Thursday, May 08, 2008

'There's a pattern emerging here'

Hillary Clinton has decided apparently that racism is her one remaining path to the Democratic presidential nomination.

The conventional wisdom is wrong. Clinton is not interested in a graceful exit from the primary contest. She does not intend to withdraw after Oregon and Kentucky vote on May 20. She does not intend to withdraw after the rules committee meets on a compromise for Florida and Michigan on May 31. She does not intend to withdraw after Montana and South Dakota vote on June 3.

Clinton is doubling down on one last hand - a backroom deal in Denver. She intends to take her fight for the nomination all the way to the Democratic National Convention in August, just three months before the 2008 presidential election.

Having lost the ability to claim a delegate count mandate, a big-state mandate, or a popular-vote mandate, she is employing one last-ditch argument to convince party power brokers to hand her the nomination that she could not win: Obama is too black to be president.

Clinton articulates her latest rationale in an interview with USA Today.

"I have a much broader base to build a winning coalition on," she said in an interview with USA TODAY. As evidence, Clinton cited an Associated Press article "that found how Sen. 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," she said.

Clinton's blunt remarks about race came a day after primaries in Indiana and North Carolina dealt symbolic and mathematical blows to her White House ambitions.
There is, indeed, a pattern emerging here. Hillary Clinton seems to have decided to frighten the Democratic Party into granting her the nomination by stating - not suggesting, but stating outright - that a black man cannot win the presidency.

I say this as someone who covered David Duke's campaign for U.S. Senate in 1990: I don't think I have ever heard a candidate for national office use such stark racial rhetoric as the Clinton campaign has over the last few days.

Clinton's chief strategist Geoff Garin advanced the race-based extension of her campaign's "electability" argument in the hours after Indiana was called for Clinton by a 1.8 percent margin.

Garin argued that the North Carolina contest, which Obama won by 14 points, represented "progress" for Hillary because she did better among white voters there than she did in Virginia.

"When we began in North Carolina," Garin said, "our internal polling and much of the public polling [showed] we were running exactly even with white voters."

Garin said that the Virginia electorate was the "closest white electorate in the country" to North Carolina, and added that Hillary "started even" among whites in North Carolina, and "ended up earning a significant win of 24 points."
The exploitation of racial tensions is nothing new for Clinton and her surrogates, of course. Bill Clinton attmepted to cast Obama as the black candidate by equating his South Carolina victory with Jesse Jackson's. Geraldine Ferraro's infamous remarks about Obama's great good fortune for having been born black were an appeal to working-class white Democrats' resentments over affirmative action. And Paul Begala's recent gibe about "eggheads and African-Americans" was delivered as part of a broader, and false, suggestion that Obama has failed to reach out to white, working-class voters.

But the explicit racial language coming now from the campaign, including the candidate herself, is something else. This is a new iteration of the old "They're not ready for a black __________" rationalization.

We know that you're the hardest working reporter in the newsroom, and you look and sound great on camera, and we'd love to give you a shot on the desk, but we just don't think the market is ready for a black news anchor.

We know that you're the highest-billing account executive the firm has ever had, and we'd love to give you the promotion, but the company just isn't ready a black sales manager.

We know that you won more states, more votes, and more delegates than every other candidate in the field, and we'd love to have you as our nominee, but America just isn't ready for a black president.

Is Clinton oblivious to the damage she will do to herself and to her party if she succeeds in stealing the nomination from Obama with this argument? Or is she fully aware of the implications, but simply does not care?

And make no mistake - the only way for Clinton to get the nomination is to steal it in a backroom deal with superdelegates. Obama's lead is insurmountable. She has been working for months to undermine his viability, and has failed. Her shameless piling on during the manufactured Wright controversy and the manufactured Farrakhan mini-controversy were both part of an ugly, integrated whole - creating a guilt-by-association pall over Obama's candidacy.

Having failed to influence voters with the spectre of the scary black man, Clinton is now willing to use Obama's very racial identity as the reason that the superdelegates should deny him the nomination that he has earned, and give it to her instead.

It won't work. At least, I don't think it will. If it does, this is not the party that I thought I belonged to. It is not the country that I thought I lived in.

As someone who once loved Bill and Hillary Clinton, I am hurt and disappointed almost beyond my ability to express it. I cannot believe that she is willing to sacrifice her dignity, her very humanity, for the sake of stealing the nomination from the man who earned it.

And I cannot imagine why she thinks the prize is worth having at all if this is the only way to get it.

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