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Dr. Oz Lost. Why Isn't The Media Crying Racism and Islamophobia?
Racism has no political party. But the media thinks it does.
After Donald Trump won the 2016 election in a shocking upset, the “white working class” (WWC) was the answer widely given for why he won. The common narrative of the 2016 Presidential campaign is one where Trump, running a populist campaign that promised to “drain the swamp” of Washington elites and to bring manufacturing jobs back to dying towns, alongside racist rhetoric about non-white people and Muslims, appealed to many WWCs, thus securing enough Rust Belt states to become President. The reason given for Trump’s win was that the WWC was inherently and irredeemably racist. Four years later, Trump lost Pennsylvania after large swathes of more affluent voters switched blue.
In this year’s midterms, only one Senate seat switched parties. In Pennsylvania, once held up as the biggest example of Trumpian populism, voters rejected Dr. Mehmet Oz, the celebrity Trump-endorsed Republican, and instead elected John Fetterman, an Ivy-educated man from an affluent family that pretends to be working class by wearing Carhartt hoodies and shorts. The biggest shifts in the election came from WWCs that voted Trump in 2016/2020 but switched to Fetterman in 2022.
Trump and Oz are both men used to being TV celebrities, Trump on The Apprentice and Oz on Oprah and his own show. Trump and Oz both came under fire for being hucksters, Trump with Trump University and hiding his tax returns, Oz with the accusations of him being a “snake-oil salesman”.
But that’s where the comparisons end. Take the name “Mehmet Oz”. How many white working-class people in rural Pennsylvania know anyone with a name like Mehmet Oz? How many of their coworkers are named Mehmet Oz? Do their kids play with children with names like Mehmet Oz? Or do their kids play with children with names like John Fetterman? Is it no surprise that conservative white voters preferred the white candidate?
As someone with a “foreign sounding” name, I know how people treat me differently depending on whether I give an “Anglicized” first name or tell them my given name. It’s no surprise that both Bobby Jindal (born Piyush Jindal) and Nikki Haley (born Nimrata Randhawa) both had to change their names in order to win Southern Republican voters. Democrats, on the other hand, are fine with names like Ilhan Omar, and may even prefer such names. Robert Francis O’ Rourke the Third even started going by Beto to sound more Latino. And I’m sure antiracist guru Ibram X. Kendi would have sold less copies of his books if he kept his birth name, Ibram Henry Rogers.
And what of Mehmet Oz’s faith? Oz is a secular Muslim who raised his kids as Christians, and he has made remarks warning against Shariah law in America. If he had been elected, he would have been the first Muslim U.S. Senator and a rare Turkish face in American politics. For all the calls for diversity in politics, those calls sure were quiet when it came to Mehmet Oz.
Yet media sites have omitted mentions of Oz’s ethnicity and religious background in their articles of why Oz lost. If the parties were reversed, mainstream news sites would be awash with thinkpieces about how Oz lost because WWCs didn’t want a Turkish Muslim, and that Fetterman won because he was some rich white guy that pretended to be working class just like Trump did. The constant focus by Fetterman’s campaign on Oz being from New Jersey and not Pennsylvania would be taken as a racist dog-whistle about how Oz wasn’t a real Pennsylvanian, and therefore not a real American. It would be “racist uneducated redneck whites” vs. “Turkish Muslim educated doctor”.
And that’s not even to mention the incident Fetterman had where he chased down an unarmed black jogger and pointed a shotgun at him… for seemingly no reason at all. Imagine if a Republican candidate was the one that did that? We all know what narrative the media would be pushing by now.
Here is the full narrative if the parties were switched:
“Dr. Oz lost because racist white rednecks won’t vote for a Muslim candidate. They think he’s a Turkish spy and a terrorist. In fact, they keep mentioning that he is not from Pennsylvania. While it may seem that they just mean he’s from New Jersey, that’s what they want you to think. This line of attack is actually a subtle dog-whistle to racist white voters that Dr. Mehmet Oz isn’t a real American, just like they did with President Obama. Meanwhile, they supported a rich-kid candidate that pretends to be working class to gain votes, just like Donald Trump. Fetterman once committed an egregious act of racial profiling by chasing down a Black jogger because of the color of his skin, an act that channeled 400 years of structural oppression and subjugation of Black bodies by white people. Fetterman’s victory is a stark reminder that Republicans do not care about Black lives or the lives of people of color in general. Once again, the Republican Party proves themselves to be deeply racist and Islamophobic and intolerant of the great diversity in our country and in Pennsylvania. The party of old straight white males will die a slow and grueling death. It’s time to let diverse voices like the good doctor Mehmet Oz take over.”
And yet… that was not the narrative at all.
I’m not a “postracial” person. Racism exists, and racist people exist in every political party. Yet when it comes to the question of why Fetterman won, the usual racism claimers are suspiciously silent.
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