Obama and the race/identity vote

I support Obama because he’s skinny, brown, liberal, young, and of course, the whole name thing. He’s the closest in American politics to me, and I identify with him quite a bit. By the same token, how the hell is he going to win a general election?

It’s the first US election in which a white person is going to have to choose between someone of her race and someone who does not look like her, talk like him, has a funny name and is most definitely African American in identity and behavior. Call me the cynical product of an Indian upbringing where caste/religion/community plays such a vital and unsubtle part in politics, but when faced with this kind of choice where one of the choices is not someone you can identify with at all, I don’t see it happening. There’s a reason why the undecided vote’s always flipping to Clinton at the eve of every primary, it’s all about racial identity, I’m afraid.

Many white people see in McCain their ornery grandfather (the one who always talks about the war – McCain reminds me of Abe Simpson, the resemblance is uncanny) or uncle, or something like that, someone they can identify with. What is Obama, but an outsider? The undecideds will tend to flip to the known quantity (vaguely senile and ill tempered older relative who used to be something) as opposed to the unknown (urbane, educated, intelligent, yet vaguely threatening black man).

Younger people, especially the college educated young can identify more with Obama because they have at least a couple of black friends, and see plenty of intelligent young black men in their peer circles. It’s all about identity and what you base it on. The idealism and energy he brings is also much better received by a younger audience. The older you get, the less likely it is that you’ve interacted with someone whom Obama can represent in racial/identity demographic. Which is why Clinton’s performance is always better among the older voters.

There, my pessimism is on record, McCain in a squeaker in November, though I’d love to be proved wrong.

Note: I am assuming that this silly extended primary will eventually go to Obama, Clinton has no shot, sorry.

Probably my first ever link free post, but hey, isn’t that what blogging’s all about? This was written in the aftermath of the Pennsylvania primary where everything that was predicted happened: Obama won the “urban” and young vote, Clinton won the rural and white vote, this just presages the general election.

PS: Obama’s at least 5 inches taller than McCain and quite a bit better looking. The taller, better looking man usually wins the election. But both choices have always been white, so what happens now? I think identity still triumphs.

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