Sunday, October 19, 2008

Obama, the white male vote, and the mandate

You may recall that last week on the main Clarion Content page we were discussing the virulent anger of some McCain-Palin supporters, and how race would factor in the presidential race. In a nuanced piece in this week's New York Times Magazine, Matt Bai addresses the issue head-on in an article titled, "Will Gun-Toting, Churchgoing White Guys Pull the Lever for Barack Obama?" He pulls out important threads, reminding readers that a very white Senator John Kerry lost the white male vote nationally by 25% according to exit polling. He notes that, "In three states — Texas, Indiana and North Carolina — more people voted in Democratic primaries this year than voted for Kerry on Election Day in 2004."

He concedes that, of course, Obama's priority is winning the election. However he carefully follows and artfully interviews the candidate on the issue of an election mandate. No more of Bush II's arrogant, divisive stance that, "50% plus exactly one vote empowers me to do whatever I want." He says that, "Obama’s central argument about American politics [is] this notion that the cultural fault line in the electorate can somehow be bridged by a generational change in leadership." Bai follows that up quoting Obama to the effect that this cultural fault line is exploited by a relentlessly profit driven media, "...there is an entire industry now, an entire apparatus, designed to perpetuate this cultural schism, and it’s powerful." Bai reminds us that this was an issue Obama wanted to fight as far back as the 2004 convention speech that introduced him to many folks, "when he talked about worshiping 'an awesome God in the blue states' and having 'gay friends in the red states.'" Obama is quoted saying that the cultural divide, the surrounding anger, and partisanship has been the impassable blockade that has prevented action on so many big issues, "if voters are similarly polarized and if they’re seeing two different realities, a Sean Hannity reality and a Keith Olbermann reality, then we’re not going to be able to get done the work we need to get done.” The Clarion agrees.

No matter who wins there are issues that have to be addressed. Among them: immigration, (which neither candidate is talking about,) the coming retirement of the boomers and the strain on Social Security and Medicare, (which McCain at least mentioned in the last debate) and farm subsidies and their brutal effect on the world's poorest. Some issues will always be partisan, some people will always disagree with any course of policy. The Clarion's hope, whichever candidate wins on November 4th, is that America will get a leader who wants to unite people, to raise them up and bring out their best selves, not a leader who uses his election to divide people and bring out their worst, smallest selves.

Let us abandon the myopia of, "I win, therefore, you lose."

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