I have a confession to make. (Danny stands up in the middle of the room.) I voted for Barack Obama in 2008 because he is black. I didn't care about his policies. I didn't care about his plight. As a fellow black person, I just wanted to see history being made with the election of the first African-American president of the United States.
Whew! It's nice to finally get that off my chest. This epiphany was brought to my attention by some non-black friends of mine who thought it was unfair (and even un-American) to vote for a candidate solely based on the color of his skin. I was bluntly called a racist for that closed-mindedness. After disagreeing and fighting back relentlessly, I finally succumbed. I agreed. It was wrong. And narrow-minded. If a white person were to admit he "voted for the white guy," he would be branded with the racist tag. In my situation, the accusations of racism were fair and just; they went entirely against the principles espoused by Martin Luther King Jr. I hope that's clear.
But then President Obama started doing things no president before him had ever accomplished.
I watched him save the auto industry. I watched him end the war in Iraq. I watched him draw down troops in Afghanistan. I watched the job losses end and 4 million private-sector jobs created -- more than George W. Bush created in eight years. I watched Obama pass the Lilly Ledbetter Act, granting equal pay to women in the workplace. I watched Obama repeal "don't ask, don't tell." I watched him pass the Affordable Care Act (known as "Obamacare" by its critics) that grants millions more people access to health care, prevents insurers from rejecting patients with pre-existing conditions, and allows your children to be on your insurance plan until the age of 26. From Wall Street reform to credit card reform to the DREAM Act, the list goes on and on. Oh, and Osama bin Laden isn't breathing anymore.
With all of these accomplishments that cater to the middle class in multiple ways, one would think that the middle class as a whole would be on board for a second term for Obama. Wrong. Yes, he has the support of blacks, Latinos, swing-state independents and women wholly, but there's one demographic that Obama is still having a tough time cracking: the middle-class/working-class white guy.
Several recent polls suggest that 6 out of 10 middle-class/working-class white guys disapprove of Obama. (And this group is 32 percent of the population.) But why? After numerous conversations with middle-class/working-class white guy friends of mine, I find that they are willing to vote against their own interests. They'll deflect the facts. It's a condition called "cognitive dissonance": "The feeling of discomfort that results from holding two conflicting beliefs," according to Webster.
They like that Obama is clearly fighting for the middle class, unlike his competitor, but something in them clouds the facts and impairs judgment, causing them to change the narrative. Obama is a Muslim! Obama is trying to hand poor people welfare checks without making them work! Obama's birth certificate is fake! He's a socialist! Where are his college records? All nonsense.
But for the record, here are some tangible financial facts for my middle-class/working-class white brethren to add substance and relevancy to the conversation:
* According to the impartial and centrist Tax Policy Center, the Romney/Ryan plan would cut the corporate tax rate from 35 percent to 25 percent, but middle class families would have to pay up to $2,000 extra per year in tax hikes.
* Even though income taxes are the lowest in 30 years and lower than all the other first-world industrialized countries, Obama isn't trying to raise your taxes. He wants to raise taxes on the top 2 percent and keep middle class taxes the same.
* Wages have been flat over the last 30 years while the top 2 percent (the so-called job creators) have seen their income skyrocket.
* The top 1 percent earn about 17 percent of America's income and pay almost 37 percent of the overall income tax. That's a lot. The problem is, Warren Buffett pays a 17.7 percent tax rate while his secretary is paying close to 30 percent.
All of this ought to lend credence to the notion that a second Obama term would be advantageous to the middle-class/working-class white guy and his middle-class family. Mitt Romney, part of the aforementioned 1 percent, is primarily focused on corporate health and trying to re-create the "trickle down" effect -- a philosophy that hasn't been effective for 30 years. Romney, curiously all the while, is refusing to show us his tax returns. That's another story.
But there's something else at work here. And I have a feeling that I know what it is. And I feel it's necessary to finally confront the Elephant in the Room. No pun intended.
(Danny pulls up a chair and looks middle-class/working-class white guys right in the eye.)
"Fellas, I can sense your fear. The United States has never been 'browner.' And I'm sorry to tell you, it's getting browner every day. You're being constantly bombarded with messages like 'Press 2 for English.' Hip-hop dominates the Billboard charts, interracial relationships are growing exponentially, women are starting to get equal pay, the president signed a temporary DREAM Act for Latinos, and there's a black man in the Oval Office. I get it.
"You've got to learn to embrace it. Inclusion is a beautiful thing. If you're still longing for the good ol' days when being gay wasn't quite so mainstream, when Ricky Ricardo was the only Latino on TV and Air Force One was reserved for white guys, those days are over. Let's find common ground and all grow together to make America better than ever. We all love this country. We all want it to succeed. And we're better united than divided."
So now, here's the moment of truth. Our cleansing moment. I'll go first. My name is Danny Morrison. African-American. I am admitting that I voted for Barack Obama in 2008 solely because he is a black man. That was racist. You're a bunch of middle-class/working-class white guys. You're planning to vote for someone other than Barack Obama even though it's against your best interests.
Danny Morrison, born and raised in Bakersfield, is a local radio personality and a sales representative in the building industry.