About the Politics of Gender and Race
Bill McGaughey, with friends at an outdoor cafe, hiding behind his sign after a walk through downtown Minneapolis on August 5, 2015
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The results of the 2012 presidential election tell the story of American politics today:
President Obama received 93% of the African American vote and Governor Romney only 7%.
President Obama received 76% of the gay/lesbian/bisexual/transgendered vote and Governor Romney only 24%.
President Obama received 72% of the Asian American vote and Governor Romney only 28%.
President Obama received 71% of the Hispanic vote and Governor Romney only 29%.
President Obama received 69% of the Jewish vote and Governor Romney only 31%.
On the other hand, Governor Romney received 59% of the total white vote and President Obama only 41% of this vote.
Males favored Romney with 52% of their vote and Obama with 45% of theirs. Female voters favored Obama by a 55% to 43% margin.
Married women actually favored Romney, giving him 53% of their votes compared with 46% for Obama. However, President Obama won decisively among unmarried women of all races - 68% to Governor Romney’s 30%.
Clearly, race, ethnicity, gender, and sexual orientation drove the election results rather than economics or any other factor. Mitt Romney’s multi-millionaire status and unwillingness to cut tax rates for the rich did not seem to hurt him among white voters although poor people are well represented within that demographic. Whites seemed to identify with him more as a fellow white whether for “racist” reasons or other sense of kinship. The same is true of Barack Obama: Blacks seemed to identify with him as a fellow black.
In conclusion, the Democrats are the party of the Rainbow Coalition; Republicans divide what is left. That is the unmistakable truth about what American politics has become. We are completely polarized on the basis of gender and race.
This situation is ironic considering that Barack Obama first came to national attention as keynote speaker at the 2004 Democratic National Convention in Boston, while Mitt Romney was governor of Massachusetts. The best-known line in his speech, while catapulted Obama to fame, was the following. He said:
“There are those who are preparing to divide us, the spin masters and negative ad peddlers who embrace the politics of anything goes. Well, I say to them tonight, there's not a liberal America and a conservative America; there's the United States of America. There's not a black America and white America and Latino America and Asian America; there's the United States of America.”
I have no doubt that then Senate candidate Obama was sincere in his statement. After all, he was a biracial man who had experienced animosity from both racial groups. But after he was elected President, Barack Obama was embraced wholeheartedly by the black community and became reviled by many whites. His election accelerated racial polarization rather than easing it. And many of Obama’s policies relating to gays & lesbians, Hispanics, and other Rainbow Coalition members reflect the old politics of demographic division rather than the high principles Obama expressed at the 2004 convention.
I deplore the politics of gender and racial division. It means that you vote according to how you were born rather than in response to political candidates and their policy positions. Issues of policy become irrelevant to elections. All that matters is how many voters there are in each demographic group and whether candidates can inspire a large turnout in groups that favor them, Democrats being on one side and Republicans on the other. You cannot ask for a more polarizing type of politics.
Now let’s turn to the Republicans and, in particular, Donald Trump. Being a white man who is sensitive to white identity, I found his performance at the Fox News debate in Ohio on August 6th to be quite inspiring. You have to understand the context.
The Republican National Committee, well aware of how President Obama had beaten Mitt Romney in the 2012 election, was playing up the theme that Republicans had to become more friendly to non-white groups such as Hispanics who were approachable. They had to become more friendly to women. Otherwise, the Republican candidate in 2016 could not win. Whites were becoming a smaller part of the voting public and, in fact, would soon become a minority. The Republican Party therefore had to position itself to win future elections by aggressively courting female and minority voters. Otherwise, it would shrink into irrelevance as the white population steadily shrank.
This theme seemed tailor-made for candidates such as Jeb Bush and Marco Rubio. Imagine the surprise, then, when Donald Trump came out swinging against illegal immigration. He was proposing that all illegals be deported and that an impenetrable wall be constructed between Mexico and the United States - and Mexico would pay for it! Trump was kissing off Hispanic support. By implication, he was saying that he could win without them. Trump’s poll numbers soared.
