White Racism and Right-wingedness

May 28, 2008

Are most white racists also Republicans?

Please understand that I did not just say most Republicans are racists, or that most whites are racist or anything other than: Are most white racists also Republicans?

I realize that it’s a touchy subject. But several people have recently suggested to me that Barack Obama’s campaign will suffer because some white people will not vote for a black person. That’s certainly true, but I doubt very much whether this fact can influence the election.

For one thing, it’s looking at the cup half empty instead of half full; some people will vote against him because he’s black, but others will vote for him because he’s black. But there’s even another reason. And this brings me back to the title of this post: Most white racists aren’t Democrats and, therefore, wouldn’t be voting for him no matter what his skin looked like.

When I suggested this to some hardcore right-wingers, they cried foul. Can you prove that, they asked? Do you have evidence that more white racists are on the right half of American politics? After all, they said, remember the Southern Democrat phenomenon?

But that is a spurious argument. It’s true that 50 years ago the Democratic party had big strongholds among white southerners. But then came a little thing called the Civil Rights Act, losing for Democrats, as president Johnson famously said, the south for a generation. The fact that most of Americans white racists were Democrats in 1950 is no more useful than pointing out the fact that it was Lincoln–a Republican–who freed the slaves. Today’s political divisions have been rewritten completely, and these things have little meaning for our current party labels.

Here’s what bugs me, though: I don’t have any data to demonstrate what I and many of my left-leaning friends take as an obvious fact. Even though it seems intuitive and obvious to me, I can’t prove that most white racists are righties.

Why not? Could it be that I’m wrong? Possibly. Or it could be that such data are hard to come by in a 2 minute Google search. Maybe you can find something I didn’t.

By the way, please don’t bother sniping at me by saying that most racist blacks are also lefties. Of course they are. But that’s not the issue here. We’re talking about white folks who won’t vote for Obama because he’s black, not which party (or race) is more racist than the other. Racism, I believe, is a weakness we are all prone to. We are wired to be more comfortable with people who look, talk and think like us; those who eat the same foods, know the same lullabies and listen to the same music. That’s nothing new.

What I’m talking about here is whether racism against blacks will hurt the Obama campaign at the ballot box. I say it won’t.


No comments yet

  1. My thought?

    Most extremists are racist,and will vote accordingly. Always. Regardless of color, sex, or religon; people who espouse hate will vote according to their hate. Period. Lacking hate, they will then vote according to their beliefs.

    OK, WTF is this idiot saying?

    Jesse Jackson will vote for Obama (should he get the nomination), because Jesse Jackson is a racist (and he is, he hates me because I am white…I like Jesse because I agree with many of his thoughts). Jesse Jackson will vote for Clinton (should she get the nomination) because he is a liberal. Jesse Jackson will NOT vote for the alleged senator from AZ, because he is both conservative and white. I would be interested in viewing Jesse Jackson’s views in a run off between Clinton and Keyes 😉

    Would the current head of the Klu Klux Klan vote for Obaman? Upon first reflections, I would say “yeah, and a lesbian was just made pontiff of the holy roman church”….BUT….follow THIS link:


    And I quote: “Speaking from his Kentucky office in Dawson Springs, the Imperial Wizard exclaimed that anything or anyone is better than having that “crazy ass bitch” as President.”

    Apparently, your thesis is wrong. White racists hate women more than black men. QED 😉

    Oh, and this only supports YOUR thesis that Clinton is hurting the Dems by continuing her campaign.

  2. Apparently, your thesis is wrong. White racists hate women more than black men.

    Perhaps so but, that conclusion is unwarranted. My thesis is that most white racists are right-leaning. This statement by the klansman doesn’t really speak to that point at all. Furthermore, there won’t be a choice between Clinton and Obama this fall, so his stated preference in such a contest is quite moot.

    Plus, I don’t know why you believe I think the Clinton campaign is hurting the Democratic party. I don’t think I ever said that. Did I? What I really think is that this extra long primary season will actually help more than it hurts in November.

