About Rationally Speaking

Rationally Speaking is a blog maintained by Prof. Massimo Pigliucci, a philosopher at the City University of New York. The blog reflects the Enlightenment figure Marquis de Condorcet's idea of what a public intellectual (yes, we know, that's such a bad word) ought to be: someone who devotes himself to "the tracking down of prejudices in the hiding places where priests, the schools, the government, and all long-established institutions had gathered and protected them." You're welcome. Please notice that the contents of this blog can be reprinted under the standard Creative Commons license.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Will the Dems lose the 2008 Presidential?

Probably. Jon Stewart (of The Daily Show) has been asking for months what the Democrats will come up with this time that will turn what should be a slam dunk victory into four more years of a Republican controlled White House. After all, they did it in both 2000 and 2004, both of which should have been slam dunks.

But this time, I think, if the Democrats will lose in November it won’t be (entirely) their fault. True, they have been engaging in some self-destructive behavior, like the mess they made with the Michigan and Florida primaries. I mean, who the hell cares when individual states hold their primaries? Let them decide, and for God’s sake (so to speak) don’t alienate voters anywhere, especially in Florida (remember 2000?). Or like the fact that Hillary just won’t quit despite the math being plainly against her, either because she “owes it to her voters” (Obama doesn’t?), or because she “can’t go home and tell Chelsea that her mother is a quitter” (please, who the heck would ever argue that Hillary Clinton is a quitter?), or more likely because her ego simply cannot accept that an upstart from Illinois beat her.

No, these won’t be the reasons the Dems are likely (though by no means certain) to lose the race for the White House this year. The reason isn’t even the well-known Republican penchant for sleazy tactics (swiftboating and such) or downright electoral fraud (Ohio 2004). Nope, the reason became clearer the other day, with the West Virginia primary: a sizable enough portion of Americans are simply stupid and bigoted.

I know, to insult someone isn’t going to make them change their mind. But from time to time one has to call them as one sees them. Besides, I doubt many West Virginians are reading this blog anyway. Of course, stupidity and bigotry are not (entirely) the result of genetic inbreeding: more likely they both stem from lack of a suitable cultural milieu and a well-rounded education, which goes a long way toward explaining why Republicans have always mounted vicious attacks against public education and in favor of “parents’ choice” (i.e., religious schooling).

But, you may reasonably ask, what’s my evidence that many Americans are stupid and bigoted? And what’s West Virginia got to do with it? West Virginia is of course just an example, albeit a pretty egregious one. According to the New York Times, the exit polls taken Tuesday night reported that “More than half [of the voters] said they would be dissatisfied if Obama was the nominee. Half believe he shares the views of the Rev. Wright, and more than half said he does not share their values. More than half also said that he is not honest and trustworthy [as opposed to Bush or McCain or for that matter, Clinton??]. Just under half of the Clinton voters said they would not support Obama in the fall.” Moreover, and more importantly, “Two in 10 voters said race was important in how they voted, and more than 8 of 10 of these went for Hillary.”

The bigotry is evident from the fact that a sizable portion of those polled bluntly stated that “race is a factor” in their voting. In other words: he’s a n*gger, I won’t vote for him. And that’s among Democrats, one can only imagine the anti-black (and, let’s be fair, anti-women) sentiments rampant among Republicans. Actually, one doesn’t have to imagine, just watch any Fox-News show, pick at random.

The stupidity ought to be clear from the fact that even though the overwhelming majority of Americans say that they’d rather see a Democrat in the White House, and that according to a poll released this morning 80% of them think the country is going in the wrong direction (well, who’s at the helm, dummy?), when they are presented with the choice between Obama (or Clinton) and McBush, they split evenly or go for the Big Mc. To refuse to see that the United States and the world at large simply cannot afford another several years of the crap we’ve been dealing with during the past eight is just dumb. The only hope, I think, lies in the mobilization of the younger (and educated) white and black generations that Obama has been able to energize throughout his campaign. That is, of course, unless what everyone is thinking but few dare to say will happen: Obama going the way of JFK. It’s more than idle speculation: the same NYT article reported that a voter in Susquehanna County, PA responded to a call on behalf of Obama in the following manner: ‘Hang that darky from a tree!’ Boy, do we have a looong way to go until civilization.


  1. Okay, it's depressing that many people won't vote for him because he's black--but since when is doubting the honesty of a politician evidence of racism?

  2. I did not say that doubting the honesty of a politician is racist, that was just the entire quote from the NYT, the racist bit is at the end.

    Then again, doubting Obama's honesty over, say, Clinton's or McCain's, that's dumb.

  3. The whole Rev. Wright media frenzy thing was clearly a play on white racial fears and anxiety. How dare that uppity black man complain about this countries racist history and present!

    Blacks are supposed to pretend and play along with the majority of whites that much of American racism is behind us. Then if they don't, then they are accused of being racist. Of course you would expect it from Fox News, but to have the so-called liberal media, ABC, and all the others play along with the same plot is just pitiful.

    Sure, the Rev. Wright said something pretty kooky, that the U.S. govt. invented AIDS to commit genocide against blacks. But so what, kooky shit is standard fare from preachers, and I find that less kooky than all the other kooky shit preachers continously carry on about, like fairy tales of heaven and hell.


