Conservative Prediction Romney will Lose: RP Too Heavily White

Henry Olsen, vice president of the conservative American Enterprise Institute, has a very detailed statistical analysis of the polls and predicts that President Obama will win tomorrow. He presents a detailed argument on no less than the National Review online, the programmatic heir of a racist white conservative tradition started by William Buckley, Republican intellectual and supporter of Jim Crow segregation and South African apartheid.

Olsen accents the extraordinary whiteness (especially southern whiteness) of the Republican Party and the 2012 vote, with an omission of the long historical context that other analysts of politics and racism like me have provided, but his conclusions are fascinating and must be very disturbing to Romney’s loyal base. He, not surprisingly, does not dig into the systemic racism of the past or present that lies behind his statistical figures.

He concludes much like more scholarly analysts with detailed historical and contemporary analyses that no matter the result, the Republican Party is in deep trouble:

Win or lose, we are in the twilight of the Age of Reagan. Romney’s efforts have almost recreated the Reagan coalition, but in today’s America that is no longer enough. To prevail in 2014 and beyond, the Republican party will need to learn to adapt its principles to new times and new voters. Echoing Rabbi Hillel, Reagan summoned conservatives to action with two related questions: If not us, who? If not now, when? We must take on this challenge anew as we undertake our rendezvous with destiny and remake the conservative majority Reagan bequeathed to us.

By new voters, he means the voters of color who are likely to make up more than a quarter of tomorrow’s voters, and increasing percentages in the future.

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.

Observing Racism in Texas: The White Frame Again

I feel frustration and disgust when I hear racial epithets and see stereotyped images of rage thrown at President Obama during the pre-election period. Political cartoons worse than Thomas Nast’s nativist drawings appear almost daily in regional newspapers and on Facebook pages in south Texas. Pictures dominate the Internet depicting him with ape like features and some with huge ears and crossed eyes in awkward positions. Letters to the editor are filled with lies and hate about Obama with pledges to vote him out of office. Racist jokes and snide remarks are repeated in social settings, as well. Full – length ads in newspapers depict him as a socialist enemy and someone who is important to eliminate. What is happening to our society?

The Republican Texas Legislature wants to suppress voting with what Gilberto Hinojosa, the Texas Democratic Chairman, says is modern day poll tax and modern day Juan Crow laws and, “Republicans say to the Hispanic Community: Here’s your border wall: show me your papers now: and the dreams of your youth are illegal.” Furthermore, Texas Governor Perry says he will not honor President Obama’s decree opening educational opportunities to thousands of undocumented young people. Hinojosa says what keeps Texas Republicans up late at night is that Hispanic Texans make-up 28% of the eligible voter population, and that percentage keeps growing. And overwhelmingly Hispanic voters vote Democratic. He also points out that in a short time, Texas will change from a red state to a blue state because of these demographic changes.

In the past few weeks, Lubbock has experienced a high level of vandalism targeting Democratic yard signs. Hundreds of Obama signs have either been stolen or marked with the letter N, some wrapped with double chains, others sprayed with mustard or shot. This past week a Hispanic young man waited late at night to capture the vandals on his video camera. A group of young white men saw him and chased him in an attempt to take away his camera. Then he was assaulted. The following is a film of the event captured on camera and released by the police.

Gilberto Hinojosa is appalled at this behavior and says that while sign stealing is not unusual, what has happened in Lubbock is a violent statement and is racism. Racism, “we also saw when an Austin man lynched a chair after the Clint Eastwood talk at the RNC.” It drives voter suppression as does Voter ID laws that disproportionately disenfranchise voters of color. The Republicans deny that the vandalism and hate crimes are happening. They say the Democrats are doing it themselves. However, it is interesting that last week’s non-partisan AP poll found that 79% of Republicans harbor racist views, compared to 32% Democrats.

Voter suppression is happening in other southern states. Is it a coincidence that the same red states are those that were confederate states 150 years ago? In these same states, Jim Crow laws and violence prevented minorities from voting until 1965 when Congress passed The Voting Rights Act. Now Republican state governments are pushing to rescind the Voting Rights Act, they say is no longer relevant. However, George W. Bush enthusiastically approved its renewal a few years ago. Why are Republicans now against it?

