Friday, March 28, 2008

Democrats Rolling the in Racist/Sexist Mud

Via Art Levine at the Huffington Post, I read today of a new Pew Foundation report that casts a disturbing light on the role of race in this presidential campaign:
In particular, white Democrats who hold unfavorable views of Obama are much more likely than those who have favorable opinions of him to say that equal rights for minorities have been pushed too far; they also are more likely to disapprove of interracial dating, and are more concerned about the threat that immigrants may pose to American values. In addition, nearly a quarter of white Democrats (23%) who hold a negative view of Obama believe he is a Muslim.
(quotation from the Pew Foundation)
So, this is pretty straightforward. Except I'm not sure how equal rights can be pushed too far; you're either equal - or you're not. (This is a corollary of: you're either logical - or you're not!)

In other words, Obama's Democratic foes are more likely than other Democrats to be racist, xenophobic, and religiously intolerant.

And would someone please explain to me: Why is it considered a smear to call someone a Muslim? I haven't known that many Muslims well. But those I've known (I'm thinking particularly of a straight-A student from Indonesia whom I had the pleasure of teaching last spring) have tended to be a heck of a lot more reasonable and open-minded than many people who claim to be Christians.

Interestingly, gender is playing a more benign role in Democratic voters' attitudes. Says the Pew Foundation:
Gender makes a significant difference in personal perceptions of Hillary Clinton. Democratic women voters are much more likely than their male counterparts to view Clinton as honest and down-to-earth, and they more often report that Clinton makes them feel proud and hopeful.
That is to say, gender is creating positive identifications. The reverse doesn't seem to be a big factor. Pew notably does not report that Obama supporters tend to be more sexist than the average Dems. Instead, they found the reverse correlation:
Democrats with more liberal views on interracial dating, the country's pursuit of equal rights, and even the question of whether men make better leaders, hold a more favorable opinion of Obama than do Democrats with conservative views on these questions. [My emphasis.]

By contrast, most of these values are only weakly related to favorability ratings of Clinton. Taken together, they give little indication of a Democratic voter's impression of Clinton.
Given the relative youth of Obama supporters, this seems to reflect generational change, with young people rejecting their parents' and grandparents' tired old racism and sexism. I like to think that's true, and this Pew survey happily bears it out. (Follow the links for the detailed data, which show a striking generational shift away from open prejudice.)

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