Tons of talk on the interwebs yesterday about the inauguration and what it all meant (racism is undead, Obama won't have a waltz, presidents can't change the weather, other unexciting true facts). But, look. It did mean something. This is not 2008. We can debate what road we're down, but we're four years farther down some kind of a road.
For a lot of people like me (old white people), the big shocker in 2008 came when Obama was nominated, long before he got elected, and it had to do with old white people like me. For whatever reason, race had been off our table for at least a couple decades as a topic of casual social conversation. All of a sudden it was back on, for better or for worse.
Nah, take that back. For worse. The shocker for white libtards like me was that so many of our white-faced non-libtard brethren had somehow managed to survive from the post-World War II era to well into the 21st century with very little or no meaningful experience of diversity. How did they miss that memo? I do not know. That's a job for some very bright social historian someday.
But here was the deal: The real pain inflicted on those folks by the emergence of Obama had to do with a very critical chapter in the saga of diversification -- the part where white people confront for the first time black people of a higher social class than their own. Take it from me, an old white guy, that is a major light bulb moment for us, because it is the moment in one's personal social evolution where class is decoupled from race.
You say to yourself, "Wow, these guys went to Harvard, and they've had all these big positions, and they hang with all these people who would never talk to me, so I guess they're farther up the ladder than I am. And they're black. So I guess class doesn't go by that anymore."
Everybody should have had that moment somewhere back in the '90s. But tons of older white people somehow never did. And because of the way America media stack the images, all of a sudden in 2008 here was this high-class black family right in their faces all day long.
Then the next piece. We all know this one by now. After the 2008 election, Republicans were in deep despair, fearful their party was off the charts and out of power at least for a generation and maybe forever. But they regained their mojo when Republican congressional leaders resolved to organize the entire party around Obama-rejection.
And how could that work? Even if the guy is president, how can you organize a national political party around opposition to just one dude? It worked because Obama-rejection was only symbolic and only a triggering mechanism for older white anger and disorientation from a world they did not recognize, understand or in any way accept. And really that was not new.
Republicans have been the White People's Party since Ronald Reagan. Southern strategy? Please. It was the white strategy. That's why all of this sudden post-2012 GOP outreach to Hispanics is so laughable. The real headline is, "White People's Party Seeks Non-white voters to Shore Up Chances." It's an appeal that is basically loony at its core.
So where are we now, on this day after the inauguration, and how is it different from 2008? For one thing it's hugely different because in the 2012 campaign the party of Mitt ("47 Percent") Romney cranked up the racial air raid warnings full volume for as long and as hard as they could crank, and it did not work. Old Forty-Seven lost. Obama won. In trying to comprehend its defeat, the Party of White People has focused, of course, on all those non-white votes. It's not a bad thing for them to focus on. Just about everybody black voted for the president, three-fourths of Latinos and even a large plurality of the one minority Republicans thought they could count on, Asians.
Forgive me, however, if that is not my own personal focus today. I am gazing back at the 39 percent of whites who voted for the president, a share that nipped up toward 44 percent when you looked at 18- to 29-yard-olds. Those numbers say two things. One. White people don't run national elections any more. The decisive votes in this election were non-white. But, two. Four out of ten white people rejected the racial identity appeal of the Republican Party. It didn't work for them. Why? Well, technically we have arrived back at that point where things are above my pay grade. I really do not know.
But I can guess. I guess that four in 10 white people looked at the new diverse world in front of their eyeballs and said, "You know what, this is how it is, and I kind of like it. I don't believe that class and opportunity and privilege should be the unfair legacy of skin color, or, while we're at it, gender or sexual preference or whether or not you're in a wheelchair or any of that other old ugly mid-century crap."
This is 2012. This is better. We're all headed for better. Even four out of 10 white people are headed for better. As for the other six, I can tell you where most of them are headed, because I feel their pain. They're headed for bed.
Tempered expectations, global warming, fiscal cliff, gun control battles, yeah, yeah, yeah. Things are tough all over. We all get that. But this was a damned good day anyway, and we need to grab our damned good days when we can. Hurray for him, hurray for us, hurray for the nation, hurray for a better tomorrow. Hurray! OK?
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