June 11, 2012

Let's talk about race

Frightening statistic:  90 per cent of Mitt Romney's supporters are white. 

The stark difference between the mix, or non-mix, of Republican and Democrat supporters goes a long way to explaining the rise in the level of simmering anger and resentment between the two sides in American politics.  It also shows the regression in first world countries - for different reasons, depending on the political and cultural context -the widening gap in the lives and beliefs of the ruling elites and the rest.

I say "explaining", not "understanding".  It's difficult to understand why, America of all countries -  that massive melting pot, with hundreds of years of assimilating those from other lands, and of other colours -  is so at odds with it's own foundations, descending into old fashioned race, class and economic war, to no one's benefit.

I've thought these last four or five years that American politics (unlike our own grey version), was a black and white business; turns out that was more true than I knew.

Not afraid to talk about race


  1. It's not really clear what 'white' means in the context of that article, surely? Since 'white' could include people from many different backgrounds - Asian, European, Latin-American and of course Anglo Saxons being among them. I suspect the label 'white' has been hit used as a convenient one by the New York Times, which in turn suggests that much of the tension between different sides of politics is exacerbated or even created by inaccurate reporting.

    1. Race and ethnicity, in the US, has always been a big deal, and the hyphenated race / ethnicity is far more widespread than hyphenated surnames, and happily embraced by Americans of all hues.

      It's not like Oz, but you've been there ... you know better than I do.

      In American, there's nothing light and fluff about labeling people as "white". There is little labeling, other than self-labeling, which is a practice long embraced in the US, hence the ubiquity of the hyphenated race and/or ethnicity.

      A quick scroll through the options, and also method - ethnicity and race are addressed, in that order, in the US Census, and the definitions / uses across official records - really good summary at this url:


      To vote, people have to register with a party, it's no big leap to collect rich and accurate data on the supporters, and to cross-validate the data from other sources. Not hard to do at all, it's bread and butter stuff for social scientists, and the data sources for doing this in America are more robust than most countries.

  2. It would almost be nice to think you’re right, Tim, but the US is more granular and particular about matters of race than we are down this neck of the woods. When they say “white”, they don’ t mean mixed race, and the wide variety captured on the Democrats side of the fence suggests that pretty much anyone identifying as non-white is on the Dems side. I don’t think it’s distorted reporting (it’s a blog, an opinion piece; not to suggest the figures have been manipulated, just that this is tucked away on the site, not a headlining piece to grab traffic).
    Not overly surprising, as GOP has never welcomed just anybody, not the party of the riff raff, but I do find the extent of the gulf pretty staggering. It does not lend itself to any bipartisan politics any time soon, which means, economically and socially, little headway for the US, for a very long time. That can’t be a good thing; they are in desperate need of agreement on a growing mountain of important policy and economic management issues.

  3. Were survey respondents self-identifying? That's interesting if true - but couldn't that suggest that Republican supporters tended not to think of race in the same way that Democrats did? For instance I can well imagine a person with an Eastern European background would nevertheless describe themselves as 'white' - although they could have a very different ethnic, national, religious, or racial background to some of an Anglo-Celtic background.

    I'm always suspicious at the use of the term 'white' in relation to racial matters - because there is invariably a definitional difficulty when the term is analysed.

    1. Not a new thing Tim, heaps of research, and I don't think Americans are confused about the concept ... race is a whole big ball game over there, unlike here, and the hypernated race continues to be embraced.

      Scroll down about half a page of these search results, some good pieces, and it's only the tip of it, just pieces from earlier this year.


      And no, it's not linked to Mitt, it's a GOP thing.

      Other matters, economic and demographic, are no doubt driving it, and it is damaging for the whole country.

      By demographic, I mean that the fecund in the US are not white. It's not far off from white Americans being the minority. I don't view that as being a bad thing, neither, I'm sure, do tens of millions of Americans, but there are some who would find that very threatening, and are determined to protect their turf - literally and economically and culturally, I assume.

      Not that simple, but don't have time for more thought right now.

      (And damn it, was sure the Bikie Wars shoot out would start this week ... only got one shot, now have to wait until next week! Yeah, yeah, I know how it ends, all the same ... )

  4. There's some related number crunching going on over at Skepticlawyer - Lorenzo has a look at arguments that, if Obama loses the next federal US election, it will be because of 'racism'.

    1. Nooo. That's one of those logically inconsistent arguments that irritate me enormously (like pretty much everything that Bettina Arndt writes, for example). Besides, wasn't the last presidential election supposed to be about "race". Seriously, no analysis needed. Will the left claim it was / is about race? Sure, but won't make it so. The point simply fell apart last time, and if he wins again, the empty point falls apart again.

      As when the lovely Anna lost in Queensland, cries of sexism were long and loud, but made no sense: the voters picked her the previous time, yeah? Yep, sure did. They can vote her in and they can vote her out.

      Likewise, American's can vote in an American-African and they can vote him out.

      Of course, I can't let this point pass without noting that one incompetent woman means all women are tainted (it will be long drinks before we have another female PM, or the states female premiers), whereas one incompetent, obnoxious or plain disliked man invariable means ... yes, lets get another man to do the job! Obviously not confined to politics, it's a universal. :-D

    2. Also important, I think, to avoid conflating the racial divides among supports for each party, as opposed to the race of the presidential candidates.

      The GOP has never been a multiracial party, but has become extreme. I don't believe it relates to Mittens, in particular, it's a broad trend, regardless of the GOP candidate.

      Have to have dinner, will respond to other points in due course.