!"#$"%&'()*++& The Racialization of Hillary Clinton It is highly unlikely that racial attitudes would be as impactful in a hypothetical Presidential race between
Hillary Clinton and Chris Christie as they have been in the past two election cycles. However, the degree of decrease in the relevance of race will vary based on the extent to which Hillary Clinton and the Democratic Party as a whole are linked to Obama and his legacy. (Note that for Obama race was key in influencing voter choice, but did not necessarily have strong net effects on election results). & I. Race during the Democratic Primary& We must first consider the role of race in a 2016 primary with Clinton and Christie being assumed frontrunners for winning their parties’ nominations. Initially, one might assume Clinton to be a racialized figure. Surveys from before her 2008 primary run against Obama demonstrate a perceptible negative correlation between Clinton supporters and racially resentful white Democratic voters (Tesler, 88). However, the polarization of race in the 2008 primary election lead to Clinton gaining 14 points in favorability amongst racially conservative Democrats (Tesler, 49). Tesler and Sears attribute Clinton’s sudden gain amongst this demographic to the fact that Obama, as the alternative party nominee, primed voters’ racial attitudes (Tesler, 79). They argue that by identifying Clinton as the counter-choice to Obama, those inclined to support racially resentful attitudes selected her as their only other viable option (assuming they were committed to voting for a Democrat). Thus, Obama’s presence as a strong contender in the primary race primed racial attitudes quite extremely (Class Discussion). Essentially, Obama’s being black and having the potential to be the first black President heightened the importance of race in relation to voter choice. Contrastingly, Clinton lost some support amongst racially liberal Democrats who
!"#$"%&'()*++& saw her as an obstacle to electing the first black President (Tesler, 51). Racializing Obama led to de facto racialization of Hillary Clinton as the most palatable option for racially conservative democrats, while Obama made certain gains among racial liberals. In 2016, the effects of race on the Democratic primary will depend on how racialized Clinton is, and to what extent she activates racial resentment. However, unlike in 2008 (assuming all viable primary candidates are white), racialization of Clinton is likely to be polarized in the opposite direction. If one assesses the racialization of Clinton now, both her political history and close ties to the Obama administration would seem to make her favorable among racial liberals and less favorable among racial conservatives within the party. Data gathered by Tesler and Sears supports this conclusion: after Clinton endorsed Obama for the national election (and later served in his administration), Clinton’s favorability amongst racial conservatives declined almost to its original position (Tesler, 87). This evidence suggests that Clinton’s alignment with, or disassociation from, Obama will affect the way race helps or hurts her candidacy – closer association seems to decrease popularity amongst Democratic racial conservatives, while the opposite is true when Clinton is viewed as opposing Obama. Therefore if Clinton’s campaign seeks to associate itself with the Obama administration, race might polarize Clinton’s support, giving her a boost amongst racial liberals and decreasing her support amongst racial conservatives. However, Clinton can take steps to distance herself from Obama and the polarizing effect of race: she herself chose not to serve during the second term of his administration.
!"#$"%&'()*++& II. Race Effects on the National Election & In regards to the national election, race will likely play a larger role than in the primary due to the long-term framing of certain issues as racial. During the primary race, racialization largely affects individual candidates and their image in the minds of voters. However during the national election, in addition to the actual candidates themselves being racialized, political parties are racialized as are the policies they endorse. In a post-Obama election it is possible that these effects could be exacerbated by the ways in which Clinton and Christie’s campaigns frame race and relate themselves to Obama’s administration. Overall, nonetheless, race will not reach the zenith of influence on vote choice it did with Obama. & The idea of the “spillover of racialization” explains that certain issues and concepts can be racialized through various racial associations. For example, Tesler and Sears highlight how democratic tax policy was racialized in the 2008 general election through its association with Obama (Tesler, 89). The authors conclude that “…any issue Obama takes a public stance on might soon become polarized according to racial predispositions” (Tesler, 92). The question then arises as to whether Obama could inadvertently racialize Clinton. Obama has certainly publicly endorsed Clinton, perhaps most recently when he sang her praises on 60 Minutes. It is therefore possible that Hillary Clinton will be affected by the two-sides of racialization (with increased support from racial liberals and less support from racial conservatives). However, it is important to assess when this “spillover” effect is most likely to occur. As discussed in class, racialization of issues occurs most effectively when issues are ambiguous or complex. Under these circumstances the voter is likely not to have a strong stance on the issue, or may not know enough about it, and will therefore take a position by making associations with either their Party platform, or perhaps race. In the case of Hillary Clinton, I would contest the notion that voters do