  3. My first take on this post… worst pile of crap you’ve ever written… and that’s just on it’s face.

    But to attack your premise more directly… and I do believe in fact that some people (more than we want to admit) won’t vote for him because he’s black… why not examine some of the DEMOCRATIC primary results lately… especially those from the Appalachian Mountain states and get back to me about your premise that white racists are Republicans.

  4. I’m really not sure what you’re trying to say, Nick, other than that you disagree with me vehemently. Is there something in the primary results in the Appalachian states that you’d like to point out as evidence against my thesis that white racists skew rightward?

  5. There might be a way to come up with some data to support your thesis.

    Hardcore white racists don’t speak up in public, but they aren’t shy about expounding on their beliefs on their websites. You should be able to devise a little a little study and gather evidence by trolling around in the dark alleys of the internet, if you have a strong enough stomach.

  6. The short answer is that racism will cost him some votes, especially in the Appalachian states, as Nick points out. But that will be more than offset by new voters and crossover voters and increased overall turnout.

    I think racism might be the single hardest thing to quantify. As you point out, we’re all prone to it to some degree or another, and likely in ways we’re largely not even aware of. Like I mentioned over on b&s, I saw separate drinking fountains when I was a child; of course I know how dehumanizing that is now, but at six years old, how is that information processed? Relatives I loved and respected used the n-word as a matter of course, as did millions in Texas in 1960. My parents didn’t, and they told me it was wrong, but they weren’t going to correct their parents or their aunts and uncles.

    Since racism would almost have to be a self-identified thing, and since so much of it is practically subliminal, I’m not sure if an accurate survey is even possible. Maybe a Masters and Johnson style study lasting a couple of years could do the trick. If we as Americans have an intractable problem, this is surely it.

  7. How exactly is it that you can state “some will vote for him because he is black” and yet not see that as racist? Oops, sorry to point out your hypocrisy.

  8. Well, for starters I don’t think people who see Obama’s race as a positive thing are racists. That is to say, I don’t think they are doing so out of a belief that one race of people is inherently inferior to another, nor are they holding this belief because they hate another racial group. Rather, I think some who see is blackness as a positive do so because they think he will be more sensitive to the issues that black Americans care about. Still others may be thinking that his presence in the white house will have a positive affect on race relations in America. I could probably go on and list a couple more reasons–none of which involve being “racist” in any commonly understood sense.

    Be that as it may, even if it were racist, I don’t see how that makes my original thesis wrong, as it only concerns the political views of white racists who won’t vote for a black candidate. It has nothing to do with racism found in other groups or toward other ethnicities.

  9. Hi Scott! Interesting question, and I appreciate your care in making clear what you are and aren’t asking. I think I would clarify another step: what we’re interested in is what percentage of voters in each party would not vote for someone because that candidate is black. I suspect there are many people who will vote for Obama despite carrying many conscious and unconscious racist beliefs.

    In terms of whether more of those people hang in one party over the other, I agree it’s not cut and dried. I think what Nick was referring to is the apparent racial divide among democratic voters when choosing between Clinton and Obama. The fact that many white voters chose Clinton suggests that there are plenty of democrats who won’t vote for Obama (or at least wouldn’t vote for him in the primaries) because he is black. Will those voters make the same decision come December? There, Dear Watson, lies the question.

  10. I understand that your question is whether or not racism will hurt Obama’s campaign, but you then question whether “most white racists (are) also Republicans?” and blatantly state that “Most white racists aren’t Democrats”. You imply that since the civil rights movement, racial equality is now somehow the property of liberal Democrats. I disagree.

    Liberal Democrats today seem to have the mistaken idea that persons of color can not succeed on their own. Without welfare, affirmative action, and special treatment, Democrats tell us, minorities are doomed to failure. They can not possibly achieve success otherwise. These ideas are not new to Democrats. Slaveholding southerners also mistakenly believed that slaves couldn’t survive unless they were taken care of by their masters.

    In a recent letter to Elizabeth Burmeister, Milwaukee County Sherriff David Clark said “I find your suggestion that black and other minority children cannot achieve because they are economically disadvantaged, or because they are poor and hungry, to be akin to saying that black kids are too inferior intellectually and emotionally to overcome hardships. I find it racially insulting… It is irresponsible for you to spew defeatist rhetoric to black children.”

