In researching the results from the Pennsylvania Democratic Primary I came across this article from al-Jazeera on Pennsylvania Muslims and the Obama campaign.
I agree with the fundamental argument of the article that Muslims in America have coalesced around the candidacy of Barack Obama. Personally I don’t have any friend that I know, who votes, Muslim or non-Muslim that is not supporting Obama and every Muslim I talk to who is voting not only is supporting Obama but has a seething hostility towards both Hillary Clinton and John McCain. Even in my family everyone is voting for Obama with the excpetion of my grandparents who are for Hillary ( and this fits a pattern).
In this Muslims are a part of a trend that is becoming clearer by the day in this election and that is the fact that this is an election of demographics. PA was a state that Clinton could win because demographically it favored her and, just as this happens on the local level in every election cycle, the Democratic Party is divided by race, class, and now even religion on a national level. As I have mentioned before this is why in New York City the Republican Party has carried the last 4 elections for mayor in an overwhelmingly Democratic city because the Party is so divided by race and ethnicity. In St. Louis there are two Democratic Parties and one is white based on the south side and the other is black based on the north side, in DC where I am now there is a very liberal globo white Democratic Party and there is the African-American faction of Marion Barry, and I could name 50 other cities at least with similar racial divisions in Democratic politics and today this is playing out on the national level for all of those in maybe Utah and Maine who didn’t know that the progressive Democratic Party is often divided by the regressive issue of race and ethnicity.
Demographically, despite his huge advantage in Philadelphia amongst black voters, Pennsylvania was not a good fit for Obama. The groups that are consistently voting against Obama; old white people, white blue-collar voters, Asians, white women, Mexican-Americans and increasingly Jews made up a big percentage of the population in the state.
PA, like a lot of other states in the rustbelt and Midwest, when you leave the urban areas that may themselves be suffering from urban decay, is full of small towns that have been hit hard by globalization and the new economy. These voters yearn for a better time in America and see Clinton as the person that can usher the old days back in and see Obama as a candidate of change and change has not been good for them.
African-Americans needed change to emerge form segregation and state-repression, Latinos needed change to be accepted into mainstream American society, Muslims need change today to restore our full rights as American citizens; but that is not the case for blue-collar and older white Americans. They did not need change as the status-quo benefited them and every time a change has come in their lifetime their status has been lessened. They are trying to preserve as much of their cherished old way of life as they can and the last thing they want is a black man with a funny name coming in town talking about more change.
Obama, in my mind, has almost no chance at all of winning the white blue-collar vote in November against McCain who will be pimping his service and captivity in Vietnam to the fullest. If he can’t beat a liberal-elitist woman with no roots in anything who supported NAFTA and free-trade and the war then what chance does he have at winning this vote over GI Johnny?
The election can still be won for Obama, it will just be won without a large number from these groups mentioned. The Obama base (African-Americans, educated whites, the young, Muslims and liberals) will also have to be maximized with a huge turnout. He will also be able to carry, or at least do well, with a lot of the groups he is now losing in the primary process such as white women, Asians, and Jews who despite their differences with Obama would choose him over McCain.
Race has always been a part of this race and it will not go away despite that fact that Obama has been like the Jackie Robinson of American politics in that on many ways he has been able to transcend race. But make no mistake about it the phrase “post-racial” was invented by globos in academia and Manhattan who do not live in the real world ( and while they are sipping latte talking about a post-racial America in a gentrified Lower East Side they are sure not to take that train too far uptown to the unconquered territories).
This race is ugly and will not get pretty. The Clinton Machine has shown that they do not care about anything else other than winning and they are ready to destroy the Democratic Party if they cannot win. However, by all indications, victory is out of the reach of the Clintons now and the question becomes just how ugly will they make their loosing effort? How much will they play the race card in trying to make Obama unelectable and win on the electability issue?
Once the general election starts is when the real fireworks will start and the GOP Machine and the right-wing will show no class and have no mercy as they exploit issues of race and religion.
For now this is a demographic argument and about whose groups can come out the most and all about maximization. In a primary process that is this close and a general election that may even be closer this is a time for Muslims in America to step up and make our voices heard.
Our issues as Muslims and what has drawn us to Obama may vary as the Muslim community is diverse but I feel that there is a common feeling amongst Muslims that Obama represents a newer more diverse America and Clinton and McCain represent more of the same. As for me, as I was reminded last night by my elder in Islam in Philly, that our issues as a community are first and foremost issues right here in our neighborhoods. Issues of schools, housing, crime, jobs, health-care, infrastructure, civil-liberties, the war etc. and any other issue, that may be seen as a Muslim issue that is overseas, has to take a backseat to those issues that immediately affect the lives of our families right here where we live.