Democracy makes us think in ideological terms instead of realistic ones: its first concern, above all else, is that all voices are represented equally, because this is how democracy makes decisions; “one person, one vote” is the primary rule.
This means that we naturally think in terms of “on my ideological team” or “not on my ideological team,” or admit our defeat and just choose whatever candidate we find more personable. Instead of choosing what we think is the best answer, we are like a cheering section at a sportsball event.
Race seems like it would interrupt this process, but ideology is simpler than racial or ethnic consciousness, so people choose by ideology and ignore race:
Using large samples that are nationally diverse or nationally representative (total N = 44,836), this article presents evidence that citizens’ prejudice does not usually benefit or undermine politicians who are from a particular demographic group, as many past studies assumed; instead, citizens’ prejudice is associated with support for conservative politicians and opposition to liberal politicians, regardless of politicians’ demographic background.
This means that effectively, ideology has replaced race. The last fifty years of voting makes sense in this context, where people have consistently refused to address racial issues with anything but the democratic ideology of universal equality.