Back in Februrary Barack Obama gave a speech about race that some called his Lincoln Moment. At the time,I called it Obama's "I am not a crook" moment since it was more than anything else, an attempt to deflect attention from his 17 year relationship with Wright and to seek political absolution for his failure to disassociate himself with Wright's racially inflammatory and divisive views.
Of course Obama eventually did cut his ties to Wright. The candidate who has campaigned as the one with the judgement to be ready on day one, cut his ties to Wright but it took till day 6,205 to do it.
And given what we know about Michele Obama's views on race, another reason he might not have disassociated himself with Wright for 17 years is that Obama didn't want to sleep on the couch. When you listen to Wright and recall MIchelle Obama's statement that it took Obama winning the Iowa caucus for her to be proud of the United States for the first time in her life, you can clearly see a connection between Wright's views and her own beliefs. And one could assume there havent been too many fights over the kitchen table about Wright's anti-American, ant-white, anti-Semetic sermons. So divisive views on race have been there for a long time. And despite anything Obama says publicly to the contrary, some of these views may be his own. Or at least partly his own.
When I called Obama's speech his "I am not a crook moment" I also didn't realize at the time how prophetic the comparison with Nixon was going to be since Obama has turned out to be one of the most divisive political figures since Nixon.The candidate who said he has this great talent for unifying people, a talent that shows up nowhere in his past, has created more divisiveness in the Democratic party than any figure in history.But the issue that has caused one of the most serious divisions is the one that Obama himself has created over race.
The people who were dazzled by Obama;'s speech on race and saw him as some kind of unifying figure were, of course, the same people who gushed over Bush's case for going to war in Iraq, the people who called Bush's case, "compelling", and "a slam dunk". This was the speech that the news media praised for its profundity, honesty and sincerity, the speech where Obama said he could no sooner disown Jeremiah Wright than he could disown a member of his own family which might give his wife and children something to worry about.
But the issue of race that the Obama candidacy was in the process of erasing, which started to bubble underneath the surface, has started to boil over largely because Obama has been the one stirring the cauldron.
Clinton didn't help with her "hard working white people" comment but its indicative of how the issue of race, and race baiting by Obama and his campaign has poisoned the atmosphere to the point where someone who was out registering black voters 35 years ago and who has long standing ties to the African American community is now talking about "white people"
Most of the dishonest and biased press supporting Obama's candidacy are going to jump on Clinton because it fuels their biased pro Obama agenda and it also lets them feel good about themselves and show how un-racist and forward thinking they are. So they will use her remarks to further poison the atmosphere and create deeper racial divides in the service of an Obama candidacy ( this from the people who have accused Clinton of doing anything to win). But its an atmosphere poisoned by Obama almost from the beginning with his wife's remarks after Iowa,, his subsequent tactics, and whether anyone likes it or not, 17 years of Jeremiah Wright.
Race has always played a role from the beginning, either notable by its absence in Obama's victory in the Iowa caucus and mostly white mid west caucus states, or notably present in getting 90% of the African American vote. Unless you believe that one ethnic group has suddenly acquired a monopoly on wisdom,about half of the 90% of African Americans voting for him were voting for him because of skin color, the same reason their grandparents couldn't use white restrooms
Which means that half the African American community and everyone else, black or white, who has voted for or supported a candidate simply based on race, has decided to take everything Martin Luther King took a bullet for and throw it out the window.
King's most enduring comment was, "I dream of a day when a man will be judged on the content of his character and not the color of his skin".That idea has been discarded by supporters of Obama both black and white who have been trying to promote the idea that having a black President is a good reason to vote for him regardless of anything else.
In support of this idea we have had racially condescending articles by Besty Reed and Richard Kim in The Nation which has tried to blame Clinton for playing the race card in South Carolina when it was clearly Obama who played it. Kim's article even accuses the 60% of white voters that are voting for Clinton of being racist while at the same time ignoring the 90% of the African American vote going to Obama.
Anything that treats African Americans differently than anyone else, or applies a different set of standards is racially condescending. And while I can understand that many African Americans might want to vote for Obama out of a sense of racial pride, that doesn't excuse it either. Voting for him because of the color of his skin is as insidious as voting against him for the same reason.
