Three Basic Concepts That Will Help You Understand Mitt Romney's Appeal Among White Voters
There is a real, airtight bubble in this election, but it's not Obama's. As a middle-aged white man, in fact, I'm breaching it. White people—white men in particular—are for Mitt Romney. White men are supporting Mitt Romney to the exclusion of logic or common sense, in defiance of normal Americans. Without this narrow, tribal appeal, Romney's candidacy would simply not be viable. Most kinds of Americans see no reason to vote for him...
Tom Scocca's piece at Slate about Mitt Romney and the white vote is sharp and worth your time to read. However, folks like me, and a few others, have been discussing the relationship between Whiteness and Mitt Romney for some time. The Right, and some on the Left, are quick to deride and mock "identity" politics. That category of fighting over "who gets what, when, how, and why" is apparently abnormal political behavior best left to the gays, women, blacks, brown people, and those others whose citizenship is somehow made contingent when compared to the de facto "Americanness" of white men.
Good white men would never indulge in such things. The irony is clear: the United States is a country built upon maintaining, expanding, and protective the privileges of Whiteness. Mitt Romney has based a whole campaign on white identity politics and white victimology. Few in the mainstream media have had the courage to call attention to his strategy.
Folks like me are also part of the problem as well. I often use technical and academic language when plain speaking would be more helpful for equipping readers with a vocabulary that can be used in their day-to-day conversations about race and politics.
I am also open to self-correction when appropriate. As such, Scocca's points about white folks, and my claims about why white men in particular support Mitt Romney--and the Tea Party GOP's, deranged, anachronistic, and retrograde throwback politics--can be summed up in simple terms.
America is a white supremacist country by design. Racism has (of course) changed and evolved over time. However, Whiteness as a racial identity prefaced on privilege and superiority over non-whites remains in many ways very much unchanged. The need to maintain white control over America's political, social, economic, and cultural institutions is manifest in overt and subtle ways.
For example, despite their great advantages in wealth, income, power, social mobility, resources, and all other socioeconomic measures, many white people-- especially white male conservatives--are terrified and upset by the symbolic power of a black man who happens to be President of the United States.
Ultimately, White Masculinity is imperiled by the idea of Barack Obama. White men rule this country; ironically, no group of people, especially on the Right are as insecure.
Broad social categories such as class, gender, and sexuality are all operative here as well.
White men, as a group, are full of anxiety because of a perception--there is scant if any evidence to support this belief--that they are a group in relative decline. Romney's campaign to mine white racial resentment, and his overwhelming support among white people, is a reflection of that fear.
The misogyny, perverse obsession with women's reproductive rights and their bodies, and a fixation on the right of white men to rape women--and yes, in its most basic form the whole discourse about "legitimate" and "real" rape is about white men's (and never black men's) "right" to women's bodies--is fundamentally about control and power.
In the Age of Obama, White Masculinity imagines itself as at risk and obsolete. Because of their authoritarian streak, white conservative men must have control of women and the Other. White Conservative Masculinity's overreaction to the Age of Obama, and the social and political gains of people who are not white, male, and straight, are a function of this standing decision rule.