Let us apologize in advance to Barack Obama, who once wrote a book called “The Audacity of Hope.” You see, our subject today is what might be called the Caucacity of Nope.
The word is a new coinage, a portmanteau of “Caucasian” and “audacity” denoting a brand of white arrogance and entitlement that has become tiresomely familiar in recent years. It often plays out in episodes — sometimes fatal — wherein some white person takes it upon themselves to police people of color who are just trying to live their lives.
“Nope,” it says, “you may not jog down that street without identifying yourself to me.”
“Nope, you may not barbecue in that park without justifying yourself to me.”
“Nope, you may not swim in that pool without explaining yourself to me.”
If last week’s headlines are any indication, there’s now a new nope. It says, “You may not vote early in certain precincts without confronting me. And I’ll be armed.” It seems self-appointed ballot-box watchers, carrying firearms and wearing tactical gear, have been camping out at drop boxes in Maricopa County, Arizona, surveilling voters, shooting video, recording license plates and even accusing some of being so-called ballot mules.
The group behind this — Clean Elections USA — would likely dispute that their mission is to deter voters of color. On the other hand, Clean Elections is a band of far-right election deniers and, Kanye West notwithstanding, the far-right is not, shall we say, known for its hospitality toward people of color. Especially, one wagers, in Maricopa, where the population of non-Hispanic, non-Latino white people is just barely a majority at 53 percent.
It would require prodigious credulity, then, not to believe voters of color are the implicit target here, or to buy that any of this really has to do with protecting election integrity — especially since U.S. elections already are among the most secure in the world. Rather, this bizarre behavior seems an obvious outgrowth of the fact that some large fragment of white America feels itself outnumbered in the country’s changing demographic climate.
They are incapable of processing the fact of their own numerical diminution, i.e., to understand that when they lose an election, it is not because they’ve been cheated, but because they are fewer in number and growing smaller every day as a percentage of the whole. Instead, they salve themselves by telling themselves their opponents’ votes must somehow be illegitimate.
So you get people sitting out by the early-voting boxes with guns. And for all their posture of protecting elections, it’s hard to imagine a greater insult to election integrity. As acts of voter intimidation go, after all, one would be hard put to top greeting would-be voters with firearms.
But beyond the trauma to democracy, the caucacity of it all also bears comment. There is a level of gall here that is staggering. One hopes the same conservatives who pronounced themselves traumatized in 2008 when two members of the so-called New Black Panther Party showed up at a polling place in an African-American neighborhood in Philadelphia to taunt and insult would-be white voters could muster just a fraction of that indignation for this.
One does not hold one’s breath.
In 2022, the biggest threat to election integrity is not fraud, but sore losers. The headlines from Maricopa suggest that voters — particularly voters of color — would do well to keep that in mind.
Caucacity makes people do crazy things.
Leonard Pitts Jr. is a columnist for the Miami Herald. email@example.com