First appeared in print in The Rhinoceros Times, Greensboro, NC
Prejudice in the Primaries
After the Iowa caucuses, an African-American friend of mine from Los Angeles wrote to me, scoffing at the idea that Obama's victory there meant that a black man could now be elected president.
I thought he was too pessimistic. But then came Hillary's "comeback" in New Hampshire.
I keep hearing about how the pollsters "got it so wrong" and how Hillary's victory came from the Democratic regulars getting out the vote for her.
And Mitt Romney's defeat was also laid at the feet of many causes, none of which sounded particularly solid to me. Yes, McCain is something of a "favorite son" in New Hampshire now. But he also has another "virtue" that Romney and Huckabee both lacked: He's not openly religious.
I suspect that racial and religious prejudice are both playing more of a role than anyone is willing to admit.
When pundits talked about Huckabee's "appeal" after his victory in Iowa, I was amused at the fact that not one commentator mentioned the big fat elephant in the room: Huckabee beat Romney by openly appealing to anti-Mormon prejudice.
Anti-Mormon prejudice is no more justified than racial prejudice, and is fed from the same source. For many years, Southern Baptists and other evangelicals have funded and disseminated a set of distortions and lies about what Mormons believe and do.
When Huckabee made his disingenuous comment about how "Mormons believe Satan and Christ are brothers," he was reading straight from the anti-Mormon playbook. He knew exactly what he was doing. That one quotation was all he needed to signal to all the evangelicals in Iowa that he was the anti-Mormon candidate, and it worked.
Of course, his single remark was accompanied by a whispering campaign among religious bigots, of whom there are many.
The media did not cover this for the simple reason that they don't like Romney and will be happy to see him knocked out of the race; they don't care how.
(They don't like Romney because he's "stiff" and "insincere." This can be translated into "never lets his hair down" and "never lets the media see the real Romney." What they don't get is that Romney is the same person in private that he is in public. He really doesn't drink or swear or any of the other convivial vices. What they see as "stiff" I recognize as "serious." What they see as "insincere" I see as "aware that anything he says is going to be spun against him.")
Don't kid yourself about New Hampshire, Michigan, and South Carolina. The anti-Mormon bigots are out in droves. The hoax Christmas card in South Carolina is accompanied by lots of the usual anti-Mormon literature, rumors, and absurd slander about how a "cult member" shouldn't be president of the United States.
There is no negative definition of "cult" that fits Mormons -- Mitt Romney does not follow some madman into the jungle to drink Kool-Aid, he functions in the real world ... better than any of the other candidates, it might be pointed out. But when you're out to kill a candidacy, and you have a ready-made stick to beat him with, you use it -- if, that is, you have no moral principles that would keep you from telling lies about a whole religion.
As I've said before, we may have reached an era when black kids and little girls of any race can realistically dream of growing up to be president -- but Mormon kids might as well chuck their dreams into the closet, because there's just too much hatred and vicious prejudice out there from the so-called "Christians" of the evangelical movement.
I guess we Mormons have converted too many people who used to belong to their churches. We can never be forgiven for that.
If religion is the elephant in the Republican race, the jackass in the Democratic race is ... race.
What happened with the polls in New Hampshire is exactly what has happened in state after state where a black candidate was running against a white. Remember how in North Carolina's senate race, Harvey Gantt would be leading Jesse Helms by several points in the polls right before the election? Then Helms would run an anti-affirmative-action ad and win handily.
It wasn't the ad. Everybody already knew Helms was the white candidate and Gantt was the black one.
The same thing has happened to Harold Ford in Tennessee and to candidates in other states -- and not just in the South.
This doesn't mean that blacks can't win. Of course they can -- and do, and with plenty of white voters supporting them. The hard-core racist vote is relatively small -- but it doesn't have to be large to swing a close election.
What happened in New Hampshire looked identical to what has happened before: The black candidate seems to be leading by a few percentage points, but that lead drops from two points ahead to two points behind overnight.
The media doesn't mention this because "everyone knows" that there are no racists in the Democratic Party.
Just as there are anybody-but-Hillary voters, there are anybody-but-Obama voters as well. Whether they vote against him because they believe "a black man can't win the general election" or because they don't like his stands on the issues (as if he had any!) or because they "just don't like him," it's absurd to say that among Democrats in a lily-white state like New Hampshire racism is not a factor.
Here's why Obama won so handily in Iowa: With caucuses, you have to stand up and be counted. No secret ballot! Racists don't like to stand up.
I think Obama can -- and should -- win the Democratic nomination. We just have to get used to the idea that in order to get 50% of the vote in the election, he's going to have to be at around 55% or higher in the pre-election polls.
Not a Surprise
It's not a surprise that prejudice about race and religion are factors in the primaries of both parties. Who ever claimed that America is now utopia? (Well, actually, I suppose the Leftaliban does think the Democratic Party is a kind of utopia right now.)
I simply think it's amusing that the media, for reasons of their own, do not discuss these obvious factors in the election. When Mitt Romney does not get the Republican nomination, it will be hatred spawned by evangelical propagandists that tipped the balance heavily against him.
I hope Republicans at least have the decency not to choose Huckabee, the man who deliberately and openly rides the bandwagon of religious prejudice and slander.
I also hope that the Democratic Party is utopian enough that racial prejudice won't hand the nomination to the inexperienced, ideological, and dishonest Hillary Clinton.
Reproduction in whole or in part without permission is prohibited.