Considering the AP poll above which points out that negative racial attitudes have failed to improve the past few years and could manifest in policy we definitely should renew The voting Rights Act (1965). To understand why this is happening and we continue to see racism in this society, we need to look at the history of the “White Racial Frame.”

The “White Racial Frame,” according to Joe Feagin, is the manner in which whites view themselves, and was firmly set with the founding of this country. With the history of American slavery it’s become “systemic racism,” Feagin reveals. First centered on African Americans, the oppression by the dominant white hierarchy continues to use racial stereotypes, metaphors and images of other people of color, as well. The purpose is to stir emotions that create prejudice and bigoted discrimination so whites can remain on top of the hierarchy. Today, with the demographics favoring the Hispanic population, propagation of discrimination is occurring toward the Hispanics. The AP poll found that 52% non-Hispanic whites had anti-Hispanic attitudes and with the threat of whites becoming a new minority racism will not go away anytime soon. It’s happening in Texas and it is very disturbing to Republicans. To understand better “The White Racial Frame,” please refer to Joe Feagin’s article.

Latinos and the 2012 Election

Latinos are not just another interest group as Silvia Killingsworth insinuates in her essay “Hispandering to Univision”. However, because we now have more of a political voice—not huge, but more than in the past—this is enough to make many who are caught up in the white racial frame uncomfortable. Still, the Latino political voice is not what it should or could be.

Latinos comprise 16 percent of the population. Even more significantly, they comprise a growing segment of the voting population. However, looking at voting trends this is a good news/bad news story. The good news is that Latino voting is on the rise. In 2008, half of the eligible Latinos voted. So, while the numbers are growing they are still not living up to their potential. Latinos are less likely to register and vote at every age group than whites and of those that are registered they are less likely to go vote than whites.

According to an article in the New York Times, “More than 21 million Latinos will be eligible to vote this November, clustered in pockets from Colorado to Florida, as well as in less obvious states like Illinois, Iowa, North Carolina and Virginia. Yet just over 10 million of them are registered, and even fewer turn out to vote.”

Of Latinos that do vote, Latino Decisions finds that they are increasingly stating they will be voting Democratic, with 69 percent saying they will vote for President Obama and only 24 percent claiming they will vote for Romney in the 2012 elections.

According to Professors García Bedolla and Michelson the key to improving Latino voting rates and the voting rates of other people of color requires mobilizing and engaging new Latino voters directly. Their new book, Mobilizing Inclusion: Transforming the Electorate through Get-Out-the-Vote Campaigns argues that voting is not an “individual” act for Latinos and other ethnoracial groups. Rather it is a sociocultural interaction whereby new voters and low propensity voters of color need to be encouraged or invited to vote, even when they are registered. García Bedolla and Michelson empirically test this by working with nine non-profits in California. Their book describes 286 field experiments conducted during elections in 2006, 2007 and 2008. One of their key findings is that extra measures of outreach are essential to getting Latinos and other ethnoracial groups to become voters, which then has a ripple effect on their families and neighbors. García Bedolla and Michelson have discovered something critical about the political incorporation of Latinos and others people of color.

Perhaps when Latinos vote in numbers that are representative of our population then terms such as “Hispandering” will be seen as the ignorant and disrespectful racism that they are.

The Obama Years, 2012 Election, and Systemic Racism

I just published a short article on the Obama years, the 2012 election, and systemic racism at TheSocietyPages.com. It may be of some interest, given all the political news. I begin thus:

We are not a fully democratic country. We never have been and now are moving only very slowly in that direction. To understand the 2012 election and key political events in the Obama Era, we must look at the larger societal context—at institutional fundamentals. Systemic racism is central in that institutional context, and especially in our political system. Our political institutions were built by elite white male founders (40% of the participants at the U.S. constitutional convention being slaveholders and many of the rest profiting off the slavery system).

These men and their descendents built political institutions to protect their racial and class interests, and many were undemocratic or anti-democratic: A U.S. Constitution aggressively designed to protect enslaved property; a U.S. Senate representing land areas and powerful whites far more than ordinary people; an unelected Supreme Court of elite whites trumping acts of Congress; and an elite white male president chosen by an undemocratic electoral college. There are too many undemocratic capitalistic institutions to list, all also made and maintained mostly by elite white men substantially to protect their political-economic interests.

You can access the rest of it here. I draw substantially in this article on a new book (White Party, White Government) that has been out a few months, one that deals with the larger elite white (male) control of all major aspects of our political system since its beginning in the late 18th century.

Obama’s Severe Limitations: The White-Racist Context

Atlantic magazine’s usually very sharp Ta-Nehisi Coates has a fine article this week laying out in some detail the limitations on blacks in politics, historically and today. And especially the major limits on what a black president can do in a racist society. For example,

The irony of President Barack Obama is best captured in his comments on the death of Trayvon Martin, and the ensuing fray. Obama has pitched his presidency as a monument to moderation. He peppers his speeches with nods to ideas originally held by conservatives. He routinely cites Ronald Reagan. He effusively praises the enduring wisdom of the American people, and believes that the height of insight lies in the town square. Despite his sloganeering for change and progress, Obama is a conservative revolutionary, and nowhere is his conservative character revealed more than in the very sphere where he holds singular gravity—race.

He adds the key point:

Part of that conservatism about race has been reflected in his reticence: for most of his term in office, Obama has declined to talk about the ways in which race complicates the American present and, in particular, his own presidency.

However President Obama occasionally transgresses his white-imposed boundaries, as when George Zimmerman shot and killed Trayvon Martin. Then President Obama ventured out of his restricted environment on racial matters and said something poignant, appropriate, and rather mild,

When I think about this boy, I think about my own kids, and I think every parent in America should be able to understand why it is absolutely imperative that we investigate every aspect of this, and that everybody pulls together—federal, state, and local—to figure out exactly how this tragedy happened … But my main message is to the parents of Trayvon Martin. If I had a son, he’d look like Trayvon. I think they are right to expect that all of us as Americans are going to take this with the seriousness it deserves, and that we’re going to get to the bottom of exactly what happened.

These rather accurate, normal, and mild comments got him a very large-scale attack from white conservatives, who made very clear that a black president did not have their permission to venture out even this far on U.S. racial matters. So, it is not surprising that Obama — who wished to be effective in policymaking and re-elected — has mostly not touched racial matters over the long years of his presidency.

Coates has this sharp interpretation of the negative reactions to Obama moving outside his racial-political “limits”:

The election of an African American to our highest political office was alleged to demonstrate a triumph of integration. But when President Obama addressed the tragedy of Trayvon Martin, he demonstrated integration’s great limitation—that acceptance depends not just on being twice as good but on being half as black. And even then, full acceptance is still withheld. The larger effects of this withholding constrict Obama’s presidential potential in areas affected tangentially—or seemingly not at all—by race. Meanwhile, across the country, the community in which Obama is rooted sees this fraudulent equality, and quietly seethes. Obama’s first term has coincided with a strategy of massive resistance on the part of his Republican opposition in the House, and a record number of filibuster threats in the Senate. It would be nice if this were merely a reaction to Obama’s politics or his policies—if this resistance truly were, as it is generally described, merely one more sign of our growing “polarization” as a nation. But the greatest abiding challenge to Obama’s national political standing has always rested on the existential fact that if he had a son, he’d look like Trayvon Martin. As a candidate, Barack Obama understood this.

Twice as good, and half as black. That is, whites set the conditions under which limited racial “integration” can even take place, well into the 21st century. No post-racial US here.

Sadly, too, not even the usually on target and very sharp Coates is able to name, call out, and systematically analyze the white agents here, most especially the elite whites, as the principal actors creating the severely limited political and social environment in which Obama must daily operate. In this very perceptive quote, he does not once mention the white actors as such. He certainly implies them, and elsewhere in his sharp analysis a few Republicans are named for particular nasty racial incidents, but their individual and group racialized actions specifically as whites or white elites today are not named and assessed as such, or as part of our contemporary political and social system of white racial oppression.

