Still a Big Man’s Game

By Guest Columnist Apr 23, 2008

This year’s democratic primary provides another example of history being conflated with mythology. For the past three months pundits have been homing in on “white male voters” as the “deciding” or “prize” voting block that will determine the contest between Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama. Fearing that white men might otherwise be neglected in this “historic campaign” between an African American and a [white] woman, political pundits are always sure to remind us that “white men” will decide this election—which of course is a historic first in this nation’s history. And in crafting this “white male” voter, pundits have created a figure more characteristic of a Harry Potter tale than a political contest. First, these white male voters are “working class,” and were previously wholly committed to supporting Clinton, and are presumably the reason why Clinton continuously drops the term “qualified candidate”. They are different than the college educated and young voters, many of who are also white men, who are part of Barack Obama’s base. They are not the billionaire white males who made up George W. Bush’s base and who are now backing John McCain now that he’s endorsed Bush’s tax cuts. All of these white men are likely married to “soccer moms,” aka, white women, who were the key to the 2000 and 2004 contests between white men. Of course, only white women are soccer moms, because black kids don’t play soccer, and black women only factored into the South Carolina primary where they had to “choose between their gender or their race.” Therefore, while white men are being deconstructed along class and educational backgrounds, Blacks, Latinos and Asian Americans are lumped together without any class and rarely any gender distinctions. The greatest part of this is myth that this is the first time that a contest hinges on “ordinary white male votes.” Save for occasional rhetorical allusions to abolitionists and suffragists, there is never any serious discussion regarding that when this nation’s constitution was ratified—in Philadelphia no less—white men were the only ones allowed to vote. Instead, the press opts to fawn over the democratic “big men.” Consider for example this excerpt from Time’s April 2nd profile on Pennsylvania governor Ed Rendell who did his best Richard Daley impersonation in steering Hillary Clinton’s campaign to victory:

The next order of business is a Clinton fund raiser in western Pennsylvania. "I want each of you to come as close to or exceed $100,000 for your guys," he tells Pittsburgh mayor Luke Ravenstahl and Allegheny County chief executive Dan Onorato. "If you need me to make any follow-up calls, I will."

Therefore, while pundits speak ad nauseam about Clinton’s incredulousness for continuing on with her campaign in spite of the math, the true impact of figures like Rendell is grossly under-examined. Then again, they have been telling us for months that this contest will come down to white male voters. Hmm, I wonder what’s the racial/gender makeup of the superdelegates?