The Universal Notebook: Welcome to Redneck Nation

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Does anyone seriously doubt that race played a major role in the past election? Of course it did.

But, despite how pronounced the racial divisions were among voters, the elements of racism for the most part remain subtle and insidious rather than blatant and obvious.

To begin with, Mitt Romney appealed primarily to white voters who made up 88 percent of his voters, compared with just 56 percent of President Obama’s voters.

But Obama appealed to just about everyone else, carrying 93 percent of the black vote (and in some polls as much as 98 percent), 71 percent of the Hispanic vote, 73 percent of the Asian vote and 53 percent of the women’s vote. Obama also took 53 percent of the college-educated vote.

The racial division was most stark and disturbing in some Southern states. Only 10 percent of white voters supported Obama in Mississippi and Louisiana, for example. Less than 20 percent of whites voted for Obama in Alabama, Georgia, Oklahoma, Utah and South Carolina. So are they racist in the Deep South, just conservative, or both?

Here in Maine, one of the whitest states in an increasingly non-white country, 55 percent of white voters supported Obama. It was like that all across New England and the Northeast, with Obama garnering his highest percentage of the white vote, 67 percent, in progressive Vermont.

Conservatives try to argue that black voters are the real racists, because they overwhelmingly voted for the black candidate. But it’s pretty clear that minority voters supported Obama not because of the color of his skin, but because he understood their concerns while Romney had nothing whatsoever to offer minorities.

Conservatives also argue that they are not racist, that they oppose Obama because of his liberal policies, not the color of his skin. The only problem with that rationale is that conservatives seem to see Obama’s policies through the distorting lens of race.

Whether unconscious or just unstated, racism underlies the mistaken views that Obama is a socialist, a Muslim, a Kenyan, a communist, the bogeyman. He is none of those things and his policies are only moderately progressive. Some of them were actually Republican policies before a black Democrat adopted them.

In Fox News Fantasyland, however, 49 percent of Republicans can blame Acorn, a community action organization that no longer exists, for stealing the election from Romney, and former Maine Republican Party Chairman Charlie Webster can see visions of hundreds of black strangers showing up to vote in rural Maine.

And rather than waking up to the fact that the GOP has drifted so far to the right that it is now camped out in the cultural wilderness with white supremacists, doomsday preppers and secessionists, and that Romney lost because he and the GOP are so far out of touch with the American people, Republican politicians are manifesting their denial by attacking Obama through proxies such as UN Ambassador Susan Rice, a black woman whose mother is from Portland.

(Note to Sen. John McCain: you’ve got a lot of gall calling Susan Rice unqualified after suggesting the airhead Sarah Palin was qualified to be the leader of the free world.)

In the wake of Obama’s victory and the wholesale national rejection of tea party extremism, conservatives are now seriously plotting secession. Apparently, they are such patriots that they want to leave America. Petitions have now been submitted from 20 states seeking secession. Welcome to Redneck Nation.

In 2008, Americans elected the first African-American president. You might have thought we had finally put our long, terrible history of racial prejudice behind us. In the wake of the 2012 election, it appears that maybe we haven’t come that far from the Civil War after all. At least some of us haven’t.

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Freelance journalist Edgar Allen Beem lives in Yarmouth. The Universal Notebook is his personal, weekly look at the world around him.