Everyone discussing the Pennsylvania primaries is insisting that Hillary’s win there is due to racism.

Well, my husband and I were docs in the coal towns of Pennsylvania, and our children suffered greatly from racism, yet I have to say that a lot of the “analysis” gets things wrong.

The pundits see things “black versus white”, so we have screenwriter Nora Ephron, who was brought up in New York and hob nobbed it in Washington and Hollywood thinking she is an expert on Pennsylvania.

“This is an election,” she writes, “about whether the people of Pennsylvania hate blacks more than they hate women. And when I say people, I don’t mean people, I mean white men.”

Excuse me. White men?

Now imagine if someone wrote: “this is about whether the people of North Philly and Germantown hate white people and will vote 90% for any black candidate based on their race”. Racist, right?

Tom Namako in CityPaper.net points out that both black and white voters can separate the individual from their group in making voting choices.

So if Obama won 90% of the black vote it was not merely from racism, but because of a nuanced identification with him and his struggles against racism as a person.

This nuance works the other way in a lot of working class urban whites, who see an elitist snob who goes to a church where the pastor hates America and who ridicules them behind closed doors.

When it comes to rural Pennsylvania, things are even more complicated.

Many of the small rural agricultural towns are Republican, and didn’t vote in the primary.

The Democrats are divided into working class and university employees.

The Universities will vote Obama, but the coal towns and steel towns are Democratic, pro union,  ethnic voters.

There is a lot of clannishness among these voters, to the point of racism, but it’s more complex than that.

So when Ms Ephron dismisses them as racists, or others call them rednecks and hillbillies they are missing the point.
Perhaps Ms. Ephron remembers a minor movie called the Deer Hunter…where the marriage and funeral was at the Russian Orthodox  church? A lot of the miners are Welsh, Polish, Italian or other second or third generation Americans, who remember their own bitter struggle for rights and a decent wage.

An Obama who identifies with their struggles for decent wages would succeed. An Obama who looks down his nose at them for their religion and hunting skills won’t.

My question is why didn’t Obama ask his supporter Reverend Jesse Jackson to campaign for him in the coal towns.

You see, in 1990, Reverend Jackson came up to lend his support for the strikers in the bitter Pittston strike. Probably younger voters wouldn’t remember this trivia, but the older men, to whom union solidarity is embraced as fervently as religion, would remember.

Unfortunately, Obama’s claim of being a “uniter” is nonsense. He is busy having his supporters explain Hillary’s win by playing the race card and insisting that Obama can’t win white voters.

But how does one explain that nationwide, Clinton has the support of two thirds of all “Hispanics”? Or that in California, where Clinton won 75% of the Asian vote versus Obama’s 25%?Racism? Moi?

Playing the race card can only get you so far in today’s multiethnic world…


Nancy Reyes is a retired physician living in the rural Philippines. She writes about human rights problems in Zimbabwe at MakaipaBlog

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