Massachusetts Daily Collegian

A free and responsible press serving the UMass community since 1890

A free and responsible press serving the UMass community since 1890

Massachusetts Daily Collegian

A free and responsible press serving the UMass community since 1890

Massachusetts Daily Collegian

Defending the learned candidate

Welcome back, whitey.

So far, whites have been left out of the media spotlight in this presidential election. The long history of the all-powerful white voting block has been challenged ever since the attention of the public focused on the black man and white woman running for the White House.

Unfortunately, it is this longtime American majority group of white men that are the problem.

White men have long demonstrated that fear can govern the majority of their overwhelming voter block. There are clear examples of white fear in America’s history governing the action of the country. From the civil rights movement to the creation of the suburbs that insured that de-facto segregation could live on, some stark historical examples of the kind of fear that can propel the white vote into a political arena can be seen.

White men have given much of their political efforts lately to the causes of fear that have been so problematic to American progress. During the Bush Administration, the very real threat of terrorism has been exploited to bring fear and party-line voting to the national political landscape.

Under-educated white voters play off of these ideas of fear and vote in unison with little understanding of the policies and issues that are being brought forward. For example, the white male vote in the 2004 presidential election was almost two-to-one in favor of Bush. The black male vote swung the opposite way in favor of Kerry, according to CNN polling.

This kind of political thinking, usually by the white voting block, has bred hostility toward a scholarly candidate in favor of one that they would “rather share a beer with.”

The Bush campaign in 2000 ran intelligently, thrusting Bush’s “good-old-boy” persona into 24-hour news cycles and giving white America its ideal candidate. When one looks deeper into Bush’s upbringing and early political and business life, the picture of Bush as a man of the people flies quickly out the window.

Bush Sr. was the head of the Central Intelligence Agency; George W. was a legacy at Yale and lived in Connecticut for most of his life, running oil companies after his graduation. The public image of the Texas everyman is a false one.

So why is Obama attacked for his perceived disconnect from the American public? It is the misconception that a man with a devoted interest in education can not relate to the common American. This perception is fundamentally flawed.

Obama is the most recent example of a politician who is criticized for his interest in education and scholarship. Should the measure of a “good old boy” really be how whether he can take a shot of whiskey to woo the voters of Pennsylvania, or should scholarship be rewarded in an election?

Much of black America, a demographic group that does not fall under the same kind of categories as white Americans, has its own separate set of problems that are not addressed day in and day out by the Bush Administration. They do not have fear thrown towards them in the same way as whites. You won’t see Bush go on television and warn of the immediate and horrifying issue of imprisoned fathers and violent neighborhoods of the inner city to scare black voters into voting for the Grand Old Party. No, the fear that is being espoused by this administration is meant to affect mainly lower class whites.

The apathy towards education in this country and this administrations distaste of facts has led the country down a narrow street. No longer is it an electable characteristic to be knowledgeable, scholarly and innovative. Today, getting elected to office has become about being the “good-old-boy” with more connections then the intellectual and more money then you can possibly spend.

During the drafting of the state constitution of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, John Adams asserted from the very start that an educated public is key to a functional republic.

“Wisdom and knowledge, as well as virtue, diffused generally among the body of the people being necessary for the preservation of their rights and liberties,” he wrote. “And as these depend on spreading the opportunities and advantages of education in various parts of the country, and among the different orders of the people, it shall be the duty of legislators and magistrates in all future periods of this commonwealth to cherish the interests of literature and the sciences.”

The thinking of Adams and the insight into the value of scholarship were the virtues of the Constitution.

This important aspect of a politician and of the citizen has become lost in the latest political atmosphere of fear and party-line politics. Americans should no longer accept such distaste for education but understand that the only path to a prominent and moral country is through an educated and informed populace.

Michael Phillis is a Collegian columnist. He can be reached at [email protected].

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