Thursday, May 08, 2008

White folks is good folks

"I think you're getting a little carried away on the race issue with Hillary," said a friend to me the day after Barack Obama defeated her in North Carolina and came within an eyelash of upsetting her in Indiana. She held her fingers about half an inch apart as she said this to me, the better to emphasize that the shorter the distance between her fingers the more I was wrong. "I am not a woman for Hillary, but I think the race thing is unfair."

Oh? How do you feel today?

"I never liked her because of how she treated women," my friend said. "I never thought she would stoop this low. There's nothing to really say."

No, there isn't. Not when the first and only "serious" woman to run for president says something like this:

"I have a much broader base to build a winning coalition on . . . Senator Obama’s support among working, hard-working Americans, white Americans, is weakening again, and how whites in both states who had not completed college were supporting me. There’s a pattern emerging here. . . These are the people you have to win if you’re a Democrat in sufficient numbers to actually win the election. Everybody knows that."

Forget, for a moment, how anyone can take seriously Hillary's decision to "forge ahead" in her quest for the White House. Forget, for a moment, how the mainstream media continue to run stories after Hillary's unsuccessful last stand Tuesday night suggesting that she even has a remote chance to win the nomination, that her climb uphill is "now" more unlikely than it was before the North Carolina and Indiana results, that the superdelegates will take a long look at five months of primary results and decide to award the nomination to the loser because she is more "electable."

Forget it. Forget it. Forget it.

After the South Carolina debacle, I wrote how the Clintons would fixate on the "white working class" in hopes that, having alienated African-American voters during the Southern and Mid-Atlantic primaries, it could build a winning coalition by uniting Women for Hillary and a complex demographic (white, ethnic, Catholic . . . sometimes all in one package) that isn't comfortable supporting black candidates. My view and others who shared it were shunned to the side after the Clinton campaign successfully spun the Pennsylvania primary as a referendum on which Democrat could better "connect" with the working class, which I have always interpreted as nothing more than a euphemism for white voters who harbor hidden and sometimes not-so-hidden racist attitudes towards African-American candidates. Even Pennsylvania governor Ed Rendell acknowledged that "certain" Pennsylvania voters would not support a black man for president. So Hillary wins Pennsylvania by winning the white working class vote, not the black working class vote, and the new story line emerges . . .

"Obama's Bubba gap," . . . "Obama's problem with the working class," . . . "Bittergate reinforces Obama's image as elitist," and so on.

That interpretation was always wrong. Obama doesn't have a "problem" with white working class voters in Pennsylvania. Or Indiana. Or West Virginia. Or any other state where a sizable voting bloc exists that meets this description.

White working class voters who hold racist attitudes towards African-Americans have a problem with Obama. Obama has campaigned for their votes as hard as anyone. That Obama hasn't undergone a Halloween-quality personality change doesn't mean that he isn't after that vote. But when you are up against a population that won't vote for you because you are black, you have as much chance of winning that vote as you do men who won't vote for a woman.

Bad questions don't yield bad answers. They yield no answer at all.

So Hillary has now admitted what has been the obvious tactical shift in the last two months of her failed campaign: to divide the Democratic party in hopes that white racist voters would mobilize in mass numbers after the threat of an Obama nomination was now real. Anyone who didn't believe that the Clintons wouldn't dip that low were wrong. As I mentioned in my post, "Strom Thurmond redux?" the Clintons knew exactly what they were doing when decided to take out the racial bludgeon. They weren't after the nostalgia of the 90's. They leapfrogged over that decade back to the 50's.

Americans other than white ones work hard and struggle to pay their bills, much less live a comfortable life. Fortunately, the Democrats have emerged from this disastrous primary season with a candidate who has no interest in playing racial politics. Barack Obama is the real deal, and he ain't nobody's mammy, Hillary.

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