The Reverend Al Sharpton was right when he thundered at his Reclaim the Dream rally that he had the message but talk show exhibitionist Glenn Beck had the Mall. The Mall of course was the Lincoln Mall. But Beck owns more than the Mall. He now speaks for the majority of whites in America. White voters made up nearly 80 percent of the 2006 midterm electorate and nearly 75 percent of the 2008 vote. The trends show that white voters vote in even greater numbers than blacks, Hispanics, and Asian voters in midterm elections.
Despite the PT Barnum, con man hype, Beck speaks to the majority's unvarnished hostility to liberal Democrats, big government, the elites, Wall Street, abortion, gay rights, taxes, and obtrusive government, and most of all President Obama's policies, and him. Beck and Palin have masterfully stoked white disaffection with Obama. A July Washington Post/ABC News poll found that a bare 40 percent of whites approve of the job he's doing. This was the lowest rating among this crucial voter demographic since the start of his presidency.
There was more bad news. In rapid succession, forty-three percent of white voters strongly disapprove of the job Obama is doing, while less than 20 percent strongly approved. More than half of college-educated whites disapproved of the job he is doing, and, among white college-educated women, Obama's approval numbers dipped below 50 percent for the first time in his presidency.
The disaffection with Obama was not just from white Republicans, or even white independents. That was expected. It came from white Democrats. The racial split among Democrats was evident in the Democratic primaries. Democratic presidential foe Hilary Clinton consistently and in some states handily beat out Obama among white Democrats. The split did not evaporate with Obama's win. Conservative congressional Democrats get elected largely with white votes in conservative leaning districts and they have been the least enthusiastic about Obama's policies.
The ABC/Post poll then is no aberration. Three months earlier a New York Times poll found that the Tea Party activists who are Beck's fervent backers are overwhelmingly white, male, conservative, middle-income, and GOP-leaning. Nearly all passionately believe that Obama is shoving the country to socialism. All harangue the federal government for giving the company store away to the poor. The poor in this case are blacks, and Hispanics. To many the equation is government programs equal hand outs to undeserving blacks and the poor and that in turn equals money snatched from the pockets of hard working whites.
That Beck plays hard on their fear and loathing of Obama, Democrats and government with a generous underlay of race is nothing new. It's a recycle of the media buzz depiction of the angry white male. Richard Nixon stoked the fury of blue collar, white ethnic, rural voters with his slam of the Democrats for coddling criminals, welfare cheats, and fostering a culture of anything goes permissiveness, and of course, big government Great Society pandering to the poor. The crude thinly disguised code words and racial cues worked. Nixon eked out a narrow victory over Democratic presidential opponent Hubert Humphrey.
The tag of law and order and permissiveness became a staple in the GOP attack play book for the next four decades. With tweaks and refinements, Reagan, Bush Sr. and George W. Bush used it to ease their path to the White House. In the mid 1990s, Newt Gingrich and ultra conservatives recycled the strategy to seize Congress, and pound out an agenda that made big government, tax and spend Democrats, and soft on crime liberals the fall guys for everything wrong with America. It touched the familiar nerve with a majority of white males.
The 2008 presidential election was a near textbook example of how you can win an election, and still lose a key voting bloc, in this case white voters. The deck was horribly stacked against the GOP. It had a failed, flawed George W. Bush presidency. It was plagued by corruption and sex scandals. It was widely blamed for crashing the economy. It had an aged, politically disheveled, presidential candidate, and a laughingstock vice presidential candidate. It lugged the baggage of two unpopular wars. Yet, its presidential standard bearer, John McCain still got nearly sixty percent of the overall white vote. In each of the three major elections since 2008 -- the GOP's wins in the 2009 New Jersey and Virginia gubernatorial races and Republican Scott Brown's stunning upset victory in the Massachusetts Senate contest -- the GOP candidate ran far better among whites in their state than McCain did against Obama in 2008.
Beck knows that history and the political mood of the majority of white voters well. He's stoked it for months on his TV show and he stoked it again at the Lincoln Mall and mocked Martin Luther King, Jr. and the civil rights movement along the way. He speaks for the white majority in America.
Earl Ofari Hutchinson is an author and political analyst. He hosts a nationally broadcast political affairs radio talk show on Pacifica and KTYM Radio Los Angeles.
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