Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Earl Ofari Hutchinson on Obama, Clinton & White male voters

This is a very insightful and highly informative analysis of the racial and gender dynamics of this Democratic Party election by Earl Ofari Hutchinson a longtime black political journalist, author, and activist from California. Check out his critical and trenchant analysis of the DP, Obama, Clinton, and the role of white male voting bloc. It's not only right on target and speaks to something that I've also been concerned about but it's particularly prescient on a number of levels with regard to the still very powerful realities of racism and sexism in the U.S. and their ongoing profound impact on American politics...

The Hutchinson Political Report

A hard hitting news and commentary blog on race and politics in America. The Hutchinson Report features weekly commentary on hot button national issues by political analyst Earl Ofari Hutchinson.


What to Make of Obama’s Strange Bedfellows, Namely Blacks and White Males

Earl Ofari Hutchinson

This is an election with some strange things happening. One of the strangest is the penchant for so many white males to join with African-American voters in a few primaries to back Democratic presidential contender Barack Obama. It’s strange not because of anything Obama has said or done to get so many white males behind him. It’s strange because of the possible motive many of the men that are voting for him. Let’s put it this way. Are they voting for him because they truly buy his flowery pitch of hope, change and unity. Or, is there something darker, and more insidious at work here. The something is the deep, persistent, and widespread notion among many men that a woman is not fit to hold the highest office especially if that woman is named Hillary.

Males make up slightly more than forty percent of the American electorate, and of that percent, white males make up thirty six percent, or one in three American voters. They have been the staunchest Republican backers since Ronald Reagan’s trounce of Democrat Jimmy Carter in 1980.

Without their solid support in 2000, Democratic Presidential contender Al Gore would have easily won the White House, and the Florida vote debacle would have been a meaningless sideshow. In 2004, Bush swept Democratic presidential candidate John Kerry in every one of the states of the Old Confederacy and three out of four of the Border States. He grabbed more than 60 percent of the white male vote nationally. In the South, he got more than 70 percent of their vote. That insured another Bush White House.

Male voters gave not just Bush but Republican Presidents Bush Sr., Ronald Reagan, and Richard Nixon the decisive margin of victory over their Democrat opponents in their presidential races. The majority of them that voted for the GOP presidents were middle-to upper-income, college educated, and lived in a suburban neighborhood. This closely parallels the demographic of the men that are voting for Obama. But at the same time, fewer than one in five white males labeled themselves as liberal.

The reasons for the intense and unshakeable loyalty of working and middle-class men to the GOP are not hard to find. The gap was first identified and labeled in the 1980 contest between Reagan and Carter. That year Reagan got more than a 20 percent bulge in the margin of male votes he got over Clinton. Women voters by contrast split almost evenly down the middle in backing both Reagan and Carter. Most men made no secret about why they liked Reagan and what they perceived that he stood for. The tough talk, his apparent firmness and refusal to compromise on issues of war and peace fit neatly into the stereotypical, male qualities of professed courage, determination, and toughness.

Then there’s the thing that’s even less politically and gender correct to admit and that’s that the bias of many men toward women in high positions is so deep seated that they refuse to believe that they are even biased. Psychologists have testified in countless gender bias law suits that the “unconscious bias” of male managers against women, especially against women attaining power positions. The refusal of men to promote women has been the biggest factor fueling gender discrimination in corporate hiring and promotions. Male managers in charge of promotion and pay decisions unwittingly engage in "spontaneous" and "automatic" stereotyping and "in-group favoritism" that results in the most desirable jobs at the company being filled by white males.

Even if unconscious gender bias affects only a relatively small percent of men in a close contest between a male and female candidate in which the two are rated fairly evenly in competence, qualifications and experience, the refusal of many men to vote for her could harm her candidacy. Female candidates offset the male bias by getting solid support from women voters.

