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Hillary Clinton’s suicidal gamble / race poison

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May 11, 2008

Hillary Clinton’s suicidal gamble with race poison

From the very beginning, the premise and the promise of Barack Obama’s campaign was that it would transcend race. And last autumn the Obama team also knew this was the only way it could win.

The Clinton brand among black voters was so strong, so unbreakable, so resilient a force that even the first credible black candidate for the presidency remained stuck 20-30% behind Hillary Clinton among African-American voters. She was, after all, the wife of the “first black president”, as the author Toni Morrison called Bill.

She had almost all the black political establishment behind her. Her husband, from his days in Arkansas during the civil rights movement, had forged a deep, durable bond with black America. And Obama’s only hope as a young insurgent was in winning a surprise victory in Iowa or New Hampshire, where black votes were close to nonexistent.

A biracial man reared by one white mother and two white grandparents knew that his ability to touch and inspire white voters was his greatest strength. Especially among younger voters, it was critical. And this appeal wasn’t geared only to white audiences. I will not forget a rally over a year ago, filled with predominantly black donors and activists, when Obama recounted how a supporter greeted him at the anniversary of Martin Luther King’s march on Selma.

“That was a great celebration of African-American history,” the supporter said, to which Obama immediately responded: “No, no, no, no, no. That was not a great celebration of African-American history. That was a celebration of American history.” The postracial appeal wasn’t just about necessity. It was also Obama’s core conviction about his own political message.

And after the primaries in Iowa and New Hampshire, where Obama scored extensive white support, the Clintons realised this as well. Flummoxed by this young, charismatic pretender to their dynastic throne, they made a fateful decision: not to compete aggressively for black votes, but to push Obama into the “black candidate” box and leverage white ethnic and Hispanic support instead. And as the Clintons’ losses mounted, the hints became harder and harder to miss.

Before Super Tuesday, Clinton campaign operatives aired rumours that Obama had been a drug dealer – hint, hint – in his younger days. When Obama scored a landslide in South Carolina, Bill Clinton reminded the media that Jesse Jackson had won the state as well. He called Obama a “kid”, perilously close to calling him a “boy”, prompting the former Clinton operative Donna Brazile to say: “I tell you, as an African-American, I find his words and his tone to be very depressing.” The black civil rights icon John Lewis switched from Clinton to Obama. When Clinton told white rural voters that Obama didn’t care about “people like you”, it stung.  See complete article Sunday Times >>>

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