Wednesday, November 7, 2012
What Does It Feel Like to be a Problem? How Do (Conservative) White Men Really Feel About Their Role in Mitt Romney's Defeat Last Night?
The post-mortem for Mitt Romney's presidential campaign has begun in earnest. Obama's deft campaign strategy aside, was Romney doomed by an inability to tell the truth, low likeability ratings, Ayn Randian plutocratic comments about the "47 percent," his position on letting the car industry fail, or consistent appeals to the far Right through a use of anti-black and anti-immigrant rhetoric?
There are many causes of political death for Romney. In time, some will be proven to be more important and significant than others.
The leading explanation suggests that Romney and the Tea Party GOP were defeated because of changing demographics, and an electoral base which was overly dependent on white voters. Because the Republican Party is the country's de facto White People's Political Party, Romney put himself in an untenable position: to motivate the base, he would have to embrace policies that would push away and alienate women, people of color, young people, and a part of the white electorate who was turned off by the Right's herrenvolk, "take our county back" appeals to a mythic White American past.
Romney and the Republican Party's America no longer exists. In truth, it was always a chimera and a lie. But, the lie could be sustained because enough white folks took it to be real.
Whiteness is characterized by a set of attributes which include invisibility and a sense of being "normal." White racial identity--and white masculinity in particular--does not like being interrogated.
Ironically, in a version of "racial heliocentrism," whiteness loves being the center of all things.
As such, intense discussions about "white working class male voters" have become a part of America's public discourse in almost every recent national election.
In the Age of Obama, conversations about the meaning of whiteness in this "new" America have become increasingly common as well. To wit: there are a number of articles on a variety of news sites, blogs, and in other media, that are trying to figure out "the white problem" and its relationship to Romney's defeat last night.
Does Whiteness--or at least some of its owners--like being discussed in such a public manner?
I have always felt that macro level discussions of aggregate social identities, like "blackness" and "whiteness" for example, obscure as much as they reveal. Consequently, I am very curious about how white men, as individuals, across divides of party and ideology, feel about last night's election.
Do conservative white men (or white men more generally) really feel imperiled and obsolete in the Age of Obama? Is the world really against them? Do white men who are liberal, Left leaning, progressive, independent, or otherwise aligned feel unfairly lumped in with how whites (men in particular) as a group that are being presented as obsolescent holdovers who doomed Mitt Romney and the Republican Party to defeat?
Alternatively, do white men who left their "natural" home in the Republican Party, and were not lured in by the Right's identity politics, feel good about themselves as outliers that saw a way forward and are embracing a more diverse and inclusive America?
White men are the object and not the subject in these conversations. Of course, white men are able to control the master narrative because they control the country's mass media and are the single more powerful group of people in the United States (if not the world). But, the elite white men who can act as proxies and stand-ins for "how white men feel" on the news, and among the pundit classes, are by definition not a representative group.
White folks, and white men in particular, please teach me something about these matters.