Tag Archives: politics

The Intersection of Presidential Politics, Race, Culture, and Higher Learning

By Dr. Pamela Reed


Much has been made of education levels and voting patterns in the Presidential nominating contests of the Democratic Party for the 2008 general election, particularly since Barack Obama emerged as the presumptive nominee. Well almost. Week after week, exit polls indicate that highly educated White Americans—Democrats, Independents and even some Republicans—are more likely to cast a vote for Senator Barack Obama. 

By contrast, those Democrats with no college education tend to support Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton, even when most experts agree that she has absolutely no chance of overcoming Obama’s pledged delegate lead.  An even more curious statistic is that the majority of these same respondents often express doubts about Clinton’s trustworthiness.    

Further, the polls also report that rather than pulling the proverbial lever for Obama in November, well over one-third of Democratic respondents with no college education maintain that they will vote for the Republican John McCain in November.  This, even after the undeniably disastrous soon-to-be eight years of the George W. Bush-led Republican era in America—and at a time when gasoline is now priced at, near or over $4 a gallon, and the Iraq War rages on, well into its sixth year, now longer than both World War I and World War II. 

What are we to make of this pattern?  Does this mean that Whites with only a high school education are not smart enough to realize that John McCain represents a continuation of the Bush/Cheney policies that have many of us holding our collective breath, lest we too find ourselves inhabiting the proverbial Poor House?  Or does it suggest that these Whites with less education are too racist to vote solely on the basis of merit, irregardless of race?  That is, is there a direct correlation between education level and  “racial tolerance”?  After all, significant numbers of Whites with no college education, when polled, say that race is a factor in their voting.

To the contrary, it is this writer’s perspective that it is not a matter of intellectual capacity, but cultural competence that is lacking in these White voters who have not matriculated in institutions of higher learning.  After all, studies indicate that cultural maturity can be a major benefit of college education, particularly at culturally diverse institutions. For instance in 2000, arguing in favor of the University of Michigan’s affirmative action standards, a consortium of Fortune 500 corporations offered in a court brief that students imbued with the richness of higher education in a diverse university setting are more likely to understand, appreciate and willingly work with those of varied racial and cultural backgrounds.

In view of this, it is not a stretch to suggest that this same principle can be extended in the area of voting patterns.  This is the only reasonable explanation for the willingness of some Democrats to consider voting for the Republican candidate for President of the United States, at a time when few would argue  that we are approaching a point-of-no-return with regard to the American standard of living—thanks to the policies of the Republicans.

I think this is what Barack Obama was attempting to say in his historically clumsy “bitter” remarks, in response to a question about the unwillingness of many “blue collar” voters in Pennsylvania to consider voting for him (the same people who Governor Ed Rendell announced would not vote for an African American candidate).  He was not saying that people “cling” to God and guns ONLY because of tough economic times. 

What he was trying to say, at least in the mind of this registered Independent, is that some White Americans—primarily those with no college education— even when confronted with the obvious shortcomings of the economic policies of the Republican Party, which are directly attributable to their own (and all of America’s) personal hardship, will then tend to look to other Republican platform planks to stand on.  That is right-to-life issues, gun control, gay marriage, etc.

Perhaps nothing speaks more to the need for diversity and inclusion infusion in the American education system than this political quandary. Clearly, we can no longer afford to put off this cultural enrichment for post-secondary education. After all, alarming numbers of American students are failing to even reach the high school graduate threshold. The good news, though, is that intercultural competence levels are on the rise in the United States; however, one need not be a rocket scientist to realize that there is still much more work to be done. And it must begin at the very earliest stages of American pedagogy.  Our very future depends upon it.



Dr. Pamela D. Reed is a diversity consultant and assistant professor of English and African-American literature at Virginia State University.



Voting is our privilege and our responsibility

By James Ewers

Thank goodness we live in a country where we can freely vote.  It is something that we should not take for granted as we only have to look at other countries to see the chaos that has occurred because of voting or the lack of it.  Whether you are a Democrat, a Republican or an Independent your vote has counted in the Buckeye State so far this year.  Obviously it will count again in the Fall when the general election is held.  With many of the caucuses and primaries now in the distant past, I would offer that we had more people voting in them than ever.  For example young people voted in record numbers and all of the candidates benefitted from this increase.  There has been so much build up to this primary season.  You only have to look at the amount of hoopla that surrounded the primaries held in North Carolina, Ohio and Pennsylvania.  Voting has simple dominated the news coverage for some months now.  Unless something really strange happens we know that John McCain is the presumptive Republican nominee for president.  He has pretty much been able to watch the top Democratic candidates fight it out for the votes of the American people.  Of course we know that some months ago, John Edwards dropped out of the race and it left Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama to convince the American public who on the Democratic side is best suited for the most important position in the world and that is president of the United States of America.  I will say more about John Edwards later.  While we all have our favorite Democratic candidate, we have to admire both Clinton and Obama.  They are both convincing and highly skilled orators able to deliver their message of hope and opportunity.

The media has absolutely been enthralled with both campaigns on the Democratic side while the Republican nominee, John McCain has not gotten as much national coverage.  Each day that Clinton and Obama campaign is a day that history is being made.  While there have been other women and other African Americans to run for president, none have captured the hearts and minds of Americans like Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama. I never thought that in my lifetime, I would see a serious bid by a woman and an African American to become president.  It is simply unbelievable to me!  In my quiet moments, I consider how far America has come.  It is without debate that women and people of color have travelled a long and difficult road to get to this point. 

I think many of us get caught up in the Clinton and Obama battle because it has been so testy and fiercely contested.  Before we lose perspective let us just remember this couldn’t have happened in previous years.  The momentum for each candidate has been hanging in the balance with every caucus and primary.  The political pundits have gone back and forth about Barack’s strengths and Hillary’s strengths.  I have been watching the presidential elections for years and I have never seen so many women and people of color as political commentators.  Every time that I see Roland Martin on CNN, I say, “go boy”!

With the closeness of every contest, it means that every vote literally does count.  You only have to take a look at the Guam primary which Barack Obama won by a grand total of seven votes.  The news about each campaign becomes more compelling as the days go by.  Just the other night Hillary Clinton defeated Barack Obama pretty handily in West Virginia.  However not to be outdone on Wednesday Barack Obama introduced John Edwards while campaigning in Michigan.  And of course Edwards gave an enthusiastic endorsement of Barack Obama.  So the delegates that Hillary won and the delegates that Edwards has have almost cancelled each other out.  It makes Clinton’s victory in West Virginia not as sweet.  So in many ways it looks like from a practical viewpoint that all eyes are on Barack Obama as the Democratic nominee for president.  I know some are pinching themselves. However, all indicators suggest Obama will be the party’s choice.  While all of the momentum is on Obama’s side, there is no quit in Hillary Clinton.  So let us give her high marks.

Having given great “props” to Hillary Clinton, I believe the nomination is in sight for Barack Obama.  It is the thinking of many that his victory in North Carolina and his narrow defeat in Indiana provided him with an insurmountable lead.  Of course Michigan and Florida are still on the outside looking in, but that will be fixed before the Democratic convention.  So when we have to vote, let us remember that every vote counts.  Just ask the citizens of Guam!