Sunday, May 04, 2008

Hillary Clinton and the Smell of Race-Baiting

Here's the editorial I read on today's "Shared Sacrifices" internet radio show. I'm not sure how much more editorializing I will do: I want to do other things in regards to the show: interviews, sketch-writing, production. I don't particularly want to argue with strangers anymore...But at any rate, this piece was intended to start a conversation with Democrats, not people who are obsessed with defending Bill O'Reilly...

The following rant assumes outcomes not entirely in evidence. There’s still a chance, maybe a good one, that Barrack Obama will be the Democratic candidate for President. But that chance is slipping, and in anticipation of all possibilities, something needs to be said.

If Senator Clinton wins the primary, it will be because she effectively exploited racism. This much is virtually beyond debate. From innuendos in the Carolinas to a sit-down chat with Bill O'Reilly, from post-McCarthyism to a reliable dash of Willie Horton, she has not only played the race card, but borrowed a number of hands from experienced card sharks. Doug Thompson of Capital Hill Blue thinks it’s beyond innuendo, that she is using “overt racism.” Thompson, a southerner himself, recognizes the code, just as Clinton’s advisers do. In the same commentary, he points out that “[e]xit polls from [the] Pennsylvania primary show nearly one-fifth of those who went to the polls admit racism determined how they voted -- and that's just those who admitted it.”

A likely scenario is that Clinton is going to keep doing this, through Indiana and North Carolina, driving the point home that she can win the bubbas and Obama can’t, solidifying her lead among the superdelegates and making the delegate and popular vote so close that the Party will be able to effectively wave off any protest concerning Obama’s slight lead. Hillary will be nominated, and hope that everyone forgets the depths to which she sank in the primaries.

Then, all of you, my Democrat friends, will vote for her in the general election, rewarding her willingness to play her dirty game. Most of you would have preferred Obama, and many of you campaigned for him with a vigor and energy I haven’t seen in the Democratic Party in a long time. But if Obama loses the nomination, whatever the reason, you’ll be “stuck” with Clinton, who defeated your candidate by appealing to fear and derision of his race.

Before you protest that she’ll be better than McCain, just answer me one question: How much better must one candidate be than another in order for you to tacitly condone and actively reward race-bating?

I’m not talking about policy differences here. I’m asking whether either your so-called liberal pragmatism, or your Party loyalty, will actually lead you to reward someone for exploiting racism. And if your answer is a sheepish, ashamed “well, yes actually,” then my next question is: What would Hillary Clinton have to do for you not to vote for her?

Sure, there will be those who disagree with Obama on policy matters. They'd vote against him whether he were black, white or Asian, and most of those people are beyond Clinton’s reach, just as those who would vote against either a black or a woman are beyond her reach. But among those Clinton is enthusiastically courting now are the millions of white Americans who are simply and secretly afraid of being led by a President of color; those who have either never confronted their own semi-conscious racism, or have confronted it and decided, for the sake of social acceptability, to keep it below the surface. For the benefit of the closet racists, Obama has been held up to every standard imaginable and examined with microscopes and Geiger counters in the hope of finding something "above board" to stick to the man, so that when white moderates, independents and Democrats reject him, they can say they’re doing it for policy reasons rather than because, well, yeah.

Hillary Clinton has both actively and passively supported this racist double standard. She is perfectly comfortable implying either that Obama is unelectable because he’s black, or that he is the “wrong kind” of black candidate. She "unconsciously" compared herself to Lyndon Johnson in the context of Obama being an MLK (even though Obama never claimed to be an MLK). When asked for her reaction on the outrageous "Obama is a Muslim" charge (a charge she must have known to be completely false), Clinton said "There is nothing to base that on, as far as I know." In the debate in Cleveland, Clinton demanded that Obama "repudiate" Louis Farrakhan, a figure Obama had never embraced in the first place. (Don't expect anyone to demand that John McCain distance himself from David Duke, even though the latter has put up "McCain/Duke in 08" web sites and has vigorously endorsed McCain.) [SEE MY EDIT BELOW: I WAS WRONG; DUKE DOESN'T SUPPORT MCCAIN, AND I WAS CONFUSED BY WEB SITES--SORRY] Senator Clinton did not repudiate or clarify Bill Clinton's Jesse Jackson comparison or Bill’s later innuendo that a contest between McCain and Clinton would be the only one featuring “true Americans.”

Then Clinton went on the O'Reilly Factor.

Let's be clear about what kind of choice this was for her. Many moderate and liberal politicians have long avoided O'Reilly, a choice that their colleagues and constituents have seen as reasonable. Bill O’Reilly’s never done her any favors before, but she recognized that a lot of the so-called Reagan Democrats watch and identify with him. Clinton could not have been unaware of O'Reilly's track record on race issues. He said of a black musical group singing at a charity function "I hope they're not in the parking lot stealing our hubcaps." He used the term "wetback" on the air when describing immigrants--twice--and also denied he used it. In an interview with Stuff he said "the most unattractive women in the world are probably in the Muslim countries." In an on-air segment on black athletes he said "Look, you know as well as I do most of these kids come out and they can't speak English." O'Reilly might not be a racist in the David Duke old school mold, but his insensitivities and frequent slurs give legitimacy to those among his audience who are.

Clinton didn't have to go onto the show of a man who routinely expresses racially divisive ideas or displays insensitivities (for that matter, feminists out there, she didn't have to go on the show of a man who sexually harassed a former producer of the show). She chose to out of expediency, just as she has chosen to embrace and deploy enthymematic and just-under-the-radar tactics that play on people's fear of Obama, the cosmopolitan Black with the dangerous sounding name. Nation editor Betsy Reed put it best when she wrote: "It's disappointing, to say the least, to see the first viable female contender for the presidency participate in attacks on her black opponent's patriotism, which exploit an anxious climate around national security that gives white men an edge both over women and people of color -- who tend to be viewed, respectively, as weak and potentially traitorous."

This case is pretty clear, folks, although I suspect you’ll act angrier at me than you will at her: If you vote for Clinton, you are, in a very literal sense, rewarding her race-baiting political tactics. You are saying: The next time a white politician runs against a black politician, the white politician should do the same things Clinton has done. You might deny you are doing these things. You might even be and act offended by her race baiting, but that doesn’t change the quality of your vote, or what it will represent. There's no way to nuance a vote in an election, no way to "vote for Clinton with the additional clarification that I renounce her race-baiting tactics." In fact, the only way to truly renounce her tactics is to not vote for her.

You can appeal to the lesser of two evils all you want. In this instance, you’re going to vote for a candidate who actively and conscientiously deployed racism to win her nomination. How different, really, is that from voting for a racist outright?


Anonymous said...

THIS IS A TOTAL LIE!!!!------^^^^^^Don't expect anyone to demand that John McCain distance himself from David Duke, even though the latter has put up "McCain/Duke in 08" web sites and has vigorously endorsed McCain.) ^^^THAT IS A TOTAL LIE!!!!! David Duke doesn't support McCain, he hates him! McCain is an Israel loving NeoCon and the biggest promoter of Illegal Immigration around. Do you guys always make up such utter and despicable lies? U figure who will question what David Duke supposedly does. But I am calling you out for your complete B.S. This blog is a complete joke!

matt said...

Hey anonymous:

You are totally right. I don't know why I got that wrong. The websites I saw were not Duke websites. They were put up by people calling for a McCain-Duke ticket (perhaps they were joking). I reget the error. Duke endorses Ron Paul, as a matter of fact, although Dr. Paul probably wishes otherwise, I don't know for sure.

Thank you for pointing out the error, even though your tone is kind of douchebaggy in doing so. I'll take the corrections however they come.