Saturday, November 10, 2012

The Great Divide

“Let us all hope that the dark clouds of racial prejudice will soon pass away, and that in some not too distant tomorrow the radiant stars of love and brotherhood will shine over our great nation with all their scintillating beauty.”- Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

So it turns out that the 2012 Presidential Election was not about The Economy after all. There was a lot of talk about The Economy and The Deficit and Taxes. But when one cuts through the rhetoric and gets down to the voting booth, one could argue that it came down to race (or as some would prefer to say, ethnicity.) Of course, the Republicans were hurt by some incredibly stupid comments about rape. Their position on gay marriage and abortion turns off a lot of people too. But most of those folks would not vote Republican regardless of these issues. The auto bailout might have been a difference maker in Ohio (the other rust belt states were voting Democrat no matter what). However, peel back the dirty little onion and it’s clear that the votes came down very much along racial lines.

President Obama got over 90% of the black vote and over 70% of the Latino vote. He got over 70% of the “other non-white” vote. We heard it said loudly and often, “It’s The Economy”. That’s the number one issue. But increasingly, the economy (and let’s throw taxes in with it), boils down to groups of people and their personal economies. It’s all of these Economies, not necessarily “The Economy”, that ultimately determine how people vote. For example, immigration policy has a huge economic impact on Latino families. Of course it has major personal and social consequences. But it’s largely an economic issue for everyone who has a stake in it. (Personally, I’m not a hard-liner on immigration. I don’t agree with the far right of the Republican Party on immigration. But, Republicans put themselves at odds with Latinos over immigration and Republicans paid for it.)

A big chunk of the “white economy” has benefited greatly from lower taxes on the wealthy. (If you don’t believe me, just look at the last 30 years of changes in the tax code.) The “non-white economy” relies heavily on government programs. Right or wrong, they see more money trickling down to them personally from the government than from big business. People vote with their pocket book even if they don’t have one.

It really comes down to the Haves and Have-Nots. The gap between the two is greater than ever and when it comes to voting, the numbers are on the side of the Have-Nots. Of course, there are whites in the Have-Not camp who voted against the Haves. There are also some left-leaning white Haves who voted with the Have-Nots for various reasons. But the difference makers in this election were the vast numbers of non-white voters who perceived voting for Obama to be in their best interests, primarily their best economic interests. Even the emotional voting among blacks for one of their own has at it’s core a belief that “their guy” will do for them what the other guy will not do for them.

The message to the “Haves” should be clear. As long as the government is the most reliable economic resource for the “Have Nots”, they will vote accordingly. And trying to take that away from them will not work. They have the votes. We must educate, motivate, employ and compensate more of our fellow Americans. That will cost money and most of that has to come from the “Haves”. We may not like it, but if we don’t fix this thing, this great country of ours will go down in flames.

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