There are at least two larger national lessons to be learned from what is likely to be the last gasp of Allen-McCain-Palin politics in 2008. The first, and easy one, is that Republican leaders have no idea what “real America” is. In the eight years since the first Bush-Cheney convention pledged inclusiveness and showcased Colin Powell as its opening-night speaker, the G.O.P. has terminally alienated black Americans (Powell himself now included), immigrant Americans (including the Hispanics who once gave Bush-Cheney as much as 44 percent of their votes) and the extended families of gay Americans (Palin has now revived a constitutional crusade against same-sex marriage). Subtract all those players from the actual America, and you don’t have enough of a bench to field a junior varsity volleyball team, let alone a serious campaign for the Electoral College.
But the other, less noticed lesson of the year has to do with the white people the McCain campaign has been pandering to. As we saw first in the Democratic primary results and see now in the widespread revulsion at the McCain-Palin tactics, white Americans are not remotely the bigots the G.O.P. would have us believe. Just because a campaign trades in racism doesn’t mean that the country is racist. It’s past time to come to the unfairly maligned white America’s defense.
Yeah, my reaction to that was "Huh!!?" too. Wait for it...
The McCain campaign is so dumb that it bought into the press’s confirmation of its own prejudices. Even though registered Democrats outnumber Republicans by 1.2 million in Pennsylvania (more than double the 2004 gap), even though Obama leads by double digits in almost every recent Pennsylvania poll and even though no national Republican ticket has won there since 1988, McCain started pouring his dwindling resources into the state this month. When the Democratic Representative John Murtha described his own western Pennsylvania district as a “racist area,” McCain feigned outrage and put down even more chips on the race card, calling the region the “most patriotic, most God-loving” part of America.
Well, there are racists in western Pennsylvania, as there are in most pockets of our country. But despite the months-long drumbeat of punditry to the contrary, there are not and have never been enough racists in 2008 to flip this election. In the latest New York Times/CBS News and Pew national polls, Obama is now pulling even with McCain among white men, a feat accomplished by no Democratic presidential candidate in three decades, Bill Clinton included. The latest Wall Street Journal/NBC News survey finds age doing more damage to McCain than race to Obama.
Nor is America’s remaining racism all that it once was, or that the McCain camp has been hoping for it to be. There are even “racists for Obama,” as Politico labels the phenomenon: White Americans whose distrust of black people in general crumbles when they actually get to know specific black people (my em), including a presidential candidate who extends a genuine helping hand in a time of national crisis.
I think my emphasized phrase there is the crux of the biscuit. I'm sure that an awful lot of white people have never met a black person socially. The military is a good ice-breaker - all races are thrown together willy-nilly and the chickenshit is spread (like mayonnaise) on all fairly equally - but the splibs and the chucks tend to socialize by race. (That's the way it was in my day anyway. Maybe it has changed.) The saving grace is that sometimes their lives depend on trusting one another. The 'content of a man's character' is the important thing: will he be there when you need him?
I have formed a theory from my own experience and I hope none of you ever get to formulate it yourselves: one of the very few places that black and white can speak openly and honestly in this country is in rehab. I did mine through the VA, so everyone was a Veteran and we had that in common going in. The other thing in common was some kind of addiction and we were all there to kick. Just about the first thing you learn in treatment is that you absolutely, positively, have to be honest with yourself and admit that you have a problem before you stand any chance to kick it. You also have to be honest with yourself in order to be honest with others. Black, white, green, whatever, the spirit of being open and honest pervades the atmosphere towards a common goal of getting clean & sober and getting your life back.
Honesty builds respect. Color, or to be more politically correct, 'cultural diversity', is no bar to this. Having gone this far, I may as well prance all the way out to the end of the limb - a good way to tell when mutual respect has been achieved is when normally wary people can kid each other about race, even try to top each other, and laugh about it. Hint: be careful. Hard won respect can be undone very quickly.
Once you get to know someone and see him as an individual, he is no longer part of a stereotype and the stereotype can go ahead and crumble to dust. No stereotype is valid anyway. Well, except the ones about Repugs.
The corollary, and it should come as no surprise, is that assholes come in all shades too. The trick is to realize that he's an asshole and not a _________(fill in favorite demeaning racial epithet) because of it.
The original “racist for Obama,” after all, was none other than Obama’s own white, Kansas-raised grandmother, the gravely ill Madelyn Dunham, whom he visited in Hawaii on Friday. In “Dreams From My Father,” Obama wrote of how shaken he was when he learned of her overwhelming fear of black men on the street. But he weighed that reality against his unshakeable love for her and hers for him, and he got past it.
When Obama cited her in his speech on race last spring, the right immediately accused him of “throwing his grandmother under the bus.” But Obama’s critics were merely projecting their own racial hang-ups. He still loves his grandmother. He was merely speaking candidly and generously — like an adult — about the strange, complex and ever-changing racial dynamics of America. He hit a chord because many of us have had white relatives of our own like his, and we, too, see them in full and often love them anyway.
Such human nuances are lost on conservative warriors of the Allen-McCain-Palin ilk. They see all Americans as only white or black, as either us or them. The dirty little secret of such divisive politicians has always been that their rage toward the Others is exceeded only by their cynical conviction that Real Americans are a benighted bunch of easily manipulated bigots. This seems to be the election year when voters in most of our myriad Americas are figuring that out.
Mr. Rich referred to something like 'pockets of racism'. The Republican Party is probably the largest one remaining, and hopefully the last.