. . . and Ohio really is full of a bunch of redneck, backwoods, racist, rubes it’s rather amusing to note that--at least according to this article and contrary to the received opinion of media elites--so many of them appear to be Democrats rather than Republicans. Walter Shapiro makes the case that, at this moment, Obama is picking up just 82% of Ohio Democrats whereas John McCain and Sarah Palin are commanding 90% of the Ohio Republican vote. He suspects--and not without some (at least superficial) evidence--that it has something to do with race noting Hillary’s trouncing of Obama in the primary with 64% of the white vote as opposed to Obama’s mere 34%. He also notes Governor Ted Strickland’s recent chiding of Democrat supporters about "the elephant in the room" that is not a Republican.
Yet, when he seeks to explain the phenomenon by interviewing real, live, Ohio voters, he doesn’t talk to any of these racist Democrats. Instead, he focuses on the voters who may actually call the election in Ohio: Independents. Among them he finds a former Ron Paul supporter who is now smitten with Sarah Palin, another guy who never pays attention to politics until the last minute but is not impressed with Obama, and a waitress who is not even registered to vote and is not likely to register. The waitress, by the way, was inclined to support Obama--though she also thought Palin hailed from Canada . . . Not a good sample for Mr. Obama.
All of these people and the decided nature of the contest between Republicans and Democrat voters may help to explain the possible increasing importance of undecided and independent voters in Ohio and the way that the election is shaping up between McCain and Obama with them. But these illustrations don’t do much to shed light on the problem first diagnosed by the article: i.e., the problem Democrats seem to be having maintaining solid support from their base in Ohio. It’s not impossible that there is a large chunk of Democrat voters in Ohio who simply will not vote for a black man . . . though, if this really is the case, then some serious self examination is long overdue for that party. Ken Blackwell’s failed bid for the governorship doesn’t help to explain much either: he was a Republican running in an election where Republicans were viewed as stupid sell-outs on the national level and corrupt sell-outs on the state level. That Blackwell did not win was certainly tied to the Ohio GOP’s own need for self-examination--though less for racism than for stupidity and corruption.
Racism in Ohio is becoming a familiar charge, but I begin to wonder if it’s not becoming too familiar, too reflexive, too unthinking. Might it not also be true that Barack Obama’s brand of effete, "Democratic" and "elitist" politics just doesn’t sell with the same intensity on America’s first Western frontier as it seems to do on the two coasts and among those in less independent states who look government first for an answer to their hardships? Al Gore’s sure didn’t and John Kerry’s didn’t either. Organization and lectures from self-righteous and indignant Ohio politicians notwithstanding, perhaps Ohioans just don’t like politicians who are taken with the idea that they are better suited than the people to decide what the people ought to do.
So if this guy is right, then the media is missing a big story about Democrats and their racism. But if he’s wrong, the media is missing a much bigger one: the real reason why Ohio won’t go Democrat this November.