Almost never in the media or scholarly writings do Elite whites, named as such and as the major white decisionmaking group, appear as contemporary actors in the subject position of key sentences that get at the particular contextual limitations that Obama faces, such as from the white elites (often operating out of a white racial frame) who control the mass media and elite political organizations — although they do periodically appear in other phrasing as the dominant group in society (as in this piece by Coates).

We have gone into more detail on these whites and our political system here.

Increasing Racial Gaps in Wealth and Income: The Real U.S.

The organization United for a Fair Economy has a good website with data-filled reports on issues like the racial wealth divide in the U.S. Here are a few excerpts from their most recent report on the “state of the dream”:

The official unemployment rate is 15.8 percent among Blacks and 13 percent among Latinos as of December 2010. The White unemployment rate is 8.5 percent. Including discouraged and under-employed workers would push these unemployment numbers up significantly.

They add this:

With fewer assets to fall back on in hard times, Black and Latino families rely more heavily on unemployment insurance, Social Security and public assistance in times of need. For example, a new analysis shows that well over half of older Blacks (59.1 percent) and Latinos (64.8 percent) depend on Social Security for more than 80 percent of their family income, as compared to only 46 percent of Whites.

They have some data too on the reality of African Americans and Latinos working disproportionately in the government sector (historically one impact of Jim Crow segregation), one reason that blacks are more likely than whites to be in today’s unions:

. . . Blacks are 30 percent more likely than the overall workforce to work in public sector jobs as teachers, social workers, bus drivers, public health inspectors and other valuable roles, and they are 70 percent as likely to work for the federal government. Public sector jobs have also provided Black and Latino workers better opportunities for professional advancement.

They provide data showing how the Bush era tax cuts regularly favor whites, especially those with higher incomes. Recent taxation law too is very racialized in the U.S.:

… income tax extension heavily favors Whites, who are three times as likely as Blacks and 4.6 times as likely as Latinos to have annual incomes in excess of $250,000, according to original analysis in this report.

They also take political aim at the white leadership of the Republican Party, essentially now, as I have shown in here, the “white party” of the United States:

The Republican tax cut agenda rewards wealth for those who already have it, and limits opportunity for those who do not. . . . preferential treatment of capital gains and dividend income further exacerbates the racial wealth divide. . . . Blacks earn only 13 cents and Latinos earn eight cents for every dollar that Whites receive in dividend income. Similarly, Blacks have 12 cents and Latinos have 10 cents of unrealized capital gains for each dollar that Whites have.

There is much additional information on income, employment, and wealth inequality in this useful report (available free in pdf at their website). The current trends in income and wealth inequalities for racial groups in the United States are very disturbing for the future of a supposed “democracy”–and its unrealized ideals of liberty and justice for all.

In 2008, Institute for Policy Studies researcher, Dedrick Muhammad, summarized glaring U.S. racial inequalities in a report similarly titled–“The Unrealized American Dream.” He showed then that the income gap between black and white Americans was closing extraordinarily slowly, for at the rate of change then black Americans would only gain income equality with white Americans in about 537 years. The wealth gap between black and white Americans would take 634 years to close. After his analysis, from 2009 to 2010, the income gap actually increased a little. In addition, the wealth gap has increased significantly over recent years. (See reference and my further discussion in Chapter 9 of this book.)

Voters of Color and Obama’s Future



Journalism professor and New York Times columnist Thomas Edsall has a perceptive overview of some racial politics issues in the current presidential campaign. He notes the 16 groups Obama’s campaign is now focusing on:

People of Faith; Veterans and Military Families; Rural Americans; Seniors; and Small Business Owners.

And then the ones in his base are the rest:

African Americans, Environmentalists, Latinos, Young Americans, LGBT Americans, Native Americans, Asian-Americans and Pacific Islanders, Educators, Jewish Americans, Nurses and Women. … Obama is actively courting all of these constituencies: ending the deportation of many young workers who are in the United States illegally; endorsing same-sex marriage; loosening work requirements for welfare recipients; pressing Congress to keep student loan rates low; rejecting the proposal to build the … Keystone pipeline from Canada to Texas; and promoting health-care reform….

