Monday, January 14, 2008

The Race Card

The past year has seen a great many headlines that no one could have foreseen even a month before they were written. “Huckabee and McCain GOP Frontrunners”, ”Rudy’s Meltdown”, and “Hillary’s Gender Card” are all things no one could have reasonably predicted.

But the most amazing development is the race war being waged among the Democrats. If Conventional Wisdom told us anything, it was that Democrats were absolutely united in their support of the black community. Certainly, it was within bounds to play the race card against Republicans, but against Democrats? Absolutely forbidden.

But now Hillary Clinton is being portrayed as being racially insensitive. That charge is usually only leveled at Republicans—remember the infamous “macaca” line uttered by George Allen, which sank his Senate campaign, and thus any Presidential plans he may have had. But now we have a major Democrat taking fire from black voters, a situation almost unheard of in national politics.

Making the whole situation even more absurd is the utter banality of the charges being leveled. Clinton’s allegedly racially insensitive remarks seem to consist mostly of her husband’s description of Obama’s narrative of his life and policies as a “fairy tale”. Personally, I think that is pretty mild talk for a bitter, hotly contested political campaign, but many Democrats seem to regard it as a slur on all black candidates.

Not that calling Obama’s campaign a “fairly tale” has anything to do with race. It fits in with the official Clinton narrative, which is that Barack Obama may seem nice enough, but scratch the surface, and you’ll find he is not to be trusted. But apparently, the mere fact that Obama is African-American should shield him from all personal attacks. (Except strictly speaking, Obama is half Caucasian, but apparently anyone with any degree of black blood is considered to be just black, without any subtleties like his actual ethnicity involved). Presumably, if the Clinton’s were employing the same rhetoric against John Edwards, it would be wholly acceptable, but since it is being used against Obama, it is an insult to the memory of Martin Luther King.

Speaking of Martin Luther King, Hillary has managed to get herself involved in a ridiculous controversy regarding his role in the civil rights movement. Speaking to Fox News’ Major Garret, she reminded voters that “Dr. King's dream began to be realized when President Lyndon Johnson passed the Civil Rights Act of 1964”. Her point, such as it was, was that it takes more than rhetoric to achieve change, it takes political action.

That point doesn’t make a great deal of sense. It is a pretty safe bet that Lyndon Johnson—who once bemoaned that blacks were becoming “uppity” as they gained political power—wouldn’t have signed the Civil Rights Act into law without the pressure exerted by King and other black advocacy groups. In fact, there probably wouldn’t have been a Civil Rights Act to sign had it had been for King’s efforts. It is no coincidence that soon after blacks began vocally demanding equal rights, government became more receptive to their pleas. It was the likes of King who spearheaded the Civil Rights Act and other subsequent civil rights laws. Johnson had comparatively little to do with the process. Hillary’s remark was stupid.

Stupid, however, does not mean racist, or even racially insensitive. The reaction among Hillary hating Democrats seems almost as great as if Hillary had the attended the Annual Martin Luther King Lynching in Effigy ceremony sponsored by David Duke. Her statements were supposed to have besmirched the legacy of Martin Luther King. Black leaders heavily criticized her, and her support among blacks plummeted.

A bright side of this whole ridiculous squabble, at least for Republicans, is the possibility that this may fragment the Democratic Party. According to a Rasmussen poll, Hillary holds an impressive 16 point lead among whites, while Obama holds an amazing 40 point lead among black voters. If the Democratic nomination is split along racial lines, it would help Republicans immeasurably. It would ensure the nomination of Hillary Clinton (since blacks are in the minority in the Democratic Party), and cause the Democrats to lose a portion of a significant voting bloc in the general election.

It is remarkable that so many in the Democratic Party are so eager for any chance at all to attack Hillary. In a few short weeks, Bill Clinton has gone from “the first black President” to being just another political figure. In most Democrat circles, Hillary is no longer seen as in any way inevitable. The presumed failure of Rudy Giuliani’s plan (win Florida, then use the momentum to win Super Tuesday) to grab the Republican nomination has been widely talked about. However, it is not always noted that Hillary Clinton’s strategy (which was to portray herself as the inevitable candidate, the default Democrat choice) has similarly backfired. She may have enough to win the nomination, but will her broken plan hurt her in the general election?

(Speaking of King, I came across his Letter from Birmingham Jail while researching this piece. It is very, very good, and well worth reading. Contrast it with something Al Sharpton wrote, and I defy anyone to tell me the civil rights movement hasn't lost it's way).


At January 15, 2008 at 4:37 AM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

excellent post Dan, right on the money

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