Colombo Telegraph

Race In Races

By Mano Ratwatte

Mano Ratwatte

A short note on US Presidential demographics and does it matter to Sri Lanka?

There is an air of excitement and anger in the US today. We may ridicule or laugh and say “How could people vote for Trump?”

The US is more divided an angry today than 8 years ago. Whether than Anger will result in a demagogue being elected as President is yet to be seen.

Protectionism and tariffs on imports are usually the call of Blue collar Democratic politicians but Trump is carrying that torch. The Wall is his own unique rallying call supported by many in both parties. Don’t underestimate the power of the lesser educated angry white people this time. Republican primaries are drawing massive numbers of voters to the Polls in the same proportions as Democrats did in 2008. Trump has been able to bring people to the polls in unprecedented numbers.

Who will be better for Sri Lanka? It depends. For the current Sri Lankan government, doing great things to heal relations with the USA perhaps a Hillary regime with some of the same failed bureaucrats who bungled Libya will be better. Her focus (that is if she isn’t indicted before November for email server problems) will have to be the Middle East. She is likely to leave Sri Lanka to the bureaucrats in the State Department.

Trump or any Republican candidate will have to focus more on the Middle East and trying to walk a tight rope and appease angry rich Sunni Arab nations, and bring some stability and destroy ISIS. Sri Lanka is never on anyone’s radar for too long except that it is in a strategic geographic area and is an actor in the US-Indian strategies across key shipping routes and in their game to contain China. Republicans are likely to exacerbate tensions and increase military aggression in the Middle East. Trump and Cruz are willing to accept collateral damage, carpet bomb, and be more aggressive in killing terrorists, and their families like how the UNP dealt with the JVP in 1987-89. They are less likely to worry about human rights issues.

There is a racial undercurrent in the USA. Take a look at the numbers below for the states that voted on Tuesday March 2016 in “Super Tuesday” primaries. The states were Virginia, Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia, Tennessee, Texas (all Southern Confederate states), Vermont, Massachusetts and Alaska. What does it tell you about the Trump factor and enthusiasm? It doesn’t bode well for the Democrats. The excitement factor is clearly in favor of the Republican Party in 2016;

The 2nd table shows national distribution of votes. The reason to share these numbers are because you can see a clearly majority of CHRISTIAN WHITE Republicans still and will always vote for a Christian White person. In November if the White (Christian) share of the Republican vote goes above 70% Trump can win.

Why are these mostly White Christians angry? They feel disenfranchised and ignored.

  • Knowledge based economy has left them behind
  • Stagnant wages despite amazing improvements from where Bush left off.
  • They don’t have the skills needed for a 21st century economy
  • They feel they have lost to the Chinese, Indians and every group they can think of in the post globalization world.
  • US companies going overseas for manufacturing.
  • NAFTA cost the US a lot in terms of net job loss.
  • TPP will do the same; fears are similar to fears in Sri Lanka about ECTA.
  • They feel China, Mexico, India, and other nations do not play fair in trade.
  • They feel their constitutional right to bear arms might be under threat.
  • People are also angry about the massive influx of drugs (because of American addiction to drugs ) through a porous border.
  • They are angry that Obama cannot seem to cope with ISIS jihadi terrorists.
  • Obama rather foolishly called ISIS a “JV” team akin to a Second Eleven School Cricket Team)
  • Hillary, Samantha Power, Susan Rice and other neo liberals bungled big time in the Middle East. They are clueless.
  • They dismembered Libya even though everyone with an iota of commonsense predicted what would happen. Look at Libya now.
  • All 3 of Obama’s most recent Secretaries of Defense who were angry and disappointed with his bungling of the fight against terrorists have spoken out.
  • Libya unraveled just as Yemen, Syria and the entire Arab uprising/spring.
  • White Evangelical Christians who are inflamed by the Supreme Court decision to legitimize gay marriage;
  • Conservatives wanting a woman’s right to choose an abortion banned even if the pregnancy is a result of rape or incest. 

This primary season young 18-30 Democratic vote is going massively to Bernie Sanders; they are less likely to be excited in November to vote for Mrs. Clinton.

Even if Trump can get 15% of black votes while holding or gaining more than 70% of the white votes in the key states that are in play he may win! Mrs. Clinton is winning in states with significant black democratic populations and Socialist Senator Sanders is winning a lot votes in predominantly white states.
(Examples of the battleground state in November: Ohio, Pennsylvania, Colorado, New Mexico, Florida, Virginia)


There is regionalism similar to Sri Lanka. When complex character Lyndon B Johnson (LBJ was a racist to the core and used the “ni**er word often1) signed the landmark civil rights legislation, he knew he had lost the entire South to Republicans. How did the party of Lincoln because the party of angry Christian whites and transform into the anti-minority party? Southern traditional Democrats (called Dixiecrats because they became Democrats because Lincoln was a Republican) abandoned the Democratic Party when segregation was ended and when LBJ signed it into law he said this quite openly. There was regionalism in Sri Lanka in August 2015. The Sinhalese south voted overwhelmingly for MR, and Northern Tamils only voted for Tamils.

