Wednesday, January 2, 2019

The Iowa Polls: "I guess he'll do" 2020

It's 2019.  Grab your barf bags because we're off to the 2020 races and three white men are leading in the polls of likely Democratic voters.

Here's from a recent CNN poll of likely Democratic caucusgoers in Iowa (cite: PDF):

That's right, Joe Biden (32%), Bernie Sanders (19%), and Beto O'Rourke (11%). These are three men who have each lost the biggest political races in which they've competed. I'll just say for that reason alone, although there are many others, I am very concerned about 2020 and our chances of defeating Trump and the Republicans.

What could it possibly mean that Democrats and major media voices are not widely shouting at these men to retire into the woods and knit for the rest of their days?

Here are some theories, any combination of which might be playing out.

(1) It's Iowa, which is about 91% white.

Yet, in national polls, Biden has tended to lead, with Bernie Sanders coming in second, and someone else coming in third - often Kamala Harris or Elizabeth Warren.

(2) Biden, Bernie, and Beto all have a lot of name recognition right now. Biden, who lost his previous bid badly, can ride on President Obama's coattails. Bernie has essentially never stopped running for president, even when he lost badly to Hillary Clinton. And, Beto just lost a high-profile race with the extremely unlikeable Ted Cruz.

(3) Hillary Clinton's electoral college loss to Donald Trump was deeply humiliating for American women and many women have lose their appetite to endure both the misogyny she (and her supporters) faced and another loss.

(4) The center to left has been in a moral panic about "white women" since approximately 47% of the white women who voted voted for Donald Trump.  It's as if some people have discovered, and just started thinking about, for the first time the very existence of conservative white women. Yet, rather than this 47% statistic being an indictment of conservatism, Christianity, misogyny, racism, or bigotry, in the framework of Clinton's loss, the 47% statistic is widely perceived as an indictment of "white feminism," a category that no longer means "non-intersectional feminism" but has come to mean, on the Internet, "words said by any feminist who is white."

I'm still teasing out the 2020 implications of this, but I've seen many men take advantage of this collapsing of many progressive feminists into the category of "irredeemably bad feminist who needs to shut up forever" in ways that are profoundly misogynistic. I see a lot of cynical mocking of the hashtag resistance because it's perceived as being comprised of dorky, white suburban moms who wear pussy hats. I see a lot of progressive white women internalizing this misogyny. Ironically, I see a lot of progressives who have just given up on intersectionality beyond the prism of one or maybe two intersections of identity, when there are so many more.

I think all of this contributes to the perception that it will take a white man to beat Trump.

(5) Relatedly, some people might want to vote for someone who isn't a white man, but they don't think enough other people will, so they perceive it as safer to support a white man.

(6) Many people are more tolerant of flawed white men, where women/people of color have their flaws amplified and used as dealbreakers. Every woman who runs will have her own version of "the emailz" to contend with, while her male competitors could be literal traitors to the nation and receive no comparable coverage.

(7) The beltway media portrays, and many people perceive, politics as akin to a boxing match, rather than a popularity contest that is largely framed by the media. And in a boxing match, people think it takes a man to beat a man. Hence the various male politicians and their fans with their "Bernie wouldas" and "Biden wouldas" after the 2016 election.

(8)  Decades of rightwing anti-Clinton propaganda and attacks amplified Hillary Clinton's flaws and contributed to many people on the center-left thinking she was a uniquely bad candidate, thus masking the misogyny that lingers among the voting population, even among Democrats and Independents. See, for instance, how Elizabeth Warren is already being treated, now that it's almost certain she's running.

(9) The mainstream media is still dominated by misogynistic, white supremacist people, especially white men.

(10) Our society still widely hates ambitious women.

(11) Trump is so bad that many people have completely romanticized the Obama years. They want the perceived safety of Joe Biden, the daddy/husband figure, even though Russia interfered with the 2016 election on the watch of Obama/Biden.

(12) It's very early. Other candidates may rise in the polls over time, with more exposure.

Note, none of these reasons are grounded in any of the leading men being uniquely good politicians.

They're not.

Yet, the thing about many white male candidates is that they rarely acknowledge the invisible assists they get from white male privilege, instead taking it for granted that their polling numbers and/or popularity are an authentic reflection of their qualifications for the job. 

What else?

No comments: