Obama SC’08: You can’t unplay the race card

What’s been remarkable about the Obama campaign is how such a wide spectrum of people have come out in support of the candidate. Sure, this is something every campaign touts, but in this election, only Obama can make the claim honestly on the Democratic side of the ledger. (If the Republicans weren’t in the doghouse, McCain would be able to make more of his bipartisan appeal as well). I think the remarkable diversity of the campaign reflects, if not a post-racial world, then at least one that has taken a step beyond crass identity politics to the kind of multiculturalism that civil rights leaders have dreamed of.

I was waiting for the moment when the Clinton campaign would re-spin the racial dynamic of this contest, and it finally came today. I have to give them credit: they have mastered the art of sour grapes. First, they — not the Obama campaign — raised the issue of race (it is almost never to a black candidate’s advantage to go that route). After letting it stink for a good week, attempting to inject codewords like “young man” and “frustrated” into the national psyche, today Mr. Clinton knocks over the chess board: “They are getting votes, to be sure, because of their race or gender, and that’s why people tell me that Hillary doesn’t have a chance to win here.”

All these bursts of anger are about as authentic as Hillary’s tears: genuine, to be sure, but also coldly calculated. Deploying the political equivalent of method acting, our alleged first black President now suggests that black folks will vote for someone with a dark complexion on that criterion alone, and is thereby doing his best to marginalize a group of voters who are finally, finally having their day in the national electoral sun. What’s more, it’s a one-two punch, one designed to scare white voters by labeling Obama as the black candidate. It’s a shameful moment for the Clintons and for the Democratic Party.

Whatever direction all of this hot air blows, the reality is that on Saturday we are going to turn out African-American voters in numbers unheard of in at least a generation if not much, much longer. There’s no guarantee that they will vote for Senator Obama — let us never rely upon identity politics to win an election. But the fact will be that on Saturday, tens of thousands of voices will be unleashed, perhaps never to be chained again.

Be Sociable, Share!

3 thoughts on “Obama SC’08: You can’t unplay the race card

  1. I can’t remember who I was reading–Mickey Kaus?–said something I think is right: if Hillary prevails as the nominee, and in doing so have destroyed the first viable African American presidential candidate in history, it will be a legacy the Dem. party will never escape and (I’d add) a poison that will sink into the party. I’ve said before something not popular where we live to say, that the Dem. party very methodically practices manipulation of the African American population to ensure their votes but compel a continued victimization and demoralization–this may end up being the ultimate example.

  2. MP: The reality is that any coalition of loosely-aligned groups needs to hold that group together through various means, whether you’re talking about American Democrats/Republicans or parties in other nations. (Though Israeli politics is particularly unstable because its system gives few levers for holding those coalitions together). On the other side of the aisle, evangelical Christians have been treated as dependable foot soldiers in much the same way. That’s why, every once in a while, a spirited battle for that constituency — whether intramural or in the final election — is critical for democratic accountability to that particular constituency. (This is sort of a point I made in my senior thesis).

    At some point, the coalition falls apart when the only glue holding it together is just meeting each group’s interest, and they’re not willing to compromise to meet a common goal. This seems to be happening right now in the Republican party as Christians begin to realize that financial conservatives have been playing them for fools. (The way Rush attacks Huckabee is far worse than what Bill is doing to Barack).

Comments are closed.