Monday, January 21, 2008

Obama, Clinton and Race

"In just the last month or two, you've had Clinton's New Hampshire co-chair, Bill Shaheen, bring up Obama's drug use (a highly racially charged subject, of course),"

What the hell are you talking about? Seriously, what the hell are you talking about? To the best of my knowledge, Obama is the first serious presidential candidate to admit to anything stronger than marijuana use. To a large number of Americans, there's a major difference between smoking pot as a kid and doing anything stronger. At least, that's the CW. Just suppose it were a race between between Clinton and any other candidate and the other candidate admitted to cocaine use, don't you think some Clinton surrogate would try to use it as an attack poit (sic)? So, again, what the hell are you talking about?

Odd feeling, siccing oneself

I made the comment above at American Prospect and followed it with a lengthier comment at Oyster's. Part of it read:
Do white liberals ever talk to whites who will admit to some level of prejudice, but react ndignantly(self-sic, again) to accusations of out-and-out bigottry, i.e. the overwhelming majority of whites? One of the most popular (top 2 or 3) justifications for the degree of prejudice that they will admit to is what they see as unjustified cries of racism. I don't know what that excuses, but when something happens being a black person and a white person that would happen between two (white) people, cies (more self-siccing behavior) of racism do seem absurd. I said would, not possibly could -- think calling a lying bitch a bitch at a VCC meeting. That seems to have been the reaction to the Obama side of the Obama/Clinton dust-up, from a lot of center to center/right types who don't like Clinton.

I don't agree with the philosophical underpinnings of the reaction, but I certainly agree with some of the particulars.

There are reasons why I continue to dwell on this. For one thing, I'm amazed that seemingly intelligent people can not just assert, but state as indisputable fact that certain statements are clearly racist. It's obvious that Chris Matthews and Andrew Sullivan become thoroughly deranged when the subject of Hillary Clinton (or "the Clintons"*) comes up, but I was mystified that Matthew Yglesias seemed to agree with one of Sullivan's absurd charges:
"Yglesias and Marshall are quite busy not readying themselves to own up to the fact that one of their main candidates is using surrogates (in this case, a black surrogate, a fiendishly clever move) to peddle the charge of cocaine use to scare off the white women. Period. That’s what she’s doing."

WTF? A Clinton supporter brings up something that Obama wrote about in his own book, so it must have been done to scare white women? I don't get it, but a lot of people who aren't affiliated with the Obama campaign, and who aren't named Chris Matthews or Andrew Sullivan, seem to agree.

I can only come up with one explanation for the difference in viewpoint:
Until race got injected, I thought that Obama might be the most electable, because the press hates Edwards and Clinton. Well, I can't imagine the press portrayal of Edwards as a phony hurting him against Romney. Now, I'm afraid that Obama supporters have raised his negatives to the point that Edwards might be the most electable. I don't care who started it, Obama supporters don't seem to know that there are two ways of analyzing whether a statement is racist:

1. A statement IS racist if it contains racist stereotypes.
2. A statement IS NOT racist if a white person would say it about another white person.

More importantly, Obama supporters don't seem to realize that most white people (IMO almost all white people who aren't walking parodies of liberal guilt or else academic/media types) object to 1 when 2 is applicable; they don't just disagree, they object.

Sorry to get pedantic, but it took me a long time to find words for the only explanation I could come up for the inanity that I heard from a lot of seemingly intelligent people. I'm liberal enough to be aware that statement 2 isn't always statement 2; it's often a rationalization that should read, "might possibly say about another white person." But let's get real, Obama mentioned cocaine use in his own book -- any white politician would have attempted to use it against any other white politician. Throw in a deliberate distortion of Bill Clinton's fairy tale statement -- to try to make it sound racist-- and Obama supporters have succeeded in raising his negatives to a comparable level with Clinton's. The irony is that a lot of it was done by media types who loathe Clinton and love Obama.

It could use some polishing, but I just copied something that I added to a group email about Obama because I'm lazy, and I have a reason to bring up the group email.

My point is not to debate whether condition 2 from the email always outweighs condition 1, but what most voters think. Personally, I think that it's rarely clear cut, but when it really is something that a white person really would say about another white person, it's usually a fair statement to make. I also think that most voters would agree with me. And to say that the Clinton camp wouldn't try to make an issue out of admitted cocaine use by a white front-runner is a fairy tale.

Unjustified cries of racism from Obama supporters won't keep me from voting for him (at this point, I'm voting for Edwards next month and the Democrat in November), but I've heard strong negative reactions from white people that I didn't think had even started paying attention to the presidential election. Of the two that immediately come to mind, one may well have been looking for an excuse not to vote for a black candidate, but I seriously doubt it in the other case. If Obama gets the nomination, the Republicans will be every bit as willing to play hardball as the Clinton campaign. If his supporters cry "racism" every time it gets heated, they will cost Obama the election.

The group email that I mentioned is potentially scary for Democrats, but that will have to wait; I doubt many readers have gotten this far anyway.

Just to be clear, I have no doubt that the Clinton campign would be smart enough to try draw Obama into negative campaigning -- of course, they started that. But I seriously doubt that they'd be stupid enough to try turn it into a racially divisive campaign; that would weaken clinton's position too much in November.

Update:
We have, depending on how you interpret the events of the last couple of weeks, the exploitation of racial divisions and suspicions (including multiple Clinton surrogates criticizing Obama for his admitted teenage drug use).
Paul Waldman

In the comments, Oyster wrote:
Billy Shaheen aired all kinds of speculation about what Republicans might say or do in November, intentionally throwing out the query about whether Obama "sold drugs" in his past. Now, there's no evidence of that, and I believe the "selling" angle violates principle #2-- a white candidate probably wouldn't introduce that specific charge.

To which I replied:
Oyster, you state the case better than anybody I've read or heard. I'm not just talking about the lunatics (Sullivan and Matthews), but almost everyone I've heard on TV and even Ezra Klein and Matthew Yglesias make it seem as if any mention of Obama's admitted drug use is racist. I don't think that one question out of many crossed the line, but I can see where it's debatable. The pro-Obama cry babies were far broader in their complaints than you were. In a general election, I can imagine the discussion changing to something along the lines of , "is it racist to bring up a subject that Obama mentions in his own book?"

I wasn't being facetious, Oyster could teach some of these big time liberals a thing or two. Crying racism for something that Obama wrote about himself will backfire in a general election. If Obama gets the nomination, the Republicans will do every thing they can to provoke dubious cries of racism. Sorry, if you leave out the question about selling drugs, rule 2 clearly applies.


*Is it all one word: THECLINTONS? I hate that construction, but I wouldn't make any generalized comparisons. "The Bushes" or "The clintons" or "The Landrieus" or "The Kennedys" -- all attempts to dehumanize or demonize.

Comments:
First, I think it's false to assert that "Obama's supporters have raised his negatives as high as the Clinton's".

link

Second, I agree the Fairy Tale thing was intentionally contorted by Obama, much like Clinton contorted his comment about Reagan.

Third, the "Clinton supporter" did more than "bring up something that Obama wrote about in his own book". Billy Shaheen aired all kinds of speculation about what Republicans might say or do in November, intentionally throwing out the query about whether Obama "sold drugs" in his past. Now, there's no evidence of that, and I believe the "selling" angle violates principle #2-- a white candidate probably wouldn't introduce that specific charge.

Fourth, have you noticed a pattern about what happens to Hillary surrogates when they introduce this issue? Shaheen had to step down from the Hillary campaign. Hill's manager Mark Penn was brutalized in the blogosphere after he intentionally raised the "cocaine" issue in a backhanded manner during a tv interview. link

When Mr Johnson of BET referred to Obama "doing who knows what in the neighborhood", there was a backlash, Hillary conceded that the comments crossed the line, and Johnson was forced to apologize, even after he tried to "explain it away" (unconvincingly).

Every time someone has raised the coke issue, it has backfired. And you can bet that the next time someone does it, it will backfire on them, too.

Why is this the case, given that Obama is the "first serious pres candidate to admit to anything stronger" than pot? Well, first of all-- he admitted it a long time ago. There's no scandalous discovery to it. Obama can dismiss it as old news, and criticize opponents for engaging in the politics of personal destruction, whereas he's trying to get beyond that... blah blah blah.

I think after Clinton, and after Bush, the "CW" has changed a bit. Clinton's "inhale" soap opera is not something people are eager to relive. And Bush basically admitted to being an alcoholic until he was almost 40, but he found Jeebus and is all better now. That's probably more alarming than a teenager trying coke a few times. People are older now. The boomers are becoming retirees, and I don't think they are more willing to give a pass to all sorts of youthful indiscretions one did as a young adult-- especially as a teenager.

