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How Barack Obama Defeated Racism

October 28, 2012

How can we possibly have a racist country if our country elected a black president? On the surface, it sounds like a perfectly reasonable and legitimate question. But then you read an article like “Obama May Not Need To Repeat 2008 Support From White Voters To Win.”

We’re reminded that Obama actually won the 2008 election with 57 percent of white voters voting against him and losing the white working-class vote to John McCain by 18 points. While Obama received the most white support for a Democratic presidential candidate since Lyndon Johnson, he’s now polling at a mere 38 percent among white voters, which would be the lowest level since Michael Dukakis in 1988.

Democrats have been tepidly received by white voters for quite some time; most recently, 2010 Congressional Democrats lost the white working-class vote to Republicans by 30 points, and lost the college-educated white vote by 19 points. Still, this could all be made moot, as the white vote continues to be marginalized by demographic changes, Obama can win reelection on the strength of the minority vote.

Perhaps Obama owes his presidency–and perhaps his reelection–more to the decline of demographic homogeneity than he does a decidedly less racist electorate. Or perhaps not. The point is this is all extremely complicated and there’s little to conclude about American racism from the election of our first black president.

But here’s my question–with the electorate becoming less white, does the GOP attempt to attract minority voters, or does it double down (as they have on supply-side economics, etc.) on Southern strategies that have made them more attractive to white voters, relative to Democrats? And do Democrats continue to “alienate” white voters in favor of minority voters capitalize on their success at courting minority voters?

Racism is dead, long live racial polarization.

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From → Politics, Race

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