by Joe Shea
American Reporter Correspondent
February 6, 2008
FOR DEMOCRATS, NOW IT'S ABOUT RACE, INCOME AND GENDER
BRADENTON, Feb. 6, 2008 -- It's not a good time to be a Democrat. As the Super Tuesday results demonstrated, the presidential race between Sens. Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton has divided the partly along clear racial, income and gender lines - the very distinctions the party has sought to erase in principle but has emphasized in its pursuit of diversity.
If you want to be a delegate to the Democratic National Convention, you need to occupy some niche of the party's diverse universe. There are slots reserved only for gays, only for blacks, only for Latinos, only for women - and none, of course, for those who are white men, or people who are merely poor (unless they are homeless).
The white men do get elected in great numbers, of course, which is what the diversity distinctions are all about, but by having made us all more aware of what race and gender and affluence mean in our lives, the party has also opened up a window on how American society views itself. That process bit the party in the leg Tuesday night; it's a dog with a throbbing desire to hunt.
I am married to a Latina and am fluent in Spanish, and have lived a long time in largely Latino cities like Los Angeles and in Latino neighborhoods. I know from Latinos; I know they view themselves as one step up the class ladder from black people, and I know that many of them use the same disparaging terms and have the same attitudes towards black people that characterized the widespread white racism that dominated this country as a social understanding before the advent of the civil rights movement and for too long afterwards. Not to put too fine a point on it, Latinos - who are so sensitive to discrimination against themselves, are as racist as those they condemn.
Having said that, let me hasten to say, too, that voting for a white woman over a black man by itself does not imply in any way that you are a racist, or in the case of women, a racist sexist.
Black people who study such things say that black people themselves are historically incapable of racism, and they have a good argument; I don't hear a lot of racism among blacks, though, while I hear it frequently among Latinos, Asians from China, Korea and Japan, Eastern Europeans from places like Russia and Armenia, and Middle Easterners from the Arab states and Israel.
The latter are often anxious, in fact, to distinguish themselves from other minorities by hurling racial insults at their Latin and black neighbors. I have never heard anyone charged with being a lazy, shiftless, no-good white man, even if the "white trash" label is one that has stuck, and have often heard the opposite. It is a disconcerting fact that sociologists and others who measure the health of our society seem to studiously ignore.
But there was no ignoring it Tuesday night. As much as one might want to believe otherwise, Barack Obama is the presidential candidate who offers real hope of progress to Latinos. It is telling that his voters uniformly made more than $50,000 a year and Hillary's made less than that; his were likely to have a college degree, but hers were not. He represents their American Dream. And he is not conflicted about the immigration laws as Hillary Clinton is; he doesn't want to give them licenses one week and deny them the next, as she does.
She is hesitant to back the Kennedy-McCain immigration bill, and he is not. He would improve the lot of this nation's minorities, and especially the poor, while she - if her husband is any template - would drift towards deep centerfield and catch whatever easy fly balls they hit her way from the halls of Congress. She and Bill Clinton together again in the White House may amount to less than Bill Clinton alone in the White House; two may be worse than one. Hillary's only sterling quality vis-à-vis Latinos is that she is a white woman and not a black man.
And they are why Sen. John McCain is vastly improving the chances of Republicans recapturing the White House. The political math is easy. He sponsored the key immigration legislation; he is against abortion (so are they, even if their unionistas are not; he is for a strong military; he exemplifies the macho qualities that Democrats have sought to diminish as misguided artifacts of feudal society. Put Obama up against John McCain, and the White House will again be a dim and pleasant memory for the Democrats. And Latino Democrats will put him there.
So will "change," the one thing Americans seem to be crying out for. John McCain will bring the change we need - he will shift power within the Republican Party from the racist, sexist, ignorant and self-enriching white country club and corporate types who now dominate it to an as yet undefined center that respects the rule of law, the supremacy of the Constitution and the integrity of public life; he will take seriously the challenge global warming poses to the environment, and not play political games with human lives when disasters strike, when epidemics threaten, when drugs and drug-makers go bad. He will not urge schools to teach our children the world was created 6,000 years ago. He will not retreat from the sub-prime mortgage crisis and he will not let Wall Street call the shots for him.
But he will give the same people tax cuts, keep fighting the same wars, take the same attitude towards state sponsors of terrorism that President Bush has established, and probably ditch the various federal mandates that were created to balance racial and gender inequality. He probably won't take on the banks, insurance companies and pension funds that control so much of America's capital, or come down very hard on Wall Street, either, even if he does demand accountability.
It will be a lot like the presidency of George H.W. Bush and Ronald Reagan, and his policies will probably exacerbate the nascent new Cold War between Russia, China and the United States as these competitors for oil, markets and affluence express their new wealth in weapons systems and foreign adventures.
I can easily live with a John McCain as President. But America cannot go further than it has in leading the progress of nations without Barack Obama. It is his very youth, his very adventurousness (of the good kind), his enthusiasm for life, his easy manner and his inherent personal diversity -,not to mention a soaring intelligence - that will make a difference in how this nation and the world are led in these critical first decades of the 21st Century.
And I guess I can live without that, too, even if it leaves me, in the last of my decades, with hunger for it gnawing at my gut.