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« "Ghetto", "Shuckin' and jivin'", "Pansy": Offensive terms and the logic-defying practice of victimizing the victim | Main | Teeny tiny snippet from my Age of Conversation chapter - contributors, send me one from yours! »

May 12, 2008


West (Philly not Virginia)

Ahhh yes, I seem to remember a clear racial divide in West Virginia circa 2000. Location: roller rink. Antiquated? I think so. Blacks on one side of the rink, whites on the other. And Rizzy and I tearing it up down the middle. Clearly in eight years, things haven't changed a whole lot.

Since when are the adjectives "ordinary" and "full-blooded" synonymous with being white? I'd love to hear Josh Fry elaborate on his description of "full-blooded".

How many years will it take many West Virginians to realize that Obama may actually have enough gumption to begin to change our failing democracy for the better? Mmmm....bout 10 or so.


Much as I love your blog, Ryan, the final two paragraphs on this one are a real cheap shot on Clinton. Do you really think that, if you asked her directly if she espoused the views in any of the quotes you chose, she would say, 'yeah, sure...bring on the stupid white racist working class people...they are my constituency...I need them and I want them to vote for me....?" Only a Clinton-hater, and real cynic, would say that that's how she thinks and that those are her private thoughts. But, of course, you are not saying that. What you have been saying in many places in this blog is that Clinton has a *strategy* to discredit Obama's viability as a candidate based on her assertations that some voters in this election--no, many voters--decide for whom to vote based on their race and their racial identity, and that her strategy to undermine Obama hinges on the notion he cannot win the general election if he cannot win enough white voters. I admit that these are indelicate assertions, and that, on their face, they appear to be race-baiting remarks. But I don't think that's her intent--particularly given her record (the CLintonS, that is) on civil rights issues. Why on earth would she cut off her nose to spite her face by alienating (some) African Americans in order to win the nomination, only to lose the general election because so many African Americans decided not to vote for her due to indelicate remarks?

On this score, let's look at a few facts. Taking a look at exit poll data for West Virgina on CNNs website, you can see there is no data that breaks down the vote by race. But, obviously, Clinton won most of the votes of white people in that state. Still, the data show that Clinton won among college graduate voters as well as among those with no college education. So, your insinuation that Clinton is courting the dumb, racist white people probably doesn't hold water. You even quote a 40-year old school administrator, whose remarks about 'ordinary' people you seem to see as a code for 'white people,' when it is more likely that hers is a classic 'pocketbook' vote. As many commentators have said, Clinton's message about fixing the economy resonates in many places among many swaths of voters, particularly in states with depressed economies such as those in the Appalachain region. So, why do you insinuate the school Administrator is a 'tainted' voter whose decision is fueled by racism?

Also, consider a state, Illinois, that Obama won handily. Even there, his home state, he won among black voters but not among white voters. They went mainly for Edwards, actually, with the real oldies who are white, those over 60 (my apologies to older readers!) going to Clinton. And consider New York, Clinton's home state. There, she won among white voters but Obama carried most age categories of black voters. Interestingly, in New York, Obama also carried among young white voters.

So, my point is this: Clinton's statements that appear be race-baiting towards Obama are not at the heart of her strategy to win the nomination. I think that what's at the heart of her strategy are facts--disquieting facts, even--that seem to show that these primary elections have engendered voting behavior that is, to a measurable extent, predicated upon the race of the voter. There are so many other variables, of course. But politicians, while they are trained to talk to crowds but 'speak to' individuals, are still trying to amass constituencies based upon predictable voting patterns. And it seems that 'race', for better or for worse, is integral to those patterns in many of these primaries

But this argument probably doesn't dissuade individuals who are convinced that Clinton is (dumb enough to be) race-baiting in order to win the nomination. I heard David Gergen speaking on a CNN panel last night (May 20, after the Kentucky primary--I am writing this response a little late!). In a video that's on the CNN website, he said that Clinton should speak out against--chastise, really--voters who openly say they won't vote for Obama because he is black. Maybe so, but even Gergen knows that that is not how politics works. For not long after he made those comments, we were back over to CNN's Big Board (I love that board!). There, John King (I think that's his name) showed us with hand-sweeps over that board that a huge swath of Appalachia--including states such as West Va, Indiana, Kentucky, Ohio, Pennsylvania--is vital for the Democrats if they are to win in November. They are counties, he said, that mainly went to Bush in 2004. This was the reason Bush won that election, King said. And, he added, in the 2008 primaries, Clinton has dominated Obama in this vital region.

