Sunday, February 10, 2008

Exit Polls: It's Still a Boy's Club

It seems that Barack Obama won the trifecta Saturday, winning all three contests being waged. And then Sunday, he won Maine for the weekend sweep -- damn, they just love him in the caucuses, don't they? Now it's off to the Mid-Atlantic for the Potomac Primary. While the Democratic horserace continues, there is one undeniable fact that puts a smile on the face of everyone down at the DNC: voters are stampeding their polling places, shattering all previous turnout records. This, of course, is a signal of trouble ahead for the Republicans -- but really, who needed another sign? Huckabee's staying power and Ann Coulter saying she'd vote for Hillary if McCain got the nod pretty much assures me the Grand Old Party is in wonderful disarray (although one could've wished Mitt woulda stuck around for a few more weeks -- I mean, it's not like he didn't have the buckage. Bet his sons are glad their inheritance is preserved, though).

But despite this good news, I received a question recently from one of my readers that prompted a little deeper introspection about recent results. Now, I don't want to dampen anyone's spirits, or rain on anyone's parade, or take the air out of anyone's balloon, or... well, you get the picture, and I've run out of metaphors. But given the demographic breakdown of the voters in the contests held thus far, it seems there is a question that must be asked: what's up with the white guys? They have hopped on board the Obama Express with unpredicted enthusiasm. Not to take anything away from the senator from Illinois, but the white guys have broken for him in such large numbers it begs the question asked by my learned reader: is change from a white man to a black man the only acceptable kind of change to that particular voting block? This question becomes even more noteworthy when recent horserace polls reveal that lots of white guys who vote for Obama against McCain, change their minds and vote for McCain in a hypothetical against Clinton.

The initial, general consensus was that Barak Obama would never fly in Middle America: African American, funny name, not enough experience, up against the Clinton Machine, blah, blah, blah, etc. But the exit polls have told a very different story. Obama didn't just clear the continental divide, he soared over purple mountain's majesty and vaulted amber waves of grain. I am inclined to agree with my learned reader on at least part of the reason for Obama's success, and it is simply this: at the end of the day, race trumps gender in this country -- at least for the white guys. It's been a running debate, long before this momentus election -- which would come first, a black president or a woman president. Interestingly enough, in this election we are faced with a direct test of that conundrum. And, while Obama and Clinton are pretty much neck and neck, amongst white men the choice is crystalizing: they prefer that the presidency stay a boys' club.

Now, before I get any angry messages from other readers, of course I understand that voters' choices are also informed by the particular qualities of that specific black man and the qualities of that specific woman who happen to be running. Lots of folks are voting for Obama because he is downright inspiring, and lots of folks are voting for Hillary because she's got gold star experience. Likewise, there are folks who aren't voting for Obama because they're concerned he's not quite ready for primetime, and not voting for Hillary because of the rather noticeable suitcases permanently strapped to her back.

Nevertheless, all that aside, the exit polls for white men nationwide are still striking, and not only worth the mention but worth the deeper question as to whether the nation as a whole is comfortable with the idea of a woman president. Bravo, as my reader notes, to the Hispanic guys who are apparently secure enough in their machismo to pull the lever for Hillary in really high numbers. And, white and Latino women and older people still love Hillary, and they really really like to vote, too. This has balanced out Obama's huge popularity amongst African Americans and his clear advantage with white men. What's interesting and notable, though, is that women supporters of Hillary say they'll happily vote for Obama in November if he's the nominee. Likewise African Americans should Clinton prevail. The white guys, though, have not made the same unity pledge to Hillary. Is it her? Maybe? Is it her gender? Sadly, that answer is also... maybe.


Anonymous said...

Check out this article for a prespective on the race, geneder, class - and wealth - factors going on in the Democtratic horserace!

The Democrats' Class War
By David Sirota, Creators Syndicate
Posted on February 8, 2008, Printed on February 11, 2008

Spencer said...

AAAAHHHHHHHHH.... Twice during this primary season my husband has been accused of being sexist for supporting Obama.

If my husband is supposed to vote for Obama just because he's a man and he's a man, isn't that almost as sexist as NOT voting for him because he's a man?

Both my husband and I voted for Obama because he is going to make a wonderful POTUS.