A “toxic mix of rage and delusion, and its concomitant sense of oppression, have become the defining political features of much of white America today,” writes Harper’s Magazine columnist Kevin Baker, on observing the conservative reaction to the re-election of President Barack Obama this week.

Neither white America nor white men have voted for a Democratic president since 1964, Baker writes, no matter how the national Democratic Party has attempted to contort itself to satisfy their prejudices, or how unhinged from reality the Republican opposition has become.

The data shows that whites gave Obama no more than 40 percent of their votes during this presidential election, continuing a nearly 50-year tradition in which whites of the working, middle and upper classes “have chosen to vote their worst fears and prejudices — even when it meant undermining their own economic interests.”

“They voted, and continue to vote, for the party and the individuals who most avidly support business’ ‘right’ to break their unions, ship their jobs overseas, lower their wages, and diminish the mass buying power of America,” Baker writes. “They failed to notice even when their sainted Ronald Reagan actually raised the overall tax rate for most working people by hiking Social Security and Medicare taxes.”

People of color remain objects of fear for many American whites, no matter that crime rates have fallen in the United States, many inner cities have experienced a comeback and middle-class blacks and Latinos have entered suburban neighborhoods without incident, not to mention the fact that a black president named “Obama” began killing Islamic terrorists and deporting undocumented immigrants as soon as he assumed office.

Recent history proves, Baker says, that after the civil rights struggle, American citizens of color want the same thing as most white Americans: opportunity. One needs to look no further than the numbers of Mexicans who attempt to enter the United States illegally, some of whom pay with their lives for the shot at giving their families the basic necessities of life.

“Far and away, these people work harder, for less money and under worse conditions, than most of ‘us’ have since the nineteenth century,” Baker writes. Yet right-wing whites continue to “fill their gun shelves with automatic weapons, their ears with radio rants, and their heads with absurd conspiracy theories.”

— Posted by Alexander Reed Kelly.

Kevin Baker at Harper’s Magazine:

In the wake of Romney’s loss, a few scattered Republican politicians and commentators are talking about how they have to appeal more to black and Latino voters; to women and maybe even to gays. But the trouble with any such strategy is that the modern “conservative” message is all about divide-and-conquer. No doubt these new ideas of outreach would simply be designed to slice and dice segments the Democratic coalition. Hispanics and even some blacks, for instance, will probably be courted on issues of “cultural conservatism,” such as opposition to gay marriage and abortion rights. But this will only further alienate gays, lesbians, and women in general.

The aging white men who make up the G.O.P.’s spine have become so accustomed to talking in terms of “the other,” and they’ve spent so much time mentally dehumanizing anybody who might disagree with them on anything, that they’re now almost congenitally incapable of forming a coalition with the rest of America. This won’t change until they finally feel able to make an argument that consists of more than spouting a slogan and running away.

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