watching all the election analysis, last night and this morning, i am struck above all by the racialism of american politics. every polling expert, consultant, and even politician, on both sides, basically conceives the american population in racial terms. so, people always win or lose because of the black vote, or the latino vote, or the white vote. every demographic analysis starts with that, and every campaign everywhere works a racial strategy. indeed, the dem party's long-term hope is entirely cast in racial terms, as we become 'majority-minority' etc. congressional districts are basically articulated in racial terms, which ends up being the content of gerrymandering. when push comes to shove and it's get-out-the-vote time, people are scouring the streets for racial types; it's all profiling; we've got to get out the black vote, or we've got to get out the older whiteguy vote. then, those are the constituencies you represent; that's your base. it is a racial base, and it begins to look like the inkatha freedom party vs the national party in apartheid south africa.
there are many ways that the population might be split or conceived, and in my opinion any demographic segment of similar size could be represented as decisive in any election no matter how they vote. if our whole political system conceives the racial categories to be the most important categories, racial differences the most important differences, that shows who we still are, what we still obsess about. and operating politically under the assumption that racial differences are the most important differences has its role in freezing all the categories and segregations in place. i really do think dems and reps do this equally.
simplified scenario: take a situation in which the black vote is 13%, which goes 90% dem, and the republican loses by 5%. a pundit will draw the obvious conclusion: the black vote was decisive. had the rep gotten half the black vote, he would have won, for example. but let's say white men ages 55-74 also form 13% and vote 90% rep. had half of them voted dem, the dem would have been elected. they are decisive in just the same sense and to the same degree. now say left-handed people form 13% and split their vote. had they voted 90% republican, the republican would have won. that is, the left-handers were decisive in just the same sense as the black vote. no one group is ever decisive, or all always are, but the question is: who can we break off and appeal to as an integral audience, with their own media, etc. then your whole strategy both mirrors and redoubles a basically segregated social and political terrain.
you might want to pause for a moment in your project of getting elected and ponder the devastating question of who you are.
here is a good and typical example: the diane rehm's show election debrief this morning, with nia-malika henderson, doyle mcmanus, and ron elving. you would really think that the election was primarily about race. it's both the way people conduct the campaigns and the way pundits or experts analyze them. in neither case is this a forced move, or even plausible as a primary explanation. but the conduct of the campaigns and the analyses are mutually reinforcing.