History Is Here To Help…..(You Can’t Hit A Straight Lick With A Crooked Stick, pt.2)

This post should be about The Young and the Restless and the tribute they are paying to the late Kristoff St. John, who played Neil Winters for almost 30 years, but former Vice President Joe Biden decided to enter the Democratic Party presidential primary race. Thus, political scientist Kim must have a word.

There is this narrative around Joe Biden (and to a lesser extent Pete Buttigieg and Beto O’Rourke) among the political punditry class that he will be able to reach out white working class voters who have “abandoned” the Democratic Party over economic issues.

Deep sigh.

This is not the case. And, fortunately, history and political science are here to help.

So…let’s start with the basic fact…

The last Democratic presidential candidate to win the white vote was LBJ in 1964.

55 years ago. Before a whole lot of us were even a twinkle of a twinkle in somebody’s eye.

And…there is a good deal of data to point to why this happened.

CIVIL RIGHTS

Since LBJ, there has been a white running-away from the Democratic Party because of civil rights law. To go even further…if you look at voting data, white people, as a whole, have consistently voted for the most anti-civil rights presidential candidate in the race. [now…one could quibble about 1968, but Nixon and Wallace were two sides of the same coin in reality. Wallace just said the quiet part loud and Nixon just implied it]
And if one looks at 1992, the only reason Bill Clinton won was because the white vote was split three ways.

What does this mean for 2020?

First, the likelihood of the Democratic candidate winning the white vote is slim-to-none. Because, as much as white moderates/liberals/progressive don’t want to acknowledge, most white people vote in the interests of whiteness/white supremacy. [again, history and political science are here to help] And…as the last post shows, white people become more conservative if they think that people of color may gain something.

Two, as vulnerable as the current occupant of the presidential office may look, he does have the incumbency advantage. There are 4 Presidents since the turn of the 20th century who have lost re-election. [Taft, Harding, Carter, Bush the elder; Ford does not count because 1976 wasn’t re-election for him]

It is not my place to say whether Joe Biden (or Pete Buttigieg or Beto O’Rourke) is the right person to be the Democratic nominee for President.

It is my place to say that if Joe Biden is chosen as a way to reach out to supposedly “gettable” white voters, that is a losing cause. In the best case scenario, the ceiling for any Democratic candidate when it comes to the white vote is 45%. Because, as history and political science show, there is a white aversion to civil rights in practice, if not in theory.

 

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You Can’t Hit A Straight Lick With A Crooked Stick

For those of you who only know me through this blog or post-college, it might surprise you to know that I came to religion late. Don’t misunderstand, I grew up in the church. I love the church (and that is why I critique it so passionately). But I came to the academic study of religion later. And I came to it because I wanted to reconcile some things.

My life before the study of religion was in political science and sociology. (and yes, that has served me well in studying religion and theology). So the last few weeks have been interesting. And the political scientist in me has been sitting back and biting my tongue. Then yesterday happened.

Yesterday, Sen. Elizabeth Warren presented a proposal to address the student debt crisis (I am neither praising nor condemning the proposal, it is the reaction to the proposal that is intriguing to my mind). A part of the proposal that hasn’t been talked about as much, but I think is the much more interesting part of the proposal politically, is the fund for HBCUs and MSIs. This is where political science comes in.

Sidebar: the United States is the most conservative OECD country by every measure. (you will see why I give you this sidebar in a moment)

Political psychology research shows that white people, regardless of level of education/ income/socioeconomic class, become MORE conservative about social welfare policy/programs when/if they believe that people of color, PARTICULARLY BLACK PEOPLE, may in some way benefit from said policy/program. You can see this throughout Reconstruction and post-Reconstruction U.S. history.

Now…let’s apply this to Sen. Warren’s HBUC/MSI fund proposal.

In a society that becomes more conservative about social welfare policy/programs when the majority thinks that a certain group in the minority may gain anything, what does it do for proposals like Sen. Warren’s HBCU/MSI fund? Would this even be politically feasible in the United States?

As I said in the sidebar, the U.S. is the most conservative of the OECD countries by any measure. A good deal of that conservatism can be explained by how much Calvinism plays a role in U.S. politics. But it doesn’t explain it all.

Race and racism warp the U.S political imagination, just as they warp the theological imagination. That warped thinking limits what we see as possible.

I don’t know what will change this. It would take something radical.