Let's be honest, a lot of people will give Obama a pass because of white guilt, and because they have an unconscious stereotype in their head that assumes most black men are exposed to coke at some point and try it. But, his admission of his youthful transgression, and his subsequent success as a lawyer and in politics, gives guilty whites an invitation to "forgive" or "look beyond" his indiscretion. There's a lot of Political Correctness going on here, and I think the media is much more geared towards assisting a "backlash" against someone who brings up the drug use, than anything else. There are not a lot of MSM journalists who want to torpedo an African-American Presidential candidate by pushing an old cocaine story, especially if it would benefit Hillary.

Obama's campaign has tried to create the narrative that he is above the politics of division-- yes, the GOP will use a dirty underground campaign to smear him on the coke thing, but when anyone in a rival GOP campaign brings it up explicitly or publicly-- and they will, they can't help themselves-- they will be severely punished by the backlash (possibly excessively and unfairly).

Especially since Obama dealt with the drug thing in his book, and now it was raised in the primaries... if it is raised in the GE campaign, it will appear as a dirty and desperate and perhaps racist attempt to resurrect "old news" as a racist appeal. Such a play feeds into the stereotype that if you scratch a Gooper, you'll find a racist underneath.

Obama's calm, thoughtful, professorial, inclusive tone also greatly defuses the potency of this "issue".

Sorry for the long, poorly written ramble. Hope it is clear enough.
 
This sentence in the above comment should read "The boomers are becoming retirees, and I DO think they are more willing to give a pass to all sorts of youthful indiscretions..."
 
I agree that most people would care more about how young a candidate was when he fooled around with drugs and whether he ever developed a serious problem than what drug he used -- at least when it comes to cocaine and marijuana. But cocaine use is less common than marijuana use, so I would expect any campaign to probe for weakness. We'll certainly see more of it if Obama gets the nomination.

The Clinton campaign has backed away because it's worried about what will play in Democratic primaries and it needs to be careful about alienating too many black voters if it gets the nomination. Like I said, Clinton's calculation may well have been that she wins if both sides go negative, but she doesnt race turned into an issue.

You're right Shaheen raised all kinds of speculation about what Republicans might do. How many independent voters would find one question out of several objectionable enough to justify charges of racism? I don't know. The media, which likes Obama a lot more than Clinton, went along with Obama charges. The Clinton camp folded, Republicans (who don't need black votes) won't. They'll debate whether some question is inherently racist. Such a debate would certainly energize the Democratic base, but it might well depress vote among independent white voters who are fed up after eight years of Bush.

I didn't ask the couple of people that I talked to what charges of racism turned them off. I don't know if they were specifically talking about the absurd fairy tale or the drug issue. More likely, it was a general impression. Admittedly, one was probably looking for an excuse to not vote for Obama, but I don't think the other was. It seems like I heard similar comments from more than two people, but I can only think of two specifically. Obama will need to be careful if he gets the nomination. Democrats can't let blatant racism go unchallenged, but cavalier charges charges of racism will hurt them. I think it was cavalier in both the fairy tale and cocaine case.
 
First of all, Oyster writes:

Billy Shaheen aired all kinds of speculation about what Republicans might say or do in November, intentionally throwing out the query about whether Obama "sold drugs" in his past. Now, there's no evidence of that, and I believe the "selling" angle violates principle #2-- a white candidate probably wouldn't introduce that specific charge.

Uhhh did you listen to the Limbaugh show during the Clinton years? Bill's half-admitted pot-smoking became all sorts of sordid fantastical stories of drug-running and, yes, cocaine dealing in Rush's various "cartoon" segments. The exact same kind of thing will be rolled out in force against Obama and worse.

I think David is essentially correct in how the racial dynamics will play. The greater electoral backlash will be against the perceived police than against the racial attacks (which will be practically unrelenting and ugly).

But here's the most ominous thing about all of this. As much as I dislike Obama, if he is the nominee and faces this sort of ugliness, I will be the angriest, loudest, most motivated Obama supporter out there. And that more than anything else is an indication of how weak a candidate you're looking at in the general election.
 
Again, sorry. The first link in my comment was supposed to go here.
 
Thanks for fixing that link. Unfortunately that article only tells me what I already know... which is Hillary is probably even more "unelecatable" than Obama.
 
You're always worried about the devastating backlash, Jeffrey.

Yes, I remember 92 vividly. I was obsessed with that campaign. I'd been convinced that Clinton would be the next president after watching him give a tort reform speech on C-Span with Dan Quayle in MAY of 1991.