    Believe me when I say that I am not trying to insult you or any other liberal. But I do hope that you will give serious thought to the idea that the philosophy of liberal Democrats which supposes that minorities are helpless to succeed without them is racist to the core. The “soft bigotry of low expectations” is just as corrosive as the hard bigotry of overt racism.

    In closing I would like to refer you to your own post where you correctly assert that patriotism is not owned by the right. It is just as simplistic, and wrong, to claim that “racial tolerance” is owned by the left.

  11. […] I recently made a comment on a liberal blog, responding to the question, ” Are most white racists also Republicans?”  In my […]

  12. All that money we spent to fix poverty has resulted in a fracturing of ethnic minority communities. High crime, low high school graduation rates, high jobless rates, low numbers of two parent families, high drug usage, low expectations, and, of course, no hope at all. Democrats do, however, derive a benefit from this….they get a high number of low income voters who are helplessly addicted to the dole, and have no choice but to vote for more of the same.

    I wonder if there are some Democrats who might, in those dim smokey rooms, find that to be a victory. I wonder.

  13. All that money we spent to fix poverty has resulted in a fracturing of ethnic minority communities.

    No it hasn’t. I’ll agree that part of the problem is that there are too many single parent families, and that our pre-Clinton welfare policies exacerbated this even while it helped in other ways. But if you really want to know what is “fracturing” ethnic minority communities, check out the war on drugs for the number one culprit.

  14. Ah, I see. War on drugs is bad. War on Poverty is good.

    Perhaps, it is the prevalence of drugs, the cultural acceptance of drugs, and the mis-use of drugs that is the real problem…..and not the attempt to eliminate them. To blame the war on drugs rather than the drugs seems to be missing the forest for the trees.

  15. Ah, I see. War on drugs is bad. War on Poverty is good.

    I think you’re getting it now.

    Perhaps, it is the prevalence of drugs, the cultural acceptance of drugs, and the mis-use of drugs that is the real problem…..and not the attempt to eliminate them.

    Well, I think you have it completely wrong and backward. How well did prohibition of alcohol work in the 20s? Ever see those black and white movies with the guys in hats and tommy guns doing drive by shootings? Any idea what that was about? Has it occurred to you that we’re doing the same thing with our drug policies? We’re breeding crime, often violent crime. Plus a lot of people are being imprisoned for victimless crimes. This destroys families and whole communities.

  16. Poverty dollars have indeed fractured ethnic minority communities, really all our communities. Welfare and free housing caused families to split up. People moved away from areas that held family ties, and moved toward states that held higher pay outs. Paying people not to work stole the work ethic from families, and denied the children of those families the ability to learn to succeed from their parents. (We actually have classes now to teach people the importance of waking up to an alarm clock, and arriving to work on time). Hard to deny that programs aimed at single mothers created more one-parent families by offering disincentives for marriage in the form of denial of benefits. Under the constant barrage of “help” from these do-good social programs, cultures that, in the past, were based on strong extended families, fell apart due to external pressure. The result has been a loss of social cohesion, the explosion of one-parent families, teen pregnancy, drug addiction, loss of respect for the value of education, and the list goes on and on. Our American poor live quite well compared to real poverty in the rest of the world. They are warm, dry, fed, and have medical care and access to modern conveniences. Yet, they often lead miserable, dejected and hopeless lives, ignoring and often disdaining the very things that would help them to join mainstream society. It is hard (darned near impossible) to make the argument that people are better off now that they have more money and things than they were when they dreamt of more money and success for their children.

    Put aside the things your college professors taught you. Those professors rarely spend time with the people they claim to know everything about… they live among the haves, and teach people about their views of the have-nots. They go to the mission to “observe and study” while not involving themselves in what is happening in the home. I would invite you to see the world as it is, not as you were taught it is…. I work in it daily, and I feel some level of shame that we allowed things to come to this, and we actually pat ourselves on the back for it. Sigh.

  17. For your information, I didn’t study social work. I studied psychology and religion and education. My beliefs and opinions about social problems come at least as much from my personal and professional experiences as they do from my educational background. I spent a decade with the addicted, the poor and the convicted. That’s not even getting into my own personal struggles. The idea that I live in some ivory tower is patently absurd to anyone who knows me.

