Alex Blaze

The legitimate votes

Filed By Alex Blaze | February 20, 2008 2:03 PM | comments

Filed in: Media, Politics, The Movement
Tags: Barack Obama, Hillary Rodham Clinton, identity politics, voting

Apparently, it's not just white women and black men who are dealing with identity politics in this presidential race:

Working-class white men make up nearly one-quarter of the electorate, outnumbering African-American and Hispanic voters combined. As the Democratic primary race intensifies, some of these white men are finding it hard to identify with the remaining two candidates, Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton and Sen. Barack Obama.

"It seems like someone else should be there," says Dan Leihgeber, a smelter in a steel plant here, who is supporting Sen. Clinton. "It's like there's someone missing."

[...]In Youngstown, many working-class men say they will vote according to issues, especially economic ones including health care, free trade and the loss of manufacturing jobs. But in conversations in union halls, bars and factories, race and gender are never far from the surface.

"I don't think the country is ready for a woman president yet," says Duane Tkac, a burly vocational instructor at a prison here and a member of the local branch of the International Brotherhood of Teamsters union. "The country is in too much turmoil. I don't think she can handle the pressure, the terrorists." He plans to vote for Sen. Obama.

Don Pompelia, retired from the Air Force, supports Sen. Clinton. "I'm hoping Hillary gets the nomination. But if she doesn't, I'm not voting for that guy. I'm going Republican," he booms as he picks up his morning coffee at McDonald's. "There are going to be a lot of people crossing over to the Republicans because he's black."

And all this time we've been hearing about how Black people are just going to vote for Obama because they're the same race and how women are just going to vote for Clinton because they're the same sex. Who would have thought that white men would also want to vote for someone who looks like them?

It's what anyone who's been in a delineated minority knows all too well - when you state any sort of preference for the advancement of people who share that identity, even in fields where your people have historically been excluded, you're the one who's making the discussion all about race, sexuality, sex, gender, ethnicity, etc. But when a member of the majority does it, hey, that's the way the world works. Get over it.

The article goes into more detail about who's doing better among working class white males and the chances that they'll cross-over and vote for McCain, but Digby makes a good point about this particular demographic, these specific people who have a problem with a Black person or a woman in a position of power:

There has been a lot of discussion, as usual, as to whether the Democrats can finally get back those Reagan Democrats we've been desperately trying to woo for the past 28 years.[...]

I feel for these fellows' economic plight. They have been getting the shaft for 30 years and there's no end in sight. But until they get over their bigotry I just don't see them voting for the Democrats because the cognitive dissonance is just too great --- the Democratic party is too diverse for them to feel comfortable. It's good news that their kids are less bigoted and are having some influence, but they are a ways from being able to accept a liberal African American man as president and obviously even farther from being able to accept a woman.

I think this is the crux of a lot of problems for those of us who have a vested interest in seeing the Democratic Party move more to the left on social issues and domestic policy - the party's been trying to get these voters back ever since Reagan took them. I know people like this from personal experience; I have an uncle who was a tried-and-true union-worker Democrat until he just couldn't stand the thought of gay rights and women's choice and a couple of other issues and switched parties.

We see it in the Democratic Party's leadership and how it gives its other constituencies, like LGBT's, the shaft because, well, where else are we going to go, while working pretty hard to get these folks it lost decades ago, who haven't voted for a Democrat in the general election since LBJ or Carter, and who are unlikely to start now.

It's because some votes are legitimate and others aren't. And the legitimate votes are those cast by straight, white males. It's the same thing we hear when people undermine Black people's votes for Barack Obama or women's for Hillary Clinton or how latinos aren't going to vote for a Black man or how LGBT's just vote for whoever does better on that laundry list of laws HRC keeps - it's all about labeling certain people as having the good of the country on their mind while others just have themselves on their mind, and it's pretty tiring.

All in all, that article's a good read just because it identifies white males as a voting block, de-centering that subject just a little bit.


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I just thought it was amusing that the story came from the one newspaper that truly is for and about straight white men. I never take anything that comes from the Wall Street Journal seriously. They are idiots.

It's true - I have relatives who feel the same way, "If I have to choose between a n----r and some bitch, I'll choose McCain every time." And I just sit and think, "Of course you would, you racist/sexist bastard."

It disgusts me.