• DOUBLETAKE 08: “Taking a second look at race and racism in the 2008 presidential elections”

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Can Obama win over the white working class?

Commentary by Organizer KD

Can Obama win over the white working class? This is a question the media has devoted a lot of space to. In just one example worth looking at an Washington Post article asks, “Can He Be a Working Class hero?” But if the title was accurate it would read, ‘can he be a WHITE working class hero?’ The primary issue is related to the racism emanating from a sizable section of the white working class and the other issue is the unwillingness to point out whiteness in a prominent way within the title of an article whose main focus is the white working class.

The framework of debate around this question has narrowly focused on what Obama and the Democrats have to do to court the white working class. This isn’t necessarily strange considering that is exactly what politicians do to gain potential votes, but a question that isn’t being asked is why would the white working class vote in their racial interests and what compelling reason is there to continue another term of Republican rule? George W. Bush has clearly shown himself to be an enemy of working people; whether it was the Enron scandal, his bloated military budget and creation of a new federal department, Homeland Security (funneling tons of money into costs like offices, supplies, etc.), the continued lay-offs of workers and rising unemployment, the current housing crisis, where many people are losing their homes to foreclosures due in part to predatory lending practices, or the proposed 700 billion dollar bailout of Wall Street and finance capital. So why would any working person vote for John McCain, whose voting record was the same as Bush’s 90% of the time, not to mention his recent comment about the fundamentals of the economy being strong. I can understand if large sectors of the white working class were rejecting both political parties, but the majority of the white working class is not necessarily liberal, forget about radical (unless perhaps you’re talking about right wing radicalism).
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Rednecks for Obama, winning hearts and minds?

The Rednecks are 74-year old Tony Viessman from Rolla, Missouri and his buddy Les Spencer. They debuted their redneck love for Obama at the Democratic National Convention this year. Not sure if it’s satire, sincere – or both, but the Tony and Les are certainly sticking out their red necks to call attention to contradictions of class, religion and whiteness in the election narrative this year.

Like in this post on the Fireside Post, where they talk about “the colored fella” takin’ away Fannie Mae’s guns, how they lost their job because “They moved da factry to China,” and how when they asked their preacher for election advice, “He said it ain’t no concern of his cause I aint been paying my tithe.” Whoa.

One things for sure, the Rednecks for Obama are turning election coverage on its head: The white working class has been talked about as a monolithic vote, and – it is always implied- a racist vote. Oooh, how’s the Black man going to win them over? – is the subtext of any discussion of white poor and working class people this election season.

Tony and Les show that at least some self-described “rednecks” see common interest with a person of color candidate… even if they do still call him “colored.” Whoops.

Some are touched by the out and proud Rednecks for Obama message. Youth Radio’s Ayesha Walker says she was brought to tears when she saw them in Denver for the convention.

“Leftists to destroy white male power structure,” says Bill O’Reilly.

At least he’s got something right. We could probably dedicate a whole blog to O’ Reilly’s racisms… but what stands out about this one is … Senator John McCain’s response. McCain had the opportunity to say “Now wait a minute, Bill. I’m running to represent this nation- and that includes everyone, not just those who fit the the ‘white christian male power structure.'” Another anti-racist opportunity lost by our white leaders.

“Clean, Articulate, and White Approved!”

“…he’s the first mainstream African-American who is articulate and
bright and clean and a nice-looking guy…” (Joe Biden)

Commentary by Organizer KD

In Joe Biden’s political career he’s become known for being “loquacious”; feisty, gritty; speaking with candor. He’s a straight talker, a man who speaks his mind. Now, saying what you think is one thing; but when saying what you think invokes historical prejudices and stereotypes, you’ve moved beyond inappropriateness to racism; whether it’s intentional or not.

Biden’s most recent “gaffe” when talking about Obama during the Democratic primaries is inexcusable. He insists that his comments are being misunderstood and he regrets that “some have taken totally out of context my use of the word ‘clean.’” He goes on to explain, “My mother has an expression ‘clean as a whistle, sharp as a tack.” On an appearance on Good Morning America he explains. “Look, this guy’s incredible, He (Obama) is really bright. He’s fresh. He’s new. He has great ideas.”

So why not just say that Joe? Instead he chose to use clean and articulate to describe Obama; words historically (and currently) used by white folks have to divisively distinguish between the “good” and ‘bad” black folks. The “good” ones of course being ‘clean’ or ‘articulate;’ and the “bad” ones? Perhaps, as Wahajat Ali sarcastically quipped in CounterPunch they’re; “…disheveled, mumbling, Colt 45 drinking, dread locked, gangsta rapping, sexually threatening and incapable of intelligent speech.”

Actually, using ‘clean’ and ‘articulate are code words to let white folks know the black person in question is “white approved.” In fact, I can see the next Obama ad campaign. Obama steps fresh out of the shower with a sparkling clean white towel wrapped around his waist with a great big, warm smile. They freeze the frame, and from the bottom corner of the screen pops a little Joe Biden with two thumbs up saying: “Joe Biden here! Remember folks, Obama’s clean, articulate, and white approved. Vote Obama-Biden in ’08!”

Well maybe not, but if Joe Biden really is a straight talker then perhaps it should be.

In another “whoops” moment, the senator lets his stereotypes show here:

Does Race Matter in ’08? The View from NPR

News Analysis by Organizer CF

NPR’s Michelle Norris and Steve Inskeep have teamed up to offer listeners an in-depth listen into a conversation among 13 diverse voters from York, Pennsylvania.

Norris explains why she was personally motivated to produce the piece, admitting that race is often mentioned in election coverage but rarely given the necessary time and space to draw out complex and diverse experiences and subconscious feelings.

Upon first reaction- and having worked for NPR- I know that this more nuanced approach to race and politics is under appreciated and under covered in the network.

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White men can vote

“And there’s a lot of them, even if they can’t dance.” says a writer at the Economist.com

According to the polls, Mr Obama beats Mr McCain in nearly every group except white men.