    And, for the record, I would really like to see you prove the first three or four sentences of your comment. While some of the things you say may be true to an extent, that doesn’t make them the most salient issues with regard to the social problems they purport to explain.

  18. Well, I did not say that you studied social work, but the beliefs that you espouse seem to march in lockstep with the indoctrinat….er, teachings of many college professors. If you have a personal struggle with poverty and you came out of it, I’ll bet it was likely through hard work, not government handouts. I have no idea if you live in an ivory tower, but the majority of university professors do. I have no idea what experiences you have had, but you are clearly defending a failed and corrupt anti-poverty system. If it does not occur to you that the trillions we have spent already have been wasted and show little success, then I would speculate that another agenda is at work in your belief system.

    Denying the existence of the social ills that cause poverty is not a solution. Nor is speculating on the racism of Republicans or casting stones at black conservatives who speak out against the welfare behemoth.

    I could go to the lengths of providing links to studies, but I have become jaded in my dealing with left leaning social welfare believers. We spend time to offer evidence, and 99% of the time, it is simply labeled conservative misinformation, or talk radio propaganda. If you can’t be honest enough with yourself to see that the system IS the problem, then there is little hope to convince you. You can’t reason a man out of something that he didn’t reason himself into in the first place.

    If you really want facts to back it up, I will send them….. but please don’t ask if you have no intention of viewing it objectively. I don’t mean that as a slam…. I’ve just been burned too often.

  19. My apologies for the double post, but I saw this story in The Milwaukee Journal and I figured it was as good a place as any to start. It relates directly to my previous points on poverty.


  20. So what I’m getting from it is that there was this program that, when the results were analyzed, wasn’t effective. They gave certain kinds of economic and employment assistance, and the failure of the program is attributed to other factors: “lack of education, single parenthood, a criminal history, domestic violence, racism, learning disabilities, substance abuse, mental illness.”

    What are you getting from it? That no social spending is effective?

    And who is this guy and the Wisconsin Policy Research Institute? Is he giving us a complete and accurate picture?

  21. There you go again……

    Who is this guy? The author simply points to the results of a study by the Manpower Demonstration Research Corp. Your response? Question whether or not he is fair and accurate. Would you automatically be skeptical of a pro-welfare-increase-the-spending study? Don’t just say “Of course I would”. Truly ask yourself if your reason for disbelief is that the study does not agree with your preconceptions of what you HOPE that welfare is doing for people.

    No social spending is effective? Did I say that? Again a preconception that, as a conservative, I must be advocating no social spending at all. After all, conservatives are cruel and cold hearted supporters of business. If you glance back and read what I have been saying, I have simply pointed out that I think liberals are more interested in the actual social “spending” and less interested in the results. Liberals have become so invested in “more of the same” that any who dare ask for a new approach are simply labeled as uncaring or even racist.

    If you make people think they’re thinking, they’ll love you; But if you really make them think, they’ll hate you.

  22. I think it behooves us all to ask about the people who work for think tanks and who write op/eds in the paper, don’t you? I would be skeptical of a pro-my own opinion piece, except for the fact that I already have some pretty solid reasons for holding my own opinion in the first place. So in some cases I would, and in others I’d be somewhat less curious about it. But in no case would I present it to someone of a different opinion as “evidence” of something or other and not expect them to at least ask a question about who the author is. Sheesh.

    No, you didn’t say no social spending is effective. And I didn’t say you did. I asked.

    Liberals are more interested in the spending and not interested in the results, eh? We’ll it’s a good thing you’re not guilty of the caricatureization you accuse me of!

    I’m all for cutting the funding of things that don’t work. DARE comes to mind. Doesn’t do any of the things it purports to do, just makes people feel like they’re doing something. To the tune of millions. Time to cut that one loose.

    And yes, even other programs. Every dollar they spend is a dollar not being spent on something that works. And contrary to your belief, I do actually care about results. I’m a pragmatic guy. If you show me the facts, I go with them. I’m not interested in ideology.

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