Thursday, October 2, 2008

A Little Advice Before Tonight's Debate

I will be (mercifully) teaching class at that hour, so I will miss it.

Don't underestimate Sarah Palin.  She may be parochial minded and incurious, but she didn't get to be governor of Alaska by being stupid.  She can be a formidable debater, frequently making direct, and successful, emotional appeals to her white working class supporters at the expense of her opponent.  Don't be surprised if she comes out the winner in tonight's debate.

Will this be enough to turn the election around for McCain?  It's hard to say.  The Republicans have run successfully on (largely perceived) resentments among white voters for over 40 years now.  We all know that the only reason that the election is close is because Obama is black. If he was blonde and blue-eyed and named Smythe, his lead would be insurmountable.  And, irony of ironies, it is this most loyal base of white working class men that have lost the most over the last 8 years of Republican rule (wages, benefits, jobs, homes).  Will those pink slips and foreclosure notices finally be enough to get people to see past their cherished grudges and preconceptions?  Will the spectacle of all those politicians claiming to be their champions against imaginary condescending East Coast and California elites, against "welfare cheats" and crime (translate, brown and black people) giving away their hard earned tax dollars to rescue the very businesses that have preyed upon them and profited off their misery finally get them to wake up and smell the coffee?

We'll find out on Election Day.  In the meantime, expect Sarah Palin to press all those sore buttons and to play the white and downwardly mobile like Heifetz on a Stradivarius.


Counterlight said...

Do I think white working class people are particularly racist? No. In fact, they are probably less so than most of the rest of the white population. I've heard conversations among tenured PhDs in faculty lounges that would make a Klansman blush. And why is that? Because the working class white folk frequently have minority colleagues, and white professionals and academics usually don't.
What is different about the white working class is that while minorities are frequently their colleagues on the job, they are also seen as potential competitors. For 2 centuries, employers and politicians have appealed to the darker angels of our worse natures to keep the working class in line. The surest way to break a strike and a union was to bring in a bus of black scab workers (exploiting both the anxieties of white workers and the desperation of black workers).

Democratic politicians (who really should know better) have a really tin ear when it comes to dealing with this particular class of voter. John Edwards (before he self-destructed) was the only major liberal Democratic politician who could successfully speak to this class and to get them to take a serious look at their own situation. I give credit to Barack Obama for trying to reach these voters. He's not always successful, but he tries. And he tries not by trying to mimic them and their cultures, but by remaining himself. These folks aren't stupid and they can smell a phony (even George Dubya these days).

it's margaret said...

Yeppa! I think you are spot on. Grieviously so.