As Republicans conduct an autopsy of the 2012 election they’ll need to acknowledge that their particular brand of vanilla–rich, white, and well-aged–is no longer a recipe for electoral success. No doubt, this will be a tough pill to swallow. After all, bigotry, greed and xenophobia have always been a sure fire recipe for success in the past. Time and again, Republicans have steamrolled to victory by painting their liberal opponents as being overly fond of repulsive “others”: lesbians, atheists, peaceniks, the homeless, Willie Horton, illegal immigrants, welfare queens, etc. By alienating the 47 percenters, Republicans have consistently succeeded in galvanizing enough of the wealthy white majority to secure comfortable fund-raising and electoral victories. In sum, white power has always represented the most direct and reliable route to the (aptly named) White House.
But in 2008 the unthinkable happened. The dopey Democrats fielded two non-traditional front-runners for the party’s presidential nominee: Hillary Clinton, the exceptionally intelligent, talented and, therefore, roundly despised, former first lady, and–this was simply too good to be true–a black guy with the middle name “Hussein.” Republicans were exultant. Democrats had, for all intents and purposes, conceded defeat before they had even nominated their presidential candidate. Any rich white guy with the slightest political savvy would easily waltz to victory by energizing the mainstream Republican base. Easy pickin’s.
Or so we thought…
Bizarrely, John McCain lagged behind Barack Obama from start to finish in the 2008 presidential race. Even the addition of the dim-witted beauty queen from Alaska failed to made a serious dent in Obama’s lead. In the end, impossible as it may have seemed, the black guy won! And Obama didn’t just eek out a narrow, disputed victory like those of his predecessor, George W. Bush. Obama clobbered McCain.
It was demoralizing. I mean, it’s like Obama didn’t understand the rules of the game. After all, this was America, the land where white guys win, and black guys shine their shoes. Who did Obama think he was? Where did Obama come off thinking he could go toe-to-toe with a powerful white guy? Didn’t he get the memo that it was McCain’s turn to be president? Wasn’t Obama aware that McCain had stepped aside to allow George W. Bush to become president in 2000? By rights, that meant that McCain was next in line to be president. I mean, c’mon, it’s in the rule book!! Rule number one of US politics reads as follows:
When one white guy finishes being president, the next white guy in line gets the job.
It was so unfair! I mean, John McCain had waited patiently at the front of the line for eight long years and then, Poof!, from out of nowhere comes Barack Hussein! Obama and robs McCain of his rightful place in history. How is that fair? I mean, if Obama wanted to be president, then he should have gone to the back of the line and waited quietly with all the rest of the undesirables.
By 2012, it was clear that if Republicans were going to win the White House, they would have to deploy a radically different strategy. Instead of nominating a rich white guy, they would have to nominate a really rich white guy. That would do the trick. Admittedly, it was somewhat distasteful for the nominee to be a member of a religious cult–at least, according to Billy Graham’s official list of approved religious faiths–but once the election became a two-man race, Mitt Romney demonstrated that he was rich, white and prejudiced* enough to be a capable spokesman for the Republican party. Convinced as Mitt and the Republican base were that Romney was a shoo-in, it came as a shock when Barack Obama went two-for-two.
Obama’s second victory made even less sense than the first. After four years in office, it should have been obvious to everyone that Barack Obama was black. For those who are a bit slow on the uptake, I’ll just have to spell it out for you: B-l-a-c-k means L-o-s-e-r!
What are they teaching kids in the schools these days? By the time they graduate, every kid should know that rich white guys run the world. They always have and they always will. That’s just how it is. White privilege is traditional and, as everyone knows, traditions need to be preserved because…um…well, because that’s what you do with traditions. You preserve them. At least, that’s what conservative Republicans think.
In the final days of the 2012 election, Republicans expressed outrage at Barack Obama’s exhortation that voters should exact ‘revenge’ in the voting booth. In other words, voting for Barack Obama would be equivalent to exacting vengeance on America’s long history of white, male, prejudiced privilege. For his part, Mitt Romney chided voters to go to the polls not out of vengeance, but out of love; love for America and everything that it stands for. In other words, a vote for Mitt Romney would be equivalent to a vote for America’s proud history of preserving white, male, prejudiced privilege. Wahoo!
In the aftermath of the unprecedented 2012 victories for Democrats and their causes (e.g., rebuking the Republican war on women, a second term for Barack Obama, more female senators than ever, the first lesbian senator, gay marriage approved in three states, etc.), Republicans are left to sift through the wreckage of the SuperStorm and wonder piteously, “What happened?” How could it be that white male privilege could be so soundly thrashed not once but twice in the past two presidential elections? How could it be?
The search will continue, and I am sure that Republicans will hire a surfeit of high-priced consultants to help them analyze the debacle that their national election strategy has become. How could the Republican’s extra-rich vanilla election strategy fall victim to Barack Obama’s hodge-podge coalition of poor, young, colorful, feminine weirdos? TWICE!? Republicans will search high and low, but they will never find the one-and-only true answer to their question until they decide to take a good, long look in the mirror.
Revenge is sweet.
*Although Mitt made it abundantly clear that, as president, he would be a slave to rich, white privilege, he arguably destroyed his candidacy by stating that, once in the Oval Office, he would address the issue of illegal immigration by encouraging immigrants to “self-deport.” Apparently, the fast-growing number of Hispanic and Latino voters were sufficiently disturbed by Romney’s brilliant idea that they voted overwhelmingly for Barack Obama.
**Thanks to Wikimedia Commons for the photo.
Cite This Article
Timothy McGettigan (2012). Sweet Revenge: Barack Obama and the Death of White Republican Privilege. The Socjourn. [http://www.sociology.org/sweet-revenge-barack-obama-and-the-death-of-white-republican-privilege/]
Lila, the RevolutionaryBy: William T. Hathaway
Lila, the Revolutionary is a fable for adults about an eight-year-old girl—smart, charming, and tough as can be—who creates a world revolution for social justice. No one ever told her she couldn't end poverty and inequality, so she doesn't doubt that she can Just Do It! Starting with the Nike shoe factory where she works. Like the boy in "The Emperor's New Clothes," Lila can see the reality that adults are blind to. And she's not shy about pointing it out. Her story is a call to action: If Lila can do it, so can we. She convinces us that Yes, a better world is possible, and we're the ones to create it.