With Barack Obama’s election as our 44th President, I have hoped that we as a nation might finally move past the issue of race. Obama ran a post-racial campaign, and his election affords us a distinct opportunity to enter a post-racial era.
Yet, some parts of our country appear to lag behind. The New York Times ran an excellent article today, titled “For South, a Waning Hold on National Politics” and written by Adam Nossiter. The article points out that since Nixon was elected in 1968, the south has dominated presidential politics. This election cycle, however, represents a turning point. For the first time in 40 years a president-elect has achieved victory without strong southern support. Notably, the deep south is the only region that overwhelmingly voted more Republican in 2008 than it did in 2004.
Of course, these points alone do not indicate that race influenced the southern vote this year. Perhaps southerners preferred Senator McCain’s social policies, or maybe they were drawn to Governor Palin’s status as a Washington outsider. Reading some of the quotations cited in the article, however, the truth becomes crystal clear:
One white woman said she feared that blacks would now become more “aggressive,” while another volunteered that she was bothered by the idea of a black man “over me” in the White House.
“I think any time you have someone elected president of the United States with a Muslim name, whether they are white or black, there are some very unsettling things,” George W. Newman, a director at a local bank and the former owner of a trucking business, said over lunch at Yellow Creek Fish and Steak.
“I am concerned,” Gail McDaniel, who owns a cosmetics business, said in the parking lot of the Shop and Save. “The abortion thing bothers me. Same-sex marriage.”
“I think there are going to be outbreaks from blacks,” she added. “From where I’m from, this is going to give them the right to be more aggressive.”
These statements seriously freak me out, but luckily I can take solace in the article’s main point: that this year, the south has put itself solidly outside the political mainstream in this country. Democrats need not pander to the region any longer, and Republicans must reach far beyond it if they hope to regain any of the power they have lost.