It should be a time for soul-searching for conservatives, and a few of them seem to be in a time of reflection. But the usual suspects are no more insightful than they were a week ago. One of the biggest problems for conservatives, of course, is that they are saddled with a circus of media pundits that keep them lurched over to the nether regions of the far right, unable to moderate themselves with this cacophony of voices always urging them further right. But conservatives have another problem that is only going to deepen as American’s demographics continue to diversify; they have entrenched race issues.
For anyone who cares about improving race relations in this country, the most dismaying fact to come in the days following the election was the figure on the percentage of white people who voted Republican: 59%. Yes, nearly two-thirds of white Americans selected the smarmy, outsourcing corporate shill who couldn’t settle on a single stance for any issue throughout the election season and had plans to bring back all of the policies that led the country into economic shambles. Even more disheartening is the fact that despite women being called the saviors of the day, the majority of white women still voted for Romney (56%). Likewise, among young voters 18-29, only 44% of whites choose Obama. Thirty-five percent of Americans call themselves Republican, and chronically vote conservative because they have hang-ups about government, and endorse theocracy. A healthy percentage of these folks are certainly racist, but they’d be voting against Obama anyway.
But, what about the other 24% who joined them for this election? If you tried to pin these people down on why they opted for the clearly inferior choice, most probably wouldn’t admit that race played a role (although clearly some would). They would probably say: 1) Obama wasn’t fixing the economy and 2) We can’t afford all this alleged spending. However, if these voters were being objective, they’d have to acknowledge that the economy has been steadily improving after falling off a cliff, Obama is a moderate who has been cutting spending, up to a trillion dollars so far, Romney/Ryan were trying to take away women’s rights and end a host of vital social programs for the middle class that essentially meant these people were voting against their own self-interest, and by supporting this pair they were endorsing the corporate takeover of politics ushered in by Citizen’s United. Actually, if they were being impartial, they would have to acknowledge a whole host of reasons why Romney/Ryan were the unreasonable choice.
So, what does that leave? It leaves the complaints that Obama is foreign, he’s the food stamp president, he allegedly wants to end welfare work requirements, and he’s a socialist who just uses the government to give things away like phones and health coverage. Each of these has a common underlying refrain. It’s tainted by racism. Racism has ticked up since 2008 from 48% of Americans expressing explicitly anti-black attitudes to 51% today. It’s even worse on scales that measure anti-black sentiments using implicit measures, where the percent has jumped from 49% to 56%. It’s not just a guess to see that race plays a role in opposition to Obama; the polls bear it out. Some might argue that the decision of vast majorities of African Americans to vote for Obama rather than Romney is racism. However, this is wrong-headed. It is vastly different to vote for someone because his policies are beneficial, and yes, maybe even identifying with and supporting him as a racially embattled minority, than it is to vote against someone because of their race in an act of discrimination.
Since the election, the nonsense spewed by the likes of O’Reilly, Limbaugh, or talking heads at Breitbart’s or Drudge’s sites has focused on the same theme. All of them have been throwing out their accusations that Americans who voted for Obama were seeking handouts from the government. In truth, their words were nothing less than variations on Romney’s screed on the 47%. Who are they worried about getting benefits? It’s always those people: immigrants and Latinos or black people and their “pathetic” white sympathizers. Republicans have long tried to associate welfare with African Americans. This is seen in the way O’Reilly stated that African Americans vote for Democrats just because they “gave them all kinds of entitlements, making them dependent.” They now want to imply that there is a ‘welfarification’ of half of America, and it’s no accident that they are linking it to a black President.
When they’re not doing racist things like playing, “Feliz Navidad,” to reach out to Latino voters as Limbaugh did, they try to plot a return to power by luring Latinos into their fold. In doing so, they make incorrect and gross generalizations about them. Representing the views of many of the Right, O’Reilly announced that Latinos were socially conservative and the only reason they were voting Democrat was immigration, so Republicans just needed to change their stance on amnesty. In reality, research shows that over 50% of Latinos support gay marriage and the majority of young Latinos (the fastest growing group, with 50,000 turning 18 every month) support abortion rights. They can’t even reach out to the one large minority group they think is good enough for them, because they know nothing about them.
As liberals, we react with disgust while witnessing Republican race issues, which were in full display right after the election. It would be advantageous to liberals to see the Republicans refuse to moderate, continuing to claim bipartisanship while they actually obstruct at every chance they get, and cling to policies that alienate demographics ranging from women and Latinos to African Americans and( the little discussed) Asian population (who went for Obama by 73%). While it would be easier for liberals to celebrate the continuing antebellum attitudes and demographic self-destruction of Republicans, it would be more beneficial to American society to address the entrenched white racism affecting large swaths of this country.
Deborah is a former social work professor who taught social policy, mental health policy, and human diversity. Proud to be called liberal, she happily pays her taxes after being raised in a home that needed long-term welfare. Contrary to the opinion of many, she is living proof that government investment in children leads them out of poverty having received services from Head Start to Pell Grants. Deborah works with low-income, first generation, and disabled college students who are at high-risk for dropping out of college in a program designed to help them graduate. She lives with her husband, stepson, and an aging cat.