Competing images of the poor as “deserving” and “undeserving” became central components of the debate. Ultimately, the racialized nature of this imagery became a crucial resource for conservatives, who succeeded in using law and order rhetoric in their effort to mobilize the resentment of white working-class voters, many of whom felt threatened by the sudden progress of African Americans. As explained by Thomas and Mary Edsall in their insightful book _Chain Reaction_, a disproportionate share of the costs of integration and racial equality had been borne by lower- and lower-middle-class whites, who wee suddenly forced to compete on equal terms with blacks for jobs and status who lived in neighborhoods adjoining black ghettos. Their children—not the children of wealthy whites—attended schools most likely to fall under busing orders. The affluent white liberals who were pressing the legal claims of blacks and other minorities “were often sheltered, in their private lives, and largely immune to the costs of implementing minority claims.” This reality made it possible for conservatives to characterize the “liberal Democratic establishment” as being out of touch with ordinary working people—thus resolving one of the central problems facing conservatives: how to persuade poor and working-class voters to join in alliance with corporate interests and the conservative elite. By 1968, 81 percent of those responding to the Gallup Poll agreed with the statement that “law and order had broken down in this country” and the majority blamed “Negroes who start riots” and “Communists.”
Race had become, yet again, a powerful wedge, breaking up what had been a solid liberal coalition based on economic interests of the poor and the working and lower-middle classes. In the 1968 election, race eclipsed class as the organizing principle of the American politics, and by 1972, attitudes on racial issues rather than socioeconomic status were the primary determinant of voters’ political self-identification. The late 1960s and early 1970s marked the dramatic erosion in the belief among working-class whites that the condition of the poor, or those who fail to prosper, was the result of a faulty economic system that needed to be challenged. As the Edsalls explain, “the pitting of whites and blacks at the low end of the income distribution against each other intensified the view among many whites that the condition of life for the disavantaged—particularly for disadvantaged blacks—is the responsibility of those afflicted, and not the responsibility of the larger society. Just as race had been used at the turn of the century by Southern elites to rupture class solidarity at the bottom of the income ladder, race as a national issue had broken up the Democratic New Deal “bottom-up” coalition—a coalition dependent on substantial support form all voters, white and black, at or below the median income.
Of the various post-election stories, the GOP’s “Latino problem” is one of the most prominent. At some point over the last three weeks, every prominent Republican leader has had something to say about the party’s poor performance with Latino voters.
Less remarked upon, but just as important, is the GOP’s abysmal showing with Asian Americans. Most exit polls show President Obama winning Asian Americans 3-to–1, a larger spread than his margin among Latinos, and second only to African Americans, who gave nearly all of their votes to the president.
As with Latinos, Asian American movement to the Democratic Party has a lot to do with with the explicitly anti-immigrant stance of the GOP, as well as the overwhelming sense that the GOP is a party for hidebound whites, and actively hostile toward nonwhites of all stripes.
There’s a policy component in this as well; the Asian American community is highly diverse (ethnically, economically, and otherwise), and there many who would benefit from the core Obama agenda of health care reform, stronger social services, and investments in education and other programs. Still, even with that in mind, it’s fair to say that Asian American support for Obama is as much about inclusion as it is about policy.
Which is why this piece, from conservative scholar Charles Murray, rankles. Rather than consider Asian American political preferences on their own terms—or even acknowledge the range of experience among different Asian American groups—Murray lumps them all into a single, undistinguished mass of model minorities, and then wonders why they don’t vote for Republican candidates:
"Something’s wrong with this picture. It’s not just that the income, occupations, and marital status of Asians should push them toward the right. Everyday observation of Asians around the world reveal them to be conspicuously entrepreneurial, industrious, family-oriented, and self-reliant. If you’re looking for a natural Republican constituency, Asians should define ‘natural.’"
It’s worth noting the implicit contrast here. Entrepreneurism, industriousness, family-orientation, self-reliance—these are things that Murray sees as unique to Republican constituencies. Which must also mean that these are thing that go unvalued by Democratic constituencies, namely, African Americans, Latinos, young people, and single women.
I’m usually bored or irritated by election buzz. While I consider voting an important and hard fought for tool in our toolboxes for change, I certainly don’t consider it the end all and be all and frankly I am sick of the rhetoric that reduces non-voters to ignorant lazy asses. I am also extremely bothered by the way DREAMers are being used and patronized in this election by saw called progressive organizations and labor unions. The idea that this group of relatively young people who have made great strides in terms of pushing the conversation of immigration in this country do not have a voice and require people to be their voice is paternalistic and does nothing to build movement. I was very excited to vote today though. Today marks the first time I vote outside of my home city of New York and the first time voting as a Los Angeles, California resident.
The presidential election isn’t very exciting or enticing to me even. I voted for president this morning, accompanied by my partner, a lifelong Angeleno. What is simultaneously fascinating and confusing for me is the whole ballot provisions thing. In California there are 11 state measures and in Los Angeles County 2. The propositions are about sex, death, and taxes.
