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Monday, November 12, 2012

This country may not see an "old white guy" president for a long while...

Look, I'm not one to participate or condone in racial politics.   I much prefer being colorblind in these areas, which is why I objected to electing the first black candidate for president.  The color of his skin should have no bearing on whether or not he was qualified, in both elections.  Any time race is a factor in choosing it leads to two types of racism: standard racism and "soft" racism.  Standard racism is pretty simple to understand.  It's when someone is being unnecessarily critical of someone for no other discernible reason than their race.  Many people that have been objectively critical of Obama have been accused of this.

The other type, what I like to call soft racism is more central to this post.  Soft racism is when someone doesn't hold someone of a different race to the same objective standards everyone else is required to meet.  In other words, it's giving someone a pass/break simply because they're a different race which, for this country, is typically any non white race.  Many people that rejected Obama as president based on objective reasons typically would accuse his supporters of this soft racism. 

So did soft racism win Obama his two terms?  There's definitely a solid case for it.  But there's more to it than that.  With our ever shifting demographic and an electorate that's trending ever more Democratic, the elitist, old rich white guy caricature, particularly for Republicans, has stuck.  It's been an effective campaign tool for Democrats.  Not only, as seen in Romney's case, did they directly paint him as such, but are simultaneously able to create an illuminating juxtaposition by nominating a younger, fresher candidate.  

Case in point:  The country has not been kind to candidates over the age of 60 the last 20 years while the previous 36 year stretch (1952 - 1988) favored candidates over 60.  Here's a quick timeline (candidates over the age of 60 bolded)

  • 1952 - W: Eisenhower L: Stevenson
  • 1956 - W: Eisenhower L: Stevenson
  • 1960 - W: Kennedy L: Nixon
  • 1964 - W: Johnson  L: Goldwater
  • 1968 - W: Nixon L: Humphrey & Wallace
  • 1972 - W: Nixon L: McGovern
  • 1976 - W: Carter L: Ford
  • 1980 - W: Reagan L: Carter
  • 1984 - W: Reagan L: Mondale
  • 1988 - W: Bush L: Dukakis
  • 1992 - W: Clinton L: Bush & Perot
  • 1996 - W: Clinton L: Dole
  • 2000 - W: Bush L: Gore
  • 2004 - W: Bush L: Kerry
  • 2008 - W: Obama L: McCain
  • 2012 - W: Obama L: Romney
If you count both Perot & Bush in 1992, then over than 60 candidates are 0 for 6 since 1992.  Prior to that, they were 5 for 6.  And sure, you could perhaps write that off as a coincidence and that there's no real evidence that the country is rejecting older candidates.  But given the shifting demographics and how voters seem to care more about making an emotional connection with their candidate, it'd be folly to ignore this data.  

So even before Obama, the success of older candidates has been trending downward.  But, what I think officially spells the doom of "old white guys" as president is the soft racism spoken about above.  Whereas before if you were to pit an old white guy against a younger white guy, there's still a chance you could win because the candidates were of the same race, just different ages.  But, when you throw racial, and undoubtedly gender, differences into the mix, it underscores the elitist old white guy caricature much more so.  The old white guy represents the out of touch elitist rich guy that can't connect with the common person.  The younger, minority candidate just is able to "get" the people more.     Even though neither are always true, that's the emotional response.  And even if someone is not a liberal that bases everything on feelings, emotional responses will always be stronger than logical responses.  

Republicans that think the Democrats aren't going to keep using to their advantage are just fooling themselves.  There's already talks of Hillary being the candidate for 2016.  There was already buzz about San Antonio mayor Julian Castro being "the next Obama" for the Democratic party.  The party has plenty of minorities to nominate.  And again, if a junior senator (who happens to be a minority) having only served two years of his first term with no major accomplishments to speak of can get elected when up against a 70 year old former Vietnam POW and elder statesman white guy by electoral landslide, then they can pretty much put anyone (as long as they're not openly hostile in their rhetoric) out there and have a serious shot at winning.

And they would win, if the opponent is another old white guy.  So while I don't like playing racial politics because it's inherently racist, I will come out and say that as long as Republicans keep putting out old white guys, they'll keep losing.   Democrats know this and will keep exploiting it.   We can all lament the fact that the country is trading wisdom from experience for the wisdom in youth fallacy.  We can bluster about how the color of someone's skin shouldn't matter until we're blue in the face.   But it doesn't change reality.   It will be a long time before the country elects another old white guy.  It might even be a long time before another white guy is president.  Repairing the GOP brand is going to take time.  Putting forth candidates that fit that caricature mold isn't going to help with that.

While it's impossible to predict the political landscapes even four years from now, one rather safe bet is going to be the underlying racial issues this country just can't seem to shed, putting the old white guy at a distinct disadvantage on the national scene.  If Republicans want to compete, they're going to have to seriously consider offering up their own minority candidates - and lots of them.  While I'm not sure if Herman Cain was ready for the presidency, it's quite obvious to me that it was the Obama campaign that sunk his candidacy (Gloria Allred being involved is a dead giveaway) because they knew it'd disarm one of the best weapons in their divisive campaign strategy:  race.  

Yeah, if the snide comments about the RNC are any indication, the left will undoubtedly do their best to claim the right is putting up "token candidates", but that'll fall apart the more we have and the more it's clear that these individuals can make good presidents.  With the right messaging, this diversity can show that the Republican party is not really the "old white guy" party everyone seems to think it is.  Anyone that's been to or seen a Tea Party really in person (and not just what the media shows) knows the diversity, and unity, already exists.  We just have to do more to shed that burdensome image.

The issue with repairing the GOP brand isn't about abandoning our conservative principles as many seem to be saying.  It's showing that these principles are not the exclusive domain of old white guys.  We need to show that these policies are indeed for all Americans.  Putting forward a lot of diverse candidates often, as much as I dislike that type of racial political strategy, will go a long way to demonstrate that our message transcends those gaps and can unite people.  If Democrats are the party of divisiveness, Republicans need to be the party of unity, which coincidentally is a foundation of conservative values.  We just to have to positively project that this idea is indeed for everyone.  Showcasing and promoting minority candidates can go a long way in helping with that.