Dear Angry White Folks: Barack Obama Says Thanks for the Help, but You’ve Done Plenty
I saw them by the dozens in the last few months. They came from talk radio, TV opinion shows, newspaper pundits, letters to the editor, political appointees and staffers, failed candidates for past offices, current candidates, office holders, cousins, friends, and people I’ve never heard of before. I bet you saw them too. You may have even produced or propagated some yourself.
“Barack Obama wasn’t really born here!”
“Barack Obama is secretly a Muslim!”
“Barack Obama is committing treason!”
“Barack Obama wants all old people dead!”
“Barack Obama is trying to collapse the economy because he is bitter about colonialism!”
“Barack Obama hates the Constitution!”
“Barack Obama is starting with the Catholics, but plans to destroy all of Christianity!”
(To be true to the sources I really should have used CAPS LOCK and lots more exclamation points!!!!!!!!!!!!!)
Of course, not all of them were about Barack Obama. There were the comments about the “rape thing;” accusations that evolution and the big bang theory (from cosmology, not the TV show, I think) were direct products of Hell sent to Earth by Satan; the claims that anything that included reasoning based on measured data was clearly a lie; the claims that liberals, socialists, communists, atheists, scientists, and Nazis were all equivalent groups; assurances that gays don’t want equal rights, they want to destroy morality and marriage for everyone; denunciations that anyone who didn’t do exactly as told was obviously not fit to be allowed in any right thinking organization; and more in a list far too long to recount all at once.
Every one sent out by someone who was sure this “fact” was beyond question, and who was certain that their willingness to speak up was the key to the outcome for the coming election.
The election happened, and it has some good news and some bad news for the senders of these missives.
On the bad side, it was a horrible day for them. Between the President, the Senate, the House of Representatives, and a collection of state governors positions up for election, not a single Democratic incumbent lost. Of the potentially competitive states in the Presidential election, President Obama exceeded all expectations and won all but one of them, registering a 126 electoral vote margin of victory and a solid win of a few million votes in the popular vote. The Romney/Ryan ticket became just the second major party ticket in US history to lose the home states for both candidates. (Sharing an electoral distinction with George McGovern is almost never a good thing.) The Democrats gained seats in both the Senate and the House. In a list of social issue ballot initiatives across the country, the side supported by Republicans lost in every one.
On the good side, there is some evidence that they really did make a difference.
All the hate, doom, and panic in all those pronouncements had two effects.
The strongly committed core of the Republican vote (about 10% to 20% of the total voting population.) loved them. They ate up every chance to find more, forward them to everyone they knew, like them on FB, write derivative posts about them, bring them up in any conversation they could, (“How is your daughter doing in preschool?” “Pretty well. She has some problems with potty training accidents, but everything would be better if Barack Obama wasn’t trying to destroy the Christian way of life!”), and declare that anyone who could even consider voting for a Democrat must be either a deluded lackey or an active collaborator best compared with those who aided the Nazis.
Independents and moderates hated them. Every repost pushed a couple more people away from the Republican candidates and agenda. They thought the whole thing bordered on crazy, and maybe crossed that border sometimes.
The fraction of the population that self identifies as Republican, or that registers as Republican in states where party affiliation is included in registration has been dropping for over a decade, but has accelerated in the past 4 years. These are people who believe in small and limited government, who believe in minimal regulation of markets, who believe in reduced taxes, who desire a balanced budget, but who no longer want to be called Republicans. The crazy drove them away from a party that in principle is trying to do many things they want. Some still voted Republican, but the fraction that is willing to do so is dropping.
Those who never chose to be Republicans in the first place were even more strongly repelled. According to polls and focus groups, they hate this sort of behavior from anyone, and in their opinion the Republicans were doing a lot more of it.
Taken together, these independents are about 20% of the population.
(The other 60% to 70% of the population not yet mentioned didn’t have their opinions or behaviors affected in any meaningful way by all this. They either just ignored the behavior, or never really expected anything else from the people acting that way.)
So, the posts made a group of people who were already a sure thing to vote Republican even more excited to vote Republican, made a group of people who could swing either way feel like the Republicans were crazy, and had no effect on anyone else. In other words, they pushed the balance of the elections toward the Democrats. (Maybe the good news wasn’t all that good for the angry white folks.)
Every time a new hate filled and fact deficient post would go viral on the Internet, a half-dozen Democratic campaign consultants would go to the store, buy a six-pack of some snooty craft brew, and throw an impromptu party. It was some of the most effective advertising at moving votes in the whole election cycle.
So, though I hold no position with any campaign, on behalf of Barack Obama and Democrats across the country (as well as gays planning weddings, pot smokers planning on serious cases of the munchies and others who you worked so hard to aid) I offer a sincere thank you to each and every angry white person on the Internet for all you did to make this election cycle so successful. It wouldn’t have been the same without you.
However, I would like to point out that some amount of over enthusiasm may be infecting your ranks.
Since the beginning of election day we have been treated to the obvious disconnection from reality that was the surprise from the Right over the outcome, headlined by Karl Rove’s star turn on the calling of a winner in Ohio; “the death of white America”; the secessionist petitions; the refusal to count all the ballots in some close elections where Republicans might lose; Court slap downs of voter suppression tactics; revenge firings; Right wing bloggers dropping off the grid with proclamations they are formenting civil unrest; and of course an even louder reprise of all the themes from before the elections.
If the goal is to convince all the people you scared off before the election that they did the right thing, you have succeeded and can take a well-earned vacation.
How bad has it gotten?
Rachel Maddow, who I would have guessed wouldn’t shed a tear if no Republican was ever elected to any office more important than county dog catcher ever again, has been publicly begging the Right to come back and make themselves a viable option that people can support without being embarrassed again. I honestly think she really means it, too. I don’t think it is just sarcasm. Let me repeat that. Rachel Maddow feels bad enough for you that she is making an honest attempt to help you be able to win elections again.
Consider this an attempt at an intervention. Your friends on the Left are worried about you enough that we are willing to act against our own short-term benefit and try and show you that you have a problem. That’s the best we can do, though. The choice to either get better or keep getting worse belongs to you.