I watched the California returns with a heavy heart last night. The enthusiasm that we felt here in Alameda county (home of Oakland, Berkeley, Piedmont etc) was enormous and tangible. And Alameda County seems like a diverse little microcosm of the rest of the state. We have lots of everyone here, and if we love Obama, that must mean that all Californians do, right?
Well, apparently not. Or at least that's what the initial election returns seem to say.
The enthusiasm that I saw from inside the bubble was real. Obama won Alameda County with 55% of the vote. What I keep forgetting about Oakland and Alameda County diversity, is that it is more than just living in the same jurisdiction. Here, diversity is about living together. Race is just less of a big deal here than it is elsewhere. People still recognize it, but we seem to get less excited about it, and certainly less negative.
Still, when you look at the exit polling from across the state, you see that Latinos split 2 for 1 for Clinton. It's easy to see that as evidence of a strong anti-Black bias among Latinos. I mean, how could those numbers be so different than the numbers among the rest of the population in general (Blacks make up something like 5% of the voting population of Cali, and therefore do not swing the vote as in Georgia or Alabama).
I see this as more a lack familiarity. Obama's momentum strong momentum has been recent. And while it has been fueled by a very strong ground operation, it has been turbo charged by lots of positive attention in the media. I mean if you are a political junkie and you watched CNN (or read my blog) all day in the moments leading up to the election, you'd have thought that Obama was going to win running away.
But I would hazard a guess that the attention wasn't so great in the Latino and Spanish language media. And LA, where Mayor Antonio R. Villaraigosa is a strong supporter of Hillary Clinton. So it doesn't really surprise me that our man didn't carry the Latino vote there. And since the LA area has the bulk of the Latino population in the state, if he didn't carry the Latino vote there, he wasn't going to carry it anywhere.
So, where's the bright spot? Where's the evidence that this is lack of exposure, rather than nasty old prejudice? The one bright spot that I saw in the Latino vote is that Latino Independents broke for Obama 51% vs 43% for Clinton. And my assumption here is that Latino Independents are just like other Independents, in that they actively seek out more than the average amount information about the candidates before they vote.
Also, let's not forget that the Clintons have done a lot of work for poor people in theirs years in politics. Bill's presidency was 8 good years for Democrats, Latinos, Black and everyone else. And the last 8 years have been hell. So, when faced with some new guy on the scene, running against someone who looks like an incumbent that I like, I too might need to see a whole lot of amazing stuff before I went with the new guy. We Black folk had adopted Bill as the first Black president a while ago. And if Barack weren’t in the race, we’d be working our black asses off get Hillary elected. I never really thought about whether Latinos had also adopted the Clintons. Think of it this way, if Obama hadn’t entered this race, and instead it were down to Hillary and Bill Richardson, or to a another more obviously Latino candidate like Villaraigosa, what would that candidate have needed to do to get Black support? I would guess he would have needed to part the Red Sea, get to the other side, then turn around and walk back on top of the water!
As a small aside, there is precedent in Latin America for a wife taking over the Presidency (and other powerful positions) vacated by the husband, so the woman issue in some ways might not be the big deal for Latino voters that it is for many other Americans.
(As another aside, this one perhaps not so small, Asian voters in California split 3 to 1 for Clinton. That's almost as lopsided as the Black vote for Obama. And I really have no idea how to think positively about that one.)
So, to my Latino and Asian brothers and sisters, I say to you: let's talk. I'd like to introduce to you my candidate. I’d like to listen to your concerns. I think that after you've heard a little more, you'll like him a whole lot. Maybe not as much as I do, but more than Mrs. Clinton, and a whole lot more than whatever the other side has to offer.
source note: all polling date comes from the exit polls at CNN's election center