Issues

Election 2012

Race2012: Issues - Election 2012

“Unlike past “tribal allegiances” we have moved into divisions of ideology that are forming around differences in socio-economic status, or class.” – Ronald Brownstein, Editorial Director, National Journal.

Race2012 pbs Issue Election 2012The 2012 Presidential Election takes place in an era of deep ideological separation between the political parties. Mitt Romney, the quintessential member of the elite banker class, raised with wealth and privilege and with profound connections in elite society, squares off against the current president, an African American raised by his middle-class, single-mother and grandparents.

A man with exceptional skills at connecting with the average man, President Barack Obama finds himself in a country changing its fundamental definitions of itself. Ana Puig, Kitchen Table Patriots, goes so far as to predict that this change makes it less likely that we will see more conservative presidents elected in our future, “I think as far as the ideology of the everyday American goes, it has really shifted, I think the left has done a really great job at indoctrinating the American people and I think you and I will agree that long-term it’s going to become harder and harder to elect conservative presidents.”

However, progressives who elected President Obama in 2008 have grown somewhat disillusioned by what they claim to be his resistance to addressing the “race problem” in America. Over one million deportations later, the President finds himself with a Latino voting group he once relied on that has grown frustrated with him. His calculation that he must implement an extensive program of deportation to move forward with a solution to the immigration issue is an issue often fraught with nativist arguments that the government must enforce existing laws before any compromise can be made. And yet, it’s not realistic to predict any movement of Latinos over to the Republican side. As Tim Wise, author, Dear White America: Letter to a New Minority observes, “The overall interests of those communities are interests that they are more than capable of evaluating in a holistic way. And I doubt very seriously that you’re going to see any kind of widespread exit from the Obama vote for Latinos.” Matt Barreto, Assoc. Prof., Political Science, Univ. of Washington, says of Obama, “I think that the DHS policy change towards dreamers was a very very big deal. It provided real actual relief for people who are currently in the system. I think a lot of Latinos were very enthusiastic about that.”

It would seem that Asians with high levels of achievement and transcendence of the wealth gap that other minority groups often still struggle with would have a higher tendency to lean towards conservative Republican values. However, there is no real evidence that this is a reality for Asian voters; in fact, some scholars argue that over time the opposite is occurring. Claire Jean Kim, Assoc. Prof., Univ. of California, Irvine says, “Asian Americans tend to hit on that notorious glass ceiling. Even though they’re doing well in terms of educational attainment, getting certain kinds of jobs, they tend to hit that ceiling where they’re not promoted to the highest levels of administration or the corporations they’re working in. But there’s another really important theme here to understand and that is, Asian Americans and arguably other minority groups, racialized groups are conditional citizens of the United States. And by that I mean they have real citizenship, but it’s historically contingent citizenship. And it’s always on the verge of being violated or disrupted, depending on shifting historical events. Tim Wise says, “You actually see the Asian American community becoming more aggressive politically and ideologically over the years because they’re starting to realize that the American Dream is a far more complicated thing than what perhaps they were sold it to be when they first came.” Still, the new American personified in Barack Obama has been able to gain and maintain more traction in his message of inclusion than does Mitt Romney’s message of earned membership.

The bottom line, Rich Benjamin says, is that we are still a country that requires sensitivity when campaigning among even progressive whites. “I think,” Benjamin says “Obama has a skill in being very cautious, in being very diplomatic, and personal, and I think that skill comes from being Black, in part, in very elite environments. You develop a skill in not offending people immediately, not being perceived as angry, and overly aggressive. And that’s one of his political skills, but it’s also one of his political drawbacks.”

FOR DISCUSSION:

  • Does the changing face of the country make Romney’s task of solidifying the GOP’s traditionally reliable voting bloc of white voters an impossible one?
  • Will Latinos once again place their trust in a president who has sacrificed Latino interests, specifically vis-à-vis immigration?
  • Will white voters defect from the Democratic Party as it becomes increasingly dominated by minorities?