Clinton Continues Playing Race Card

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[Elections 2008: More On Race Matters]



Two weeks ago, in a column for The Black Star News entitled “Racism and Hypocrisy,” I delineated a pattern of racism in the presidential campaign of Senator Hillary Clinton.


Apparently this column struck a nerve. That article was the most highly read and voted upon in Black Star history, shattering the previous record by more than 500 percent. It was picked up and posted on several other blog sites across the country. And one irate (and, I might add, illiterate) reader attacked me on Yahoo by calling me a “hack.”


Some argued that the pattern I referenced was simply a string of coincidences — Bill Clinton’s reference to Jesse Jackson in the aftermath of South Carolina; Geraldine Ferraro’s ill-tempered blast; ad infinitum. Many wanted to give Clinton the benefit of the doubt. Even in the aftermath of Hillary Clinton’s USA Today interview this week, in which she claimed that she had the support of “hard-working Americans, white Americans” the usually tell-it-like-it-is Keith Olbermann of MSNBC news, wanted to give Senator Clinton a pass on this one, saying that perhaps she “misspoke.”


But the idea that playing the race card was anything but a calculated and Machiavellian move by the Clintons was forever put to rest later that evening when Clinton campaign apologist Paul Begala, in a tense exchange with Donna Brazile on CNN, declared, "Obama can't win with just the eggheads and African-Americans….”


And with that overtly racist and demeaning comment, Begala stripped bare the Clinton’s problematic game plan. This was no accident; this was no misspeak. It was cold and it was calculated. Begala and the Clintons were playing the race card once again in a last-ditch effort to thwart – and, really, to steal – Barrack Obama’s claim as the Democratic Party’s nominee.


While Begala had no trouble spewing out these clearly crafted lines, if you listen to the USA Today interview, an obviously dispirited Senator Clinton had trouble uttering hers. It was almost as if she were reading directly from a scri pt, stumbling over the word “white” both times she spoke it.


She knew what she was doing. And we now know that the lines were scri pted for her. They were essentially the same as Begala’s. The ruse of Clinton misspeak is over.


At some point during this campaign, probably after Iowa, and most certainly after South Carolina, the Clintons came to realize that the Obama movement had far more traction than they originally calculated. They had clearly underestimated their opponent. And they knew that they had to stop the Obama train.


Somewhere along the line, some Clinton pollster or some strategist also realized that the only shot that Clinton had of winning the Democratic nomination was by playing the race card.


That’s why there has been a clear and definitive pattern of racism in the Clinton campaign. They counted on the race card giving them an inside run on the road to the presidency. They badly miscalculated: I would argue that it marked the turning point in the primary battle.


Bill Clinton’s comments after South Carolina drew criticism from a handful of African American leaders and newspaper publishers who are old hounds at this game. They knew the smell of American racism, and the Clintons’ machinations around race didn’t pass the sniff test.


And that’s when the momentum in the campaign began to shift. Clinton had drawn heavily in the past from the African American vote; indeed, when the race began, she polled stronger among Blacks than did Obama. But it doesn’t take a weatherman to know which way the wind blows: the pernicious subtext of race in the Clinton campaign blew hard along the campaign trail. As early as last December, an editorial in The Black Star News admonished the Clintons about playing with the “fire of race”: “Sometimes,” the editorial warned, “it is impossible to control or direct the flames.”


And so it was.


In the wake of Obama’s huge victory this week in North Carolina, the mainstream press has finally acknowledged that he has won the Democratic party nomination for president. And in so doing, they have come to analyze the failures and mistakes in Hillary Clinton’s ill-fated run for the presidency. Time Magazine listed five reasons for her botched campaign — she “misjudged the mood,” she “underestimated the caucus states,” she “relied on old money,” etc. — but they never once mentioned the race card as a defining variable.


Of course not. The mainstream American media likes to cover up this country’s racial divide. The Clintons, on the other hand, tried to prey upon it. In so doing, they self-destructed not only Hillary’s presidential aspirations, but both of their own political legacies as well.


All over this country, people at the grassroots level have understood that the Obama candidacy marks a new day in American racial politics. Obama’s candidacy does not transcend race; it confronts it. Obama is a bridge builder, not a bridge burner. He seeks to heal this country’s racial divide, not to prey upon it. And in these last, desperate hours of her candidacy, like a wounded vulture at some road kill, Hillary Clinton continues to feed upon the rotted corpse of racism. Hers is a politics of division.


That is why the Clinton machine lost — and should have lost — the Democratic party nomination. Make no mistake about it: that is why Barrack Obama should be — and will be — the next President of the United States.



Award-winning filmmaker and journalist Geoffrey Dunn, Ph. D., is the former recipient of a both a John L. Senior Fellowship to the Cornell University Graduate School of Government and a National Newspaper Association Award for Investigative Journalism. His most recent film is Calypso Dreams. His article for The Black Star News on racism in the Clinton campaign can be read here:






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