White Voters Overwhelmingly for Romney: No Post-Racial America

In “post-racial” America we have recently had numerous commentaries, even in mainstream media, about the whiteness of Romney and his “base.” Recently in the Washington Post, journalists Jon Cohen and Rosalind Helderman summarized this discussion, which is likely to increase in temper after the election:

The 2012 election is shaping up to be more polarized along racial lines than any presidential contest since 1988, with President Obama experiencing a steep drop in support among white voters from four years ago.

They point out that late in the 2008 campaign John McCain was only ahead of Obama by about 7 percent (with Obama eventually losing by 12 percent), but in current 2012 polls Romney is up over Obama by a huge 23 percent among white voters. Only 37 percent of white voters have said they will vote for Obama in the recent Washington Post-ABC News national tracking poll. And some analysts have suggested, as of last summer, that Obama needed at least 39 percent of the white vote to win. Thus, they conclude that

The slippage among whites is something of a setback for Obama, who campaigned on bridging the racial divide in his election and has sought to minimize rifts that have arisen in his presidency.

Cohen and Helderman view this as a significant barrier still to Obama’s election, one that will require him to bring out his base in very strong numbers. They seem to think that Romney is a bit ahead in national polls, although yesterday’s polls put Obama slightly ahead nationally and generally ahead (as he has mostly been for some weeks) in the within-state polls in the so-called swing or battleground states. (See Nate Silver’s summaries)

The reasons for this mixed-state-national pattern include not only Obama administration actions benefiting certain northern white worker-voters (for example, the auto industry bailout) but very substantially the fact that voters of color are still very strongly in Obama’s political corner.

As Adia Wingfield and I have underscored (in a book whose second edition will be out in the spring), Obama succeeded in the 2008 election substantially because he got overwhelming majorities of voters of color–two thirds of the Latino vote, nearly two thirds of the Asian American vote, and more than two thirds of the Native American vote. He is polling very well among these groups in 2012 surveys as well.

The Post journalists briefly note the longterm implications of such voting patterns for what is effectively the “white party,” the Republican Party, of the United States:

Dismal support for Republicans among minorities is a long-term problem for the GOP in a rapidly diversifying nation. Fully 91 percent of Romney’s support comes from white voters.

Whatever happens Tuesday, the obvious politicized whiteness of the Republican Party will doom it eventually to permanent minority status, if the dramatic trend to whiteness is not soon curtailed.

With moderate Republicans like Mayor Bloomberg of New York City, former chair of Joint Chiefs General Colin Powell, and Powell’s right-hand man, retired Colonel Lawrence Wilkerson supporting Obama, the handwriting is on the proverbial wall. Wilkerson recently made this strong and barbed comment on the Ed Schultz television show:

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.

Perhaps the most significant aspect of the mainstream discussions of these white voting patterns is how seldom they even note, much less analyze, the centrality of systemic white racism in making sense of the great hostility and organized opposition of many white voters to President Obama. This white racism is not new, nor is it just about some white bigotry–for it signals much more in the way of white racial framing of the society, and of white fears and anger over racial and demographic changes currently underway in the country and likely to be more dramatic in the near future – an argument I have developed extensively in my recent book, White Party, White Government. There, too, I show how, from the beginning of U.S. political parties, that systemic racism has been central to their development, strategies, and efforts on U.S. society.

Even in this “land of the free” and well into the 21st century, there are numerous aspects of our undemocratic political-economic system that are not openly discussed and extensively analyzed in mainstream settings, especially by whites, including most in the white elite. Very revealing, itself.


  1. I gotta give MSNBC credit, though. They do talk about the racist nature of some of Romney’s campaign adverts and supporters like Sununu. They talk about it just about everyday, and not just Rev. Sharpton or Dr Harris-Perry on her weekend show, but just about every program. Chris Matthews near spitting on himself is a sight to see!

    There does, however, need to be greater discussion and examination, even on MSNBC. It can’t be any secret to Republicans themselves that much of their support is based on racism. What goes unexamined sometimes is the racism on the left. Pres Obama was leading in some polls by as much as 5 points up to the first debate. Granted, he could’ve done better. I didn’t watch it myself cause I just had the feeling it wouldn’t go well. But still, the political left just went wailing and crying for weeks like the Egyptians in the movie TEN COMMANDMENTS. After that first debate, you would’ve thought their spouses had left them for their best friends and still got the house, the kids, alimony, and the dog. Just as an example of the racism on the left.

    But in defense of US media, to explain the problem would require more airtime and explication than is available on our commercialized and/or consumer-supported media. It would require explaining that Pres Hoover turned a recession into a depression by tackling the deficit and cutting spending. It would mean explaining that American legends like Rockefeller and Carnegie made their money by unethical means. It would mean detailing the history of union-busting and using the govt to control labor and immigrants as scabs. It would mean explaining that just about every white voter in the South was a Democrat by choice until Nixon’s Southern strategy.