!"#$"%&'()*++& not have very decisive opinions. America knows, and has known for a long time, who Hillary Clinton is and what she stands for. Note once again that she was already somewhat racialized before her 2008 run given her political history and relationship with Bill Clinton, who was often cited as the “first black President” due to his pro-African American policies (Tesler, 95). However, despite the fact that Clinton was already a somewhat racialized figure, it seemed the effects of racial attitudes about Clinton in a hypothetical Clinton-McCain general election showed similar results to previous white versus white two-party match-ups (Tesler, 60). Therefore it seems any irregular effects of racialization on Clinton would be through her associations with Obama. As noted earlier, it seems unreasonable that Clinton, such a dominating political force herself, will fall victim to such effects. Although Obama might not have strong racializing effects on Clinton herself, his impact on the Democratic Party and the way it is racialized after his two terms might be greater. At the moment Obama is the face of the Democratic Party. It is unlikely that his impact as such a historical, famous, and transformative President will wither in time for it not to effect views of the Democratic Party by the electorate. That is to say it seems that Obama will have inevitably racialized the Democratic Party for 2016 (it has already been somewhat racialized through certain racially framed policies like welfare). Sears and Tesler explain through their research that “Obama-induced racialization spilled over into issues on which the White House took visible positions, such as health care” (Tesler, 146). The racialization of topics such as health care, taxes, and other fundamental aspects of the Democratic Party platform have been inevitably racialized by Obama. In fact, a healthcare plan that is very similar to what Clinton had proposed in her initial 2008 campaign is now termed “Obamacare”. When Clinton supports these policies as part of her platform in 2016, as she inevitably will, they will be racialized and we are likely to see the
!"#$"%&'()*++& two-sides of racialization activated. More broadly, if Hillary Clinton and the Democratic Party’s platform are seen as an extension of Obama’s administration, we will likely see trends similar to those in 2008 and 2012 with regards to racial resentment. & In regards to how race will impact Clinton’s performance among minority voters, it is likely she will do somewhat worse among Latino voters, and far worse among African American voters than Obama did. While the two sides of racialization had a similar, but less severe, impact on Latino voter choice in 2008, it seems Clinton has always been popular amongst this demographic. In fact, while Obama was able to mobilize white racial liberals quite well in his primary against Clinton, he was not as successful at mobilizing Latino racial liberals. Evidence by Tesler and Sears suggests that the reluctance of Latinos to endorse Obama over Clinton was less likely to be due to certain brown-black animus and more realistically the result of the goodwill both Clintons had built with the Latino community, the numerous endorsements Clinton received from major Latino officials, and her campaign efforts to mobilize Latino voters (Tesler, 102, 105). This all being true, Obama received a much larger number of Latino votes than Kerry had in 2004. The reason seems to be that Obama was able to activate Latino racial liberals, just as he activated racially liberal white voters. However, he was also able to gain popularity among racially conservative Latinos over the course of the campaign, perhaps because racial attitudes were less crystalized among this minority population (Tesler, 113). As a less racialized figure it seems unlikely that Clinton will be able to activate Latino racial liberals to the extent Obama did, however she will gain with racial conservatives. Unfortunately she will not benefit from the special way Obama was able to make net gains with Latinos by gaining with racial liberals and also decreasing resistance from racial conservatives over the campaign so that they did not detract from liberal gains as was the case with the white vote. (In other words, the two sides of
!"#$"%&'()*++& racialization did not cancel each other out, but instead Obama made net gains among racial liberals). & In regards to the African American vote, it is simply impossible to expect that Clinton would be able to be as successful as Obama. Barack Obama received 95 percent of the Black vote (Tesler, 106). Once again it seems fair to suggest that racial attitudes were largely responsible for this result, with Obama being such a racialized and symbolic figure (as the first black President). Clinton will certainly not excite African American voters with the prospect of electing the first viable African American President. If black voters closely associate the Democratic Party or Clinton with Obama, it might activate racial attitudes, but not necessarily support for Clinton’s candidacy. Black voters who expected Obama to support proAfrican-American policies may turn their backs on Clinton and the Democrats (if they are closely relating the two to Obama and his racializing impact). This phenomenon is one of the effects observed by Zoltan Hajnal in his research on voter behavior with regards to the elections of the first black Mayor of Los Angeles, Tom Bradley. Hajnal’s results showed that white voters were reluctant to elect a black Mayor during the initial election. However after serving his first term, Bradley proved to support racially-equal policies and gave no special treatment to AfricanAmericans. Once voters had information with regards to Bradley’s lack of racial bias he was endorsed by many more whites (Hajnal, 118). However, there was another effect Hajnal observed, in that over time, as race became less of an issue in Bradley’s re-elections, voter turnout decreased as well (Hajnal, 114). Black voters that might have initially supported Bradley expecting him to do more on behalf of African-Americans decreased support after realizing he was not going to implement such policies (Class Discussion). While Clinton has little to gain from the “information” model, in that the Democratic Party’s racial policies have been fairly
