Earl Ofari Hutchinson's take on the politics of the day
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Earl Ofari Hutchinson
GOP presidential contender Mitt Romney’s was hectored and battered mercilessly for his 47 percent don’t pay taxes slur, and shoot from the lip attack on President Obama’s alleged weak kneed kowtow to Islamic radicals in Libya and Cairo. But there are a lot of white guys that agree with him. They strongly believe that there are lot of deadbeats and freeloaders on the dole and that America is being pushed and bullied all over the joint and that it’s time to hit back. These are the guys that smoothed the path to the White House for Nixon, Reagan, George H.W. Bush and George W. Bush.
They even helped GOP presidential loser John McCain in 2008. Obama beat McCain out by a bare 1 percent margin of the overall white male vote. Since Obama piled up a double digit margin over McCain among white women, his white male draw with Obama was just enough to keep McCain’s loss from being a total and embarrassing rout.
Romney words, his campaign NASCAR pit stops, and carefully choreographed swings through exclusively white suburbs, and exurbs, aim to keep him in favor with them. The white guys that he and other GOP presidents and contenders bank on are conservative blue collar, rural, lower income, non-college degree, blended with upper income and wealthy, conservative corporate and small business owners. Despite much media talk that blacks, Latinos, gays and white college educated single women have reduced them to impotence in politics, their numbers are still formidable. Equally important their demographic, regional position, and voter participation rate still pose a peril to President Obama.
This was glaringly apparent in a recent AP-GfK poll that found that despite hell week for Romney, he was in a virtual dead heat with Obama among those most likely to vote. Romney’s shocking strength despite everything that hit him, and he hit himself with, underscored the potency of Romney’s racial/gender demographic support, and the consistency that they go to the polls.
Obama’s win in the 2008 didn’t change that. In a CNN 2004 presidential election voter profile, males made up slightly more than 40 percent of the American electorate, and of that percent white males comprised 36 percent, or one in three American voters. The percentages didn’t change much in 2008 and 2010 national elections. They consistently give on average sixty percent of their vote to whoever the GOP presidential candidate is. In the South and the heartland states, their lop-sided popular votes translate directly into the all-important Electoral votes, the percentage jumped to 70 percent for Reagan and W. Bush.
White men backed Bush by a 27 percentage point margin over Presidential contender Al Gore in 2000. Without the big backing of Southern white males for Bush, Gore would have easily won the White House, and the Florida vote debacle would have been a meaningless sideshow. Bush repeated his top heavy margin of white male support in 2004. This again proved the difference in swamping Democratic presidential contender John Kerry in every one of the Old Confederacy states and three out of four of the Border States. This insured another Bush White House. The GOP's grip on male voters, however, could have even caused some nervous moments for Bill Clinton in his reelection bid in 1996.
If women had not turned out in large numbers and voted heavily for Clinton, GOP presidential contender Robert Dole may well have made the race close. While men rate defense, a strong military, the war on terrorism, and national security as high on their list of concerns, women say abortion rights, education, social security, health care, equal pay and job advancement, and equal rights are highest on their list of concerns.
The intense and unshakeable loyalty of working and middle class men to the GOP is not new. The gender gap was first identified and labeled in the 1980 contest between Reagan and Carter. Men didn't waver from their support of Reagan during his years in office. Many of them made no secret about why they liked him. His reputed toughness, firmness and refusal to compromise on issues of war and peace fit neatly into the often times stereotypical male qualities of professed courage, determination, and toughness. GOP presidential contenders, and now Romney, have religiously followed the Reagan blueprint.
The Reagan revolution didn't merely return America to a world in which God, patriotism, rugged individualism, militant anti-communism, and family values ruled supreme. Reagan, far more adroitly, than Nixon a decade before him parlayed the forgotten American sentiment and a sanitized image of the past into a powerful conservative ideological movement. His first task was to eliminate the remnants of the Great Society programs rejected by an increasingly disenchanted public as government handouts to minorities. He didn't totally succeed. But he further eroded public enthusiasm for massive spending on social and education programs. Reagan fixated Middle Americans on the government as pro-higher taxes, pro-bureaucracy, pro-immigrant and especially pro-welfare and pro-rights of criminals.
He painted government as a destructive, bloated, inefficient white elephant, weighting down the backs of Americans. He claimed that government entitlement programs that benefited the poor were a crushing drain on the budget. Romney’s 47 percent crack is just an updated play on that theme. Polls again confirm that flubs, gaffes, and missteps notwithstanding, Romney’s conservative white male base is holding firm. The bumbles of a GOP presidential candidate then won’t shake their allegiance to that candidate, even one named Romney.
Earl Ofari Hutchinson is an author and political analyst. He is a frequent political commentator on MSNBC and a weekly co-host of the Al Sharpton Show on American Urban Radio Network. He is the author of How Obama Governed: The Year of Crisis and Challenge. He is an associate editor of New America Media. He is the host of the weekly Hutchinson Report on KPFK-Radio and the Pacifica Network.
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