Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Race and the 2012 Election: Just what is going on?

I never believed the post racial narrative of 2008, but I didn’t expect the venom of the Tea Party and their hideously racist signs.I consoled myself with the fact that this kind of virulent racism is largely confined to older white voters and that in 20 years (or less) this ugliness will pass. (Unfortunately, I probably won't be around to see it.)

However the 2012 election has made it painfully clear that this is not just a problem of overt Tea Party racism. Something else is going on. According to an Associate Press poll:

Racial attitudes have not improved in the four years since the United States elected its first black president, an Associated Press poll finds, as a slight majority of Americans now express prejudice toward blacks whether they recognize those feelings or not.” The poll also found an increase from 2008 when 48 percent of Americans expressed implicitly racist attitudes compared to 51% in 2012.

And although the Democratic Party is certainly not free of racism, today’s virtually all white Republican party is "full of racists," as Colin Powell's former chief of staff Army Col. Lawrence Wilkerson told MSNBC's Ed Schultz: :

My party, unfortunately, is the bastion of those people -- not all of them, but most of them -- who are still basing their positions on race. Let me just be candid: My party is full of racists, and the real reason a considerable portion of my party wants President Obama out of the White House has nothing to do with the content of his character, nothing to do with his competence as commander-in-chief and president, and everything to do with the color of his skin, and that's despicable.

The uptick in both implicit and explicit racism helps explain some of the puzzling aspects of the 2012 campaign such as the dramatic shift in the race after the first debate. How did that debate change the trajectory of the race so much so quickly? Salon’s Joan Walsh’s speculates:

Still, it’s worth asking (even if we don’t have answers) why Obama’s first debate performance seemed to have hurt him so badly with white voters, and particularly white working-class men. My hunch is that apart from racism or cultural distrust (which certainly exist), working-class whites are more affected by whether Obama seems ready to fight for them.


I don’t understand how anyone who read the transcript of the first debate would conclude that Romney’s lies and inconsistencies trumped Obama’s more thoughtful responses, but of course nobody reads the transcript. This was all about who best projected leadership and apparently most people saw Romney’s manic posturing as dynamic leadership.

My explanation: deeply (and in many cases not so deeply) buried assumptions about white superiority are still an unfortunate part of the American psyche. My guess is many white people (particularly white men) over 50 boarding a plane would have a twinge of anxiety at hearing that their pilot was black and my guess is that it might be more than a twinge if they learned their pilot was a black woman. I think Romney tapped into the fear that maybe a black guy just wasn’t up to the job and fixing the economy required a white knight in shining armor.

The crazy belief that Obama cannot speak without a teleprompter is held by Tea Party fanatics but there is something more subtle at work with some white voters. Melissa Harris Perry wrote about this in 2011 in her nation column, “Black President, Double Standard: Why White Liberals Are Abandoning Obama.” She acknowledged that crude Tea Party racism is now mostly confined to the political margins, but that Obama’s re-election bid, however, “may indicate that a more insidious form of racism has come to replace it:”

The 2012 election may be a test of another form of electoral racism: the tendency of white liberals to hold African-American leaders to a higher standard than their white counterparts. If old-fashioned electoral racism is the absolute unwillingness to vote for a black candidate, then liberal electoral racism is the willingness to abandon a black candidate when he is just as competent as his white predecessors.

Perry compares liberal/ progressives’ responses to the Clinton and Obama administrations. Her focus is on progressive response to the president, but her comments I think have broader application:

[President Obama’s] record is, at the very least, comparable to that of President Clinton, who was enthusiastically re-elected. The 2012 election is a test of whether Obama will be held to standards never before imposed on an incumbent. If he is, it may be possible to read that result as the triumph of a more subtle form of racism.

I think Obama’s record is far more impressive than Clinton’s, but agree with Perry that Obama has been held to a higher standard and this (at least in part) explains the sudden, dramatic shift on the part of the electorate after the first debate .

If Obama wins, let’s hope that the double standard Perry describes finally begins to fade away.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

It will be easier to get through the next 2 weeks after the Oct 22 Presidential Debate!

It will be easier to get through the next 2 weeks after last night’s presidential debate. The president was forceful, convincing and Romney was in an “etch a sketch” mode. This guy has real contempt for the voters. Does he think that we don’t remember he was taking very different positions a short time ago? We will soon find out if the voters have Romnesia and vote for someone who has no core beliefs and values.

If there is any consistency in Romney’s positions, it's his refusal to accept that the world has changed. One of Obama’s best lines was:

"You mentioned the Navy, for example, and that we have fewer ships than we did in 1916. Well, Governor, we also have fewer horses and bayonets, because the nature of our military’s changed. We have these things called aircraft carriers, where planes land on them. We have these ships that go underwater, nuclear submarines."

Obama also reminded Romney that the Cold War's been over for 20 years:

But Governor, when it comes to our foreign policy, you seem to want to import the foreign policies of the 1980s, just like the social policies of the 1950s and the economic policies of the 1920s.
See full transcript.

Robert Reich had ( from my point of view) one of the best assessments of the debate:

I thought the third and last presidential debate was a clear win for the president. He displayed the authority of the nation's Commander-in-Chief -- calm, dignified, and confident. He was assertive without being shrill, clear without being condescending. He explained to a clueless Mitt Romney the way the world actually works. Romney seemed out of his depth. His arguments were more a series of bromides than positions -- "we have to make sure arms don't get into the wrong hands," "we want a peaceful planet," "we need to stand by our principles," "we need strong allies," "we need a comprehensive strategy to move the world away from terrorism." This has been Romney's problem all along, of course, but in the first debate he managed to disguise his vacuousness with a surprisingly combative, well-rehearsed performance. By the second debate, the disguise was wearing thin. In tonight's debate, Romney seemed to wither -- and wander. He often had difficulty distinguishing his approach from the President's, except to say, repeatedly, "America needs strong leadership."

Also Dick Polman got it right:
[Romney]was so woefully over matched in last night's foreign policy debate that he couldn't even get his geography straight. At one point, he said that "Syria is Iran's only ally in the Arab world. It's their route to the sea." Wow, that's quite a revelation, given the fact that Iran has its own route to the sea, courtesy of its own 1000-mile coastline. But President Obama didn't rout Romney merely because the challenger can't read a map. Obama easily won the debate for four reasons: He called out Romney for lying, he educated Romney on basics of national defense, he listed Romney's long string of foreign policy flip flops, and he enjoyed the many moments when Romney endorsed administration policies.

But will the voters get it? Despite the president’s strong performance, I’m still scared and still nervously checking Nate Silver is still predicting an Obama victory and as of today is giving the President a 70.3% chance of winning. I’d be in really bad shape if it weren’t for

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

The October 16 Debate-- the President is Back on Track!!!

I’m trying to remember if I was as stressed out in 2008 as I have been this election cycle. Probably not. Whenever I got worried I went to and Nate Silver calmed me down. The cure worked this year until the Denver debate and Obama’s poll numbers plummeted. He is still the projected winner but his lead seemed to narrow each day. For first time I really faced the prospect that he might lose.

I was in a state of high anxiety the day of the second debate. I was one of the few people who did not think that Obama’s performance in first debate was anywhere near as bad as most political commentators claimed; also, Romney’s manic spewing forth of lie after lie did not strike me as a great performance. Yes, Obama failed to point out Romney’s lies and yes he seemed tired and disengaged, but the transcript of debate creates a very different impression than the videotape—Obama’s thoughtful answers vs. Romney’s inconsistencies and prevarications.

The Biden/ Ryan debate lifted my spirits but it didn’t seem to produce a lift in the polls and the brief euphoria I felt after the VP debate quickly faded.

Oh what a difference last night’s debate made!!! The president was back on track,and once again the leader who inspired so many of us in 2008 and who has delivered for us in office.

Yesterday was very good day—Obama won the debate and the Supreme Court ruled that early voting could proceed in Ohio.

I slept well last night—no waking up in the middle of the night worrying about the election. The president is back on track to win this one!!!

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

It's time to move the plants back inside!

My sunroom uncluttered by plants

My sunroom last year after I crammed in all the plants

One of the household chores I really detest is moving all the plants back into the house before the first frost. I’ve really gotten to like my little sunroom with only one jade plant. But I can’t put it off any longer.

I used to think that when I was retired I’d get a head start on this loathsome chore and have all my plants back indoors by mid-October. Well, it hasn’t worked out that way. I’m just starting in mid October! I am even more behind schedule than I was during my working years.

Each year when I try to cram my plants back into the house, it gets harder and harder. Some have become enormous and I’m going to have to hack away at them if I’m ever to get them back inside. Our little sunroom is the only place we can put some of the really gigantic ones and soon there will be no room for us in the sunroom. I love my plants but this is really getting out of hand!