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

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    Sat, October 25th, 3-6:30pm
    The Ballot Box and Beyond
    UCLA Labor Center
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    Los Angeles, CA 90057

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.