It’s been a week since the presidential election, and much of the chatter prior to Election Day about how racially divided America is has continued in different forms thanks to a crop of strange and often disturbing news stories that feature racial subtexts. Here are a few.
After President Obama’s victory, reports circulated about a race riot on the campus of the University of Mississippi in Oxford. Apparently some students were angry over the Obama win and caused a ruckus which included the torching of an Obama/Biden poster. But was it a “race” riot?
A new meme has been making the rounds in social media that displays maps of slaveholding states in 1859, legally segregated states in 1950, and the breakdown of red vs. blue states after the 2012 election. The suggestion is that the slaveholding and segregated states from the past bear an uncanny similarity to the states won by Romney last week. But the meme doesn’t mention that Obama won Florida (as well as Virginia). So, does the comparison meant to show how far we’ve come, or how some things never change?
Obama’s Black Liberal Critics Are Still Mad, Too
Reports from The Grio and The Root find Cornel West calling President Obama “a Republican in black face.” And African American political pundit Boyce Watkins warns African Americans against “drinking the Kool-Aid” again and argues that Obama has yet to demonstrate a serious interest in tackling issues deeply affecting the African American community, including poverty, black unemployment, urban violence, and the mass incarceration of black men.
Those are just a few of the post-election race stories that are making headlines. Did we miss any? Is this much ado about nothing? Please share your opinions below.
YES THEY DID: Supporters of President Barack Obama celebrated his election night victory at the McCormick Place rally in Chicago on Nov. 7, 2012. Obama defeated his Republican challenger Mitt Romney to win a second term in the White House. (Photo: Zhang Jun/Newscom)
Even more than the election that made Barack Obama the first black president, the one that returned him to office for a second term sent an unmistakable signal that the hegemony of the white male in America is over.
The long drive for broader social participation by all Americans reached a turning point in the 2012 election, which is likely to go down as a watershed in the nation’s social and political evolution, and not just because in some states voters approved of same-sex marriage for the first time.
On Tuesday, Obama received the votes of barely one in three white males. That, too, was historic. It almost certainly was an all-time low for the winner of a presidential election that did not include a major third-party candidate.
“We’re not in the ’50s any more,” said William Frey, a Brookings Institution demographer. “This election makes it clear that a single focus directed at white males, or at the white population in general, is not going to do it. And it’s not going to do it when the other party is focusing on energizing everybody else.”
How Obama Won
Exit-poll data, gathered from interviews with voters as they left their polling places, showed that Obama’s support from whites was four percentage points lower than 2008. But he won by drawing on a minority-voter base that was two percentage points larger, as a share of the overall electorate, than four years ago.
The president built his winning coalition on a series of election-year initiatives and issue differences with Republican challenger Mitt Romney. In the months leading up to the election, Obama announced his support for same-sex marriage, unilaterally granted a form of limited legalization to young, undocumented immigrants and put abortion rights and contraception at the heart of a brutally effective anti-Romney attack ad campaign.
The result turned out to be an unbeatable combination: virtually universal support from black voters, who turned out as strongly as in 2008, plus decisive backing from members of the younger and fast-growing Latino and Asian-American communities, who chose Obama over Romney by ratios of roughly three-to-one. All of those groups contributed to Obama’s majority among women. (Although a far smaller group, gay voters went for Obama by a 54-point margin.)
“Obama lost a lot of votes among whites,” said Matt Barreto, a University of Washington political scientist. “It was only because of high black turnout and the highest Latino turnout ever for a Democratic president that he won.”
Obama planted his base in an America that is inexorably becoming more diverse. Unchecked by Republicans, these demographic trends would give the Democrats a significant edge in future presidential elections.
But, despite opposition from conservative religious movements, President Obama captured the votes of 30 percent of white evangelicals. What’s more, he once again won the Catholic vote — which some attribute to his strong support among Hispanic Catholics.
The Latino Effect
GOP SAVIOR: The Republican Party is counting on emerging superstars like Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida to broaden its base. Rubio is a Latino conservative who supports immigration reform.
Latinos were an essential element of Obama’s victories in the battlegrounds of Nevada and Colorado. States once considered reliably Republican in presidential elections will likely become highly competitive because of burgeoning Latino populations, sometimes in combination with large black populations. North Carolina, where Obama won narrowly in 2008 and came close this time, is one. The Deep South state of Georgia is another. Texas and Arizona in the Southwest are future swing states, by 2020, if not sooner.
Besides demography, Obama had another edge: the superiority of the voter-tracking operation that his campaign built over the last six years, which generated increased turnout on Tuesday among young people and unmarried women.
“That was pure machinery. Hats off to them,” said Republican strategist Sara Fagen, a former Bush White House political aide. “Our party has a lot to learn and needs to invest very serious resources in improving our own machinery.”
But Democrats Have a White Problem
The election was not an unblemished success for Democrats, who face a potentially serious threat from the loss of white votes. “I don’t think you can be a major party and get down to support approaching only a third of the white population,” said demographer Frey. “In some ways, maybe, Obama dodged a bullet here. If the Republicans had made a little bit of an effort toward minorities and kept their focus on whites, they might have won.
