Tina K. Russell

March 15, 2008

Demography ≠ Democracy

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: , , — Tina Russell @ 5:05 pm

Can Democrats Stop Their Squabbling? – New York Times

To the Editor:

“Racial Issue Bubbles Up Again for Democratic Campaigns” (front page, March 13) states, “Mrs. Clinton’s advisers and former President Bill Clinton suggested that black candidates like Mr. Obama had done well in South Carolina because of support among African-Americans there.”

The verb “suggest” is very odd here. Of course Barack Obama did well in South Carolina in part because of overwhelming support from black primary voters. This is a bald fact, not some cockamamie idea pushed by people with a pro-Hillary Clinton or racist agenda.

Mr. Obama’s race is indeed a large part of his appeal to voters of all colors. His image as new and different has everything to do with his race. Why is his candidacy historic? Because he’s black.

His image as a uniter rests largely on his multicultural roots; it certainly has little to do with his legislative record or his campaign tactics. Is it politically incorrect to say this? So be it.

Let’s have an honest discussion: that’s real progress and real respect.

Molly Powell
New York, March 13, 2008


(My response is after the jump)

Does she even realize that the primary results were not demographically polarized–that both candidates were competitive among women and blacks–before the Clinton campaign shamefully brought race into the discussion? I’m incensed at this idea that Barack Obama’s campaign is historic “because he’s black.” It’s historic also because he refused to allow identity politics into the discussion. He never ran on being black. He never banked on the black vote. He never wrote out states and he never discounted demographics. He ran for all America. I cannot possibly imagine how one could think that the secret of Obama’s charisma and success is his melanin. Hell, I think when most people look at Obama, they see the face of America, a nation of immigrants, the melting pot where the son of an immigrant from Kenya, raised in Hawaii by a single mother from Kansas, can become President of the Harvard Law Review and be frontrunner for the President of the United States. Obama may be a proud black man, but I don’t see how you could dismiss that as “he’s black.” Clearly, his race factors in because people are excited to see such an underdog go so far. However, I wish some Obama-skeptics would realize that maybe, just maaaaaaybe the reason he’s being successful is because his populist message resonates with people, not  because college students go ga-ga at that winning smile. Maybe, just maaaaaaybe (as with me), we heard about him, he sounded cool, looked up his issues and positions and compared them to the other candidates and read about their personal histories, and gradually fell into Obama’s corner… and got more and more excited the better he was doing.

The reason people were offended by Bill Clinton’s South Carolina remarks is because he seemed to dismiss the black vote, much as this letter-writer is doing. Bill compared Obama to Jesse Jackson, who ran explicitly on race issues and as the candidate of black America. But also, Obama’s campaign was always very disciplined on race and was depending on the elephant in the room of American identity politics to stay out of the way. Obama and Hillary were very competitive among black people, before South Carolina, because Obama was a fresh face that not all were sure of, and there was a genuine affection for the Clintons in black America and a sense that they were dependable stalwarts. Meanwhile, Obama and Hillary fought harshly over women as well, since both have their womanly appeal (mwwwawr). Because of America’s history of racial and sexual polarization, the Obama campaign was determined not to have the race be carved up along those lines. Hillary enthusiastically whipped out the carving knives and got to cutting America apart, banking that losing decades of black support and enthusiasm would be made up if she could get every woman in the country behind her. This poisonous Penn-Rove philosophy is exactly what Obama is and has been running against, and that’s a lot of what makes his candidacy so historic. (It’s also a generational shift… not in terms of age so much as the campaign’s changing tactics. Obama’s vast network of small donors, ones who will not reach their individual giving limits for some time, is crushing Hillary’s meager old-boy network, and his sophisticated ground game has spanked Hillary’s skeleton crew every time a state holds a caucus. The man is unstoppable, and it takes no small amount of leadership skill to run such a complex machine, skill which you can conveniently compare to his opponent’s campaign, which is barely holding together at the seams.)

It wasn’t until Hillary sent out the mean-spirited crack that what MLK really needed was a white man that the campaign became racially polarized. (The other factor, there, was that black people began to see how well, such as in Iowa, Obama was doing among whites, meaning he wouldn’t dissappoint in a general election, hardly an argument that Obama is running as “the black guy.”) It wasn’t until Hillary began peddling a woe-is-me line, an outdated and frankly irritating school of thought that says women are inherently weak and feminism is about whining until men cannot take it any more and change, that she started banking on the women vote. Obama’s campaign relied on leaving untouched the issue of identity, and Hillary’s campaign has molested it like a body pillow. Once Hillary brought out the ugly issue of race, it could not be put back, and that in itself was a defeat for Obama and his message of hope.

It bugs me greatly to hear that Obama is somehow the “black candidate” and is relying on support from “students” and “activists” to propel him to the white house, as though a multicultural horde is messing up our nice, white, suburban backyard picnic of a nomination process. What’s remarkable about Obama is that he’s won culturally divergent states. He’s won Iowa and Hawaii, Washington and Nebraska, Connecticut and Virginia, South Carolina and Alaska, Wyoming and Vermont… it all makes the caricature of him as the candidate of latte-sipping intellectuals absurd on its face. The only area where he’s underperformed has been a select few of “the big states” that are Democratic strongholds, and would go for either candidate. A candidate with the potential, according to state-by-state polls, to turn red states blue–to put Virginia in play, for crying out loud–has serious electability credentials. And when the same polls give Hillary either a slim victory or a crushing defeat against McCain, it’s time to reconsider her “electability” line.

The time is now to heal from America’s sharp divisions, and Hillary’s slice-and-dice campaign isn’t helping. We need to move from a Karl Rove divide-and-conquer strategy to a Howard Dean fifty-state strategy (the one that brought us victory in 2006). The choice for the job is clearly not one who writes off entire sections of the population in hopes of winning others by appealing to demography. It’s sad to note that, while the candidate with a father from Kenya appeals to a sense of a shared cause and humanity, his opponent is running on a platform of receding back into the kind of deadly tribalism that has brought Kenya to its knees.

Hillary Clinton won’t win. But, she can do a lot of damage as she goes down. And, as an American woman, I hope the rest of the world doesn’t see her when they think of us.


  1. Obama needs Clinton, Clinton needs Obama

    If Clinton and Obama want to behave responsibly to make sure one of them actually makes it to the White House, they both need to stop flinging dirt at each other. Here’s the way to make that happen:

    Both publicly pledge that if are nominated for President, the other candidate will be their first choice for the Vice Presidential spot.

    This immediately puts a stop to personal attacks or calling their rival’s ability into question – you don’t dis you choice for second-in-command.

    They can and should debate the issues and clarify their differences. But they are now free to direct their shared anger and outrage where it belongs, at Bush’s policies, and at the policies of the man endorsed by Bush.

    For either Obama or Clinton to win his fall, he or she needs to lead a unified party. And this requires the enthusiastic support of the other.

    Clinton needs Obama, Obama needs Clilnton. That’s just the way it is.

    Obama-Clinton, Clinton-Obama – either “dream team” is McCain’s worst nightmare. Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama can make that nightmare a reality for him now.

    Comment by Robert Rickover — March 16, 2008 @ 4:40 am

  2. Fox news wants to talk about that they are fair and balanced, but in reality they are not. To talk about the rest of the media is avoiding talking about the pastor of Obama and try everything they can to make Obama (A Half Black/ Half white person) to be a black suppressor. But if they want to talk about the media avoiding, why are they avoiding to talk about the case that Hillary Clinton has in November with Peter Paul? The news was all over it when they didn’t have evidence on the Peter Paul case, but as soon he came out with recorded tapes and so much evidence that could put Hillary Clinton in jail for 5 years, the media chicken out. Not everybody in Fox News is unfair, even Bill O’ Reilly said the media itself was corrupted.

    Hillary and Bill Clinton have made a significant issue about how the press is treating Hillary unfairly in their hyper-critical reporting on her and their “softball” reporting on Barak Obama. Hillary maintains she has been fully investigated by the media and Barak hasn’t!

