that atheists were trusted less than the average person, less even than gay men (who are themselves distrusted relative to "people in general"). Atheists were more strongly associated with dishonest behavior than Christians, Muslims, homosexuals, Jews or feminists. Only one tested category didn't differ significantly from atheists when it came to distrust: rapists

Are atheists, in fact, less moral? Most philosophers agree that religion isn't necessary (and, perhaps, isn't even sufficient) as a foundation for morality, a perspective advocated in a number of recent books, such as Greg Epstein's
Good Without God, and in a prize-winning op-ed by philosopher Louise Antony. Some argue that atheists are more ethical, not less. Regardless of the argument, the empirical evidence isn't entirely clear.

Priming people to think about religious concepts like "God" and "divine" can make them act more altruistically. But priming people to consider secular institutions like "civic" and "jury" has the same effect.

Additional findings tell an equally nuanced story. But when it really comes down to deciding whom to trust, people tend to go with their gut² — not a careful assessment of the peer-reviewed literature in philosophy and science.


¹ So I guess there's still a significant ratio of Archie Bunkers to Meatheads out there.

² Bold emphasis mine.

Dimension Skipper said...

P.S. Just stumbled across THIS a few moments ago—a map of 2012 election results by county with a red/blue dot representing 100 votes one way or the other, also merged & shaded such that purple = about a 50/50 mix if I understand correctly...

This is the most accurate American election map we’ve seen yet
io9 article by Robert T. Gonzalez
Map by datavisualization expert John Nelson

Anonymous said...

It is totally unfair to imply there's no such thing as an ideological conservative. We believe that society works best when people have the motivation to reach down inside themselves to solve their problems. We believe that handouts except when absolute necessary create dependency and lack of intitiative. We believe in limited government and that it's not up to Washington to decide how to turn our income into charity. We can give to charity if we want, and many of us do. In fact I saw a recent study showing that republicans are far more likely to be big charity donors that liberals. And when it comes to the notion that conservatives only feel the way they do because they're rich, what about the Kennedy clan and Obama himself? There are plenty of rich democrats especially in its biggest bastion of support, Hollywood.

Your post is based on cliches and generalizations and they don't apply. Conservatives are "selves" too!

Steve Salerno said...

Hey Anon (6:33), not sure I'm buyin' what you're selling, but I like the way you did that! Well put.

RevRon's Rants said...

No need to be defensive. I don't see this as an attack on conservatives, but rather upon the delusions so many of us hold at the core of our judgment of others. While it is our nature to cleave to those who share (or at least to share) our histories, cultural makeup, or even appearance, the intelligent thing to do is to recognize these tendencies and avoid allowing them to weigh as heavily as more reasonable elements when choosing friends or representatives.

And bear in mind that the evidence that some tend to describe as being the products of laziness or unworthiness may just as likely be borne of circumstances beyond one's own awareness, much less understanding.

Jenny said...

Ahahaha, you're all just bad clich├ęs. Wait. Count me in, too. Who else could it be? A "self" is born, not made. :)