Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Not Within the Democratic Party

February 2000: South Carolina's Republican Primary.

We all know what a shameful place that election holds in American political history. We CANNOT allow that to happen again. Not within the Democratic Party.

It's not the practice of push polling, but it is race baiting with dog whistle politics, and it has to stop. Since I believe some people writing about this subject have missed the point or included too different examples, lets review the three cases.

Case One:
New Hampshire Clinton Chair Bill Shaheen
The Republicans are not going to give up without a fight ... and one of the things they're certainly going to jump on is his drug use," said Shaheen, the husband of former N.H. governor Jeanne Shaheen, who is planning to run for the Senate next year.
Shaheen said Obama's candor on the subject would "open the door" to further questions. "It'll be, 'When was the last time? Did you ever give drugs to anyone? Did you sell them to anyone?'" Shaheen said. "There are so many openings for Republican dirty tricks. It's hard to overcome."

Case Two: NY Attorney General Andrew Cuomo
"It's not a TV crazed race. Frankly you can't buy your way into it," Cuomo said, according to Albany Times Union reporter Rick Karlin. He then added, "You can't shuck and jive at a press conference. All those moves you can make with the press don't work when you're in someone's living room."
According to Joan Houston Hall's Dictionary of American Regional English, the phrase "shuck and jive" means, "To be deceptive or evasive; to tell tall tales or lies; to fool around. esp freq among Black speakers," and "stalling or obfuscating, especially to avoid having to admit that you did not know something or were trying to divert someone's attention."

Case Three: BET Founder Bob Johnson
As an African-American, I'm frankly insulted that the Obama campaign would imply that we are so stupid that we would think Bill and Hillary Clinton, who have been deeply and emotionally involved in black issues when Barack Obama was doing something in the neighborhood that I won't say what he was doing, [but] he said it in his book.

One time, it's a loose cannon surrogate. Twice, it's a poor choice of words. Three times, in a carefully delivered speech with the candidate herself on stage when the remark is made... that should make you wonder. Josh Marshall explains the possibilities:
We seem to be at the point where there are now two credible possibilities. One is that the Clinton campaign is intentionally pursuing a strategy of using surrogates to hit Obama with racially-charged language or with charges that while not directly tied to race nonetheless play to stereotypes about black men. The other possibility is that the Clinton campaign is extraordinarily unlucky and continually finds its surrogates stumbling on to racially-charged or denigrating language when discussing Obama.
Marshall also notes a reader ML's comment that gives a different take comment:
I think that the Clintons' anti-Obama strategy is more subtle than commentators are realizing. It is in the nature of a "provokatsiia", as the Russians say. Cuomo didn't utter the phrase "shuck and jive"without forethought; nor did Clinton bring up LBJ and MLK on the spur of the moment. Both are experienced street-fighting politicians who don't say that kind of thing to the press without thinking it through. Such comments are a provocation, waving a red cloak in front of the Obama people. When they respond angrily with charges of racism, suddenly they look like Jessie Jackson redux...just the kind of angry, militant black folks who scare white people (btw I think black anger and militancy are completely understandable...this is just a point about how much of the white public reads such charges of racism). Then the Clintons deny responsibility.
The whole point was to get the Obama people to respond angrily, which they did. Clintons win.

Do I think Hillary or Bill Clinton are racists? No, I don't. Do I think they are extremely calculating politicians who would be willing to stoop to race baiting if they thought it would help her win? In short, yes.

I think the best response would be a press conference from Obama, and a much stronger statement decrying this pattern than the one today during the debate. He needs to send the message that even though these statements may have come from surrogates, but if they continue, the candidate themselves will be held responsible. This isn't just about a one day news story during a heated primary fight, these are the type of disgusting tactics we should expect from the Republican party in the general election. I just didn't think we'd see in the democratic primary.

It's critically important for the long term future of the democratic party that this tactic be addressed in the stark terms it deserves - and right now before it gets any worse. Because if it isn't put into the spotlight, it WILL get worse.


  1. It's crazy, the more I hear from John Edwards, the more and more I like him. But for some reason, he continues to lag far behind in third place? Why is this, in a nutshell? Also, do you think he will fare any better closer to his home state? Lastly, is it true that the Washington Redskins have won two playoff games in the same span that the C*wb*ys have failed to win any?

  2. Well, the Project for Excellence in Journalism must have read your comment, because today they came out with a study which I think sums up the problem pretty well.


    I might put that up as a post because the graphic is so ridiculous. No media time means no way for more people like you to have that "the more I hear from him, the more I like" reaction.

  3. "Excellence?" "Journalism?" yeah, that sounds like something i'd be involved with... enough jokes though, i guess the answer to my aforementioned question can be attributed squarely to my very own (prospective) career field. i never really thought of that angle. the media is, in a perfect world, supposed to remain objective.

    the reason i posted the comment to begin with was a statement edwards camp made codemning the clinton staff's "shuck and jive" comment, and even essentially called them out on their bullshit about obama's camp blowing things out of proportion. make no mistake, at this point i still consider myself an obama supporter. but without fully knowing/understanding the politics behind either of them, edwards seems increasingly intriguing. exactly why that is... i'm not sure yet.

    that graph is telling though. the media decides there are only two candidates and the public buys in... its pretty shameful.