Monday, January 07, 2019

Disturbing Reality

Although mainstream media during the presidential campaign often quoted Donald J. Trump condemning immigration, it rarely acknowledged that voters perceived a dramatic difference between the two parties on the issue of ethnicity generally. In a piece carried a few days before being named a New York Times columnist, Slate's Jamelle Bouie quoted two impolite, politically incorrect, honest political scientists who had noted

In 2016, the presidential campaign focused on issues tied to racial, ethnic, and religious identities and attitudes. The two candidates took very different positions on those issues, and voters perceived those differences. People’s attitudes on these issues were then ‘activated’ as decision-making criteria and became even more strongly associated with white voters’ preference for Clinton or Trump.

Voters were aware of this in 2008 (and earlier). However, as Bouie notes, Barack

Obama won a portion of whites with negative views of blacks. The reason has everything to do with the campaigns. Obama didn’t emphasize race or speak explicitly on racial issues. Neither did Mitt Romney. Race mattered, but white racial views—and white identity—weren’t as crucial to the outcome.

Irony, then, rears its ugly head.  Bouie realizes

After embracing the Republican congressional agenda, Trump can’t run on building infrastructure and protecting retirement programs. But he still has racism. And another campaign of racial fear and resentment—against another Democrat trying to shore up their racial justice bona fides—sets up another election where white voters are polarized along their racial views. This doesn’t mean the presidency is out of reach for Democrats—the midterm elections show there are other Americans to mobilize and win—but the “Obama-to-Trump” voters might be gone from the party for good.

One possible implication of all of this is that black candidates may have the strategic advantage in the Democratic primary. Not because they’ll automatically win black voters, but because they won’t have to demonstrate the same social solidarity. Like Obama, they can stay somewhat silent on race, embodying the opposition to the president’s racism rather than vocalizing it and allowing them space to focus on economic messaging without triggering the cycle of polarization that Clinton experienced.

Although this is insightful, and probably reflects reality, a reasonable person can be forgiven for wondering why black Democratic presidential candidates "can stay somewhat silent on race, embodying the opposition to the president's racism rather than vocalizing it...." "White candidates," Bouie understands, "will face the additional task of demonstrating social solidarity—of showing that they understand the problems of racism and discrimination and empathize with the victims."

We can recognize a double standard rather than condoning it.  

News flash: a Democrat cannot run on the national stage circa 2016-2020 without at least rhetorically understanding the problems of racism, discrimination, and victimization of minorities  (video below from Mischief Night, 2015).. There is no Democrat who has advocated building a wall between Mexico and the USA, maintaining "mass incarceration," rolling back any of the gains made by minorities in the country, or even suggested that a police officer who has shot an African-American may have done so unavoidably. None.

The news media bears partial- but not full-blame.  As Bouie notes (with his quote marks), Hillary Clinton emphasized "structural racism" and "implicit bias," met with Black Lives Matter, described "police violence" as a force that "terrorizes communities," and in other ways stressed her "solidarity" (my quote marks) with marginalized groups. The candidate she defeated, Bernie Sanders, now also is expected to prove his racial bona fides.

The media should not give to any candidate based on the inherited characteristic of race a pass on the biggest issue(s) in the last presidential election, as Bouie understands is likely. Doing so constitutes privilege- and it's not "white" privilege.

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