Paul Maslin, a Democratic pollster, said that with Obama having run his last race, “we’ll have demographics working for us, but it is not going to be so easy to keep it patched tight. It’s going to fray.”
Without Obama on the ticket, socially conservative black voters might have been more inclined to follow the urgings of their ministers, who asked them to stay home to protest the Democrats’ endorsement of gay marriage.
But the Republican Party’s problems are more immediate, and much tougher to solve. Some GOP strategists have been warning for years about the risks of hitching the party’s fortunes to a shrinking share of the electorate.
What Should Republicans Do?
Florida Sen. Marco Rubio, who combines a tea-party pedigree with Latino heritage, said in a post-election statement that “the conservative movement should have particular appeal to people in minority and immigrant communities who are trying to make it, and Republicans need to work harder than ever to communicate our beliefs to them.”
Al Cardenas, a leading Republican fundraiser, said his party is “out of step with the demographic challenges of today.” Like Rubio, the Cuban-born Cardenas is close to former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, who has long sought to broaden the party’s appeal to Latino voters and will be a prominent voice in the debate over the party’s future.
Romney’s chances ultimately depended on his ability to turn out a bigger white vote against Obama than Republican nominees received in earlier races. Eight years ago, Bush’s brother, President George W. Bush, defeated Democrat John Kerry by 17 percentage points among white voters and won re-election. Romney took the white vote by 20 percentage points and lost.
The difference: despite an aggressive voter-mobilization effort, the white share of the electorate has fallen to 72 percent, from 74 percent in 2008 and 77 percent in 2004.
What It Means
Viewed narrowly, this week’s election essentially left Washington untouched. A Democratic president will continue to battle a divided Congress. Within the halls of the Republican-controlled House and the Democratic-led Senate, the balance of partisan power scarcely budged at all.
But pull back and a very different picture emerges. The civil rights, women’s and gay rights movements, designed to allow others to reach for power previously grasped only by white men, have made a real difference, and the outlines of 21st century America have emerged.
For more on how shifting demographics are changing the church, check out “The Culture Clasher,” our earlier interview with author Soong-Chan Rah, and “The Future Is Mestizo” by Duke Divinity School scholar Chris Rice.
MITT’S PITCH: GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney took his conservative message to the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) convention on Wednesday, telling the audience that President Obama’s policies have hurt African Americans. (Photo: Nicholas Kamm/Newscom)
Republican Presidential candidate Mitt Romney “received the most hostile reaction from any campaign audience this year” and “appeared unsettled by three rounds of loud boos” July 11 at the NAACP national convention in Houston , The Washington Post reported.
‘Obamacare’ Opposition Booed
The booing came after Romney expressed his opposition to the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, The Postreported, but the article said “many portions of his speech received reserved cheers, such as his promise to defend traditional marriage, and many black voters in the audience stood to applaud him when he finished.”
Trumped Up Support
Colorlines published a gallery of frowning faces from the event and quoted tweetsfrom pundit Roland Martin that accused Romney of busing in supporters. Is anyone else not surprised that a political campaign would bus in supporters, especially when the audience is expected to be less than friendly?
Failure to Connect
“It wasn’t just [Romney’s] sharply-worded criticism of President Obama’s policies” that drew the audience’s ire, according to BuzzFeed. “It’s that Romney doesn’t know how to talk to black audiences.” For example, Charlette Stoker Manning, chair of Women in NAACP, reportedly said, “I believe his vested interests are in white Americans. …You cannot possibly talk about jobs for black people at the level he’s coming from. He’s talking about entrepreneurship, savings accounts — black people can barely find a way to get back and forth from work.” I’m not sure about you, but to me that last bit sounds like a pretty insulting generalization.
Bold, Consistent Message
“We understand that folks aren’t going to agree with us 100 percent,” Romney adviser Tara Wallis quoted as saying. “But at the end of the day, I think that Gov. Romney’s message was bold. He said what needed to be said, and he said what he’s always said.”
Thumbs Up for Courage
“I give him thumbs up for being courageous,” William Braxton, a retiree from Charles County, Md. told The New York Times. However, Braxton also reportedly said he has “never, ever” heard Romney “say anything about how he would help the poor or underprivileged, let alone the black community.”
Obama Absence ‘Perplexing’
Molly Ball, of The Atlantic, found it “perplexing”that President Obama didn’t speak to the group at all, but instead sent Attorney General Eric Holder on Tuesday and Vice President Joe Biden today because of “scheduling” conflicts. “When the president is invited and sends an underling instead, that’s an undeniable dis, especially when his opponent shows up in person,” said Ball. “Obama, who won 95 percent of the black vote in 2008 (and who, you may have heard, is America’s first black president), may believe he can afford to take black voters for granted. But that’s not at all clear.”
Biden Draws Cheers
The audience was perhaps forgiving, because “Biden drew cheers as he credited Obama for championing a landmark health care law, launching the mission that killed al-Qaida leader Osama bin Laden and stepping in to rescue the financial system and U.S. automakers General Motors and Chrysler,” the Associated Press reported.
What do you think?
Is President Obama taking the Black vote for granted?