He notes then that the problematical group is white men without college, and notes that Obama is doing commercials to appeal to these white men, many of whom have faced difficult unemployment conditions. But this is where his support is so low in the polls; he is getting only 28-29 percent of these white men without college degrees right now—the lowest percent ever in the modern era for the Democratic Party. In contrast,

Romney and the Republican Party must achieve the highest possible turnout level among whites. Republicans, including Romney, have adopted anti-immigration stands that have extinguished the possibility of boosting margins among Hispanics. … Demographic trends — the steady decline of the share of the population made up of non-college whites, from 86 percent in 1940 to 48 percent in 2007 – have made winning these voters by increasingly large margins crucial to the Republican Party….

Meanwhile, Obama is still getting strong support from his base, which includes growing numbers of voters of color.

The political “wisdom” of Democratic officials, including the Senator Obama, in running the 2008 campaign from a colorblind version of the old white racial frame–that is, ignoring issues of racism–could be seen in the significant proportion of white voters, some 43 percent, who voted for Obama in 2008. Without this significant minority of white voters, Obama would not have become president. The political “wisdom” of course contradicts a deeper morality of social justice, equality, and liberty, but then this country is not a just, equal, and free country. Even our best and most progressive politicians operate in the societal straightjacket imposed by our plutocratic and systemically racist political and economic institutions.

So, not surprisingly, in the 2008 election McCain did win 12 percent more of the white vote than Obama. CNN exit polls for 2008 revealed very significant variation in who voted for Senators Obama and McCain. Overall, whites made up about 75 percent of voters, compared to 12 percent who were black voters, 9 percent who were Latino voters, and the rest who were from other racial groups (mainly Asian). Yet only 43 percent of white voters went for Senator Obama, including just 41 percent of male voters and 46 percent of female voters. These percentages are significantly lower right now.

Perhaps the most dramatic aspect of the voting patterns revealed in 2008 exit polls concerned the fact that voters of color cast ballots in very large majorities for Senator Obama. Some 95 percent of black voters went for Obama, and so did 67 percent of Latino voters and 62 percent of Asian American voters. In addition, one evaluation of counties with numerous Native Americans in the Dakotas, Nebraska, Montana, Nevada, New Mexico, and Colorado estimated that roughly 62 to 87 percent voted for Obama. Most of these voters were very aware of the pathbreaking character of having the first major party candidate of color running for the presidency, and their significant turnout for Obama was critical.

If the election had only been up to white voters in the pivotal states that Obama actually won –Florida, Indiana, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Virginia—McCain would also have won these states, and thus the national election.

Voters of color were thus essential to Obama’s win in these states. Of course, the minority of white voters who did vote for Obama in these and other states were also important in the coalition that put him into office. Fortunately for Obama, a significant minority of whites did gravitate to the point of being willing, in the middle of a very severe economic recession, to vote for a black man, with many perhaps viewing him as an “exception to his race.

But will they do it again. In my view it is clear Obama’s chances again depend very heavily on voters of color.

Racist “Poll Taxes” Again: Shades of Jim Crow



The U.S. has numerous anti-democratic institutions like our Supreme Court, Senate, and electoral college. One would think that the wealthy and well-off whites–who mostly run our political and economic institutions–would find them skewed more than enough in their direction without all the new anti-voting legislation. Numerous Republican state legislatures’ recent attempts and successes in making voting more difficult intentionally extend this well-off-whites’ control.

A savvy columnist at the Washington Post, Eugene Robinson, has done an interesting detailed analysis (“The GOP’s crime against voters”) of these attempts at voter suppression:

The Republican-led crusade for voter ID laws has been revealed as a cynical ploy to disenfranchise as many likely Democratic voters as possible, with poor people and minorities the main targets. . . . Late last month, the majority leader of the Pennsylvania House of Representatives, Mike Turzai, was addressing a meeting of the Republican State Committee. . . . . he mentioned the new law forcing voters to show a photo ID at the polls. Said Turzai, with more than a hint of triumph: “Voter ID, which is gonna allow Governor Romney to win the state of Pennsylvania — done.”

