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Identity Politics and the Pennsylvania Primary

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It's primary day here in Pennsylvania. Never one to procrastinate, I arrived at my Philadelphia suburban polling place at 7:30 a.m., about 30 minutes after the polls opened. On the way, the local all-news radio station was reporting huge turnouts at polling locations throughout the city. Locally, however, the lines were not long. I had to wait behind two people, which wasn't unusual. What was unusual about this voting experience was that people seemed much more energized than usual. There seemed to be an animated buzz in the room that I had never noticed in previous elections. The sound of hope? As I was leaving the polls in my ethnically diverse neighborhood, I overheard a young African-American man talking to his African-American friend. As he motioned to me, he said, "She voted for Hillary." He saw a middle-aged white woman in a pantsuit and assumed that I voted for Hillary. I'm Hillary's base, I suppose. But no, I did not vote for Hillary. And I've met a lot of other middle-aged white women who weren't planning to vote for Hillary. And I've met a lot of African-Americans of both genders who weren't planning to vote for Barack. On the other hand, I've met many others in both groups who did plan to vote as "expected". The important thing is that it can't be taken for granted, and this pantsuit-wearing middle-aged white woman is a case in point. Hopefully most of us have evolved to the point where we understand that electing the right person is more important than electing a certain race or gender. And so I reached into my purse, pulled out my "Obama 2008" button, flashed it at the two young men, and winked.
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Mary Shaw is a Philadelphia-based writer and activist, with a focus on politics, human rights, and social justice. She is a former Philadelphia Area Coordinator for the Nobel-Prize-winning human rights group Amnesty International, and her views (more...)
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