Confronting Cultural Conventions through the Elections Process

Posted in The Gnovis Blog

On the Superest of Tuesdays, millions of voters (new window) across the U.S. trudged through inclement weather and dealt with logistical voting fiascoes in their states to support their candidate of choice in record-breaking numbers.
Meanwhile, Mardi Gras goers in southern Louisianna gorged themselves
on all things celebratory– as the tradition goes, before the next forty
days of Lenten abstinence.


Soon-to-be "repenters" rejoiced in the (mostly heathenous)
fervor of Mardi Gras in a city renown for its rich multiethnic history and its vibrant cultural
traditions. And the country at large was embroiled in the beginnings of an especially heated race for the historically male, Christian, very white White House– a contest that has so far centered most
significantly on religion, gender, and
skin color.

Over the last week, nearly every demographic marker has been used to
explain voting patterns in the primary elections and to predict the nominations as the
results are even now still rolling in. No 2008 voter is simply an
independent thinker choosing a candidate according to his or her
personal views. We are all ciphers for phenomena that are thought to
occur along clear lines of race, gender, class, education, etc.

HIllary has been deemed the candidate of older women, some white men,
and the bluer hued collars. Obama commands the youth vote, the Black
vote, the educated, but he apparently he does not have this elusive
thing called the Latino vote.

As expected, the focus on ethnicity has been particularly pointed given the historic
rise of Senator Obama and the centrailty of his racial identification
in the race that has become so much about race. Senator Obama has
demonstrated an impressive ability to mobilize voters who
have felt marginalized or for whatever reason, have not previously
engaged in the political process, which includes many Black voters.

But it seems not all Black voters feel
resonance with him as a candidate, just as women don’t necessarrily
feel compelled to support Hillary. The Clintons, like many successful
democratic Presidential hopefuls, have historically done very well
among Black voters. The supposed incongruity of voting outside of your
demographic box and other race and gender related ussues have been
addressed by the media a great deal more than the candidates’
departures on matters of policy.

This election has demonstrated just how prominently issues of gender
and ethnicity and the resulting tensions figure in the American
imagination, seemingly above all else when it comes to choosing a
political leader.

Both HIllary Clinton and Barack Obama have the ability to transcend the
social identity categories which may have once hindered a politician.
They are both seen as strong candidates who happen to be female or
Black, which says a lot about the progress we’ve made in this country
for both women and people of color.

But judging from the commentary resulting from just the primary
elections, these are still very prominent issues that are thought to
heavily, if not solely influence the decisions we make in the privacy
of the voting booth. In any case, the surrounding discourses are being
significantly impacted by the course of this election, particularly by
the unprecedented contest between HIllary Clinton and Barack Obama.

Mardi Gras

(Mardi Gras flame thrower- phonecam picture by Christopher Town)

Bourbon street will be decidedly calmer in the next forty days than in the last weeks. But the presidential races will be all the more
succulent for political junkies and recreationsts alike. We seem to already have a formidable Republican nominee, who is sure to make the final election challenging for whomever will face the seasoned Senator McCain.

Extending the battle for the Democratic nominee until the Convention is a most unsavory option for the party given the history of losing the final race to Republicans under such circumstances. In the next forty days, we are likely to have a democratic nominee.

At least I hope so– if not for the Democratic party and for the country, then for myself.

The telling signs of election year abuse are beginning to show. I know Brad is suspicious that I skipped the last gnovis meeting which coincided with Super Tuesday, due to my uhm, habit. But in reality I was sick. (I was!) Managing a demanding blog reading schedule while working full time, taking a full load of classes, and applying to law schools can be taxing to the immune system (and the pscyhe).

If I were still a practicing Catholic, I might have given up obsessing over this election for Lent. If the race for the Democratic nominee continues much longer, we might all suffer burn-out to the point of harm and for some, to the detriment of the Democratic party.

I personally cannot stop watching.

For all those who seem to believe Obama is the veritable second coming, his nomination would surely bring a resurrection of faith in politics, and in the ability of this country to move past the more negative aspects of our history.