The longer this election goes on, the more frustrated I get with the plethora of negative information people keep putting out about Hillary Clinton. It is frustrating, because people are just so intent to label her without looking to see if there is any actual fact behind assigning her with some ridiculous label.
The latest, completely ridiculous label is that “Hillary Clinton is a racist.” Excuse me? To label the Clintons as racist is as ridiculous as labeling John McCain “anti-military.” The Clintons may not be African-American, but Bill Clinton’s administration did more for the African-American community than any other president since LBJ. Hillary Clinton’s Senate record also exhibits that she appreciates and respects the African-American community. Interestingly, as an aside, the only successful bill that Barack Obama sponsored in his tenure in the U.S. Senate that became a public law was about the Congo, and it was also co-sponsored by Hillary Clinton. So in that token, Hillary Clinton has done just as much for Africa as Barack has (don’t believe me? look it up under the 109th Congress on www.thomas.gov and get the proof of this yourself).
This ridiculous labeling of Hillary Clinton as a racist started when she gave a response in an interview about how Dr. King’s dream began to be a reality when laws began to be enacted to legislate an end to segregation (you can see the exact answer here). This in turn led some to claim that Hillary Clinton was somehow denying the importance of Dr. King, which led others in turn to call her a racist, without probably thinking at all about what she was actually saying. This is what happens when race gets injected this way into a political debate, which I will discuss below. What I first want to talk about is Hillary’s response to the question and the question itself.
First the question : She was responding to a question that in essence was a statement made by Barack Obama, which really compared his movement to what Dr. King did. He was saying that the Clinton campaign’s attack on him for raising “false hopes” was akin to the Clinton campaign attacking Dr. King for raising “false hopes”, which isn’t what the Clinton campaign was doing at all. What Mr. Obama’s statement in essence did was a brilliant and conscious campaign strategy of injecting race into his presidential bid shortly before the South Carolina primary, because he knows that 50% of the democratic electorante in South Carolina is African American. He knows it is a huge plus for him if he can A. make himself look like Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and B. make it look like Hillary Clinton is against Dr. King. It is brilliant positioning for Obama, but is more than slightly dishonest.
Now on to the response, in the context of what the question was: Ms. Clinton never said anything negative about Dr. King. What she was pointing out, though, is that what began to bring Dr. King’s dream into reality was the legislated end of segregation. I don’t understand what makes this controversial. Dr. King’s movement was powerful and it changed a nation. However, in order to change a racist legal structure, formal laws had to be legislated and put into place. It took a legislature and a presidency to do that. The dream could not have taken shape into reality without legislative change. And lets be honest, we judge the ultimate success of a movement by whether or not actual change was made. Has the Iraq anti-war movement been successful? Most would say no, because we are still in Iraq and no legislative changes have been made. What made the struggle for civil rights successful is that laws and lives were changed at the end of the day. Certainly that struggle is still ongoing, but the fact is that we no longer have institutionalized racism as a part of our government. This is what Ms. Clinton was getting at in her answer. Dr. King wasn’t raising false hopes, because real change was the result, not lip service to change.
Now onto the injection of race into the presidential race. As I stated before, I think that it is a little too convenient that Mr. Obama has started to make these accusations against Ms. Clinton right before South Carolina. Obviously, he has a political purpose in mind. It might work. There is some anecdotal evidence from the meaningless Michigan democratic primary that suggests that 70% of African Americans who went to the polls to vote in the democratic primary today refused to vote for Hillary (SIDENOTE: this CNN story kind of pisses me off, because its stories like these that make race more of an issue than it should be in an election), and maybe that had something to do with this new label that has been assigned. No one wants to vote for a racist, particularly if you are from a minority group yourself. And now, since there has been so much banter from the Obama camp, and his supporters in the past week about Hillary Clinton being a racist, people are on edge, without really knowing what it is about. Labeling someone a racist tends to do that. It is a hard charge to overcome in a presidental campaign, particularly when minority constituencies make up an important part of the electorate. I don’t, for one second think that Obama didn’t know what he was doing when he started this by raising the Dr. King comparison. He may be a legislative lightweight, but he certainly has an astute mind and knows who makes up the electorate in the next important primary state.
I wasn’t going to post about this whole race issue at all, because frankly, I think that it is ridiculous that race is a factor at all in a presidential election in 2008. I think that it is disturbing. That is why I am none too pleased that this has become an issue, and it got to the point where I have just heard so much silliness about this over the past couple of days, that I had to say something. The fact is it proves that people are still being judged by race in this day and age. Invoking the memory of those who gave their lives in pursuit of a country where people would be judged by their individual merits and not for their skin color now is done to try to curry favor. The sad part is that is an effective campaign strategy.
I guess I am disappointed because now I feel for certain that if Obama wins the nomination, I can’t feel comfortable voting for him, because the one thing I thought that he had going for him was that I thought his goal was to bring people together. I don’t fault him for his campaign strategy, I fault him for trying to sell himself one way to one group of people (as someone who can bring people together) and then trying to play up racial issues with another group of people. It isn’t sincere, and it isn’t consistent.