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Monday, November 3, 2008

Two Views of the White Vote

posted by on November 3 at 8:13 AM

One way of looking at it:

If Tuesday’s election were confined to white America, polls show, Senator Barack Obama would lose.

Another way of looking at it:

…[E]lection pollsters estimate, Democratic nominees have averaged 39 percent of the white vote. In last week’s New York Times/CBS News poll, Mr. Obama drew 44 percent support among whites — a higher proportion than Bill Clinton captured in his general election victories.

Obama is in every way an American anomaly. He is an event in the political constellation that continually puzzles as it amazes. We understand from where (and for why) McCain issues; we understand the nature of Palin’s power. We don’t really understand Obama. Why and how? Why now and not tomorrow? Why do so many whites accept this particular configuration of blackness and not another? And Obama is not an Uncle Tom—a configuration of blackness that is safe because it is ball-less. Black Americans are surprised not so much by Obama but by the solid white support of Obama. Our best explanation: He just happened because things in the world do happen.

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Yes, and something huge will happen to white folks in the U.S. tomorrow (if things go well). The word America will cease to have its silent parenthesis before it, i.e. (white) America. This is a great, huge day.

Posted by Grant Cogswell | November 3, 2008 8:06 AM

Why is Obama running so strongly? He ran as an American not a victimized black man in America. I could mention names Charles but I won't do that.

Posted by Cato the Younger Younger | November 3, 2008 8:07 AM

I don't get what the big mystery is. He's an intelligent, well spoken and persuasive candidate, running against a couple of dullards who keep repeating the same talking points, and have Bush's legacy as baggage.

Posted by mo | November 3, 2008 8:22 AM

"Tiger will do more than any other man in history to change the course of humanity. He’s the bridge between the East and the West. There is no limit because he has the guidance. I don’t know yet exactly what form this will take. But he is the Chosen One. He’ll have the power to impact nations. Not people. Nations. The world is just getting a taste of his power."
--Earl Woods, 1996

Posted by DOUG. | November 3, 2008 8:38 AM

Spell-check your title, Mudede.

Posted by Ad | November 3, 2008 8:39 AM

I think it's his message of inclusiveness and team spirit. He's not selling just himself as a fantastic president, but what we all can do if we work together.

Posted by One solution | November 3, 2008 8:46 AM

Why do whites support this configuration of blackness? Because this configuration of blackness speaks the white language. Even Jesse Jackson couldn't speak that language. Too many are caught in the role of victim, or are pressured or obligated to speak for that role. The reaction to Bill Cosby's truth from the community spoke to that.

Posted by this configuration | November 3, 2008 9:23 AM

Two words: Sydney Poitier. Nuff said.

Posted by Cat in Chicago | November 3, 2008 9:42 AM

it's no mystery. there's nothing otherworldly here. most white people don't give a fuck about a person's race, they support obama because he is extremely well spoken and obviously skilled at the job he is applying for.

Posted by douglas | November 3, 2008 9:43 AM

The bill clinton comparison is pointless because he was in a three way race.

Posted by Andrew | November 3, 2008 9:51 AM

I think most white people are much more concerned about the economy and the war in Iraq than they are about race. Also, I come from a family of Jewish lawyers, and while I won't pretend that my relatives are entirely free of racial prejudice, they regard Obama as "one of us." He's very bright, he's liberal, he went to a fancy law school. Jews respect all that, regardless of color.

Posted by Marya | November 3, 2008 9:52 AM

if he had been a traditional african-american, rather than half-white american/half-african immigrant from hawai'i, then this all may have turned out rather differently. his mixed ethnic heritage & middle-class white upbringing (except it wasn't middle class - he grew up in an apartment building) is a key to his acceptance amongst whites with racial bias.

that is, all whites. everyone has racial biases.

Posted by max solomon | November 3, 2008 10:13 AM

Because "white" is an unsatisfactory way of categorizing Americans whose predominant heritage is European. Charles, I'm sure you're aware of the history of whiteness, and how some who are now unquestionably considered white were not originally considered as such. Fortunately, the number of whites who are heavily invested in their heritage (as, say, Sons of the Confederacy or Daughters of the American Revolution) are rapidly dwindling. At the same time, as the commenters above note, many whites view someone like Obama (educated family man) as similar to them.

Posted by kk | November 3, 2008 10:20 AM

Because the majority of white people aren't racist. You're average liberal and average redneck wouldn't have thought Obama would win Iowa because it's white middle america which to many liberals means racist. But it was Hillary who won the coats while Obama was carried by the south and middle america.

Posted by Liberal Stereotype | November 3, 2008 10:27 AM

Ever since Iowa I've liked the way he always speaks to our hopes and dreams and aspirations, and not to our fears. Plus, he sweeps the table clear. We've had so many years of the Bushes, and while I respected Mrs. Clinton a great deal, Bush The Junior made me really want to sweep clear the status-quo. Obama seemed more a fresh start then any of the others.

And there is this...he strikes you as a completely decent person, and yet so calm, and focused, in the center of a storm. After so many years of babbling republican fear mongering, this is really attractive in a politician.

Posted by Bruce Garrett | November 3, 2008 10:44 AM

There is no White America.

There hasn't been one since somewhere around 1994.

Have you seen the census data since then?

The only "white" places are ones where the population is decreasing.

Posted by Will in Seattle | November 3, 2008 10:50 AM

at the base line, Ameicans are practical, very matter of fact, esp. in war and depressions

In this case, with all the shit birds we have seen (Bush-Cheney et al), quality transcends

Posted by Arthur | November 3, 2008 11:07 AM

It's because we've made real progress as a people. The old guard is a product of this country's more divisive past. Truthfully, our politics are just now catching up to a cultural shift that has been building for decades.

We owe an incalculable debt to the preceding generation that fought so hard - and in some cases, paid the ultimate sacrifice - to achieve some semblance of racial equality, but that generation has also been stymied by its binary orientation toward race.

Those who still see things in black/white terms are helpless in this new society. Nothing proves that point more than comparing the relative success that African immigrants have enjoyed in this country to the poverty of many African Americans. Nothing belies the claim that racism keeps a black person down more than seeing another black person being successful in this country.

We're moving on, Charles, and Obama is a reflection of this, not a curious anomaly. Scratching your head and wondering why white people want him to be our president is, frankly, racist itself. Will.I.Am said on Bill Maher's show a while back that he doesn't think racism is even an issue for people under 40. He might be right. Have you ever thought of that?

Posted by TVDinner | November 3, 2008 11:45 AM

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