The map showing areas across the country where people changed their party vote from four years ago is very telling. It designates shifts with shades of red and blue. The shift showing Kerry to McCain votes this year has a not totally surprising red and pink stripe through Appalachia. With pink indicating slightly more people voting Republican in this election, there’s a pink stripe from southeastern Massachusetts through the center of the state to its northern border. Could this be due to racism in our reliably blue state?
To view the map CLICK HERE and click “Voting shifts”.
Almost all Massachusetts towns and cities went for Obama, some with over 80% of the vote. Not surprisingly, but still a disappointment, my own town of Middleboro went for McCain as did a number of surrounding towns. Middleboro was a hotbed of support for George Wallace when he ran for president.
Massachusetts was the first state to legalize same sex marriage. We have the second black governor ever elected, elected with 56.6% of the vote in a four way race. In this election a statewide referendum made possession of less than an ounce of marijuana a civil offense punishable by up to a $100 fine. We have Senators Teddy Kennedy and John Kerry. We have Barney Frank and every other one of our House of Representative members is a Democrat.
There are only two reasons I can see for Kerry getting more votes anywhere in this state four years ago than Obama got this year. One is that some Republicans voted for Kerry because he was a favorite son. Truth be told, our popular senator is Teddy Kennedy. We respect John Kerry but few Massachusetts Democrats were ever thrilled with him as a presidential candidate.
The only other reason I can think of for the pink stripe is disturbing.
Could these voters have cast their ballot based on race?
Personal anecdotes can’t be used to make such a judgment, but here are some that may surprise you in that they come from one of the most, if not the most, liberal and progressive states in the union.
A wealthy but liberal cranberry grower in his 70’s was talking to another rich grower about politics, and this other farmer, a former board member of a large corporation and a deeply religious man, commented bitterly that he can’t stand the thought of “niggers in the White House”.
A few days before the election I was talking to an 85 year old woman who is considered a loving and accepting member of the community. I brought up a state senator named Dianne Wilkerson and her getting arrested by the FBI for taking $20,000 in cash bribes. The woman responded with distain that of “course Deval Patrick will make sure she gets off.” As I noted above, Patrick is our African American governor.
A man who is also well thought of in the community was talking to a friend of mine the day after the election. Out of the blue he asked “ever wonder why all of a sudden when Obama started running the TV stations ended up having 135 black people on?”
Just today one of my swimming buddies at the Y told me that he was getting a haircut yesterday. Three men were lamenting the outcome of the election as if it came as a total surprise.
These people assume that if you’re white and live in a blue collar town you probably agree with them. So as my friend was leaving one of them asked him what he thought.
Not wanting to argue he said something like he wanted to wait and see how Obama did. One of the men said “my God how can you say that, this guy wants to take all our money and send it to Africa.”
I’m glad I live in Massachusetts. I’d still suggest that readers of this column who are burned out trying to fight the good fight in deeply red states move here, or vacation in our beautiful Berkshires (72% Obama), the great big little city of Boston (77% Obama), on Cape Cod (only 56% Obama due to rich Republicans – but Provincetown went 88% Obama) or our Cape islands for rest and restoration.
Two years ago the vast majority of Massachusetts voters sent the racists a message named Deval Patrick. Unbeknownst to us at the time, he was a friend of another African American destined to be the 44th president of the United States.
I am heartened by this. I know we can’t obliterate racism. But when I look at that New York Times map and see how much of the deep south that still went for McCain are colored blue, I can’t help but feeling disheartened about Massachusetts.
We all have compelling images in our minds of Barack Obama and his family from what we seen over the past few days and you can look at any news website and see him. But after seeing an article in The New York Times about the Lincoln exhibit at the National Portrait Gallery, I thought this photograph was one of those “picture is worth a thousand words” images to use as an addendum to this column.
My previous columns on racism:
Oct. 19, 2008 ”
Powell provides poetic justice to racists”