The number of people affected in this state is quite large, for some 758,939 registered voters there right now

do not have the most easily obtained and widely used photo ID, a state driver’s license. That’s an incredible 9.2 percent of the registered electorate. Most of the voters without driver’s licenses live in urban areas — which just happen to be places where poor people and minorities tend to live. More than 185,000 of these voters without licenses, about one-fourth of the total, live in Philadelphia — which just happens to be a Democratic stronghold where African Americans are a plurality.

If this significantly reduces the vote of modest income and working class people, especially people of color, then President Obama may have a difficult time winning the state, especially given current estimates of a close race there.

Significantly too, the new law about IDs in Pennsylvania, as in some other states, officially tries to prevent voter fraud from use of false IDs, yet no one has found actual evidence of that kind of voter fraud.

Attorney general Holder just today at the NAACP convention in Houston put this comment into his talk there, about the new voter ID law in Texas:

Under the proposed law, concealed handgun licenses would be acceptable forms of photo ID, but student IDs would not. . . . Many of those without IDs would have to travel great distances to get them, and some would struggle to pay for the documents they might need to obtain them. We call those poll taxes.

I grew up under such poll taxes in Texas, where they were designed to keep black voters from voting. We need to bring back some difficult memories of our racist voting history and openly racist political system for public discussion today. The white racial framing today intentionally ignores this relatively recent racist history of keeping voters of color out of the electoral system. Are we moving backwards today on these matters?

Mia Love and The Triad of Oppression–Part 2:



In the zany world of Utah politics where Republicans naturally remain right of center, but Democrats venture toward the middle, Mia Love’s recent rise to national prominence came about after defeating former state legislator Carl Wimmer for the right to run against the well-funded Democrat incumbent, Jim Matheson, thus positioning herself as the first Afro-Haitian American Mormon GOP House candidate. If she wins, Mia could make history as the first black female politician ever elected to the House of Representatives from the state of Utah, an amazing feat when considering the odds of her of actually winning in a predominately white, conservative, Mormon state.

If Mia Love is victorious in her bid for the House seat, it will do wonders for the image of the state of Utah, and especially the LDS Church whose recent spate of high profile race-based debacles captured national attention. There have been insensitive racial statements made from former church authorities in past time (see pdf here). However, BYU religion professor Randy Bott’s recent remarks of justifiable racism found within the LDS cannon triggered one the strongest public statements against racism to date uttered by LDS Church headquarters, but not before the church’s own racial beliefs were once again questioned.

Additionally, comedian David Ackerman’s interviews with predominately white students while dressed in “blackface” on the campus of BYU in February 2012 went viral on YouTube, as it highlighted the ignorance of race awareness in Utah (by both Ackerman and the students alike). Highly publicized in the national media, it proved embarrassing, yet again, for the flagship school of the LDS Church. Against this backdrop, emerged Mia Love.

How does a black female who is a conservative and a Latter-day Saint manage to negotiate so many foreboding white spaces and, yet, publicly appear oblivious to the racial tensions found within each space? This is a complicated question that, in all fairness, only Mia can truly answer for herself; however, research has been beneficial at elucidating the complexities of racial identity development as we observe groups. We begin by understanding what the eminent scholar W.E.B. Du Bois meant when he coined the phrase “double consciousness” over one hundred years ago to explain the sociological conditions and democratic contradictions of living with everyday racism(s) that black Americans endure. That black and white folk live in two existentially dissimilar worlds with opposing codes of power and rules of conduct, Du Bois argued those rules and codes preferentially benefited whites at the expense of African Americans. The respective codes of power form a fairly predictable and sanitized environment where the dominant ideology of whiteness is proffered and diversity of bodies and experiences is generally discouraged, particularly in predominately white-controlled organizations. Though the language of these organizations will profess diversity, their actions insinuate otherwise, chiefly when viewing the structure of these institutions.

