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William Greider: Aging White Guys: The Real Losers of 2012

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  • Ed Pearl
    http://www.thenation.com/blog/171155/aging-white-guys-real-losers-2012 Aging White
    Message 1 of 1 , Dec 3, 2012

      White Guys: The Real Losers of 2012

      William Greider <http://www.thenation.com/authors/william-greider> :
      The Nation: In the December 3, 2012 edition

      Aging white guys at some important newspapers have hit upon a bizarre
      interpretation of the election returns: nothing much changed. Peter Baker of
      The New York Times: "When all the shouting is done, the American people have
      more or less ratified the status quo." Say what? Baker seems like a smart
      enough reporter but this analysis is so stupid, he must be in post-partum

      George Will, always cynical and condescending, has ratified Peter Baker. In
      a Washington Post column headlined "The Status Quo Prevails," Will observed:
      "A nation vocally disgusted with the status quo has reinforced it by
      ratifying existing control of the executive branch and both halves of the
      legislative branch."

      Lest anyone miss the point, the editors of the Post instructed their
      readers: "A status quo election result should spur both parties to
      compromise." Compromise-that's the ticket. By which they mean our re-elected
      president should punish the very people who re-elected him. The Post's
      editorial bizarrely explained its reasoning. The 2012 presidential election
      was nearly a tie! "Just about half of voters-50.4 percent -supported
      President Obama. Just about half didn't."

      Well, no, not exactly. Obama won in a landslide in the only contest that
      counts-the competition for the 270 electors needed to win the presidency.
      Obama has won 303 electoral votes so far and will get beyond 330 if his lead
      in Florida is sustained by the final count. The Electoral College is of
      course heavily biased to favor smaller states with far less population, so
      the president actually triumphed despite the odds against him.

      Why are white guys so reluctant to give him credit? Because the 2012
      election was a profound watershed in the life of the nation. Whatever else
      President Obama accomplishes or fails to accomplish in his second term, his
      re-election is in some ways even more significant than his initial triumph
      in 2008. He will be forever remembered as the president who opened America
      to a different future-more promising and fulfilling, more just and
      democratic than anything achieved in the American past.

      It may be easier to see this if you ask: Who lost? Forget Romney and the
      Republicans. The real loser was the bitter legacy of "white supremacy." That
      poisonous prejudice has endured in political reality and the national
      culture for two centuries. It still does, though it is now cultivated most
      zealously only by white Southerners who took over the party of Abraham
      Lincoln (who surely weeps for his Grand Old Party).

      In 2012, white supremacy not only lost the election. It was a crucial factor
      in explaining how Obama won. Good for Obama and really good for the American
      people. Whose "status quo" are these pundits clinging to forlornly? Maybe
      their own. They have typically belittled the struggles by excluded
      minorities as "identity politics." Well, yes, these people intend to be
      identified as citizens, fully endowed with the rights any other American
      enjoy. This election confirmed their goal.

      The re-election of a black president is the most precious fact of 2012,
      perhaps even more significant than his original election in 2008. If Obama
      had lost, a wise history professor pointed out to me, it would have taken
      many years, probably many decades, before either major party would ever
      again dare to nominate a person of color for president. Black Americans
      understood this, probably better than most of us white folks. So did
      Latinos, Asians and a whole bunch of other "minority" voters.
      African-Americans might have had quarrels or disappointments with Obama, but
      they understood their historic stakes in winning a second term for him.

      Obama has instead cleared a path for a very different American future.
      Generations from now, people of all sorts will be able to look back and say
      this is where it began, a new drama of self-realization now available to
      many once-excluded Americans and the new politics that they can generate.

      Think about how children will interpret this event. For many millions, their
      dreams and personal ambitions are enlarged by this election. If Obama had
      lost, wise guys would have dismissed his presidency as a fluke, even a
      disaster. The kids know better, don't they?

      There are many other losers to acknowledge. Male supremacy is one of them.
      We cannot yet say the patriarchy is defeated, but its ancient dominance is
      disintegrating, both at home and in the workplace and in politics. Did the
      media bean-counters who think nothing important has changed notice the
      changing complexion and gender of elected representatives and senators? Or
      the fact that clear-thinking voters are now able to disregard the hoary
      taboos against gay men and lesbian women? The question is not about whom
      they can marry. It is whether they will become our trustworthy governors.

      We should also celebrate another deep shift underway in politics-the arrival
      of the new Americans-that is actually a very old story in American history.
      This chapter involves some of the same injustices and abuses that earlier
      generations of immigrants encountered. They have always had to dig in and
      fend for themselves, do the gritty hard work to insure their children's
      brighter future (one more thing about Americans Mitt Romney did not

      It always takes a generation or longer for the new Americans to gain the
      self-confidence and courage to step up and demand their rightful political
      power as citizens. But, look around, they are doing so right now.
      Reactionary Republicans saw their privileged "status quo" changing big-time
      in the 2012 election returns.Two or three generations ago, it was the Irish
      or Russian Jews or Italians and Polish struggling for their rightful place.
      In the election of 1928, they voted for Al Smith, the first Irish Catholic
      nominated for president. He lost that election but his politics defined the
      future of the Democratic party.

      A friend of mine joked that Mexican immigrants are becoming the new Irish of
      our times and the Chinese immigrants the new Jews. Of course, every story is
      different, yet in some ways we are all alike.

      The other big losers of course are the money guys-the billionaires who
      thought they could buy our election. No doubt they will try again, but now
      we know we can defeat them with old-fashioned door-to-door people-first
      politics. Organized money loses to organized people-that is the formula for
      our future politics. One hopes Supreme Court justices are reading the
      election returns. Those justices who regularly vote with the billionaires
      may ask themselves whether their 'status quo" is in trouble too.

      For more on the demographic shift and Obama's re-election,
      <http://www.thenation.com/article/171102/progressive-surge> read the lead
      editorial in the latest issue of The Nation.


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