Then at the Fox News debate, when moderator Megyn Kelly tried to take him down with her questioning, Trump started swinging against her. This was unheard of. Not only was Kelly a network moderator, she was also a woman. However, Trump did not spare the attacks. The pundits grumbled about this. Donald Trump was now alienating the female voters so essential to a Republican victory in 2016. But again Trump’s poll numbers soared.
I have to admit that I admired Donald Trump in handling the first question: Which of the candidates on stage would not pledge to support the Republican-endorsed candidate next year? Only Trump raised his hand. What guts he had to do this! Then came Kelly’s insulting question to Trump and, again, a gutsy response. Someone was dishing it out to the media instead of just taking it. This set the tone for the debate. All eyes were now upon Donald Trump who would not be intimidated by the Fox News moderators.
What has this to do with white voters? First, recall the statement made by Attorney General Eric Holder when he first took office. Holder said that we were “a nation of cowards” regarding race. He was, I think, referring primarily to the white population. I think Holder was right. Whites do seem to be unduly sensitive to charges of racism so they do not reveal their true feelings about blacks. (And for good reason - to be a white racist can be a firing offense.) The same is true of political correctness in all its forms. All these racial, ethnic, and gender issues work to the disadvantage of straight white males. They are a political and social orthodoxy that cannot be challenged.
So along comes Trump like a bull in a China shop knocking things over and breaking all the rules. He was offending all those groups of voters deemed essential by the Republican National Committee right and left - insulting women and Hispanics and thumbing his nose at the Republican establishment. Republican voters loved it. Like corporate strategists, the Republican Party was taking them for granted while reaching out to groups that had not supported the party in the past in order to tap growth markets. Trump was their champion - white peoples’ champion - even if no one dared put it in those terms. His outrageous behavior combined with an invincible performance in the ring reminded me of Muhammad Ali and what he had meant to black people in the 1960s. I could not help but admire the man. Trump was our champion - if you know what I mean. Regardless of commentators who consider us whites a declining demographic, we're not dead yet.
Donald Trump may falter in the Republican race for the Presidency or he may be the party’s nominee. It remains to be seen. But even Trump cannot remain a viable candidate with an overtly white-racist message. Stereotypes remaining from the period of slavery and Jim Crow segregation are just too strong. However, it is safe to pick on Hispanics if this is done in the right way. That means distinguishing between Hispanics who are legal and those who are not because they crossed the border without authorization. Trump’s defense was to say that he would deport the illegal immigrants - the “law-breakers”, in other words - but then give them a chance to reenter the country legally. Fat chance! The road to legal immigration into the United States is long and uncertain, especially for the types of people who snuck across the border. How many of those twelve million could expect to be readmitted?
We are still a nation of racial cowards. I prefer to be open about my white identity and defend it against the many assaults made by academics, journalists, entertainers, politicians, and others. Therefore, I will make this a major theme of my campaign in the 2016 New Hampshire presidential primary. In case anyone misses it, I will carry a sign. It will not be a Confederate flag, or a swastika, or a hateful slogan but a simple message that I am not ashamed to be white. I am hoping that those whites who are ashamed about this will eventually become ashamed of being ashamed and, regardless of the political consequences, come out into the open and say that, even if whites once enslaved blacks, they’re OK being white now. They will be set free. This racial thing has been blown out of proportion. It really has little to do with actual black or white people but with the use of race to one’s own advantage, political or otherwise.
Now I wish to address “Black Lives Matter”. Is it just black lives or do all lives matter? Of course, it is the latter. But we do have the phenomenon of black people being killed by white police officers at an alarming rate. Yes, I do think that police target black people disproportionately for offenses, large and small, and there is much too much incarceration. It is also true, I think, that black people disproportionately commit those offenses. So we need to work on both problems. White police officers cannot kill blacks with impunity. Somehow, attitudes need to be changed. Attitudes also need to be changed in the black community to stop seeing themselves exclusively in terms of racial victimhood and take responsibility for bad behavior when this occurs.