Brooklyn bound on the ‘A’frican Xpress—a.k.a. the A train—yesterday. Sardines have more room than rush hour commuters on day 1 of regular traffic post Sandy’s wrath. Young brother to his co-worker. ‘You votin?’ Brother shakes his head: “Nah, son I ain’t vote. I could, ain’t gonna. My vote ain’t count no-ways.” His co-worker tries to persuade him he should vote, especially because it is his first time. Young brother not convinced. Behind me, packed train I hear a lady’s voice. ‘Xcuse me, pardon me sis, xcuse me’. Elder with a walker trying to manouevre her way through a packed subway car. Everyone’s pissed, only her elder status & the fact of the walker stops out-loud comment. Much side-eyeing instead. “Young man!” Elder to the young brother who just said he wasn’t voting. “Me?” “yes, young man you. You’re not voting?” Young man shakes his head. The elder lady starts. She explains it is not his right to not vote, that neither she nor her friends and family stood and faced danger so he could shrug his shoulders and just decide not to vote. She tells story after story. Everyone is quiet. Young man waits for her to finish, he tries to explain he doesn’t agree with President Obama’s policies. Elder stares at him. “You’re not voting because of him, you’re doing it for me and every woman who took a beating so you can. You need to wake up, xtra early, get down to them polls and vote. You hear me?” “Yes’m”. Am thinking about the young man today and that elder.
Today, on the morning of this election, we find it crucial to make three central points:
—We do not need to agree with everything a political candidate espouses to cast a vote in her favor. Voting is not an unequivocal endorsement—of a particular candidate or of the systems that structure our participation as “citizens.”
—Voting is participating in a process that allows us to select figures with whom we would prefer to engage. That is to say, voting allows us to have some say in the parameters of future political struggle. It lets us decide with whom we want to struggle. And struggle we must.
—Voting is not an end, or even a means to an end. Black feminist politics are far more expansive than electoral politics. They’ve had to be. Black feminist politics are what allows us— as young black queer and trans feminists—to fight to have liveable lives, to cherish our own survival and delight in the miracles of making it to the next year, day, hour. Voting does not interrupt our black feminist politics any more than it vanquishes the myriad structural and sociohistorical inequities that make those politics necessary.
In other words, to vote is to practice a strategic embodiment. It is to lodge one’s body in a deeply flawed system as part of a larger commitment to developing a world we all might be better able to live in. As feminists of color, we know that politics neither begin nor end with the casting of the ballot. But, for us, right now, the ballot must be part of the process. And so, when the dust settles on this particular moment in history and the two of us return home from the polls, we know that we will continue to voice dissent, to engage in acts of self-care, and to practice a set of politics anchored in the belief that liberation is something we must fight—in all possible ways—to attain.
Lupe’s words aren’t unprecedented. There’s a long list of outspoken mainstream hip-hop artists, one that includes Public Enemy’s 1989 release “Fear of a Black Planet”, which was eventually selected for preservation in the Library of Congress. But as Eric Arnold noted a while back on Colorlines, the genre has become more commercial force than protest music. More recently, Los Angeles-based rapper Kendrick Lamar told a reporter that he “don’t do no voting”, and then went on to explain that there are forces “beyond people” that render voting useless.
The quip came just weeks after Lupe made his own headlines with his criticism of voting, which in turn ignited a heated debate on Twitter. “Young black men are going to listen to him, and they are the ones who have decisions made for them, decisions that they are not even involved in, which is silly to me,” political commentator D.L. Hughley told a reporter during the debate . “There are more black men in prison then there were ever slaves. And it’s silly to me that people don’t want to have a hand in their future.”
It’s an age-old movement dilemma: reform or revolution? There’s certainly a case to made against the idea that a platinum-selling artist can really speak on behalf of the masses. But what Lupe is doing is far less ambitious. He just has a political point with some substance, and he’s not afraid to say it. His mainstream success shows that people are listening.
“The industry has been more and more about [what’s happening] at the top of the food chain,” says Kitwana. “In doing that they’re not always articulating what’s happening on the ground. And no one is really doing it, they don’t have the same level of visibility.
“The biggest divide of this election in terms of the black community is not a divide between people voting for Romney and Obama,” says Kitwana. “It’s a divide between people who are riding with Obama no matter what, and people who are saying ‘wait a minute, we expect more from you and this country has to be better after you being president than it was before you became president.’”
“Additionally while media is rightfully honing in on voter suppression efforts across the country and pushback against these efforts, little attention is paid to the fact that Puerto Rican citizens on the island have no vote in the U.S. presidential election, nor Congressional representation yet are subject to U.S. law. There has been buzz about how this year’s plebiscite is allegedly different from those of years past because of the wording of the option and a two step process, but not much discussion on how no matter how the vote turns out, a Congressional bill would have to be introduced to Congress to change the island’s status. Not one article or post I have seen has mentioned the numerous hearings before the United Nations Decolonization Committee and that committee’s recommendations. There also has been hardly any noise heard within the U.S. media about allegations of electoral fraud within the island. Just like during the 2008 presidential campaign, this year both candidates have made much ado about the influence of the Latino vote by campaigning in Puerto Rico and the media has focused on the participation numbers of voters on the island in the primaries there.”