Election 2012 and the Deep Racial Divide

From John Sununu's Colin Powell swipe to grim polls about racism, it's clear that hope and change is so 2008.

Monica Morgan/WireImage/Getty Images; Stan Honda/AFP/Getty Images

The condescending nature of Sununu’s comments aside, it speaks to a mindset in the modern GOP, and one that is having measurable effects on the 2012 election — namely, white males are voting against the president in record numbers, and race seems to be the only explanation.

Sununu, of course, has little credibility or integrity. In 1991 he was forced to resign as White House chief of staff under then-President George H.W. Bush after press reports that Sununu had abused taxpayer dollars by using government jets for ski and golf trips, as well as other personal use, while classifying the travel as official business.

Besides a weakness for the high life, Sununu also has a penchant for race-baiting and Birtherism. He called the president “lazy” in an interview with MSNBC’s Andrea Mitchell and was recorded just a few months ago saying that Obama needed to “learn how be an American.” (It’s a curious statement, considering that Sununu himself is only a naturalized citizen of the U.S. — born in Cuba to parents of Palestinian descent.)

Sununu even doubled down on his initial allegations in an interview with Fox News’ Sean Hannity, claiming that President Obama “has created more racial division than any administration in history.” Though these comments seem extreme, they express a sentiment that has become mainstream in conservative political circles and is having real effects.

A Washington Post-ABC News poll released last week found that Romney enjoys the support of white males over President Obama by a margin of 2-to-1: 65 percent to 32 percent. In 2008 Obama lost the white-male vote by 16 points, based on exit polls, which means that his lack of support among white men has doubled.

And among working-class whites without college degrees, President Obama trails Romney 58 percent to 35 percent. Why does it matter? White males made up 36 percent of the total electorate in the last presidential contest, and whites in general made up 74 percent of all voters.

Will Marshall, president of the Progressive Policy Institute, told CBS News that many white American males “believe the economic policies of Democrats have benefited somebody else — not them. Women, minorities, interest groups. They don’t feel Democrats have championed the interests of white-male voters in modern times as they did in the days of Roosevelt and Truman.”