The Pew Research Center recently released a report on racial attitudes in America. The report is based on a telephone survey conducted in October and November 2009.
The survey included a question about people’s perception of President Barack Obama’s racial identity. Here are the results:
Source: Pew Research Center
Question: How does Obama perceive his own racial identitiy? That’s discussed here in the post Barack Obama, Black, Biracial, Whatever.
Right after Obama’s presidential election win last November, I made this comment:
Here are my own election winners and losers, plus some “too early to tell” entries…
Too Early to Tell:
Black Voters: They were huge this election. Blacks were 13% of the total vote, up from 10% in 2000 and 11% in 2004. That helped make the difference in close elections for several states.
The question is, can they be depended on in future elections? Or will their turnout drop without Obama at the top of election ballots?
I think a lot more work needs to be done to make black voters a dependable election force, in close elections or elections in the South. Because if they’re not a dependable political force, that lessens their power and influence in the long run.
It will be interesting to see how much of the black vote turns out for the Georgia Senate runoff election between Republican incumbent Saxby Chambliss and his opponent, Democrat Jim Martin. Martin has no hope of winning if black voters stay home; we’ll see if they sit this one out.
In the aforementioned Georgia Senate race, Jim Martin did wind up losing, and low black turnout was a factor.
Yesterday, Republicans won the governor’s election in New Jersey and Virginia. In both cases, the young and black voters who were key to Obama’s election success were not decisive in their support for the Democratic candidate.
Liz Sidoti of the Associated Press made these comments:
In another troubling omen for Democrats, the surveys also showed that more of the Virginians who turned out on Tuesday said they supported Republican John McCain in 2008 than said they backed Obama. That suggests the Democrats had difficulty turning out their base, including the swarms of first-time minority and youth voters whom Obama attracted as part of his diverse coalition.
A loss in Virginia could suggest that the diverse coalition that Obama cobbled together last year in Virginia and elsewhere — blacks, Hispanics, young people, independents and Republican crossovers — was a one-election phenomenon that didn’t transfer to the Democratic Party when Obama wasn’t on the ballot.
I share Sidoti’s concern, although I disagree with her comment that the Obama election win was a one hit wonder in terms of pulling together what I call the “Obama coalition” of young, black, Hispanic and independent voters.
Witness, for example, 38-year old Democrat Anthony Foxx in the Charlotte, North Carolina mayoral election. Voters in the city ended more than two decades of Republican leadership in Charlotte Tuesday by electing Foxx, who is the city’s second African-American mayor and the youngest in memory. Foxx won a close race, getting roughly 51 percent of the vote over Republican John Lassiter in unofficial tallies.
Foxx benefitted from a strong black turnout. African Americans are 35% of Charlotte’s population. The Democrats need to find and promote more candidates like him, who appeal to diverse constituents.
The bottom line is, if the Democrats are going to win “the Obama way,” they need to embrace the kinds of voters that put Obama into office. Failure to do so is perilous. Consider these comments from the Washington Post, concerning the election campaign in Virginia governor’s race:
Senior (Obama) administration officials have expressed frustration with how Democrat R. Creigh Deeds has handled his campaign for governor, refusing early offers of strategic advice and failing to reach out to several key constituencies that helped Obama win Virginia in 2008, they say.
A senior administration official said (Democratic gubernatorial candidate R. Creigh) Deeds badly erred on several fronts, including not doing a better job of coordinating with the White House. “I understood in the beginning why there was some reluctance to run all around the state with Barack Obama,” said the official, who spoke on condition of anonymity in order to speak candidly about the race. “You don’t do that in Virginia. But when you consider the African American turnout that they need, and then when you consider as well they’ve got a huge problem with surge voters, younger voters, we were just a natural for them.”
A second administration official, who also spoke on condition of anonymity, said: “Obama, (outgoing Democratic governor Tim) Kaine and others had drawn a road map to victory in Virginia. Deeds chose another path.”
