by Randolph T. Holhut
Chief of AR Correspondents
Sept. 13, 2012
IS THE 2012 ELECTION THE LAST GASP OF WHITE MALE PRIVILEGE?
DUMMERSTON, Vt. -- It has been said often this year, and I have been part of that chorus, that the 2012 election represents that last gasp of white male privilege in America.
Everything that the Republican Party has done since President Obama was elected has been driven by a ugly truth - that about 30 percent of Americans can't countenance having a black man in the White House.
That same number can't countenance the reality that we are becoming a majority minority nation that is more diverse and multicultural. They can't stand the idea that a woman should have full and total control over her reproductive health, and that people will have sex whenever and with whomever they please. Or the idea of marriage equality for same-sex couples. Or that, despite what conservative spinmeisters might say, we are a liberal nation.
Remember, Obama won the 2008 election without getting a majority of white voters. Aside from the 18-29 age group, Republican candidate John McCain got more white votes than Obama.
The GOP's so-called Southern Strategy, devised by Richard Nixon's campaign team in 1968, was successful because it capitalized on the anger and resentment of Southern whites after President Lyndon Johnson and the Democrats pushed through landmark civil rights laws that gave minorities the right to greater participation in the political process.
But that strategy works only when you have large numbers of angry white voters.
President Obama will lose the white vote again this year, but it won't matter. That's because about 74 percent of the electorate is white, and that figure is steadily shrinking. In all but one election since 1980, the percentage of white voters has declined. And because of that, unless Romney gets at least 61 percent of the white vote, he is doomed. By comparison, McCain got 55 percent of the white vote in 2008.
A recent Wall Street Journal poll found Romney at 0 percent support among black voters. Among Latinos, the fastest growing ethnic group in the United States, Romney has 32 percent support, which sounds good until you do the numbers and see that he needs at least 40 percent of the Latino vote to win.
For Obama to win, all he needs to do is to get between 45-50 percent of the white vote - most of those votes will come from voters under 40 - and get a massive majority of black and Latino votes,
With that electoral math, you can see why Republicans have been so vigorous in their efforts to suppress the votes of young people and people of color through their various legal shenanigans.
"The only 'positive' thing about this is that their need to have such laws in order to win the election is an admission on the part of the Republicans that they know the U.S. is a liberal country and that the only way they can now win is to cheat," filmmaker Michael Moore wrote last week. "Trust me, if they believed that America was a right-wing country they'd be passing laws making it so easy to vote you could do it in the checkout line at Walmart."
There's a new Tea Party-inspired group called True The Vote that claims to be training a million "poll watchers" that will be apparently deployed in places where voter fraud is suspected - namely, places where non-white voters cast votes. Some Tea Party groups have already shown up at the polls in the last couple of years and engaged in harassment and intimidation of not just voters, but poll workers too.
This is the last step of the process. Even with the Voter ID laws and restrictions on early voting that cropped up around the country, there will still be voters who will be determined to exercise their right to cast a ballot. So, you have to make it as difficult as possible for people who will probably not vote for the GOP candidate.
According to a just-released report by Demos, a nonprofit public policy group, this is part of a concerted effort to cleanse the voting rolls of likely Democratic voters with frivolous lawsuits and meritless charges of voter fraud, and that True The Vote and its allies frequently are engaging in tactics that are illegal.
According to Demos, True The Vote's organizers "say they want to make the experience of voting 'like driving and seeing the police following you.' There is a real danger that voters will face overzealous volunteers who take the law into their own hands to target voters they deem suspect. But there is no place for bullies at the ballot box."
Demos is calling for state election administrators and officials with the U.S. Department of Justice "to take steps in advance of and during the elections to protect voters from bullying at the ballot box. Our intent is to help minimize the level of activity that moves from positive civic engagement to voter intimidation and suppression. There must be zero tolerance for bullying behavior that stands between an eligible voter and her ballot."
That is the standard - that elections in America should be free, fair, and accessible - that should be upheld nationwide. Whether that standard will be honored on Nov. 6, in an increasingly polarized nation, remains to be seen.
AR's Chief Correspondent, Randolph T. Holhut, has been a prize-winning journalist in New England for more than 30 years. He edited "The George Seldes Reader" (Barricade Books). Write him at firstname.lastname@example.org.