!"#$"%&'()*++& consistent in recent history, she might lose support from Black voters who feel let down by false hopes they had for the Obama administration to tackle certain race issues. That is not to say these voters will endorse Christie. Rather, they may simply abstain due to lack of political activation. & & ,(-&."/0"#1%2&*+&3*4(&5"%6#6"4-2&7#88&8#9-8:&)-"54&2*/-7("4&4*&4(-&0*4-%4#"8&4)-%62& 6-4"#8-6&"3*$-;&3<4&)"5-&7#88&8#9-8:&)-/"#%&"&4"3**<-&4("4&%*4&*$-)48:&6#25<22-6= One way in which Clinton might distance herself from Obama’s racial legacy would be to support overtly race-neutral policies. As pointed out by Paul Sniderman in his book Reaching Beyond Race, this color-blind policy approach would bring less stigma to certain Democratic Party platforms than programs that are inherently racial such as affirmative action. Such policies are consistently more positively received by the public (Sniderman, 154). Taking this assumption as valid, Clinton should try to reframe policies that are framed as racial and try to neutralize them with her rhetoric. She should focus on general concepts such as big government over special favors being given to blacks. Further, she will need to work to reframe policies like “Obamacare”, which are not truly racially biased but might be thought to be. As pointed out by Kinder and Sanders, “From the Democratic perspective, the electoral problem is to maintain loyalty and enthusiasm of blacks without alienating conservative whites” (Kinder, 228). Clinton will only be able to do this by running a race neutral campaign, and part of this might include reframing certain policies that have been affected by the spillover of racialization under the Obama White House. From the other side, Chris Christie will likely run ads and a campaign that targets race more than either the McCain or Romney campaigns did. Kinder and Sears explain that electoral temptation for Republicans is to appeal to racial conservatives without coming across as racist (Kinder, 228). Obama’s opponents needed to do very little to prime racial conservatism, in that Obama’s race and the race issue were such a focal point of both his
!"#$"%&'()*++& elections. If Clinton is able to take steps to deracialize herself and her party, then Christie might choose to make certain implicit racial appeals to reactivate the support of racial conservatives. One last caveat about race’s effect on this hypothetical 2016 face-off, is the one it won’t have. In 2008, the race-card trumped the gender-card and Clinton was unable to reap the full effects of the novelty of being the first viable female Presidential candidate. According to research by Tesler and Sears the effects of racial resentment completely outweighed the effects of any gender bias with regards to Primary vote choice (Tesler, 123). It seems logical to believe that Clinton will now be able to utilize her gender to activate certain liberals who prioritized race over gender in rallying behind Obama, and who will now receive Clinton with open arms. Of course with regards to Clinton’s overall campaign strategy, gender will be a double-edged sword, much as race has proven to be (balancing among gender-egalitarians and gender-traditionalists). She will need to appear both fit to lead and “tough-enough”, while being thought of as “nice-enough” to conform to gender stereotypes (Tesler, 125). This will be a hard balance to strike, although Clinton’s role as Secretary of State has certainly helped humanize her since her 2008 campaign (where she came across as cold and unlikeable). For example, sites like “Texts from Hillary”, or media reels of her dancing and drinking a beer have made her easier for the voter to relate to. III. Race and its affect on Clinton’s First Term in Office It seems overall, that during her first term in office, Clinton will be judged based on the policy decisions she makes. Research by Tesler and Sears shows that despite Obama’s attempts to run a race-neutral administration, the President was not able to deactivate racial resentment or fears by racial conservatives as predicted with Hajnal’s theory (Tesler, 144). However, it seems that given the above explanations on how race might affect Clinton, she herself will not be a figure that
!"#$"%&'()*++& racializes policies through mere association with her administration. Obama’s race is much more prevalent and apparent than whatever racial associations Clinton and the Democratic Party itself might have acquired. No matter how Clinton runs her campaign or administration, the nation will continue to support race-neutral policy over race-based ones. However, it is not essential that the country continue on a path which divides white racial liberals and racial conservatives among party lines. As Sniderman points out, the reason for the lack of popularity of race-based policies might not be simply because of racial resentment; they are also likely unpopular because they go against the grain of the American ideals of equality and the proper role of government (Sniderman, 4). This will likely not change - no matter what policy is adopted - if the policy is framed to clearly benefit some group over others. However, if Clinton is able to support and promote race-neutral policies and deracialize the post-Obama Democratic platform, we should expect less “sorting” of racial liberals into the Democratic Party and racial conservatives in the Republican Party. Overall in a post-Obama political atmosphere race will indubitably have effects on certain aspects of voter choice. However, it is unlikely these effects will parallel those that faced the nation as it elected and re-elected its first black President.
Works Cited (Class Discussion)
Hajnal, Zoltan. Changing White Attitudes toward Black Political Leadership. Cambridge [England: Cambridge UP, 2007. Print. Kinder, Donald R., and Lynn M. Sanders. Divided by Color: Racial Politics and Democratic Ideals. Chicago: University of Chicago, 1996. Print. Sniderman, Paul M., and Edward G. Carmines. Reaching beyond Race. Cambridge, MA: Harvard UP, 1997. Print. Tesler, Michael, and David O. Sears. Obama's Race: The 2008 Election and the Dream of a Post-racial America. Chicago: University of Chicago, 2010. Print. & &