My Twitter friend, Bexone, has some interesting thoughts about the coverage of Wisconsin and North Carolina:
I think the different reactions to NC and WI can also be laid pretty squarely on WI being perceived as “whiter.” Gay marriage fauxgressives in particular have shown their giant racist blind spot over and over. (In case it’s not obvious I’m still pissed NoOn8 blamed communities they totally ignored while campaigning)
Dan McDonough countered with:
Do you guys not see a *tiny* bit of difference between mandating bigotry (NC) and policy disagreements (WI)? I just think you’re more likely to see jokes about bigotry when voters do something that’s actually bigoted.
I see his point. I knew this would be a criticism of my argument which is why I briefly addressed it in my first post about this topic. But I think that’s why Prop8 can help us bridge this difference and why I think Bexone was right to bring California and Prop8 into this discussion. As she said, “I’m pointing out that when CA did the EXACT SAME bigoted thing they DIDN’T get that reaction.”
So, let’s compare these three. Here, I made a chart:
- WI stands alone here for what people were voting for: Governor to be recalled. NC and CA were voting for marriage equality.
- Of these three, NC had the biggest negative response (though forever and always shame on the progressive media for how it threw black CA voters under the bus).
For CA and NC, who were voting on similar measures, different narratives immediately emerged to explain why.
- CA = Mormon and GOP $; black voters vote against marriage equality and they turned out in big numbers for Obama
- NC = NC is full of bigots, it’s backwards; maybe black voters?
It’s interesting that NC, in general, was judged to be bigots. In California, it was black people specifically.
Things have gotten better when it comes to talking about black voters and marriage equality (partly because it’s bunk and partly because people like Melissa Harris-Perry are spotlighting it in the media). But just the fact that so much work has to be done to fight this idea shows how entrenched it is.
For WI and CA, two states not viewed as staunchly conservative or in the deep south or part of the Confederacy, the response was “outside money did it” and “people vote for what they are comfortable with.” People were quick to point out how hard democrats in those states fought, how close the battle was. We all immediately shifted our Prop 8 attention to the courts. In Wisconsin we are talking about the Democrats winning state senate seats.
For NC, it was “cousins can marry! yuck yuck yuck” and “We need to BOYCOTT immediately!”
As I’ve written about before in my reaction to the call for a DNC boycott of NC, boycotting, in these moments, is tantamount to us progressives turning our backs and closing our eyes.
And, perhaps most importantly for this post, let’s be honest: there are only certain states most of us would put on the “IMMEDIATELY BOYCOTT” list over voting outcomes that we don’t like.
I am most distressed by the way that outside money or big GOP funds were credited for the Democrats losing the votes in WI and CA but no parallel discussion for NC. This is a HUGE hole in the conversations we have about WHY certain states appear to be in the hands of the GOP with no help of turning blue. Last night, it felt like within 60 seconds of word coming down that Walker would win, Twitter blew up with people discussing money and funding and how the Democrats can’t compete with that. And as someone who lives in Texas, I just nodded along. “Yup,” I said to myself, “That’s how it works here, everyday, all the time.”
To come back around, I don’t think it’s as simple as what Dan wrote. We can’t dismiss the circumstances of these votes and he was right to bring that up. But it’s not that people were reacting only to the fact that NC was voting directly for bigotry (I still maintain that a vote for Walker is a vote for bigotry) versus a politician change.
There are other factors/stereotypes/tropes at play here. I find it harder to say it’s race specifically but I would never say it isn’t. I think there’s probably class issues at play as well (or, rather, whose poverty matters, counts as a factor) going on here but I don’t feel nearly well-versed enough to comment on that at any length.
And, at same time, I recognize that it is not as simple as I want it to be (namely the idea that everyone can’t help but shit on the South). Colorlines today, in reaction to last night’s vote, felt the need to publish this report: Young and Black Voters Turn Out in Wisconsin Despite Suppression Efforts. This is only necessary because most people, Progressives as much as anyone else, believe young and black voters won’t turn out, no matter how many times they do turn out.
There are so many intersecting narratives, many of them negative and having to be de-bunked over and over and over again.
I think there is something to be gained by looking at how the media, and the Progressive media in particular, have reacted to the voters in these different states, how they have talked about the importance of the races (or why we should care about these races), and how much attention the media has drawn/will continue to draw to these state-level fights and why.
Also, great post at Feministing.