    I want to highlight that white voters in the South voted Democratic by choice just in case anyone decides to argue that Jim Crow made the South artificially Democratic. Sure, you can argue that few whites were willing to support the Party of Reconstruction. But you can not argue that keeping people of color from the polls impacted white voter decisions. If that were the case, that would mean Southern white elites forced lower class whites to vote for Democrats which would, of course, beg the question: exactly when did Southern aristocrats support FDR‘s Democratic party?

    It would mean explaining that even during the 70s, working class whites had it better than upper/middle class people of color, and so that whole notion that blue-collar whites were being ignored was itself based on self-centered whiteness. As for the 80s, the American media would have to cover the breaking news that the overwhelmingly vast majority of voters of color have little regard Pres Reagan.

    It would mean spelling out that most (white) voters are stupid. After all, how can anyone really think Gov Romney’s economic program, Bush 2.0 is really change. Wages and middle-class incomes have been going down for decades. How can this recent low be due to Pres Obama’s economic policies, which, by the way, were more Republican in nature than Democratic? For decades, they’ve admitted to voting against their economic interests. They say it’s because other things like morality (presumably everywhere but Wall St) were more important. So if you’ve been knowingly voting against your economic interests for 30+ years, how can you fault anyone but yourself when the ish finally hits the fan? Oh yeah Susan Smiths, you just “blame the black guy.” Moreover, if government hands were kept out of Medicare, there would be no Medicare!!

    Not done yet, sorry.

    Cause the media would also have to explain that countries with more racial homogeneity have more progressive laws, including labor laws. The US is the only industrialized nation that doesn’t have mandatory paid vacation, paid maternity and paternity leave, or single-payer health care. The media would have to do intensive surveys and interviews that would probably show that the majority of Americans, including the majority of white Americans, actually support progressive ideas when policies are explained. Early research showed higher support for “Obamacares” when the very same programs and ideas were attributed to Pres Clinton rather than Pres Obama. It would mean explaining that for decades, black folks have been trying to tell white folks that laws affecting the economy were all against the “Average Joe,” when we all know most whites would sooner eat their own flesh than acknowledge black people had greater insight than they did.

    So, I can’t blame US media for not tackling such an issue. And I fault white voters even for that.

    Now I’m done. . . I think. No promises.

  2. Maria Chavez


    Thanks for the excellent and timely analysis of racism in this election. It is hard to escape. One cannot even drive around without seeing homemade racist bumper stickers on cars! And I live in a so-called liberal state! I agree with you that this election is significantly about race for the Republican party. Your book White Party, White Government makes a very important contribution.

    For a more humorous take on the election, here is Chris Rock’s message to white voters:

      • You deserve a sabbatical!

        Being a native North Carolinian myself, I’ve learned not to veer my eyes in the direction of bumper stickers. It would take an ‘X’ or an big ‘O’ for Obama for a bumper sticker to catch my attention. I don’t get out much; but for all the Confederate ‘X’s I’ve seen in my lifetime; and the fact that the chairwoman of my county’s Board of Election said in 2008, “At least the county went for McCain”; and, the fact that schools out east banned Obama t-shirts after the 08 elections; it’s hard for me to imagine you haven’t come across an angry white man or ten.

        You must being around the Research Triangle. That’s not a good barometer of NC writ large. Nor is Charlotte, and Greensboro has at least 3 colleges, 2 being HBCUs, so it’s not that great either. If you’re in some small town off I-85 and haven’t seen many angry white men, then I have to say I’m really proud of my state!

    • Joe Author

      Thanks. First time I have seen the leaves change in 44 years:), since I was in Boston long ago for grad school. Now it will be interesting to see how the voting goes today in this ‘swing state’ with its polarized electorate.

  3. Maria Chavez


    To answer your question about examples of bumper stickers, one was “Impeach Chimpbama.” Blaque Swan has the right approach by looking away from bumper stickers!

    It seems Rosie Perez was correct in her UTube video…:) Electoral dominance by the party of white racists is over!


  4. Tina

    Honestly we will always have race involved no matter what the issue is. This debate was really close no one really knew if Obama would get the win or Romney. Many of us belivie Obama is just going to help African Americans out which is not true, he was willing to take from the rich to help the poor or middle class. Romney also had many different beliefs that many people agreed with him on but why get mad at any president? Its very hard to be in office and get major problems that need to be fix done in four years. Therefore all we can do is sit back and pray and hope everything will be okay doesn’t hurt to give Obama a second chance he isn’t the only president that has served two terms.

  5. danistew

    I completely agree with what Tina said. In the end it’s all about race. People favor a race and vote accordingly, It’s not exactly all about who is better fit for the position anymore.


  1. Moving Towards a “Post-Racial” Society? Not Really. :: racismreview.com

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