Setting the Table

By December 4, 2018 No Comments

If you thought this was going to be a piece on the proper etiquette when setting your holiday table, clearly you have come to the wrong column and it’s obviously your first visit.

And if you thought this was going to be another one of those exhaustive “how to” guides for talking at the dinner table to your crazy uncle that never agrees with you about politics, you too will be disappointed.

Rather than argue over where the salad knife goes depending upon whether there is fish being served or the results of the election and who really won, introduce a new topic that will give your dining companions something to really chew on.

A few days before the November 6 midterm elections, the all-political-consuming publication, Axios, released results from a SurveyMonkey poll they had commissioned. In what Axios was anticipating to be a big year for women becoming elected to office (which it was, no argument there), they surveyed head-to-head matchups with President Trump and seven potential female candidates for the 2020 election. It may have been their way to make a subtle prediction about a female wave of candidates winning across the country.

In every hypothetical matchup scenario, the female bested President Trump to varying degrees. The top two with the largest, double-digit margins of victory? Michelle Obama and Oprah Winfrey, respectfully.

The bottom four, Sen. Amy Klobucher (MN), Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (NY), Hillary Clinton and Sen. Elizabeth Warren, respectfully, and all with single-digit margin leads.

And about that third-ranked candidate? That’s where it gets interesting. It was Sen. Kamala Harris, an African American from California who has been in office less than two years. We’ll come back to her and this poll later.

Following the 2008 presidential campaign, many analyzed how it was that a black man, with a funny sounding name and very little experience in the Senate could become our Commander-in-Chief. One piece of that puzzle is the theory that because of how horrendous the Bush Administration had been, it set the table for a dramatic change in how we as voters would view how our next president would look. Basically, if it weren’t Bush, there would have never been President Obama.

And we’re already beginning to see signs of this theory percolating due to black voter turnout in the 2018 midterm.

The African American Research Collaborative conducted two surveys this year, one just prior to Election Day and one back in July. What that study found was that nine out of 10 black voters stated that they had either voted early or were going to vote on November 6 for a Democrat. That was up from 77 percent in the July round of testing the same question.

When you dig a bit deeper into this same study, 85 percent of black women said President Trump made them feel “disrespected.” Aretha Franklin may no longer be with us, but damn if her words about respect for a black woman don’t continue to have a “well-heeded, well heard” warning behind them.  

Now, let’s revisit that SurveyMonkey poll. The biggest takeaway for me was one that wasn’t discussed in the Axios dissection. The top three female performers against President Trump are all African American. The bottom four, all White. Like so many others predicting the field of candidates, let’s place the likelihood of Michelle and Oprah jumping in, as much as I would love to see it, in the slim-to-none category.

That brings us back to Harris. She’s black. Not a household name. Obviously a woman. Whip-smart. Former prosecutor. Checks the box with a funny sounding first name that everyone on TV seems to have a personal favorite way of pronouncing. And we are living in the era of Trump; one in which women will not soon forget or forgive his braggadocious admissions of sexual harassment and abuse. In short, they are nothing alike.

As the yinzer colloquialism that my father-in-law endearingly injects into all his stories goes:

Long story short, because of Trump, the table may now be set for the first black woman to be President.


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