My boss mused aloud about Sarah Palin’s presidential chances a few weeks ago. “She’s attractive,” he said with a bit of a gleam in his eye. “And she’s white.” It wasn’t the fact that Palin had shown no real intention of running or the fact that my boss was a gay white male whose lifestyle was condemned by the GOP that brought a knowing smile to my lips. Conventional political wisdom of this sort held by the man in the street is still so powerful that even today, in 2011, the talismanic supremacy of whiteness is still considered by many to be the most important ingredient necessary to ascend to the White House.
Since I wasn’t in a job-killing mood that day, I didn’t tell my boss the thought that had immediately flashed through my head – that in 2008, John McCain had disproved this by winning the white vote and losing the election.
I see the daily summaries in the press of the latest round of exhortations against President Obama by the GOP hopefuls, even while President Obama’s schedule clearly reflects his desire to attract more Hispanic, Latino and minority supporters, and have to wonder—how can even reasonably moderate candidates like Mitt Romney, who has already proved as governor of Massachusetts that he is the kind of Republican who is willing to face the reality of whatever situation he finds himself in, reduce themselves to being mere one note Johnny’s, delivering the same “Obama is a failure” line over and over again?
When your party’s only black candidate is eager and willing to demagogue the entire American Muslim community because of the actions of the small fraction of Muslim extremists, you have to wonder if he is really running for president, or auditioning for the role of the tough talking high school principal Joe Clark in Stand By Me II.
During my brief career as a stockbroker, the Wall Street adage “stocks are sold, not bought” was repeated over and over by every sales manager I ever had. Ronald Reagan sold the ideals of the Republican ethos and the brazen oxymoron of “trickle down economics” to Americans with the same kind of vigor and sense of style that Elvis Pressley used to sell his distillation of southern poverty and rhythm and blues music to his legions of fans.
This field of GOP presidential candidates isn’t selling their stock—they are expecting the public to want to buy what they have to offer. These candidates, in their zeal to outdo one another to appeal to the lowest common denominator of the Republican faithful, seem to have forgotten that democracy is the arithmetic of the many. Barack Obama proved this in 2008 by holding the biggest voter registration drive in the history of this country. Part two of this massive effort is about to get underway, an effort that will continue to alter America’s political landscape.
Meanwhile, the Republican Party’s presidential candidates are working mighty hard to put themselves in the imaginary box they consider “the real America”, the make-believe version of our nation that has been crafted by talking point TV and political messaging experts, even as the actual national narrative we all see daily before our very eyes reflects a tremendous amount of ethnic and racial diversity. One thing that will become apparent to more and more Americans in the aftermath of the 2012 election, including people like my boss, is the realization that many of us are not white.