Class, Gender, Race in Politics
Race, class and gender are issues normally prevalent in politics, especially in the media coverage of electoral campaigns to win the Democratic or Republican party’s nomination. This year’s election season would be no different. The only variable that had changed in the 2008 electoral equation was that there was a new assortment of choices --not a higher number of candidates, but different genders and races to choose from. The media coverage has responded accordingly by playing up gender, age, and race issues with all of the candidates.
The primary election for the Democratic nomination, between Hillary Clinton (a wealthy senator from New York and ex-First Lady), and Barrack Obama (an African American senator from Illinois) was a photo finish race. Coming right down to the last primary and a count of committed “super delegates,” Obama emerged victorious. John McCain, a Vietnam war veteran and senator from Arizona, was already the clear cut choice for the Republican party’s candidate. . The long and drawn out primary election between Clinton and Obama secreted a feeling of divisiveness amongst the Democrats, while the Republican Party was allowed the much needed time to regroup and get behind their “champion.” However, much of the voting populace was unsure of the candidate they would rather put in the oval office, according to an article in the Washington Times, “Poll Spotlights Mixed Feelings; Voters Unsure of Candidates in Both Parties” (February 15, 2008). “Democrats see Sen. Barrack Obama as more inspiring but less experienced than Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, while Republicans think Sen. John McCain is electable but are divided about his conservatism, according to a poll released by the Pew Research Center for the People & the Press.”
The survey cited in this piece shows that American voters see Senator Obama as being an encouraging public figure because of the bias and prejudice he has been forced to overcome in his political career. At the same time, many see Senator Clinton as being more qualified for the job due to the fact that she understands the demands of the position, with all the experience she has had with and through former president Bill Clinton. On the other hand, voters have also said they can see themselves electing McCain to the White House, but are troubled by conservatism he has exhibited in the past. Some voters were concerned his views are an act he is putting on to try and woo votes.
McCain has been seen working both sides of gender issues to garner votes for the November 4th, 2008 election, and has made promises to the female voters who may have been disenfranchised with their party since Hillary’s defeat, says the Washington Times, in a June 15, 2008 article entitled “McCain Vows to Appoint Women; Seeks Clinton's Female Voters.” “I admire and respect her. And yes, we have political differences, but I do especially admire the fact that when Senator Clinton came to the U.S. Senate, her first efforts were devoted to working together, Republican and Democrat, particularly on the Armed Services Committee," McCain was quoted as saying in a Town Hall meeting when asked about Hillary Clinton’s unsuccessful run for the democratic nomination.
But gender isn’t the only “special interest” McCain has been pandering to in recent attempts to sway the public voting public his way. In a strategic shift in alliances according to the article “Reinventing McCain: From Mainstream to Maverick,” (International Herald Tribune, July 22, 2008) McCain exploited Trent Lott’s wavering loyalty to his advantage. Lott criticized McCain back in 2000 in favor of the soon-to-be 43rd president, George W. Bush, but during Bush’s second administration in the White House was criticized by Lott in an apparent about-face. Knowing an easy political opportunity when he sees one, McCain stood up for his earlier critic in an effort to reunite the party from any fallout it had incurred from this scandal. In a similar article on the same day, “McCain Has Learned Art of Team Play” (International Herald Tribune, July 22, 2008, McCain is depicted as savvy strategist who chooses his battles wisely: “Over the next eight years, he mastered the art of political triangulation - variously teaming up with Lott against the president or the new Republican leaders, with Democrats against Republicans, and with the president against the Democrats to become perhaps the chamber's most influential member.”
Of the 40 articles that were read, the constant undertone in most of the articles from different parts of the country (as well as this very class) was that the three factors that will determine the outcome of the 2008 presidential election are gender, race and age. “Overall, 51 percent call the current state of race relations ‘excellent’ or ‘good,’ about the same as said so five years ago,” said the expose “3 in 10 Americans Admit to Race Bias; Survey Shows Age, Too, May Affect Election Views,” (Washington Post, June 22, 2008).
