Friday, November 2, 2012

White Like Me: Romney's Not-So-Secret Weapon

Some news sources have been discussing the narrowing of the "gender gap" in presidential polling this year, which is awfully surprising given that one candidate signed an equal pay for equal work measure into law on his first day in office, and the other represents a party full of Bible bangers obsessed with controlling women's bodies.

One thing we're not hearing much, however, is that the erosion of the "gender gap" might be greatly explained by the growth of the "race gap."  In Florida, for example, Romney leads by 30 percentage points among white without college degrees, despite Romney's support for policies totally antithetical to the economic interests of the working classes.  This matches the numbers across the South, where in 2008 Barack Obama won 98% of the black vote and 11% of the white vote in Mississippi.  The gap is getting bigger, and as Chauncey DeVega at WARN has pointed out, Romney is gaining among white voters even after losing two debates!  There seems to be an implicit, lizard-brain notion among many white people that Romney is inherently more worthy of being president because he is white like them.  Charles Blow's recent blog backs up that interpretation with poll numbers that show a significant chunk of (white) voters who think Obama is more trustworthy than Romney, but will be voting for Romney anyway.  That, my friends, is white privilege at its most fearsome.

Occasionally some public figures just come right out and say what they're really thinking in regards to the fact that Romney is white like them.  Take for instance Thomas Friedman, that oracle for suburban businessmen who are too busy to actually formulate real thoughts about the global economy.  He recently commented that many (white) voters decided for Obama in 2008 out of the novelty of having a black president, and are now willing to try "something new," as if Romney is in any way "new." The subtext was clear: "it was an interesting novelty to have a black president, but now let's give the White House back to the type of person who really belongs there."  Sarah Palin's "shuck and jive" nonsense came out of a more overt dehumanization of the president via his race.

I'd long known that voting for Obama put me in a minority as far as white males were concerned.  Obama won only 41% of white male votes, and this was considered a "strong" performance.  It now looks like Romney is leading among white women as well, and, as I have mentioned, is getting a lot of support from the white working class.  When you think about the numbers, it's a little crazy that only 41% of white men voted for a candidate who won a decisive election, and that in the the last month Obama has polled as little as 32% of white men.

I'm proud to be a part of that 32%, but I am saddened by the implications of the numbers, since they confirm my pessimistic gut instincts.  White men are fiercely guarding their privilege, and despite his outright lies, constant flip-flopping, and lack of any specific policy plan, Romney is still one of their own, and Obama is not.  I can only hope that that enough of what Harvey Milk called "the us people" show up to the polls to counteract the aggressive defense of whiteness.

No comments: