A Presidential Debate on Domestic Policy That Does Not Mention Issues Related to Race Or Class.

As I watched the second of the three scheduled presidential debates last night, I thought to myself, “what a charade.”

I’ll probably end up holding my nose and voting for the Obama-Biden ticket, but nothing the Senators from either Illinois or Arizona said last night made me feel confident that they really understand or care how race and class continue to shape life chances and opportunities in American society.

The lack of a substantive discussion of issues related to race or class was very unsettling and should disturb anyone seriously committed to racial and social justice in American society.

For example, consider that the subprime mortgage meltdown has a huge racial dimension. This fact has been ignored by both candidates.

As I’ve mentioned in this blog before, for the last 40 years, homeownership has been the ticket to middle-class stability for many black and Latino families. Studies show that the subprime meltdown is disproportionately affecting people of color: their total loss of wealth could reach $200 billion.

Moreover, because the wealth of people of color is so heavily dependent on homeownership, the fallout from the possible loss of a home could affect several generations (remember, homes are often passed on to the next generation, which becomes instant wealth for the new homeowner).

There was no real discussion of the devastating impact of the home mortgage meltdown on cities with large non-white populations, such as Detroit and Cleveland. Entire neighborhoods in these cities look like wastelands, as people unable to keep up with their mortgage payments are either being forced out of or simply abandoning their homes.

Also, noticeably absent from this debate was a real discussion about the needs, preferences, and concerns of working-and lower-class Americans. Everything is about the middle-class (codeword, the white middle-class). What about the black, Latino, Asian, Native American, and, even, white working classes?

“The middle class need a rescue package, and that means tax cuts for the middle class,” declared Senator Obama.

Without a doubt, the centerpiece of Senator Obama’s tax policy is what he describes as “a middle-class tax cut to 95 percent of working Americans.” Given that 95 percent of Americans are not in the middle-class, this is a very bizarre statement. But it does explain where his priorities are, which is to appeal to the white middle-class, by placating to their sense of entitlement. Many middle-class whites subscribe to the view voiced by Senator Clinton: that they are “hard-working Americans” who deserve special treatment from their government.

Moreover, neither candidate truthfully addressed how the $700 billion dollar bailout of Wall Street, a projected $500 billion dollar federal budget deficit, a 10 trillion dollar debt, and costly wars in Iraq and Afghanistan will affect their domestic policy priorities as President. Without new revenues, painful cuts to government programs – more than just ending earmarks or freezing spending for entitlement programs – may be required.

What will happen to funding for programs that aid children and the elderly? What will happen to funding for job training programs for economically devastated urban communities? What about funding for elementary, secondary, and post-secondary education? What about Social Security? What about Universal Healthcare?

Rather than tell the American people what they need to hear, both candidates have selected to tell us what they think we want to hear. That sounds to me like the POLITICS OF OLD rather than the politics of change.

As the debate entered its second hour and shifted to the foreign policy arena with so many domestic policy questions unanswered, I thought to myself, why we shouldn't be switching topics: “Who is speaking for the urban poor? Who is speaking for the rural poor? Who is raising their issues?”

Not Senator Obama!

Not Senator McCain!

Senators’ Obama and McCain, I thought to myself, “What about a rescue package for the poor and working-classes who are suffering in this economy?”

I finished this debate more depressed than ever about the major party candidates I have to choose between in November.

I thought to myself, “I’d rather vote for an Aunt Jemima-Uncle Ben ticket than either an Obama-Biden or McCain-Palin ticket.”


Anonymous said…
The candidates have a major difference in their leadership styles: McCain tends to say, "Follow me because the other guy can't get it done" while Obama says, "Follow me because I can get it done." Ideally, the candidates should say, "Follow me because i will help you get it done" ... in any case, of the two of them Obama demonstrates a better leadership mentality
Anonymous said…
Once again I fail to see how either candidate is going to manifest the change they both claim to be representing. The middle class seem to dominate the discussion and even that discussion is shallow at best. If the U.S. is ready for change it has not been reflected in the debates or in any of the commercials shown in the media. I want to be optimistic but with so many pressing issues either not being discussed or discussed on a superficial level it is becoming difficult.
Anonymous said…
I'm reading your post - having come to your blog for the first time on 11/6, weeks after you wrote the post and days after the election - and hoping that you did not become SO depressed over the debates that you've given up. This was a great analysis of the questions that were neither asked nor answered in this election.

I voted for Obama not because he has the answers but because the energy that his campaign created opened the door for new discussions of racism and oppression in America. I worry that by electing him we may have closed some of those doors due to a false complacency by white America that the problem of race and racism has been "solved."

Moreover, the question of the bailout for the working class, including both the urban and the rural poor, is becoming more urgent by the day. Here in the Hartford area we are already feeling the first tremors of this global earthquake that the media euphemistically refers to as an "economic downturn" or even as a "recession." On the front page they talk about it like it's going to be a minor inconvenience . . . but on the business pages, where the capitalists tell each other the truth about what's going on, they admit that this is a major disaster.

I also worry that many of the good folks out there, the activists and campaigners and community organizers, are going to wait for Obama to come up with the answer or are not going to be willing to pressurize him, when the answer has to come from below. Working people know what we need: stop the foreclosures and evictions, no utility shut-offs, no cuts in human services, health care, schools and infra-structure even if we have to tax the s--t out of the rich to do it.

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