Will Obama Have to Cross the "Archie Bunker Divide" to Win the Nomination?
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The white, blue-collar voters personified by the 1970s fictional television character cost Obama yesterday. His Democratic presidential rival, Senator Hillary Clinton of New York, beat him 54 percent to 44 percent in industrial Ohio, and 58 percent to 40 percent in heavily Catholic Rhode Island.
In Ohio's 10th district of Cuyahoga County, a suburban enclave on Cleveland's west side that includes a large population of Polish-Americans, Clinton trounced Obama 61 percent to 37 percent, according to exit polls. In the state's Belmont County, an economically depressed Appalachian border area that is predominantly white, she had a 50-point lead over Obama, the first black candidate to have a shot at the White House.
"Race played a significant factor in Ohio,'' said Cuyahoga County Commissioner Timothy Hagan, who supported Obama. "These people are not necessarily bigots, but the image they see every day of black America is drugs, crime, guns and violence.''....
The challenges he faces with these groups are evident in his hometown of Chicago, where voters know him and he is popular. Still, he faces resistance in working-class, white ethnic neighborhoods.
``I can't support him,'' said Richard Dorsch, a 53-year-old paramedic fire chief from Chicago's Edison Park. Dorsch, who said his kids liken him to Archie Bunker, voted for Clinton in the primary, though he plans to support Republican Senator John McCain of Arizona if Obama wins the nomination.
``When he talks to you, it's like he's talking down to you,'' Dorsch said. ``He doesn't have the experience to talk like that.''
Dorsch's 41st Ward, which gave Clinton, 60, a six- percentage-point advantage, is 90 percent white, dominated by German, Polish and Irish ethnic police officers, teachers and city workers.
Living as I do in the hills of WV, I have heard this sort of talk from a lot of folks -- both about not feeling comfortable casting a vote for Obama or for Clinton, on race or gender grounds. But it isn't limited to the Archie Bunkers of the world, because there are a whole lot of Ediths in the racial and gender discrimination closet as well. You can see from the "These people are not necessarily bigots, but the image they see every day of black America is drugs, crime, guns and violence.'' that a lot more discussion and education on this is sorely needed. (No siree, no bigotry there. Sheesh.)
Pam Spaulding, who has been writing about this issue quite a bit this election cycle, provides a perfect example of an "Archie Bunker" that isn't reachable. But he is illustrative of the sort of education and bigotry issues we will all face as we head toward November, whether Clinton or Obama is our nominee.
Christy Hardin Smith is a former attorney, who earned her undergraduate degree at Smith College, in American Studies and Government, concentrating in American Foreign Policy. She then went on to graduate studies at the University of Pennsylvania in the field of political science and international relations/security studies, before attending law school at the College of Law at West Virginia University, where she was Associate Editor of the Law Review.