And it goes without saying that black voters can’t afford to be apathetic or unengaged simply because certain kinds of candidates aren’t running. Not everyone who runs for political office is exciting or charismatic. And sometimes it is about voting for the lesser of two evils. Black folks need to be willing to come out to the polls even in those kinds of situations.
I guess the Republican Party just can’t help it. Making crude comments about African Americans, even one who has reached the position of POTUS, seems to be in their DNA. Consider these clumsy remarks by the Republican Party about Barack Obama and his wife Michelle:
• From Newscoma: Tennessee GOP state Senator Diane Black (R-Gallatin) sent an email with this image of our country’s presidents.
• From the Indigo Journal: Mike Green, a Republican operative who is helping to run the campaign for GOP gubernatorial candidate Gresham Barrett, posted the following joke about President Obama on his Twitter account:
JUST HEARD OBAMA IS GOING TO IMPOSE A 40% TAX ON ASPIRIN BECAUSE IT’S WHITE AND IT WORKS.
• Fitsnews.com reports: Republican Rusty DePass, a former SC State Senate candidate, supporter of former President George W. Bush, and Longtime GOP activist, made this comment after hearing about the escape of a gorilla from a zoo in Columbia South Carolina:
“I’m sure it’s just one of Michelle’s ancestors — probably harmless.
And yet they wonder why they can’t get more black votes…
I would hope that a wise Latina woman with the richness of her experiences would more often than not reach a better conclusion than a white male who hasn’t lived that life.
- Supreme Court Nominee Sonia Sotomayor, in a speech as quoted by the New York Times
Freedom of speech… just watch what you say…
-Rapper Ice-T, “Freedom of Speech”, from the album The Iceberg/Freedom of Speech…Just Watch What You Say
So here you have a racist. You might want to soften that, and you might want to say a reverse racist. And the libs, of course, say that minorities cannot be racists because they don’t have the power to implement their racism. Well, those days are gone, because reverse racists certainly do have the power to implement their power. Obama is the greatest living example of a reverse racist, and now he’s appointed one.
Talk-radio host Rush Limbaugh, as quoted in Media Matters
Yes… watch what you say.
Right wing extremist and talk-radio host Rush Limbaugh is apparently using the above comments from Appeals Court Judge Sonia Sotomayor to paint the narrative that the Judge is racist. I doubt that charge will stick, but this is a cautionary tale about watching what you say in matters concerning gender and ethnicity.
Judge Sotomayor, whose family is from Puerto Rico, made those comments while giving a speech about diversity in the Judiciary.
And certainly, there is value in having diversity in the American Judiciary, as with the rest of American society. That value was certainly a factor in her being selected by President Barack Obama to fill the Supreme Court seat of retiring Justice David Souter.
The sentiment in Judge Sotomayor’s comment was well-intentioned, and not at all vile or pernicious. But it does violate one of the rules of talking about ethnicity, gender, and race: never say one group is better at doing something than another. And as a corollary: never say that being in one group somehow makes you better at doing something than a person of another group.
Just imagine if a white person had said: “Being white, I feel that I can adjudicate lots of cases better than non-whites, who don’t have my breadth of experience.” That would set off some fireworks, and deservedly so.
Again, I doubt that the Sotomayor’s faux pas will derail her placement on the Supreme Court, Limbaugh’s comments notwithstanding. She has a solid resumé and more than enough experience. But it does show that if you’re a public official in any kind of setting, you need stay aware of the rules and etiquette associated with comments on gender or ethnicity. Failure to do creates grist for the mill of the haters, and that’s certainly not helpful for career advancement.
UPDATE: A story in the New York Times reports:
The White House said Friday (5/29/09) that Judge Sonia Sotomayor, President Obama’s nominee for the Supreme Court vacancy, used a poor choice of words in a speech eight years ago when she suggested that a Latina judge would reach a better conclusion than a white male judge who doesn’t have the same life experiences.
“I think she’d say that her word choice in 2001 was poor, that she was simply making the point that personal experience are relevant for the process of the judging,” said Robert Gibbs, the White House press secretary.
I think this is a good move from the White House. By admitting it was a bad choice of words, they’re no longer in the position of having to “defend” the comment. And it shows the White House has some sensitivity (empathy?) for the concerns that have been raised about the comment.