That percentage, almost exactly half of people polled, exemplifies the scattered feeling of US voters on the imminent 2008 election. The election very well may come down to how many of the “hard liners” (die-hard camps of supporters) show up to vote for cause. “This is more than just Hillary versus Obama. This is about warring demographics among different groups. Each has a sense of historical destiny,” said independent pollster John Zogby in the article “Allegiance Runs Deep in 2008 War of Demographics” (Washington Times, May 1, 2008).
The scholarly media took a similar stance on gender issues. Journal article “Negative Advertising Effective for Female Candidates? An Experiment in Voters’ Uses of Gender Stereotypes” exemplified ways that female candidate’s campaigns are lagging behind from the start because they are held to different standards and expected to have stereotypical stances on issues normally deemed “male issues,” i.e. war, the economy and other issues that are typecast as being best dealt with by male authoritarian figures. The article went on to describe a situation manipulated to test a hypothesis that women are discouraged from negative campaigning on a policy unless they are very knowledgeable about the topic. The experiment found that if and when women would campaign negatively they would often encounter voter repercussion for defying gender stereotypes and weaker on “male issues,” unless that woman was an expert on the topic in question, then she was seen as more knowledgeable on the issue at hand. The research done in this case suggested that negative advertising could be a very effective tool to a woman candidate to level the playing field that was skewed due to gender stereotypes and avoid a possible “gender and/or culture war” discussed in the Comparative Political Studies Journal.
Journal article “The New Politics, Culture Wars, and The Authoritarian-Libertarian Value Change in Advanced Industrial Democracies” theorizes that the majority of outlooks that are found in the western world (including but not limited to the United States of America) have created sub cultures that are noticeably in opposition with each others values and beliefs system, attributes that differentiates each culture from each other.
The authors of said journal entry have verifiable research that has identified an authoritarian-libertarian element of values/belief system change that captures an important glimpse of this shift. They express that the shift from authoritarian to libertarian values is related to the always growing levels of social and political hostility towards a number of dramatic shifts in positions on the key culture wars issues; and the higher levels of people that are active and more assertive modes of political involvement, generating irregular movement around the culture wars issues. This study is based on the 1990 wave of the World Values Survey in the 12 largest and most affluent Western nations and was found in the Comparative Political Studies, Vol. 36, No. 3, and provides empirical evidence that shows that the voting population in the United States of America may just be around the corner from a dramatic change in what was the before always the stereotypical white, Christian leader they have known for the past 43 presidents.
Race, class and gender are issues that run rampant in the political coverage in the media of electoral campaigns to win the Democratic or Republican nominations, and ultimately to serve as leader of the free world, but this year has been particularly laden with issues dealing with these biases—and the media has done nothing to change these predispositions. Instead, they constantly exaggerate the racial, gender, and generational differences that already exist.
The popular, often read, readily available local Newspaper media (i.e. St. Petersburg Times, Los Angeles Times, New York Post, etc…) attitude towards political figures is often slanted, biased towards the popular opinion of the demographic area. For instance the St. Petersburg Times is based in Florida, a notoriously red state, almost always favors the republican party in everything they right. As an example, in the July 3rd, 2008 issue of the St. Petersburg Times, The only positive news that could be found in the Florida section of the database was fluff pieces written about using baked goods to predict the outcome of the election (“Vote With Your Taste buds.” July 3, 2008, St. Petersburg Times) and how Psychics and fortune tellers alike chose Obama to lead the country, even though their first choice would have been Hilary if she wasn’t already out of contention. Running these stories in other stories telling of McCain horrors as a war prisoner and his hard line to winning the Iraq War sensationalizes the Democratic Party and strips them of any chance they have in being taken seriously. Other sources taken from south of the Mason Dixon line are similar in Fashion and their op-ed pieces should be taken with a grain of salt, only the international New Papers and Journal entries were unbiased and un influenced for the main part. Media coverage is very influential over the course a campaign takes, from start to finish, is not passive at all and affects how the candidate interacts with the public, what positions they take on issues and what they do everything they do. All candidates have massive staffs that handle their media coverage, from speech writers to PR departments to spin artists that troubleshoot any scandals or controversies that may come their way, a presidents/candidates camp involves a whole cadre of dedicated staff to handle their public image.
All candidates may seem to pander to the middle, but underlying biases still are still present, and as unethical as they may be they will still have a profound impact on the future president.