|Not a representative demographic sample of the American electorate.
By Dave Delay (Mitt Romney) via wikimedia commons
My pet peeve du jour is post-election analysis that treats white dudes as if they were the default setting for voter and everyone else like they’re “special interests.” I’m thinking of Mitt Romney’s remarks about how he lost the election because Obama gave “gifts” to key non-middle-aged white guy constituencies, ninety percent of Fox News’ on air post-election analysis, and a good sized chunk of the punditry you see on social media and the local news.
You know what I mean. “Mitt Romney’s talking points on the economy, job creation, and family values did very well among white males but the majority of women, minorities, and youth did not vote for him. Don’t they care about jobs and families? Oh my God this is so confusing. What do these mysterious voters want? I don’t understand. Quick! TO THE STATISTICS!” It’s clinical and detached. Like it’s surprising these anomalies snuck into the electorate so now special algorithms must be constructed to crack their codes and shed some light on how these puzzling entities operate. Sure, talking to them is an option. But, no. Let’s stick with math.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m all for statistics. What gets me is that there seems to be a lot of statistics and very little context. There’s something telling about viewing over two thirds of the electorate as bafflingly illogical aberrations that you just can’t wrap your mind around especially when, as a politician or a pundit, understanding the electorate is a significant part of your job description.
Imagine a bunch of women and minorities getting together in a major media backroom somewhere and going, “Hmmm… these ‘white males’ I’ve heard so much about that make up roughly 32% of the vote… What’s their deal? My understanding from various Tim Allen vehicles is that they’re lovable curmudgeons who are always like, “I like football and mowing the lawn and using power tools ineptly and pretty ladies and meeting my daughters’ dates at the door holding baseball bats.” Our candidate likes those things too and yet they didn’t vote for him. These white guys, they’re so confusing. I just don’t get what they want. Should we, like, converse with some of them? Invite some into this room to have an open dialogue? Maybe focus on getting to a place where we better understand and empathize with their life experience? Nah. TO THE MATH! Huh. Look at that. They tend to be against abortion and for tighter immigration policy. Let’s go ahead and assume they hate vaginas and brown people. Everybody cool with that? All right then. Good meeting. We’re on air in 20 minutes.”
It’s crazy to me that the points of view of non-white-guy voters or, as we like to think of ourselves, the vast majority of Americans, can be spun as “special interests” or otherwise optional perspectives to take into account. It’s even crazier to me that it’s a common tactic to discount the validity of these standpoints entirely. I imagine an exchange like this:
Politician: “Hi there, single college aged Hispanic female, thank you for stopping by. How can I help you today?”
Voter: “I have some questions about contraceptive coverage. See, I’m putting myself through school but don’t have insurance and feel like going on the pill would be a really smart decision because the last thing I want right now is an unexpected pregnancy. Only I can’t afford the pills because I don’t have a spare couple hundred dollars a month. It’s really a big issue for me and a lot of people like me. It effects my future employability, my child’s quality of life, my ability to pay off my crippling student loan debt, and my entire life experience and self concept.”
Politician: “Stop coming at me with these trifling special interests. Just don’t have sex until your husband OK’s it.”
Voter: “Wow. Really?”
Politician: “You asked, I answered. And you know what? You’re uninteresting to me. You’re hard to relate to. You’ll grow up, get married, and then agree with me. Come back when you’re done being wrong. NEXT!”
White dude is not the default setting for voter. White dudes perspectives matter, sure, I don’t mean to discount that but their perspectives don’t matter any more or less than anyone else’s. It’s nuts that the post-election analysis story has been more about the math than the fact that the majority of the American electorate has been routinely cast as optionally important special interests.