In order for someone like Mia Love or myself, for that matter, to gain some rewards and advantages in white America, we along with scores of other typically middle-class and well-educated people of color have to be proficient in these preferred racial codes of power which are often hidden from plain sight, but have enormous consequences for social mobility. For example, religious persuasion is highly valued along with particular hairstyles, musical tastes, and clothing. Additionally, white sounding names (as compared to black sounding names), educational status, and English language proficiency are but a few codes of power found in U.S. society, particularly with respect to hiring. For African Americans, the need and ability to tread between two separate and opposing codes is identified as “code switching.” Though this is often unconscious, it affords black Americans the ability to traverse white norms and values in order to “succeed” in the illusion of the American Dream, while still maintaining a connection with and understanding of the black community and its struggles as they move up the social ladder and try to preserve their status as middle class. The constant shifting of context that African Americans must tolerate, however, carries the burden of disease. The consequences for their health and well-being take the form of higher cortisol levels, which produces higher rate of chronic ailments that lead to increased morbidity and mortality.

To many African Americans and other individuals interested in politics who are following Mia Love’s Utah candidacy, she is a paradox. As a black, female Mormon, her conservative ideals are deemed peculiar as she runs for office in the Republican Party while balancing a triad of oppressive social constructs that are leveled against her. Not only have Blacks historically and continually had to battle for their right to coexist as equals in U.S. society, but women have similarly pushed against a glass ceiling. Even today, women still struggle for equal pay, equal rights and equal protection under the law in the workplace as well as in the armed forces.

Mia represents one of the most racially discriminated groups in the country as a black female. The same can be said for her Mormon identity as the LDS faithful endured bitter hatred and state-sanctioned terrorism in Missouri and Illinois in the 1800s. Mormonism remains grossly misunderstood and often unfairly judged with respects to their religious views while mainline evangelical traditions continue to wield Christian privilege at the expense of ‘fringe” religions like Mormonism. (Many republican supporters outside of Utah politely ignore Mia’s membership in the LDS Church, lionizing her as a fresh face in the party while secretly lambasting her for belonging to a “religious cult.”) Yet, Love’s political convictions show a strong support for values that do not necessarily represent her interests as a member in any of these oppressed groups.

In fact, Mia along with other conservative Blacks such as Allen West, Michael Steele, Amy Holmes, Alan Keyes, and Herman Cain ascribe to a party that rejects any notion of group inequality within its basic tenets of individualism. What many conservatives fail to recognize is that individuals are connected to larger groups, and those groups display patterns and behaviors that assess their levels well being in relation to society. When a group lags as a whole in the American scheme of profitability, it is because they typically display conduct in variance to the all around code that the white, male norm subscribes to. For example, Blacks aren’t doing well with respects to education, economics, and health outcomes while women still lag behind in salary and positions of power. These actualities of Mia’s reality seem to be in concert with her values that are based in a white male Christian context.

But the biggest quandary with respect to Mia lies with her inability to grasp Du Bois’ double consciousness. Whether this is due to her Mormon faith and the apparent Stockholm syndrome of black Mormons (whose membership in the LDS church differs widely from those of The Black Church which helped to sustain the African American community through some of the most difficult and turbulent times in American history rather than perpetuate racist folklore to justify black marginality) or due to her racial consciousness, by lacking the ability or refusing to code switch with the black community, Mia and others like her are seemingly out of touch with the political realities of African Americans and what remains at stake for them. It would be a mistake to assume that all black people are cut from the same cloth and share the same political inclinations. The Pew institute estimates some 3 million self-identified Black Americans are registered republicans; however, there has yet to be a ground swell of support for the right-wing ideology amongst the vast majority of African American voters. Thus, for most African Americans, it appears absolutely preposterous that someone black, Mormon, and female could possibly support the GOP so strongly given its history of anti-black, anti-feminist, and anti-Mormon sentiment. But this isn’t so preposterous when we recognize that American politics is a broken system in the business of servicing big corporations wherein Americans are duped into voting their values even when they contradict their political interests and success as a social group. African Americans are the only racial group that votes in blocks and, I would argue, the only group to vote their interests. But Mia Love does not align herself with African American interests, which is why a figure like her is so fascinating.

As potentially the first Mormon, black female from the state of Utah in the House, she has captured national attention. And her recent ascendency onto the political scene could not have come at a more convenient time when there has been a surge of interest in Mormonism due to definitive GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney. With the race beliefs and ideology that Mormons have been subjected to defending, Mia Love, as a seemingly bright and well-spoken GOP candidate, will prove to be a counter-answer to those raised eyebrows.

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