Tuesday, November 6, 2012

0 WrightAndLeft on Privilege and the American Presidency

Mr. Wright, bless his soul, answered my call from about a week ago to explore Barack Obama, the White House, and Black America.  He has offered up this post over on WrightAndLeft which explores the implications of electing Mitt Romney and why he thinks 2012 might be more of a milestone than 2008.

Read the full article here
With some distance, I think we will someday recognize that the 2012 election was the election that debunked the myth of American conservativism.  What started with a beautifully articulated lecture given by Bill Clinton at the Democratic National Convention led to the release of a plethora of nonpartisan studies that challenged the accuracy of conservative claims.  For decades, now, we have been entertained with the notion that high-income tax cuts spur on three major changes: smaller government, reduced deficit, and economic stimulus.  This has been the mantle of Republicans.  Tax cuts for the wealthy, we are told, are in the best interest of the nation as a whole because they offer the best access to these outcomes.


There was a telling moment during Romney's 47% comments that gave insight into these priorities.  Romney made a handful of jokes about how much easier it would be to win this election if his father, instead of just being born in Mexico, had actually been Mexican.  It got laughs like a joke, but there was that element of sincerity to his delivery, especially in his repetition.  He sounded a lot like that white high school kid who bemoans how much easier it is for minority students to get into college, fully incapable of recognizing the false reality required for such a statement.  Romney seems to have no concept of privilege.  His insistence that he is self-made--that giving his inheritance to charity negates the help his father gave to him--further supports his ignorance, but this isn't just the world from which he comes.  It is the version of America he is seeking to preserve--one that believes the greatest injustices come when the government seeks to empower those who haven't already earned those opportunities on their own.
 Hollywood couldn't have cast better actors to play out the choice in this election.  Romney fits perfectly the archetype of white wealth.  He looks like a television character from the fifties--an era that few non-whites see as ideal.  In contrast, Obama represents our impending biracial future.  As such, he is easily perceived as a threat to those that regret America's evolving norms.  This is all exacerbated by our changing demographics.  2011 marked a significant shift in our make up as, for the first time in our post-colonial history, the US welcomed a majority of non-white babies.  Pundits have declared this as the last election when a candidate can so unabashedly seek out the support of only one racial group.  The white majority is slipping away, and certain groups are desperately seeking to institutionalize their power and privilege before this shift is complete.  We can largely explain the Romney candidacy as a push back against these shifts, but we needn't let that fear push us backwards.


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