Richard Nixon used the race card, affirmative action and fears of blacks into solidly garnering all the southern states to vote Republican (few exceptions were when Arkansas went to Clinton). In 1968, Arkansas went to George Wallace the segregationist! Mostly White Christian Georgia voted for Jimmy Carter in 1976), but it went to George Wallace in 1968. White Christians are the largest Republican voting bloc in these states. All southern states will show the same pattern now. All Southern states of (Confederacy) went to the Republican nominee even during the 2008 pro Obama sweep, and again in 2012.

LBJ himself was a good ole Texan racist but was savvy. You can see his contradictory persona in the following quotes

Johnson once said to his driver, “As long as you are black, and you’re gonna be black till the day you die, no one’s gonna call you by your goddamn name. So no matter what you are called, nigger, you just let it roll off your back like water, and you’ll make it. Just pretend you’re a goddamn piece of furniture.”1

“If you can convince the lowest white man that he’s better than the best colored man, he won’t notice you’re picking his pocket. Hell, give him somebody to look down on, and he’ll even empty his pockets for you.”

Fear of Jihadi terrorism

Look at the absurd ease with how the Pakistani terrorist couple in San Bernardino got the visa. The radicalized jihadi woman did not even have a face to face interview in the US Embassy in Pakistan because of State Department’s political correctness has gone crazy. A woman who meets a US citizen on the intimate gets a visa whereas, a legitimate educated person who gets married to an American has to wait over two years and do a tough face to face interview. There is angst and fear.

That same angst is now seen in Europe. Europe now have to deal with millions of refugees. The NATO supreme commander General Breedlove spoke out this week. In testimony to the Senate, US general Breedlove said that the ISIS terror group is “spreading like a cancer” among refugees. The group’s members are “taking advantage of paths of least resistance, threatening European nations and our own”, he added.


This year’s anger also has a lot to do with racism and the slightly below the surface bias against the first black President in US History. Republicans encouraged disrespect for Obama and promoted the Birther movement and did their best to de-legitimize Obama’s presidency. Now they are reaping what they sowed and finding it shocking somewhat disingenuously that the Trump wave is gathering momentum with or without the support of the Republican Brahmin old guard. He might lose or he might win; but he is the only man to bring out the Borat America to the polls.

A lot of Tamil emigrants in the west who are on the US embassy website in Sri Lanka attack Sinhalese, and say that all Sinhalese are racist and won’t vote for a Tamil as President. Race is that 800 pound Gorilla in the US, the elite don’t want to discuss. The Sinhala voter (a pejorative nowadays) has voted in large numbers for Tamils and Muslims easily before proportional representation brought out race, caste and religious divisions. Hon. Aboosally in Balangoda won because those terrible “Sinhala-Buddhist fellows” voted for him in a predominantly Sinhala electorate.

Pause and think: The USA was founded in 1776 and Sri Lanka gained independence only 68 years ago. It took 150 years after the US civil war ended, at least 40 years after segregation (and being forced to the back of the bus and being second class citizens and brutalized, lynched and raped), ended before this nation evolved so that a black man could in the White House as Commander In Chief and not just being the Head Purser or Butler or Chef, roles the southern white older males will still be more comfortable with for a black man.

Obama won because of the youth vote and the massive turn out of African American voters(table 2), and also because he was able to garner and win the traditional blue states with a significant contribution by younger white voters that complemented the 95% black vote and massive numbers of Hispanic votes. If the GOP nominee crosses 70% of the White Christian vote he may win in November.

The 2015 election in Sri Lanka also followed the same patterns as 2008 in USA. Majority of Sinhalese voted for Mahinda Rajapaksa but massive numbers of minorities voted for President Maithripala Sirisena, and the UNP making its victory more like that of Obama’s; truly a rainbow coalition of young urban Sinhala voters and minorities. You can see that Sri Lankans who bash Sinhalese and in particular Sinhala Buddhists these days should look at these numbers and think a bit. This is not to defend racial biases in voting. It is so obvious in Sri Lanka that Tamils and Muslims have also begun only to vote for their race now in contrast to earlier times.

A great Tamil Christian like Lakshman Kadirgamar would have made an excellent Prime Minister if the some people didn’t block Chandrika’s efforts. Kadirgamar was executed by Tamil racist Tigers because he didn’t believe in Eelam.

BBS: a movement based in demagoguery only got 20,377 votes and the Religio-racist ethnic party: the SLMC got only 44,193 votes. In contrast, Trump is getting millions of of white Christian votes.

Perhaps Sri Lanka won’t have to wait 150 years from the end of war, to vote for a non-Sinhalese who’s a real statesman and above parochial ethnic politics like Obama?

But don’t underestimate the power of the angry White, Sinhala, Tamil or Muslim demagogue. A lot of this year’s anti-establishment anger, and ideological twist towards this unique nationalist, populist, protectionist message is Trump’s own unique branding. He is an American nationalist. Perhaps Sri Lanka won’t have to wait 150 years from the end of war, to vote for a non-Sinhalese who’s a real statesman and above parochial ethnic politics like Obama?

Back to Home page