Thursday, May 08, 2008

The Bitter End

From a USA Today article with the dogged but deluded also-ran (those are the AP's words), Hillary Clinton:
"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."

As Kos says:
How is that not race-baiting?

Are African Americans not hard working? Are Americans with college degrees not hard working? And this obsession with race!

Kos also has two posts that dispute that notion quite well, here and here.

Mrs. F just stated for the record that she's lost all respect for Senator Clinton. It's sad for me to say it, but she and her husband, a man who I vociferously defended for the larger part of a decade, are now dead to me.

[ADDENDUM] Even Joe Conason, another staunch defender of the Clintons, has had enough in his weekly Salon column:
Citing an Associated Press analysis "that found how Senator 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," she went on to say: "There's a pattern emerging here."

There is indeed a pattern emerging -- and it is a pattern that must dismay everyone who admires the Clintons and has defended them against the charge that they are exploiting racial divisions.

As Sean Wilentz and others have argued, there was no ugly subtext to her innocuous remark about the different roles of Martin Luther King Jr. and Lyndon Baines Johnson in the civil rights crusade, although several prominent Obama supporters promoted that smear. And if Bill Clinton's comparison of Obama and Jesse Jackson was badly timed and clumsy, that too fell within the bounds of acceptable commentary. Indeed, the discussion of ethnic and racial voting preferences is not only fair but unavoidable and utterly mundane in American politics.

But this time she violated the rhetorical rules, no doubt by mistake. It was her offhand reference to "working, hard-working Americans, white Americans" that raises the specter of old Dixie demagogues like Wallace and Lester Maddox. Was she dog-whistling to the voters of Kentucky and West Virginia?

While I still cannot believe she actually intended any such nefarious meaning, she seemed to be equating "hard-working Americans" with "white Americans." Which is precisely what Wallace and his cohort used to do with their drawling refrain about welfare and affirmative action. This is the grating sound of Richard Nixon's Southern strategy, even though Tricky Dick would never quite stoop to saying such things in public.


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