MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
Look at the electoral map and it becomes quite clear that the United States still faces the impediment that Abraham Lincoln warned against: "A house divided cannot stand."
The red states are almost all overwhelmingly white and many of them with large rural swaths. The blue states generally represent multicultural populations and have significant urban centers. It's not a generalization to be taken lightly (although it has some exceptions, particularly in the upper Northeast).
As BuzzFlash at Truthout has noted many a time, the Civil War battle for the hearts and minds of white people has never really ended. In fact, the Southern racial attitudes -- instead of being beaten down over the years – have come to dominate the Republican Party, giving it a populist base that does the bidding of the corporate overseers of the GOP.
It is a historical fact that Southern plantation owners and then Southern plutocrats after the Civil War exploited poor whites as indentured servants and underpaid workers. However, they kept the indigent whites in line by appealing to their racial "superiority" over blacks. Brought to this nation as slaves, blacks have never been fully accepted as US citizens by a large swath of whites (whether they are conscious of their racism or not).
Instead of shrinking and disappearing after the Civil War, racial subjugation of blacks continued in the form of "slavery by another name" (the title of a book with the sub-title "The Re-Enslavement of Black Americans from the Civil War to World War II.") After the Second World War, the Civil Rights movement took full bloom -- and for many blacks new opportunities opened and segregation was officially ended.
However, the Southern view of blacks (and Latinos in the Southwest) continued to be one of barely veiled intense emotional hostility. As blacks and Latinos started to attain a higher political profile and compete in the marketplace – along with the propaganda of the right wing media and racist portrayal of blacks by FOX News and the light – the white racial biases took firm hold in the Plains States and the inner ring of Western States. This is in addition to the birthplace of racism: the Deep South that can best be currently described as Neo-Confederate welfare queens (given how the primary states of the Confederacy are among the top ten states who receive more back in federal subsidies than taxpayers of those states pay in income taxes).
That is the map of the electoral states we view this morning as Barack Obama has been re-elected with 303 and possibly 332 electoral votes (if Florida is declared for him).
It will be a challenge of enormous proportions – as we have seen in Obama's first term – to unite this national house and remove its explosive – sometimes pathological -- racial divisions: roughly one half of this country having a vision of America as white and Christian; and roughly one half having a vision of America that aligns with Emma Lazarus's poem on the Statue of Liberty:
Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!
Add to that the Native-Americans from whom this "God-given" land was stolen, and Obama has his work cut out for him.
Yet, the victory in both the Electoral College and the poplular vote provides hope that the diverse demographics have reached a tipping point that will contain nativist Tea Party-like assaults on democracy.
But altering hearts and minds after over two centuries of a virulent infection of racial animosity won't come easily.
(Photo: The Delta Blues)