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Opinion » Columnists

The perils of visceral voting

15.09.2008
 
Pages: 12
The perils of visceral voting

One could almost envisage John McCain’s cheshire grin as his strategists whispered into his ear: “Voters are basically stupid. It’s not about substance; it’s about style. It’s not about knowing the issues; it’s about appealing to the worst in human nature, while pretending you’re appealing to the best.”

“Think about it John! Voters have elected movie and television stars to governorships, to Congress, and even to the presidency. Oftentimes, if those stars die while in office, voters elect their spouses, as if osmosis gives the wives and husbands of deceased elected officials some bizarre form of political acumen. Even people who helped others steal elections have won elections themselves!”

“As the ‘good-old-boys’ in West Virginia have shown, you’re already guaranteed a number of votes simply because your opponent is African-American. And a bigot’s vote counts as much as the vote of a person with honor. What you need to do now is market yourself to those voters who are disgruntled over the defeat of Hillary Clinton. You can do that by picking a woman as your running mate. She can be as diametrically opposed to Hillary Clinton’s political views as George W. Bush is to sanity, and it won’t matter.”

While the author of this article cannot truly claim that the above discourse took place, when I first heard that John McCain had selected Alaska governor Sarah Palin as his running mate, I did immediately ask myself, “Is he really so cynical, or so naïve, that he doesn’t think voters will see through his transparent attempt to exploit the gender card?”

A few days later, I discovered that my thoughts were being echoed by Pulitzer Prize winning commentator Leonard Pitts, of the Miami Herald. In his column, Pitts also noted the “irony” of McCain choosing Palin, since the political party McCain represents “has spent years inveighing against so-called ‘identity politics.’”

In fact, during his campaigns, George W. Bush incessantly pandered to the twin evils of racism and sexism by denouncing affirmative action policies—designed to remedy discrimination against minorities and women—as “preferential treatment.”

 

Obviously far too many voters were oblivious to the fact that Bush, through his family’s wealth and influence, benefited from “preferential treatment” his entire life. As I’ve often stated in previous Pravda.Ru articles, Bush is not adverse to “preferential treatment,” as long as he, and his wealthy white supporters, are the preferred.

A few days after McCain’s announcement, polls appeared to indicate that his strategy was working. Suddenly a plethora of “undecided” voters, white women in particular, threw their support behind the McCain/Palin ticket.

A prominent feminist even claimed that women have endured worse discrimination than African-Americans, because African-American men were granted the right to vote decades before women were.

While this is chronologically correct, it is nonetheless a specious argument. It is true that African-American men were constitutionally given the right to vote in 1870, whereas women were not allowed to vote until 1920.

In reality, however, the voting rights of all African-Americans, male and female, especially in the postbellum South, were nullified in 1877 after Rutherford B. Hayes, to win a disputed presidential election, agreed to remove Northern troops from the former Confederate States, dooming African-Americans who resided there to a system of segregation and disfranchisement that cartoonist Thomas Nast described as “worse than slavery.”

This disfranchisement lasted for almost a century, and evidence of its power, and the racism it engendered, can still be seen by looking at the history and current makeup of the United States Senate. Nineteen women have served in the Senate, and sixteen are serving today. By contrast, only three African-Americans have ever been elected to the Senate, and only one, Barack Obama, is currently serving.

Undoubtedly many will argue that there is nothing wrong with supporting Palin solely because of her gender, since African-Americans are supporting Barack Obama solely because of his race.

But this ignores that fact that many African-Americans do not support African-American politicians when these politicians act adversely to their interests.

This was evident in the 2006 gubernatorial race in Ohio, where African-Americans resoundingly rejected John Kenneth Blackwell. Blackwell, an African-American and supporter of George W. Bush during the 2004 election, was suspected, in his capacity as Secretary of State, of wrongfully disfranchising minority voters so he could deliver Ohio’s electoral votes (and, as it turned out, the election) to Bush.

Of course, many voters are claiming it is not Palin’s gender that persuaded them to support the McCain/Palin ticket, but her other attributes: It was her speech at the Republican Convention; it’s her “family values;” it’s her “faith.” One woman even said that, as a woman, Palin could more readily identify with the pain of losing a child in combat in Iraq, while an idiot on the Faux “News” Channel tried to argue, with a straight face, that Palin has “international political experience” because of Alaska’s proximity to Russia, which apparently means everyone residing in Washington D.C. has presidential experience since they live near the White House.

Pages: 12
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