The reason CLinton's pot "admission" was so effective was because it played into the narrative that Bill always wanted to have things both ways, and would say anything in order to win an election.

Rush was also arguably at the peak of his effectiveness during the Clinton years, and his coke/Mena airport/Gennifer Flowers stories still didn't work. (Mainly because the Big Dawg was such a political genius on the campaign trail in '92 .)

This time around, I'm HIGHLY dubious that oxy-Rush is going to spend a lot of time pimping coke stories about a teenage Obama. (If Obama has provably used since his teenage years, though, he's in a world of shit.)

There will no doubt be an intensification of the underground GOP campaign to scare people about Obama. I'm sure that it will incorporate his coke admission. But I don't see it as feeding into a popular narrative about Obama, and when surrogates raise the "issue" in public, I'm convinced it will largely backfire on them.

Obama's ability to overcome his teenage transgression also helpfully feeds into an assumption made by many whites that black men need only personal responsibility and hard work to lift themselves out of addiction (or unemployment or criminal behavior). He's a good "example" in that sense.

And if Jeffrey becomes the "angriest, loudest, most motivated Obama supporter out there", I will eat my hat.
 
Lots of strange assumptions in there, though. For one, Rush may be (slightly) less relevant but Hannity, O'Reilly, etc. are less so and just as likely to spread the kind of crap I think we're all anticipating.

As for your view of the white patrician's willingness to forgive the transgressions of a penitent negro.... well that only goes so far and honestly sounds more like a description of how a "guilty" white Yuppie Leftist might react than an actual conservative to center-right white voter.
 
Oh for God's sake. When they finally brought out one of W's DUI's, it seemed to not affect him or his stats at all, and the "they planted this and waited until now to report it" backlash may have actually helped W.

Same thing here. If anybody tries to say Obama has recently been playing with nose candy, they'll get their hand spanked.

Although, with any luck, all of this bickerfest will play into the hands of Edwards.
 
Well Ashley, Bush isn't just a church-goer, he's a born-again conservative. Also, he didn't write about his DUI, so it didn't come until the election, that backlash wouldn't occur here. Anyway, i don't think the cocaine use will hurt Obama, but I'm convinced that cries of racism (in response to drug innuendos) will.

Oyster, you state the case better than anybody I've read or heard. I'm not just talking about the lunatics (Sullivan and Matthews), but almost everyone I've heard on TV and even Ezra Klein and Matthew Yglesias make it seem as if any mention of Obama's admitted drug use is racist. I don't think that one question out of many crossed the line, but I can see where it's debatable. The pro-Obama cry babies were far broader in their complaints than you were. In a general election, I can imagine the discussion changing to something along the lines of , "is it racist to bring up a subject that Obama mentions in his own book?"

My thesis is a simple, most white Americans will admit to some degree of racial prejudice. I also think that most vary between feeling guilty about it and aware of the need to overcome it, to feeling somehow justified and/or to feeling guiltily defensive to feeling angrily defensive about it. Overdone cries of racism will bring out the defensive reaction from people who otherwise try to get beyond their own prejudice.

In an academic setting (or even the workplace), what I'm saying might be excuse making or blaming the victim, but this is a campaign for president. Leave the hunt for new code words to the academics, it will lose an election.
 
"We have, depending on how you interpret the events of the last couple of weeks, the exploitation of racial divisions and suspicions (including multiple Clinton surrogates criticizing Obama for his admitted teenage drug use)."
Paul Waldman in American Prospect

Racial prejudice in America is the exact opposite of pregnancy -- almost everybody is at least a little bit prejudiced. Let's assume Obama gets the nomination, the election will be decided by people who fall somewhere between the total bigots and the "trying not to be prejudiced." How racial issues are handled will determine who gets that vote. If Republicans cross too many lines, they'll lose. If Democrats claim that Republicans have crossed lines that most people can't see, they'll lose.
 
At the very least, Democrats better be able to explain every charge of racism. Don't just assume undecided voters see it where you do, Matthew Y, Ezra K. and Paul W.
 
Post a Comment



<< Home

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?

Old Favorites
  • Political Boxing (untitled)
  • Did Bush Take His Ball and Go Home
  • Teratogens and Plan B
  • Foghorn Leghorn Republicans
  • BayouBias.com
  • Quote of the Day
  • October's News(Dec.1)
  • untitled, Nov.19 (offshore revenue)
  • Remember Upton Sinclair
  • Oct. Liar of thr month
  • Jindal's True Colors
  • No bid contracts