  4. I'm starting to think that the reason McCain is going to win is because the divide between Obama and Clinton supporters is getting to the point that enough of the one won't vote for the other. At this point it looks like Obama is going to get the nomination unless Clinton can pull off some last minute behind the scenes type of deal with enough super delegates. From what I've been reading in the blogosphere and hearing on the radio, it seems like more and more Clinton supporters are at the point where they are either going to vote for a third party candidate or just not vote at all because of a perception that Clinton is not being treated fairly.

    And I'll also agree with you on the average American intellect. Even though the polls always seem to show that people are unhappy with the economy and want universal health care and other so-called "Liberal" programs, they still tend to vote against their own interests and allow themselves to be easily swayed by fear tactics.

  5. "Sure, the Rev. Wright said something pretty kooky, that the U.S. govt. invented AIDS to commit genocide against blacks."

    I certainly agree it is kooky. Then again, blacks *really* were involuntarily used for experiments on syphilis by the US government a few decades ago, so some degree of paranoia here is not entirely irrational. Unfortunately, few people in the white community even know about that stuff, or about their government forced sterilization of thousands of "idiots" during the height of the eugenic movement in the 1930s.

  6. NPR played a story about this issue yesterday. It was difficult to listen to some of the things people said in it. I think that this is the link to the article that I heard:


  7. We have to admit that race still plays a part but it swings both ways... there are whites who will not vote for Obama because he's black and blacks who will vote for him simply because he IS black. Yes, racism exists in America and while it's not as blatant as it was when I was growing up, I figure it will be another generation or two before it fades to background level.
    Side note: Why is Obama "black"? If I have my genealogical facts correct, his mother is white, his father is black. That's 50/50. Why don't we just as readily say that he's white?
    Personally, I won't vote for him due to his strongly avowed religious beliefs and his ties to the Democratic parties socialist platform. Won't vote for HC either, and not because of her sex, but for the same reasons that I'm opposed to Obama. Of course McCain is off my radar too. U.S. politics sucks.

  8. Pigliucci's statements here are obscene. How dare he so freely state the truth? Isn't he concerned about offending people?

    Oh, wait, he never has been. ;-)

  9. What if Obama shared most of his mother's opinions on religion? (she was an atheist, right?). How would we ever know?

    I'm surprised the swift-boaters haven't picked up on this. But I guess the sensation of having the middle name Hussein is just too luscious a fruit, which must be eaten first.

    Then again, I thought Hillary was lying about religion, until I heard about the elite, bi-partisan Bible study group she attended in Washington.

    All the same, if one knows early in life that one wants to be a politician, why not establish one's religious credentials early on, so that no one would suspect you were not sincere. Sort of like being a self-activated mole. (yes, I have read all of Lecarré's and Len Deighton's books, so call me crazy. I don't mind).

  10. Oh ho! So which one is the secret atheist? I might have a candidate after all.

    Nah, who am I kidding?

    Duff-Man for President!

  11. "Personally, I won't vote for him due to his strongly avowed religious beliefs and his ties to the Democratic parties socialist platform."

    Unfortunately, if you wish to vote for anybody who has a chance at winning the presidency, then you have to swallow the bitter pill that the candidate is obligated to make some strange religious noises.

    But I think what really matters is how, if at all, they allow religious beliefs to infect policy decisions. Like for example sex education, abortion rights, science education, separation of church and state etc.. Overall, the Democrats are generally going to be on more on the side of secularism, than the Republicans.

    Socialist platform? Oh how I wish you were correct on the latter point!

  12. "....blacks *really* were involuntarily used for experiments on syphilis by the US government a few decades ago, so some degree of paranoia here is not entirely irrational."

    I agree. That is a good point Massimo. Also part of the Wright controversy was also about him suggesting at least part of the causality of the 9-11 attacks to U.S. foreign policy. This of course is an argument made by purely secular analysts, and is well supported by evidence.

  13. Side note: Why is Obama "black"?

    Definitely a good question, I keep thinking that myself all the time. Since Obama surfaced, I've started using him as an example that the concept of race is not biological (people usually do not believe me), but social.

    Are you called black if you have more than 1/4 black ancestry, or what? That would be asymmetrical, of course. Or then, what's the skin absorbance threshold for considering someone black? Of course, there is no criteria. If you "look black" and are "accepted as black" by society, that's it, even if you're 3/4 German and 1/4 Kenyan, for example.

    Another one I usually mention is Tiger Woods, "black" golfer according to many people I've heard in the media.

    He is "one-quarter Chinese, one quarter Thai, one quarter African American, one-eighth Native American, and one-eighth Dutch. He refers to his ethnic make-up as “Cablinasian”(a portmanteau term he coined from Caucasian, Black, American-Indian, and Asian).[7] Woods is a Buddhist." (from Wikipedia)

    And he married a Swede (whom I'm assuming is white, although I might be wrong). What does THAT make his boy? Confused?

    We don't need no steekin' races...

  14. But back to "losing the election", another side note: have you seen Stephen Colbert's graphic "Democralypse Now", about how the dems are going to self destruct? It's pretty funny, look it up sometime.


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