This Won’t Go Over Well at All

And, for a brief time, I thought we were on the road to recovery. I had believed the time or healing was upon us. Not quite yet, apparently.

I don’t want to be that guy. You know, the guy who parses and overanalyzes every single word and phrase that gets spoken, the one that tries to find a gaffe in every little thing an opponent says. But I have a sneaking suspicion that Clinton just committed herself to a very ugly news cycle or several.

The quote comes from an interview conducted with USA Today, and I’m pretty sure that this won’t go over well at all:

“I have a much broader base to build a winning coalition on,” she said in an interview with USA TODAY. As evidence, Clinton cited an Associated Press article “that found how Sen. Obama’s support among working, hard-working Americans, white Americans, is weakening again, and how whites in both states who had not completed college were supporting me.”

“There’s a pattern emerging here,” she said.

This coming after I’ve already dedicated a lot of time to the discussion of racial demographics within our party. To save you the grief of having to reread all of it…

Look, racial divides in politics are important and they should be talked about, but especially within a party, they shouldn’t be wielded like an electoral weapon. If Obama really has a problem picking up the white vote, that’s not just a problem for Obama, but a problem for the party, and the country, and one that we should be looking to study and solve.

To be honest, the same goes the other way; if Clinton can’t get the African American vote, that’s something that should be understood and addressed. For the record, I think one of the salient points to consider in this part of the discussion is that I have yet to see defection polling on the African American vote. I have no data that tells me whether they would vote for her or not if Obama lost the nomination. That she can’t win better than single digits of the vote is worrisome, but I would venture a guess that she may have done herself more harm than good with perceptions of race baiting both fair and not.

Nor would I venture to condemn Senator Clinton’s remarks here so much as opine that they, like those words spoken by Obama that unleashed “Bittergate”, were very inartfully worded. As I also mentioned in my post last night, I don’t expect a candidate to help an opponent of the same party win over a demographic he or she struggles with, but I also don’t want to see that demographic used as a bludgeon either, which is my problem with Clinton’s quote.

And believe me, my interpretation is incredibly generous. While Mark Kleiman at least gives her the benefit of the doubt and leaves open the possibility that she spoke poorly out of fatigue, Jeff Fecke is not so kind.

But TMV’s Elrod gives at once the most sober, and most damaging analysis.

The interesting aspect of Elrod’s analysis is the detailed trek through dog whistle language that plays on racial divisions, and how dangerously close Hillary’s remarks come to race baiting campaigns in the past. The other part of Elrod’s analysis I find interesting is that Clinton is essentially playing to the wrong audience.

If West Virginia and Kentucky were capable of catapulting Clinton into the lead, than race baiting would still be vile, but at least it would have an end to it (note: I am neither accusing Clinton of race baiting, nor am I condoning race baiting to win an election). But here one can hardly imagine how this comment could be useful in a situation where her key audience is not the electorate, but instead Super Delegates who hold her fate in their hands.

In the end, this is not what any of us needs. It’s not what Clinton needs as, even if she is holding hope of winning the nomination, she can hardly be helped by a racially charged gaffe. It’s not what Obama needs, as I’ve outlined in my post linked above. We know there are regional struggles with white voters he has ahead of him, but he needs a comment like this like he needs a baseball bat to the head. And it’s not what the party needs, not at a time when the focus should be on repairing unity and gearing up for the fight against McCain.

It would be one thing if Clinton were hurting herself with this, but I fear there are going to be quite a few people outside of she and her campaign that will suffer.

Oh well, maybe next week things will get better.

(note: I apologize, but my “F” key seems to be misbehaving, so I might have some f’s missing in there.)

3 Responses to “This Won’t Go Over Well at All”

  1. DrGail says:

    Perhaps what we find so troubling about this is that, within our own party, a coalition is being threatened. We chuckled with vast appreciation as the Republican primary dynamics seemed to drive a wedge between the neocons, the fiscal conservatives, and the social conservatives.

    What I fear we’re seeing here is a wedge being driven between the blue-collar and minority demographics which largely fuel the party. It’s interesting that I almost added “labor” to the “blue-collar” label, but in fact the unions are largely split between the two candidates. What’s interesting about that is that we appear to have let Hillary define that demographic as being working-class white voters, rather than properly regarding it under the heading of labor. But I digress. . .

    So right now this coalition is being strained to the max, due to a combination of Obama’s race and Hillary’s blatant appeals to (what you so aptly described as) the Archie Bunker demographic. I worry that we won’t be able to repair the rifts. An appeal to economic issues is the obvious approach to take, but that necessarily brings up latent concerns about affirmative action and reverse discrimination.

    It’s ironic that Bill Clinton’s focus when he was running for president — “a rising tide lifts all boats” — may show the greatest promise here, and yet Hillary has apparently positioned herself to reject that focus and further exacerbate the fissures between the two key demographics.

  2. Mark says:

    1. (Shameless self-promotion): As I wrote in my most recent post, the divide in the Democratic party right now doesn’t mean that Obama can’t build a better coalition than Hillary can. What it does mean, however, is that the divide in the Democratic Party right now means that whoever wins the nomination will have to find a new winning coalition than the one that (hasn’t really) worked for Democrats in the recent past. In removing the group of Hillary absolutists from the Dem coalition, the Dem/pro-Obama coalition will become much more appealing to other groups not currently in the Dem coalition (or even, for that matter the Republican coalition). Indeed, it is my argument that this all raises the specter of a broad anti-authoritarian coalition, as the most anti-Obama Hillary supporters are by most measures the pro-authority anchor of the Democratic Party.
    2. (Not shameless self-promotion): the reaction to these comments over the next few days will be telling…will Hillary take as much flak for them as Obama took for his “bitter” comments? If not, then I’d say it’s pretty obvious that the idea floated by Clinton supporters that the media is biased against her is totally ridiculous. This is not to say that her remarks were per se racist (as I mentioned in my comment yesterday, the “-ism” meme is thrown around way too easily); but it is to say that looking at the “bitter” remarks and Clinton’s remarks above, Clinton’s remarks are facially far more offensive by most standards.
    3. This is going to get me accused of being elitist, but I wanted to also comment on the part of her quote where she brags about her support from “whites who had not completed college.” Now, I think our back and forth on the education debate this winter showed that I don’t think college makes a person any more or less valuable, and that I think there is as much, maybe more, social value in being a good auto mechanic as there is in being a good lawyer (actually my profession is too often a net-negative for society). Nor do I think that a less-educated person is incapable of grasping important concepts about government and policy, although it is certainly much less likely. But what, exactly, makes a less educated person with no education whatsoever in economics/political theory/civics/history/physcial science a coalition member worth bragging about as demonstrating why you’d be a better Presidential candidate? There are few things more disingenuous than the frequent argument of politicians that their support from “working people” makes them inherently more capable of governing well than someone whose support is drawn from the more-educated classes. We are allegedly electing the leader of our country here (though I am morally opposed to the concept that a President really can be my “leader”)…should we really value the opinion of Joe from Mayberry on the gas tax more than we should value the opinion of economists? To steal an increasingly popular phrase: “this way lies madness.” Tyranny of the majority is still tyranny.

  3. Fred says:

    In other words: “Nominate me because I’m white.”

    Good lord. She has stopped being subtle, and is now openly running a racist campaign.

    She’s basically saying: “He’s black and white people won’t vote for him, but they’ll vote for me because of my skin color.”

    Please, Hillary, drop out now before you do any more damage to your reputation – or to America.

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