C. Tyler

No, the Clinton’s aren’t cross burners. But after all those years in Arkansas, they should know better than to stir up racial resentments for cheap political points.

The Clintons know first-hand what happens when national political figures get going on ginning-up the grievance mill.

It’s hard to describe now, but the mood in the country right before the Oklahoma City bombing—with talk radio and cable news on fire about all the imaginary abuses in the Clinton White House, the ‘mystery’ of Vince Foster’s death, et al—is a distant cousin to what they’ve done to Obama. However overheated it might sound, it’s not so far removed from the truth to disqualify it as a viable comparison.

They’ve pushed so much dry ice in front of the voters that it’s hard for a large number of them to get to know him...take the disturbing number of people who are totally convinced he’s a Muslim. That’s the kind of silliness they’ve let foster. On a member of their party no less! And it’s exactly the kind of silliness that Newt Gringrich tossed in front of the country back in 1994 and 1995.

So no—I don’t think she’s got her Klan card in her purse. I suspect that—as I hinted earlier—the hard working voters she’s so obviously thrilled to represent aren’t inclined to vote for any bi-racial candidate for President, irrespective of his economic or foreign policy positions. You’ve all but said that yourself.

Any primary voter brazen enough to confidently tell a major network pollster that the thought of a black person in the Oval Office gives them the shivers isn’t coming around in the Fall. So, Johnnie Mac can put twenty percent of Kentucky Democrats in his column.

Here’s why I think she’s doing this: She’s angling for a spot on the ticket as his VP and knows—knows in her heart—that it’s just not happening. And so the argument she’s carving for herself is this magical ability to bring all those downmarket Democrats to the party in the fall. Which again, she knows—in her heart—is just as false as her broad, November appeal.


First let me say that I don’t think the Clintons are “racist.” But I do think that they’ve used race as a tool to attract demographics and marginalize Obama’s constituents. Here's why:

1) Clinton and her surrogates have used racially tinged language throughout this campaign – and I think that they do this to characterize Obama as “other,” thus reeling in White voters who might be voting (even subconsciously) based on race. Instances that I can think of right now: a) Suggesting that Obama was a drug dealer (Billy Shaheen), b) “You can’t shuck and jive at a press conference” (Andrew Cuomo), c) Geraldine Ferraro – I can’t even go into that one, d) Obama as “kid” (Bill Clinton) e) Obama isn’t a Muslim, not that I know of” (Hillary herself)… the list goes on.

2) By pointing specifically to the “hard working white” demographic, she is appealing to a group of people who might have had racist leanings to start with. We both know the kind of people that she’s talking about. Especially in a place like West Virginia – where they didn’t even conduct an exit polling based on race because of the state’s lack of diversity. Or in a place like Kentucky, where 25% of the voters admitted that race played a factor in their voting decision, and 9 out of 10 of those people voted for Clinton.

Now imagine this:

Obama out on the campaign trail, actively campaigning for the sexist vote: “I’m building a coalition of hard working MEN… people that Hillary Clinton is losing.” Now, that might be a true assertion, but one we’d NEVER hear him make. Why? Because a) An assertion like this pits Democrat voting blocks against each other – which, I think Obama realizes, is the last thing we need going into the General election, and b) Pointing this out would be appealing to the sexism within this demographic. I mean really – why else would one bring up sex, or race, if not to use it as a tool? A strategy? It’s something that we’ve not seen Obama do, even though everyone knows that now he’s winning about 90% of the Black vote.

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