Let’s just be honest: this whole primary has both race and gender playing far more of a role than anybody wants to admit. Enough so that it’s a bit scary for the future of our union. Some of this is theÂ inevitable Balkanization that goes along withÂ hard times, and of course most of it is that identity politics are clearly going to come for the fore in an election between the first viable black and female candidates.Â While it’s clear from exit polls that race and gender are playing a largeÂ role, there are so many variables in play that it’s not even clear what the net effects are. Maybe “black communityÂ support” (I believe that’s the acceptedÂ euphemism)Â has helped ObamaÂ as much as white racism has hurt him. Likewise, whileÂ it’s fair to say thatÂ Hillary has dealt with a lot ofÂ sexism,Â it’s also certainly true that herÂ chromosomal configuration has gotten her a lot of votes from women who would never otherwise go against an Oprah fatwa. After all, it’s not like Hillary and Obama differ noticeably enough in policy to register more than a few percentage points of difference otherwise. In fact, the only thing most Hillary supporters dislike about Obama is that he is just one too many liberal dreams come true for one electoral season. It’s a politically correct embarrassment of riches, and so the race is decided by a convoluted calculus of reverse/forward-racism/sexism in every possible permutation (and there are six, for those keeping score).
Obama knows well enough to not point out the obvious subtext beneath so many of the results, if for no other reason than he knowsÂ any voters who are shallow enough to vote for her in the primary just because she’s a woman will most certainly be willing to vote for him in the general because he’s not entirely white.Â So long as he doesn’t point our their softÂ bigotry in the first round, he can count on it in the second.Â The beauty of identity politicsÂ is that while it doesn’t withstand any mention, it doesn’t need it. You don’t have to reach out, you just have to have your picture taken. One of the big mistakes I thinkÂ Hillary made was playing the gender card, no matter how indirectly.Â Most people are perfectly willing to be biased as long as you don’t ask them to be.Â His far better grasp of this unspoken dynamic is probably why nobody saw Obama crying for a secondÂ about racism when Hillary won a completely improbable proportion of the votes in West Virginia. He was happy to leave things be at the networks’ polite referral to her win as due to her “highly favorable demographic of middle class white voters,” even though everybody knows that to be code for “racist ignorant hicks.” I’d probably even give West Virginia the benefit of the doubt of simply liking Hillary better if they didn’t run up the score so obscenely. When a state full of people who can’t even decide whether or not they are Republican or Democrat swing 60-40 in a primary between nearly identical candidates, you can fairly, if not politically correctly, assume that there is something going on other than an intelligent appraisal of domestic policy. I’m sure the picture of Obama in a turban transits West Virginia’s sole fiber optic cable far more often than her health care policy PDF.
Just keep repeating the words “post-racial, post-racial, post-racial” and hope nobody will notice the buck naked emperor.