Tuesday, May 27, 2008

May 13: West Virginia (Democratic)

Clinton 67
Obama 26

It's easy to dismiss the West Virginia result as being due to racism alone, and it is astounding that a full 20% of West Virginia voters, in exit polling, publicly identified themselves as racial bigots. Forty years after Spencer Tracy's last film, Guess Who's Coming to Dinner, it's sad that his memorable line, "How long will it take? Fifty, a hundred years?" (before Americans would freely accept Dr. Prentiss's and Joey's mixed-race children) has not yet been fulfilled across the whole country.

West Virginians didn't just vote for Mrs. Clinton on race alone; the wide spread indicates how issues of race, class, and urban culture work together to artificially divide Americans. One West Virginian left a comment that is flat wrong in its implications: "West Virginians are disinclined to vote for a liberal politician from Chicago, especially one who disrespects the culture of small-town America."

Is there nothing that Senator Obama can teach West Virginians? Is small-town culture so sacrosanct, so inherently optimal and ideal, that Chicagoans have to bend over backwards to accomodate themselves to the culture? Small-town culture, as a whole, in the United States is characterized by poverty, low educational attainment, high rates of drug use, and widespread belief in Biblical literalism. Doesn't this sound like the neighborhoods where the young Barack Obama was a community organizer on the South Side? Doesn't every small town have its own Jeremiah Wright, a minister who blames everybody else and refuses to look to their church's own shortcomings?

The two-thirds of West Virginians who voted for Senator Clinton are perpetuating a myth at the expense of their own lives and their children's. Kudos to Senator Obama for refusing to take the bait and for wanting what is authentically good for West Virginia, unlike his opponent.

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