Romney Calls Education Gap ‘Civil Rights Issue of our Time’
Mitt Romney suggested class size has little bearing on educational outcomes at a West Philadelphia charter school Thursday, The Philadelphia Enquirer reported. “Calling the gap in education performance between black and white students ‘the civil rights issue of our time,’ Romney said quality teaching and parental involvement were the keys to classroom success. He made his comments during a roundtable discussion in the library at Universal Bluford Charter School, an elementary school named for astronaut Guion Bluford and one of five schools run by a nonprofit founded by music mogul Kenny Gamble,” The Enquirer reported. Romeny cited analysis that was done of 351 Massachusetts schools when he was governor to back up his claim, as well as a study by McKinsey Global Institute, but both educators in the room and experts contacted by the paper disagreed, the article said.
Hecklers, Mayor Taunt Romney
Outside the school, the candidate was met by hecklers, The Washington Post reported. “Seeking to broaden his appeal heading into the general election, Romney was venturing for his first time in this campaign into an impoverished black neighborhood … But here in the streets of West Philadelphia, the emotion surrounding his contest with the nation’s first black president was raw, as dozens of neighborhood residents shouted, ‘Get out, Romney, get out!’” the article said.
Some protesters were organized by the Obama campaign, according to The Post. Whether Democractic mayor Michael Nutter was among them is anyone’s guess, but Nutter told MSNBC host Martin Bashir, “If you want to come to Philadelphia to talk about education, or if you want to talk about issues in a presidential campaign, then your record is going to be examined.” Nutter also said, “I’m not going to let him or his folks come into our town and dupe people into thinking that he actually knows something about education.”
Romney Promises Federal Funds to Disadvantaged Students
Romney’s visit to the school “gave him the opportunity to see firsthand the type of urban charter school he advocated for” in speech delivered to a Latino business group Wednesay in Washington D.C., Annenberg Digital News reported. “Romney promised that if elected, he would tie federal education funds directly to low-income and special needs students to allow them to attend ‘any public or charter school, or…private school, where permitted'” in that speech, the article said. “The reaction to Romney’s visit to this mostly African-American community” in Philadephia “should not be too surprising,” however, the article said, because, according to an Associated Press GfK poll conducted this month, “90 percent of blacks would vote for Obama in November and just 5 percent would support Romney” and “just 3 percent of blacks said Romney ‘understands the problems of people like you’ better than Obama does.”
Update: The Romney campaign has hired Tara Wall, a former Bush administration official as a senior Romney communications adviser to handle outreach to African Americans, The Washington Post reported. Wall previously worked as a television journalist in Detroit, as a Republican National Committee adviser, a columnist and editor for the Washington Times, and as a CNN contributor, according to the Grio. She told the Grio that “her role would not be just outreach to blacks, but women and other groups, as well as shaping Romney’s overall communications strategy.”
What do you think?
Does Mitt Romney understand the problems of Black urban voters or was it a political misstep for him to highlight an apparent disconnect?
Some think the president may be courting Black voters with his "evolving" view on same-sex marriage. (Newscom Photo)
After Vice President Joe Biden drew attention to President Obama’s “evolving” views on same-sex marriage by expressing his own unequivocal support for it on Meet the Press last Sunday, The New York Times and The Washington Post both linked the president’s ambivalence to concerns about alienating socially conservative Black voters.
Courting ‘Politically Influential’ Pastors
Same-sex marriage “is opposed by socially conservative blacks, particularly politically influential ministers, whose strong turnout Mr. Obama needs,” The New York Times reported.
Exposing Internal Tensions
The Biden episode has exposed “internal tensions within Obama’s team” between those who want the president to affirm support same-sex marriage before the November election and “others who worry about a political backlash if he does,” including “African Americans who are Obama’s most loyal support bloc but tend to oppose such unions,” reported the The Washington Post.
Ignoring Opposition Voices
There’s a “complete absence” of African American opposition voices in both articles, said media critic Terry Mattingly at GetReligion.org. “Do Times editors realize how offended many African-American pastors are when told that they are important simply because of their political clout, and not their roles as pastors and community leaders?” asked Mattingly. He predicts “new and/or renewed coverage, soon, of how young African-American pastors are clashing with old African-American pastors on this issue.”
Calculating the Political Risk
It may not be worth alienating “devout” African Americans, or working class Whites and Latinos, said Keith Owens at Jack & Jill Politics. He also said he’s not sure it is “correct” to assume that the president secretly supports same-sex marriage, even though there is legislative precedent to assume that he does, like his repeal of the military’s “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy.
Not Showing ‘Backbone’
It’s time for the president to give a speech in favor of same-sex marriage, said David Swerdlick at The Root. Among the reasons: “Older voters are more skeptical of same-sex marriage, but across the political spectrum, everyone favors showing some backbone.”
Underestimating Black Support
It may not matter either way, said Perry Bacon, Jr. at The Grio, because “it’s not clear” that socially conservative Black voters would swing toward Romney if the president were to come out in favor of same-sex marriage. “The president has intense popularity in the black community,” said Bacon Jr.
What do you think?
Would it cost the president votes with socially conservative Black voters if he came out in favor of same-sex marriage?