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alieNATION

The Divide & Conquer Election of 2012

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Edited By Dianne G. Bystrom, Mary C. Banwart and Mitchell S. McKinney

alieNATION presents research conducted by a national election team and leading scholars in political communication that explores a range of important topics and variables affecting voter attitudes and behavior in the 2012 U.S. presidential election.
In exploring the messages, issues, and voters of the 2012 election, these studies employ multiple methods including experimental design, content analysis, rhetorical criticism, and survey research. Whereas other election research tends to investigate either the content or effects of campaign communication, the more comprehensive and systematic nature of this collection enables alieNATION to cohere thematically around considerations of voter alienation, political engagement, political efficacy, and ultimately, citizens’ voting decisions.
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Chapter Thirteen: Black, White, and Latino: Message Strategies for a Divided Electorate

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← 241 | 242 → CHAPTER THIRTEEN

CHARLTON MCILWAIN AND STEPHEN MAYNARD CALIENDO

President Barack Obama’s 2008 election was historic because of its unique result: the election of the first African-American as president of the United States. His 2012 re-election was historic because it nullified that very same uniqueness. Many hailed 2008 as a turning point in America’s racial history, the pinnacle achievement for a nation struggling to show that racial prejudice and discrimination were a thing of the past. Had the president lost his re-election bid in 2012, that achievement, no doubt, would have been deemed anomalous—a national error, a collective exercise of bad judgment, an American mistake. Thus, 2012 was in many ways more important than 2008 in that it provided a confirmatory stamp of approval on America’s new image, an image of supreme leadership cloaked in historically tainted blackness.

Largely missing from the 2008 post-election storylines, however, was an electoral split that not only set the stage for Obama’s first administration, but contributed greatly to the circumstances and candidates that emerged in 2012 to challenge his presidency. Beneath the dominant storyline of Obama’s historic racial achievement and America’s racial progress lay a significant fissure signaling a divided America. The bedrock evidence for what would become a narrative of racial division lies amidst the same data that confirmed Obama’s 2008 election: that simple, final vote count in which Obama defeated U.S. Sen. John McCain by a handy seven-point popular vote margin.

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