As someone who has in many ways (although not in all of them) been a longterm admirer of Bill Clinton, I find myself increasingly disappointed by his actions in his wife’s campaign.
But you know what? At the end of the day that’s just my tough luck. It’s for the Clintons to decide how best to utilize this very potent weapon in their arsenal. And if I don’t like it, I don’t have to support her for the nomination).
But some things are simply beyond the pale. And this is one of them.
Bill Clinton said Wednesday he expects blacks to vote for Barack Obama and women to vote for Hillary Rodham Clinton, and the dynamic may cause his wife to lose the South Carolina Democratic presidential primary Saturday.
The comments by the former president — who also lashed out at Obama and the news media — mark one of the starkest commentaries yet on the possible role of race, although it has been a subtext of the Obama-Clinton rivalry for months. The comments also furthered the Clintons’ bid to play down Sen. Clinton’s chances of winning in a state where Obama seems to be ahead.
Voting for president along racial and gender lines “is understandable because people are proud when someone who they identify with emerges for the first time,” the former president told a Charleston audience while campaigning for his wife.
Let me state this as strongly and clearly as I can. For either the Clinton campaign or the media to try to discount the results of the South Carolina primary (if Obama wins) because, “after all, it was just a bunch of black folks voting for another black person” is racist and morally wrong.
These aren’t black voters; they’re Democratic voters.
Sure, it’s fine to consider how race may be playing into the results, just as it’s fine to consider how gender may play in. But taking the discussion to the next step of using that to “play down” the importance of the vote is not fine. It is not fine at all. And we’re hearing that very suggestion being made quite often now by both the media and the Clinton campaign and, even speaking as a white man, I find it deeply offensive. It needs to stop.
Update: I guess I need to make this clearer. There is nothing wrong with noting, discussing and analyzing black support for Obama. What’s beyond the pale, is implying that the vote in South Carolina — assuming it goes Obama’s way, which is not a foregone conclusion — is somehow less meaningful because of the unusually large number of black voters there.
This type of subtle racism is far from unique to this one primary. It often appears, for example, under the guise of commentary making a big deal over how “dependent” Democrats are on the black vote — how without it the party would have almost no chance of winning a national election. There’s often an unmistakable undercurrent to such comments suggesting that black votes are somehow less worthy than white votes.
Atrios, for one, has often made this point.