    As the Tony Rezko trial begins in Chicago, Clinton and her surrogates are linking Obama to Rezko and the media is speculating about whether Obama will be called to testify as a witness in the case. Obama has always admitted he received $85,000 in contributions from Rezko which Obama has now donated to charity rather than keep.

    Yet the civil fraud trial of Bill Clinton for defrauduing Hillary’s largest donor in 2000 into giving her campaign more than $1.2 million, pending in Los Angeles courts since 2003, is now preparing for a November, 2008 trial. The discovery that is now proceeding after a February 21 hearing, and the pending trial, have NEVER been announced by the mainstream media.

    Hillary was able to extricate herself as a co-defendant in the case in January, 2008 after years of appeals to be protected by the First Amendment from tort claims arising out of federal campaign solicitations she made. Her abuse of the intent of California’s anti-SLAPP law after the California Supreme Court refused to dismiss her from the case in 2004 is emblematic of her contempt for the Rule of Law.

    Hillary will be called as a witness in both discovery and the trial according to the trial court Judge who so-advised Hillary’s attorney David Kendall when he dismissed Hillary as a co-defendant in 2007. A subpoena is being prepared this month and will be served personally on Hillary, along with Chelsea, Pa Gov. Ed Rendell, Al Gore and other well known political and media figures.

    Yet the media has refused to report about this landmark civil fraud case- brought by Hillary’s biggest 2000 donor to her Senate race, regarding allegations that were corroborated by the Department of Justice in the criminal trial of Hillary’s finance director David Rosen in May, 2005. That indictment and trial was credited as resulting from the civil suit’s allegations by Peter Paul, the Hollywood dot com millionaire Bill Clinton convinced to donate more than $1.2 million (according to the DOJ prosecutors and the FBI) to Hillary’s Senate campaign as part of a post White House business deal with Bill.

    The media – except for World Net Daily- has also suspiciously refused to report on Hillary’s last FEC report regarding her 2000 Senate campaign, filed in January 30, 2006. In a secret settlement of an FEC complaint by the plaintiff in Paul v Clinton, Peter Paul, the FEC fined Hillary’s campaign $35,000 for hiding more than $720,000 in donations from Paul, and it required Hillary’s campaign to file a 4th amended FEC report.

    In that report Hillary and her campaign again hid Paul’s $1.2 million contribution to her campaign and falsely attributed $250,000 as being donated by Paul’s partner, Spider Man creator Stan Lee, who swore in a video taped deposition he never gave Hillary or her campaign any money.

    Lee did testify to trading $100,000 checks with Paul to make it appear he gave $100,000 to Hillary’s campaign (admission of a felony) but none of that has been reported by the “overly critical” media!

    Where is the outrage from Obama that the press is engaging in a double standard relating to his possible role in the Rezko trial and his refunding the $85,000 contributed to his campaign by Rezko- which Obama has always admitted taking. The media makes no mention of Hillary’s role as a witness in Bill’s fraud trial for defrauding Hillary’s largest donor- and Hillary’s refusal to refund the $1.2 million she illegally received from Paul, which she has denied taking from Paul ever since the Washington Post asked her about Paul and his felony convictions from the 1970’s before her first Senate election in 2000?

    Check out http://www.Hillcap.org for proof of Hillary Clinton commiting crimes. The evidence that could have put Hillary Clinton in jail for 5 years.

    Comment by Pedro — March 16, 2008 @ 8:50 am

  3. On the idea of a Clinton-Obama “dream ticket,” I’m honestly skeptical. Clinton _would_ need Obama to balance out her negatives, but Obama would hardly want to _add_ negatives to his own by adding such a liability to the ticket. People nervous at the prospect of Hillary putting a new presidential dynasty in place would not be soothed by the idea that she’d merely be a heartbeat away from the presidency, or the traditional nominee of Obama served two terms.

    The whole problem with Hillary is her truckloads of baggage, and the thought of bringing the endless Clinton soap opera back into the White House… and her polarizing presence as a divide-and-conquer politician. Such concerns would hardly be abated by shifting her to the number two slot.

    Comment by tinarussell — March 16, 2008 @ 2:49 pm

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