Voting for Someone Who Looks Like Me - Island of Sanity

Island of Sanity

Campaigns & Elections

Voting for Someone Who Looks Like Me

Candidates often suggest that voters to vote for them because they share some background characteristic, like sex or ethnicity. At least, women and minority candidates do. For example, this article in Time magazine encouraged women to vote for women candidates.

And many voters follow this advice. Saturday Night Live even did a skit where a black talk-show host bemoans that Obama's support among black people has plummeted to "only 99.2%". He then asks his (black) guests what Obama would have to do to lose their vote, and no matter what he says, "repeals health care", "raises middle class taxes", "is caught cheating on his wife", etc, they all say no, they would still vote for him.

It's a joke, of course. But it has a lot of truth in it. Many black people voted for Obama just because or at least partyly because he was black. Many women vote for a woman just because she's a woman. Etc.

I find this curious. My ancestors are from Norway. I can't imagine saying, "I'm going to vote for Svensen because he's a Norwegian-American just like me." Even if I was looking for a tie-breaker in the closest of cases -- two candidates had practically identical positions, seemed equally competent, equally above scandal, etc -- I can't imagine looking to their ethnicity to help me decide.

Or if you want to make it broader, I can't imagine saying, "I'm going to vote for so-and-so because he's a white male like me". Or "because he was born in New York like me". I just don't care what color a candidate is or any other accident of birth.

Okay, "Norwegian-Americans" do not normally think of themselves as a group the way black people or Hispanics do. We don't normally talk of Norwegians as "us" and everyone else as "them", while black people and other groups often do. But maybe that's the point.

© 2020 by Jay Johansen


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