Friday, October 26, 2012

Race and Reading the Results

We must be getting close to election day as people are now thinking about how to interpret the results.  Some are saying that if Obama wins despite failing to attract widespread support among whites (white males?), then it is not a real mandate.  One could, of course, flip that around--that a candidate who wins with little support among non-whites has a shaky mandate. 

Let's ponder this for a second--what is more troubling: a candidate who only gets 35%-40% of white votes or a candidate who cannot attract more than 20-25% of non-white support?  Given that whites are no longer a dominant majority in the country, failing to get support from non-whites means that one is not representing or at least not attractive to a large hunk of Americans.  And isn't alienating the least powerful who have lesser means of recourse less problematic than being not very appealing to whites, who are over-represented in the House of Representatives, in the Senate, on the Supreme Court, at the tops of government agencies and the heads of corporations?

Again, it goes back to this: we have a homogeneous party and a candidate that appeals to that homogeneity and a heterogeneous party with a candidate that appeals to a heterogeneous audience.  Why is doing somewhat better among whites so much more important than doing much worse among non-whites?  Isn't the President supposed to represent all of us and not just ... 53%  Ooops. 

One funny thing is that Obama will probably get in the aggregate more white votes and more white male votes than Clinton did because the population is larger and there is not a third candidate to split the votes. 

The second funny thing, from the standpoint of the research on ethnic politics, is that scholars such as Donald Horowitz have been advocating for institutions that aggregate votes in ways that make sure that winning candidates appeal beyond their ethnic group.  Does the electoral college have that effect?  Given today's demographics, it basically does. 

Ultimately, it comes down to this, if Obama gets more votes, then he has a mandate because non-white votes should count as much in terms of legitimacy as white votes (the old 3/5's rule was wiped off the Constitution awhile ago).  If Obama falls short of a majority of votes but wins via the electoral college, then the white man's rules set up long ago when only white males with property had a say will bite the white men of today on their respective asses. 

1 comment:

Vladimir said...

Strange to people who have followed US politics for a while but there used to be a school of thought that argued that the Republicans had a lock on the electoral college because there were more small states supporting Republicans. These states, like, Dick Cheney's Wyoming are over represented in the electoral college. Yet today people are suggesting that Obama has an advantage in the electoral college. The demographics of Colorado, Nevada, Virginia and North Carolina are tilting those states either toward Obama or at least making them tight races. Winning Oklahoma, Utah and Mississippi by 30 points in the end doesn't matter for much.