Let me relate my own experience in Minneapolis. (I was not personally involved but did follow the events closely.) In May 2013, Minneapolis police shot and killed an unarmed black man named Terrance Franklin who, suspected of burglary, ran from police and hid out in a basement. Three armed officers and a police dog followed him to the basement. Somehow, Franklin wound up dead, with five bullets in the back of his head. Meanwhile, across town, a police squad car struck and killed a young motorcyclist named Ivan Romero as it crossed a busy highway against the light. The squad car was racing to join the search for Franklin a half hour after Franklin had been killed. Somehow this did not seem right.
The tough-talking female chief, Ranee Harteau, provided few if any answers. Instead, she pointed out that Franklin had a criminal record and it was hard being a police officer. I and others went on the attack against her stonewalling performance on a Minneapolis issues list called e-democracy.org. She said that the public would have to be patient until the county attorney did its investigation and, perhaps, convened a grand jury. That took months. The officers involved in Franklin’s killing were eventually exonerated.
With pressure building, however, the police chief decided to play the race/gender card - upon advice from an outside public-relations consultant, I later learned. She was a native American lesbian. Many of the low-ranking officers were males of European descent. Chief Harteau announced that she would aggressively fight white-racism in the police ranks. She convened her own panel of “community leaders” to advise her on the process. I was pushing for new policies and procedures to curb police abuse - something Harteau herself could have implemented. She was offering instead to purge white racists in the ranks. Chief Harteau also fired two white-male officers who had called her a lesbian while they were on vacation in Green Bay, Wisconsin. It worked like a charm. The furor about the two police killings died down as the police chief established her credentials as a champion of social justice.
What I took from this experience was the following: The cause of anti-racism trumps (no pun intended) most other considerations. I mistakenly thought and hoped that the Minneapolis public would demand better policing. The black community did, but the whites held back. A number of protest events were organized by blacks but they had little effect. Unlike the protests in Ferguson, Missouri, these protest demonstrations in Minneapolis were peaceful. No fires were set. No cars were overturned. That meant that, in the eyes of media, the police killings were not serious enough to provoke rioting. Therefore, they were not serious enough to warrant media coverage. In other words, you (black people) have to use violence for your protests to be taken seriously by the media and the public. Otherwise, a police chief, especially one with the right demographics, will control the discussion where there is little media coverage.
The other lesson learned from this experience is that whites are not motivated enough to protest police killings of blacks because they have been conditioned to believe the police. They also know that political correctness dominates discussions that have racial implications: The black victims probably were guilty and deserved some kind of punishment. Therefore, if whites hold back, any attempt to hold police accountable will become largely a black enterprise. The net effect is to turn what ought to be an issue of community-wide concern - ending police abuse - into a black political movement. It is to reinforce the politics of black victimhood. Hence: “Black lives matter” rather than “all lives matter.”
There is a crisis in white identity. Whites are not "privileged" as some suggest but are increasingly bedeviled by low self-esteem, prescription-drug abuse, and even suicide, resulting in lower life expectancy among whites aged 40 to 60. This problem needs to be addressed. It will only be made worse if the current political formulations are allowed to continue unchallenged.
I think the way out of the racial morass is to motivate white people to take pride in themselves, including their race. Then they do not have to become bitter about race relations. Loners like Dylann Roof do not have to kill. All this can then be sorted out through the political process if we have racial discussions open to all points of view.
White people, your racial sins are forgiven
the shootings in Charleston, South Carolina
I am not shamed/afraid to be white
Let white people march
My American identity (a book)
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See my report on the 2016 campaign for President in the New Hampshire primary