This won’t make the controversy go away, though. Her comments will be a point of contention until her confirmation, and maybe beyond.
Alphacat, who’s done a lot of video spoofs featuring Barack, has a hot number which riffs off Jamie Foxx’s Blame It video.
Here’s Alphacat’s version:
Best line, from faux Michelle: “Red or blue don’t matter cause we’re not gangs, don’t fight… y’all better act right.” (The political junkies will get that.)
I like Alphacat’s version better than the original from Jamie Foxx, which follows.
This is sorta silly season in politics. - Barack Obama, during the 2008 Presidential campaign.
When is it NOT silly season in Washington? Our politics have become so shallow, so stuck on things that don’t matter, that they border on being irrelevant.
That’s true for many Washington politicians in general, and Republican politicians in particular.
Case in point: Republican Newt Gingrich, who was once Speaker of the House and a respected deep thinker. It seems he’s gone off the shallow end. For Gingrich, no attack on Obama is too trivial or trifling.
A couple of weeks ago, in the wake of the Somali pirate attack on the Maersk Alabama, Gingrich said it was time for Obama to show the world he was tough on piracy. As Gingrich noted on the ABC show This Week with George Stephanopoulos:
Look, this is the administration [Obama's] which keeps trying to find some kind of magical solution that doesn’t involve effort, and doesn’t involve risk, and doesn’t involve making hard decisions….. we ought to simply, as a civilized world, say we are gonna stop the pirates in the region. Period. It’s very good for the rest of the world to see that there’s someplace in the planet where people are willing to draw a line and say certain things won’t be tolerated.
Gingrich went on to say that piracy was a global threat along the lines of Iran, North Korea, and Mexico, and represented a test of the President’s resolve. That led Stephanopoulos to ask conservative commentator George Will whether the pirates were in fact a test for President Obama. Will responded
Good Heavens, no. The Speaker’s very litany of nuisances around the world — some rising considerably above nuisance — indicates just how down on the chain of concerns this should be. Again…. this is well below what mugging was in New York City, because as Paul [Krugamn] said the sea’s really quite safe.
Why did Gingrich elevate the piracy incident to the top of the list of foreign policy concerns? Because in the event that the pirate incident didn’t work out well-say, with the unfortunate death of Maersk Alabama captain Richard Phillips, whom the Somali pirates were holding hostage-Gingrich could call it big failure by Obama on the world stage.
In the previous blog entry, we mentioned that Michael Steele, the chairman of the Republican National Committee, expressed his desire to see more people of color represented within the Republican Party. Steele made this statement at a meeting of Florida Republicans. At the same meeting, Jim Greer, Florida’s party chairman, said that the party would focus on using technology to invigorate younger Republicans.
The folowing charts help to explain why Republicans might be concerned about ethnic and age diversity within their party. These are from the Young Voters in the 2008 Presidential Election Fact Sheet, which was prepared by CIRCLE, the Center for Information and Research on Civic Learning and Engagement at Tufts University.
This first chart is not elegant aesthetically, but it makes a powerful point about the ethnic make-up of voters in the November elections. The chart shows the ethnicity of the electorate, broken-out by different age groups.
I know this is redundant, but let me go over the numbers on the above chart:
• For voters who are 60 years old or more, the ethnic composition of the vote was 85% white, 8% black, and 4% Hispanic
• For voters aged 45-59, the ethnicity was 80% white, 12% black, and 4% Hispanic
• For voters aged 30-44, the ethnicity was 72% white, 15% black, and 7% Hispanic
• For voters aged 18-29, the ethnicity was 64% white, 19% black, and 11% Hispanic
What we’re seeing is that the under-30 population has become more ethnically diverse than older age groups. Whites are a smaller portion of the electorate, while the percentage of African Americans and Hispanics is growing.
The problem for Republicans is that African Americans and Hispanics tend to vote for Democrats. The following chart shows the percentage of people who voted for Obama in the November elections, by ethnicity and age-group: