Obama vs. [InsertInterestGroupHere] is the standard story for big media these days. It began over year and half ago, here at home, with this trumped up question of "blackness." Heh, Peter Bienert memorably called it "Good black" vs. the "Bad Black." That one still makes me laugh. I don't think I'll ever forget Shelby Steele going on Hardball to proclaim that because Hillary Clinton, on the basis of her identification with Al Sharpton, was "in many ways blacker" than Barack Obama. Steele wasn't alone, Deborah Dickerson, Stanley Crouch and Andrew Young all played on the same theme.
All of these cats are over fifty, and I think, were reflecting a notion of race that had been shaped by the culture wars. When Obama declared his presidency, they simply applied to him the same rules they'd used in the 80s and 90s, with no sense that things had changed. The "not black enough" line was lazy thinking that backed up this idea that we spend our days thinking about white people, and all the ways we can make them feel guilty.
Now we have moved on to Obama vs Jews, Obama vs. Appalachia and Obama vs. Women. I was thinking about this after I read E.J. Dionne's piece, which is one in a series of articles that warns of potential backlash among women voters against Obama. Much like the "not black enough" stories, the piece is based mostly on anecdotes and punditry. One thing I've learned in my time doing this job is that you can string together five or six quotes about nearly anything. I could probably get seven or eight accredited scientists to tell me UFOs existed.
I don't think there's much of question as to whether gender/sexism affected the election. The need for pundits to comment on Hillary's appearance has always seemed bizarre to me. But I'm leery of confusing anecdotes from a few voluble Hillary supporters, with women voters en masse. On average, Barack Obama lost the female vote to Clinton by six points. In many states like Vermont, Virginia, Missouri and Utah, he actually won the female vote. In Wisconsin, he tied Clinton. Thus this idea that there are great numbers of women who really believe that Clinton was robbed strikes me as also as hokum.
Media feeds on conflict, and the flatter the conflict, the easier it is to write. But one of the great revelations of this election is how diverse America really is. We tend to get hung up on small--but important--factors, like Obama's problem in Appalachia. But I'm just going to level with you--there is no way I thought a black man would ever carry Oregon and Iowa and then also get 90 percent of the black vote. What that says to me is that there is so much out there that I really don't know. And that I also should stop blogging so much, and get out more.