Sunday, September 09, 2012

Living out the consequences of our racial history

This chart from Talking Points Memo shows the racial make up of the segments of the electorate that Mitt Romney and President Obama are currently attracting. That is, current polls indicate that Romney supporters are 91 percent white, while President Obama's are more diverse, though whites are still fully 66 percent of his adherents.

What I find most significant about this picture is that, if the face on the right (the President's) were not Black, most likely those percentages wouldn't change very much. A white Democrat, male or female, would find support from a coalition whose racial make up and diversity had a similar shape. At this point in history, it is impossible to imagine a Republican standard bearer who was not white -- or any Republican attracting a significant share of the Black or Latino vote.

This simply is what each party's base looks like -- and what those bases would almost certainly look like if there had never been a Barack Obama. One party has chosen to hang on for dear life to an image of who is a citizen that derives from the demographic and social past; the other, however imperfectly, strives to lay the groundwork for our inevitably diverse racial and social future.

TPM's explanation of its chart quotes from National Journal reporter Ronald Brownstein about how the racial divide between the parties plays out in the election this year.

Team Romney has set a target of 61 percent of the white vote, according to reporting by Ron Brownstein. It won’t be easy.

“If he reaches 61 percent among whites, he would equal the best performance ever for a Republican presidential challenger with that group of voters: Dwight Eisenhower in 1952, Ronald Reagan in 1980, and George H.W. Bush in 1988 each won between 56 percent and 61 percent of white voters, according to polls at the time,” Brownstein reports.

… As for Romney’s effort to capture the presidency with so little support from minorities, he is fighting the inexorable demographic changes that are diversifying the electorate as a whole. “This is the last time anyone will try to do this,” one Romney adviser told Brownstein.

This election, and its aftermath, will be about how anxious white voters -- "Romney whites" who will make up nearly 50 percent of the total electorate -- come to terms with the change in the racial make up of their country. The last few years have been ugly. The ugliness has been much exacerbated by the President's Black skin. But the two party's divergent views of our future are not only a response to one individual Democratic leader who is African American.

When the President is re-elected in November as seems likely, perhaps more of us can come to terms with the inevitable. We are a racially diverse society. Choice doesn't come into it.

1 comment:

Classof65 said...

I am excited and am looking forward to seeing more diversity in our government. It will sure beat a bunch of old white men in suits either too large or too small for them dictating policy to a population that considers them obsolete.

I wonder if the Mitten can even use a laptop...

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