There is only one reason to vote for him and that is if you think he is the better more qualified candidate. And Im sure that is why half the 90% of African Americans who have voted for him did so. But race and race alone is what accounts for the other half though there are still African Americans supporting Clinton because they think she is the better candidate and they are not lacking in any pride for their heritiage.
That there are so many in the press promoting Obama as a candidate soley on race( Andrew Sullivan to name one), and that many are voting for him solely on race and that the atmosphere has become poisoned over race, is largely Obama's fault. He has created these divisions in the service of his own political ambitions. It's been Obama and his campaign that has cynically tried to exploit race, Clinton's recent ill advised remarks notwithstanding. If Clinton had wanted to exploit race she would have done it before this.
It was Obama who played the race card in South Carolina, And while I have no proof of this, I can see Congressman Clyburn's fingerprints are all over it. Clyburn is a savvy politician. In fact it will take Obama the rest of his life to learn what Clyburn has already forgotten. Clinton's comments that it took an LBJ to get the civil rights act passed, the act that King had fought, and ultimately died for was right on every count. King succeeded in mobilizing not just African Americans but the conscience of the country and brought it to the point where the shame that was racism couldn't be tolerated anymore. But it still took a President like Johnson who understood the workings of Congress, who knew how to flatter when necessary, arm twist when necessary, threaten when necessary, make promises when necessary or give warnings when necessary, and generally, to paraphrase Malcom X, use any means necessary, to get the white southern members of congress of both parties who stood in the way to finally pass the bill. To give you a small idea of the resistance Johnson faced in congress to the 1964 Civil Rights Act, one of the congressman who voted against it was George HW Bush, a fellow Texan, and someone who everyone considers a decent man.
But Obama ( or was it Clyburn?) saw an opening. And he tried to do to Clinton what Bush did to John Kerry with his "insulting the troops" fiasco, to take Clintons statement about LBJ and twist its meaning , accusing her statement as diminishing and devaluing King's work and his legacy. And he did it for no other reason than to try to drive a wedge between Clinton and the African American community in South Carolina.
The accusation was absurd and it had more in common with the tactics of a Nixon than Martin Luther King. South Carolina was important to Obama. It was a state with an African American population that was the largest in the country. More than 55% of voters were African American and the Clintons had long standing ties to the African American community. To drive a wedge between the Clintons and African Americans was the kind of strategy you'd expect from Karl Rove. Or Richard Nixon.But this is what Mr. Unity did. And it worked.
Unfortunately Clinton's response to Obama's attacks at the time was as tepid as Kerry's. What she should have done was drag Obama out into the street and have it out with him over his remarks that her comments were "unfortunate and misinformed" and his insidiously playing the race card. She should have made a major issue over the fact that it was he who was misinformed and that it was unfortunate that he would try and make such a dishonest accusation that he knew wasn't true to try and cause racial divisions for nothing more than his own political purposes. She should have stood up to him, used her ties of 35 years to the African American community as proof, and pointed out that when he was a child she was going door to door registering African Americans to vote before she ever asked anyone for a single vote for herself.
Maybe if she had taken on the issue of race and Obama's race baiting a the time it wouldn't have surfaced the way it did the other day. And she certainly would not have done any worse with the African American community in terms of votes and probably a lot better.
But she didn't do it, largely because she allowed herself to be put back on her heels, because she has been getting horrible political advice from the beginning and because a biased media was feeding the storm for the sake of their own bias and political agenda, something Clinton voters resented and that is not going to go away if Obama gets the nomination.
The other racial incident coming out of South Carolina was Obama surrogates and the press accusing Bill Clinton of denigrating Obama's victory by comparing it to Jesse Jackson's( I wonder how Jackson feels about that?). In fact, Bill Clinton was denigrating the press ( the one group in this country who deserves to be denigrated) who were acting like Obama's landslide win was somehow indicative of the mood of the entire country. He didn't make his point forcefully enough but he was right, Jackson did win primaries in South Carolina and the win needed to be put in perspective but this was clearly a case of the press being too stupid to know they were being called stupid.
