Sex, Race and Religion: Does it matter?
Tomas Mega, Las Vegas, Nevada
This election may offer some hard choices for voters driven by prejudice. Americans must decide between a man fathered by an African, who supports gay marriage, and a conservative Mormon, a religion that once advocated polygamy and only lifted its ban on African men in the priesthood in 1978.
Both Obama and Romney are objects of prejudice. The incumbent’s race is represented by less than 13% of the American population. The challenger’s religion is represented by less than 2%. The fact remains that race and religion still play a role in American politics. America has had one African-American president, one Catholic president, and no Jewish presidents.
How one’s race and religion view matters of sex is also important. Many African Americans are dismayed by the President’s coming out for gay marriage. Evangelical Christians tend to take a dim view of Mormonism and gay marriage and many Catholics remain puzzled as to just what Mormonism is. For some women the Mormon focus on ‘stay-at-home’ motherhood is another source of concern. With all of this, the voter who harbours prejudice based on sex, race and religion may be feeling slightly panicked with the choices in this year’s election.
The importance of all this is not just philosophical, but financial. Obama stands to gain millions in campaign contributions from the gay community. Evangelical Christians will pump millions into Romney’s campaign despite misgivings about Mormonism. Such is their hate of Obama, and his support of gay marriage.
Religion, while an issue for Romney during the Republican primary, will likely not play that important of a role in November. Republicans will rally around their candidate because they simply cannot stomach Obama. Democrats have nothing to gain by making religion an issue. They don’t want to revive the debate on Obama’s Islamic ancestry.
Sex may be a more difficult matter for the President. In 30 states where gay-marriage was put to the vote, all have rejected it. That’s sixty percent of America. Voters in North Carolina, an important ‘swing’ state which Obama won in 2008, recently rejected legalising gay marriage. If issues of sex are important to voters, the risk to Obama is obvious. It’s a calculated risk Democrats have chosen to take. Now that it’s done, Democrats desperately need to seek the initiative on the economy, and Obama’s record. He doesn’t enjoy the same support he had in 2008, when he was different and new. And his signature Healthcare Reform is dead in the water until the Supreme Court rules on it. That ruling could provide a big boost or a huge implosion for Democrats.
Romney has been hammering away at Obama for the anaemic economic recovery. He has everything to gain by keeping the focus on matters of the economy and Obama’s record, while Obama has the most to lose on the issue of gay marriage.
For Obama, race may be less important in this election. Sadly, there are many Americans who cannot bear the thought of an African-American as president, but it’s not new anymore. And Romney may have a surprise for us when he chooses his running mate. Could it be a Hispanic? United States Senator Marco Rubio of Florida, a Hispanic and Catholic, is highly regarded by many as a suitable running mate, but says he doesn’t want the job
. A woman? Maybe, but Conservatives would like to see a more hard-line individual get the nod for Vice President. U.S. Representative Paul Ryan of Wisconsin, chairman of the House Budget Committee, and a devout Catholic, may be it. A conservative Catholic with strong Republican fiscal credentials may be just the right balance for Romney and Republicans to unseat Obama by delivering ‘must win’ mid-western swing states.
With an economic recovery now looking more fragile than at any time this year, sex, race and religion may not matter much. As in 1992, during Bill Clinton’s first run for the Presidency, this year’s election theme will likely be “it’s the economy, stupid!”
And George Herbert Walker Bush became a one term President.