Earl Ofari Hutchinson is an author and political analyst. His forthcoming book is The Ethnic Presidency: How Race Decides the Race to the White House (Middle Passage Press, February 2008).

posted by The Hutchinson Political Report @ 4:51 PM


Democrats Pose Greater Peril to Obama or Clinton than GOP
Earl Ofari Hutchinson

There was absolutely no surprise at the results of Super Tuesday. This writer flatly said days before the first vote was cast that Super Tuesday would be anything but super for either Hillary Clinton or Barack Obama, and that neither would or could deliver the knockout punch.
There are two colossal reasons that virtually preordained the muddled, confused and frustrating outcome for the two Democratic presidential contenders. The first is the Democrat’s winner-not-take-all proportional system and the system of super delegates that they have dumped onto the primaries. Super delegates are at large delegates and can pretty much vote for whomever they want, and under the proportional system delegates can be divvied up according to the vote total that the respective candidate gets in Congressional districts. The idea behind that is to bring democracy with a small d to the vote process and snatch the decision about who gets the big prize out of deal making party bosses at the national convention.

But the first reason for the Democrat’s Super Tuesday muddle pales when stacked up against the second reason. And that’s the fast emerging and much alarming polarization among Democratic voters, or put another way, the hard lines between those backing Obama and those backing Clinton and the reasons why they’re backing them. Exit polls showed two clear things. The overwhelming majority of African-Americans in the South back Obama. The overwhelming majority of Latinos in the Western states back Clinton. The other is that white men in increasingly bigger numbers are backing Obama. And Democratic voters are supporting their picks with passion and zeal.

Latinos and blacks are the two big, strategically placed, and dependable voting blocs for the Democrats. In every election back to Lyndon Baines Johnson’s smash victory over Barry Goldwater in 1964, blacks have been the loyalist of loyal foot soldiers for the Democrats. With the surge in Latino voting numbers in the past two decades, Latinos have just as important to the Democrats and have been nearly as loyal to them as blacks.

The tormenting question for Clinton then is if she eventually gets the grand Democratic prize will African-American voters who have virtually turned their tout of Obama into a messianic crusade back her with the same fervor and more importantly numbers? A lackluster and lukewarm turnout by blacks for her would spell big trouble for her and the Democrats in November.

The equally tormenting question for Obama is if he eventually gets the Democratic grand prize will Latino voters back him with the same fervor and numbers as they did Clinton? The same rule applies to him as Clinton. A lackluster and indifferent turnout by Latinos would spell big trouble for him and the Democrats in November.
Then there’s the question of white male voters. They make up nearly forty percent of the American electorate. In every election dating back to Ronald Reagan’s big wins over the Democrats in the 1980s and since, they have powered GOP victories in national elections and more importantly have been the sure ticket of GOP presidents to the White House. Bush got a whopping sixty four percent of the white male vote, and he did even better among white males in the South. Their sudden like of Obama then is suspect. The perplexing question is are they voting for Obama because they are truly sold on his message of hope and change, or is there a darker reason? And that is that they hate the thought of a woman bagging the highest office, especially if that woman is named Hillary.

A dirty secret little of the campaign just may be that in this age of supposed gender enlightenment when men profess profusely that they have no problem backing a woman for president many secretly do. This is not idle speculation. Polls have consistently shown that while whites are virtually unanimous in saying that they have no problem voting for an African-American for president, far fewer say the same about a woman.

When the dust finally settles in the fall, the eventual GOP presidential nominee will do his internal fence mending in the party, and will placate the warring other presidential opponents and competing factions. He will have the usual king’s ransom campaign chest, the spin of Fox and other major cable TV news outlets and conservative talk radio jocks, the solid backing of millions of conservatives and Christian evangelicals, the sure electoral votes of most of the South and the heartland states, the X factor of race and gender working in his favor against Hillary and Obama, and the hunger to maintain Republican dominance.

The last thing that the Democrats need is a fractured Democratic Party that’s hopelessly split into two feuding, finger pointing and irreconcilable factions. That could pose an even greater peril to their bid to take back the White house than the GOP. That possibility is looming bigger and bigger.

Earl Ofari Hutchinson is an author and political analyst. His forthcoming book is The Ethnic Presidency: How Race Decides the Race to the White House (Middle Passage Press, February 2008).

posted by The Hutchinson Political Report @ 8:33 AM