Thursday, March 13, 2008

The Great Race Bait: Hillary's White Campaign

If one believed Hillary Clinton's late denouncement of Geraldine Ferraro, and recent "apology" to black reporters, you would think the campaign had separated itself from the notion that Barack Obama is nothing more than a black guy for black voters. Nothing could be further from the truth. Geraldine Ferraro's defense of Hillary represents something much more brutal, which is the ratcheting up of racial distinctions to isolate Barack Obama's base to being solely an African American candidate.

After Super Tuesday, Obama began making inroads into white and Latino voters. That trend was reversed in Ohio and Texas in no small part by the employment of the Democratic Party's Lee Atwater, union-busting shrill and PR maestro Mark Penn. A longtime friend and ally of the Clinton family, he has become Hillary's bad cop throughout the campaign, using racially-tinged language and ads to remind the old white voters who their candidate is. This includes not just the infamous 3 am add in Texas, ironic considering what Penn's ex-employer Bill Clinton likely spent many a 3 am doing, but publicly hinting that Senator Obama is a cocaine addict. Then there was the Kenyan garb to make Obama look like a Muslim incident, "donating" their pic of the Senator from a trip to Africa a couple of years ago to that most Democratic and liberal of internet news sites, The Drudge Report.

There is no way someone like Geraldine Ferraro, who is a seasoned politician, would purposely volunteer herself for sword-jumping duty without the likes of Penn knowing about it. To give credit where it is due, Penn's strategy is working marvelously, as he knows well by playing to white racial sentiments, he is at worst isolating his candidate from a constituency that is not going to support Hillary anyway. And, if the other side gets angry at being accused of uppitiness by a white liberal feminist icon, he can use her to play the self-victimization card, while reminding everyone she and her preferred candidate is the white Democrat's choice. Best of all, Hillary can come in afterward, and pretend to clean up the mess by "separating" herself from and "repudiating" the remarks (but only after the "black" primary voters in Mississippi are enraged enough to widen the perceived racial gap), thereby reinforcing her constituency that Obama had made inroads with. If George Wallace was running for President, he could not devise a more wicked and yet ingenious plan.

Unfortunately for the Clinton campaign, they probably waited until it was too late to successfully employ this tactic. Even if there is a re-vote in Michigan and Florida, and even if she wins by similar margins, and wins Pennsylvania, unless the Senator from New York receives well over 60% of the vote in all of those contests she will not have enough elected delegates to win the nomination. The most likely scenario to win the nomination is to depend on unelected superdelegates to hand her the nomination, contravening the will of the party's voters, and thereby guaranteeing a party split and defeat come November (explaining why the Republican Governor of Florida is so insistent on letting the Democratic delegates in his state be counted). It is the ultimate of ironies that the only feasible manner in which Hillary can now gain the nomination is by destroying her party and her chance of ever winning the election. Then again, in her campaign's mind, I suppose that would be better than letting the black guy win.

I am certain that Senator Clinton does not see it this way. It is probable that she has allowed people like Mark Penn to delude her into thinking she is the next FDR. This should not surprise anyone. He successfully helped Tony Blair gut what remained of the Labor Party in the 1990s (so completely, in fact, that Blair was run out of his own party and the prime ministership). There is no reason why he should not want to finish the job by being the electoral Jack Kevorkian for the Democrats, especially when his campaign is purposely dynamiting its most loyal constituency, African Americans.

About the only way Senator Obama is going to stop this is to defeat Hillary in one of those big remaining states, be it Michigan (which is on the cusp of allowing a re-vote), Florida (if it allows another one), or Pennsylvania. It will not be easy because Senator Clinton's and Mark Penn's strategy of re-whitening the Clinton voting bloc has succeeded, as evidenced in Mississippi, a byproduct of the campaign's recent tactics. And none of the remaining states have the proportion of African American to Democratic voters as South Carolina and Mississippi.

Whether this grand strategy will work remains to be seen.

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