Obama's qualifications ( or lack of) have all but been lost in dealing with the issue of race, especially in the press who views any attack on Obama ( an attack being anything that seeks to show him as the less qualified candidate) as "taking the low road", the code for exploiting race.
So the best way to deal Obama's qualifications is to take race out of it completely. And the best way to do that is to imagine this: Imagine a Presidential race between Barack Obama and Colin Powell. I know. Youre probably laughing already. Or at least smiling. In a scenario like that, the Democrats would be snickered at all over the world for sending out a candidate as unqualified and as unprepared as Obama to go up against someone with the gravitas, experience, respect, ability, grasp of the workings of government, world view, and last but least, accomplishment, of a Colin Powell. The late night joke would be that the Democrats have found another way to lose an election. And race would have nothing to do with it.
Clinton is not Powell. But there is still not a thing in Barack Obama's life that shows he could even remotely handle the single most important job in the world. And the press and Obama himself has tried to create an atmosphere where even questioning that makes it an issue of race. After all wasnt it Jesse Jackson Jr. who was reported to be calling up African American super delegates who had declared for Clinton and asking them " do you want to be the one to stand in the way of the first black President"? Many were intimidated enough to switch.
There is now a concern among some in the Democratic party that Obama might use race as a way to threaten or intimidate other super delegates to vote for him, to propagate the fear that if he is not given the nomination both his supporters and members of the press will cry "racism". Dick Morris went so far as to write that Obama supporters would riot, and start throwing chairs in the convention center in Denver if Obama didn't get the nomination (very respectful, Dick) Morris of course is a Clinton hater who predicted an Obama win in the California primary which Clinton won by 15 points and its obvious that he has no compunction about stirring up the racial cauldron ( in a most racist way I might add -- Im sure every African American who read Morris' piece would prefer he keep his mouth shut).
Obama's campaign has been trying to play the expectations game, attempting, from a public relations point of view, to make it look like the nomination is already his,obviously hoping to intimidate super delegates into accepting it as a reality and that if he doesn't get it Obama and his supporters will claim the reason is racial (his wife certainly will) and they are warning that this would cause untold damage to the Democratic party.
Like everything else Barack Obama has claimed, it's the opposite that's true,
If super delegates ignore the true results of the primaries ( by not including Florida and Michigan) the party will come apart at the seams if Clinton wins the popular vote and Obama gets the nomination. And it will be divided in ways it hasnt seen since 1968. It will also create divisions and damage to the party it will not recover from for years. It will also guarantee a McCain landslide in the fall since Obama will get no support from Clinton voters who will feel robbed. Most Clinton voters as it is, resent the bullying, race baiting and divisive tactics of the Obama campaign and the grotesque media bias that has accompanied it. If 50% of Clinton voters are telling pollsters they will never vote for Obama you can bet that 75% are thinking it and probably 90% will act on it.
Super delegates have an obligation in an election this close to honor the will of the voters. (as of now Clinton trails Obama in the popular vote by 0.56% counting the popular votes of Florida and Michigan and with the approximately 70 delegates she netted in both states, Obama's delegate lead is 99 with 215 still up for grabs and 200 super delegates still to decide, which makes the calls for Clinton to get out and Obama's plan to declare victory on May 20th even more outrageous and repugnant to Clinton voters)
Super delegates who want to win in November also have to take into account the byzantium way the Democrats award delegates in a system where Obama received more than 600 delegates in states he lost to Clinton by landslide margins, and make a decision. Without regard to race.And without regards to threats.
If super delegates let themselves be intimidated and give the nomination to Obama when the primary results show he was not the true will of the people the Democrats can look forward to a moment at the convention when the candidate takes the podium, the balloons are released, the confetti comes down and half the Democratic party including all of Clinton's delegates, will get up and walk out. And they will not be back in the fall. The election at that moment will be over.It will also give the networks one hell of an interesting shot. On that no one is going to forget..
The point of Martin Luther King's life and his death is that race isnt supposed to matter. It is going to be up to super delegates to make that a reality and put an end to Obama's uncivil war. And once that happens the Reconstruction can begin.