The Discerning Texan
-- Edmund Burke
Sunday, February 10, 2008
Clinton, Obama, and the Balkanization of the Democrat Party
The campaign’s other most potent form of currency remains its thick deck of race cards. This was all too apparent in the Hallmark show. In its carefully calibrated cross section of geographically and demographically diverse cast members — young, old, one gay man, one vet, two union members — African-Americans were reduced to also-rans. One black woman, the former TV correspondent Carole Simpson, was given the servile role of the meeting’s nominal moderator, Ed McMahon to Mrs. Clinton’s top banana. Scattered black faces could be seen in the audience. But in the entire televised hour, there was not a single African-American questioner, whether to toss a softball or ask about the Clintons’ own recent misadventures in racial politics.
The Clinton camp does not leave such matters to chance. This decision was a cold, political cost-benefit calculus. In October, seven months after the two candidates’ dueling church perorations in Selma, USA Today found Hillary Clinton leading Mr. Obama among African-American Democrats by a margin of 62 percent to 34 percent. But once black voters met Mr. Obama and started to gravitate toward him, Bill Clinton and the campaign’s other surrogates stopped caring about what African-Americans thought. In an effort to scare off white voters, Mr. Obama was ghettoized as a cocaine user (by the chief Clinton strategist, Mark Penn, among others), “the black candidate” (as Clinton strategists told the Associated Press) and Jesse Jackson redux (by Mr. Clinton himself).
The result? Black America has largely deserted the Clintons. In her California primary victory, Mrs. Clinton drew only 19 percent of the black vote. The campaign saw this coming and so saw no percentage in bestowing precious minutes of prime-time television on African-American queries.
That time went instead to the Hispanic population that was still in play in Super Tuesday’s voting in the West. Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa of Los Angeles had a cameo, and one of the satellite meetings was held in the National Hispanic Cultural Center in Albuquerque. There’s nothing wrong with that. It’s smart politics, especially since Mr. Obama has been behind the curve in wooing this constituency.
But the wholesale substitution of Hispanics for blacks on the Hallmark show is tainted by a creepy racial back story. Last month a Hispanic pollster employed by the Clinton campaign pitted the two groups against each other by telling The New Yorker that Hispanic voters have “not shown a lot of willingness or affinity to support black candidates.” Mrs. Clinton then seconded the motion by telling Tim Russert in a debate that her pollster was “making a historical statement.”
The question now is how much more racial friction the Clinton campaign will gin up if its Hispanic support starts to erode in Texas, whose March 4 vote it sees as its latest firewall. Clearly it will stop at little. That’s why you now hear Clinton operatives talk ever more brazenly about trying to reverse party rulings so that they can hijack 366 ghost delegates from Florida and the other rogue primary, Michigan, where Mr. Obama wasn’t even on the ballot. So much for Mrs. Clinton’s assurance on New Hampshire Public Radio last fall that it didn’t matter if she alone kept her name on the Michigan ballot because the vote “is not going to count for anything.”
Last month, two eminent African-American historians who have served in government, Mary Frances Berry (in the Carter and Clinton years) and Roger Wilkins (in the Johnson administration), wrote Howard Dean, the Democrats’ chairman, to warn him of the perils of that credentials fight. Last week, Mr. Dean became sufficiently alarmed to propose brokering an “arrangement” if a clear-cut victory by one candidate hasn’t rendered the issue moot by the spring. But does anyone seriously believe that Howard Dean can deter a Clinton combine so ruthless that it risked shredding three decades of mutual affection with black America to win a primary?
A race-tinged brawl at the convention, some nine weeks before Election Day, will not be a Hallmark moment. As Mr. Wilkins reiterated to me last week, it will be a flashback to the Democratic civil war of 1968, a suicide for the party no matter which victor ends up holding the rancid spoils.
But who can stop it? When you have spent years pitting one group against the other against the other. When you have done nothing but play the race card for years, what else is there?
Live by the sword...die by the sword. This is the only kind of politics the Stalinists know. I just don't understand how anyone can be that surprised that is has come to this; you knew this would happen if anyone got close to her... you get the feeling that this is going to get very, very ugly.