Presidential aspirant Hillary Clinton used Rev. Al Sharpton’s Martin Luther King Jr. birthday celebration to, as Professor Shelby Steele explains, "whistle for the black vote by pandering to the black sense of grievance." In response to a question from the audience: "I need you to tell us what distinguishes Democrats from Republicans right now," Sen. Clinton answered, "When you look at the way the House of Representatives has been run, it has been run like a plantation, and you know what I’m talking about . . . " Though the audience was largely black, I doubt whether any of the attendees had any plantation experience.
Sen. Clinton was simply employing the Democrats’ political rope-a-dope for blacks. As Professor Steele asks in his Wall Street Journal editorial, "Hillary’s Plantation": "Must blacks have their slave past rubbed in their face simply for Hillary Clinton to make a little hay against modern-day Republicans?" Steele also asks, "Does she really see us as she projects us — as a people so backward that our support can be won with a simple plantation reference, and the implication that Republicans are racist?"
Sen. Clinton is not alone with such demeaning pandering. Before a predominantly black audience, during his 2004 presidential bid, Sen. John Kerry said, in reference to so many more blacks in prison than college, "That’s unacceptable, but it’s not their fault." Aside from Kerry being factually wrong about more blacks being in prison than in college, his vision differs little from one that holds blacks as a rudderless, victimized people who cannot control their destiny and whose best hope depends upon the benevolence of white people. I wonder whether Kerry would have told a white audience that jailed white people were faultless. Kerry’s other black-audience-only gambit was seen after he addressed the NAACP’s 95th annual convention in Philadelphia; he gave the audience the black power clenched-fist salute.
The subtitle to Professor Steele’s article is "Hillary Clinton reveals her fear of Condi Rice." He explains that Democrat liberalism has survived decades past the credibility of its ideas because it captured black resentment as an exclusive source of its power. That power will be gone the very day that a significant number of blacks cease to be a people of grievance. This is potentially a Republican advantage. The Democrats and the liberal establishment know that, which is why they vilify high-profile blacks who aren’t filled with resentment and grievance.
There are quite a few blacks in charge of stoking the fires of resentment and grievance. First, there’s former NAACP President Kweisi Mfume, who said of George W. Bush, "We have a president that’s prepared to take us back to the days of Jim Crow segregation and dominance." NAACP Chairman Julian Bond said President Bush has appeased "the wretched appetites of the extreme right wing and has chosen Cabinet officials whose devotion to the Confederacy is nearly canine in its uncritical affection." During the 2000 presidential campaign, Rev. Jesse Jackson regaled black audiences by telling them that a Bush win would turn the civil rights clock back to the days of Jim Crow. No one bothers to question these people about the accuracy of their predictions.
If Condoleezza Rice threw her hat into the presidential race, it would be Clinton’s worse nightmare. Ms. Rice’s vision represents triumph rather than grievance. Steele says that by growing up in the segregated South, Ms. Rice might have claimed title to a grievance identity, but she’s chosen the older black tradition where blacks neither deny injustice nor permit themselves to be defined by it. Blacks like Colin Powell, Clarence Thomas and Condi Rice are of no value to modern liberalism or the Democratic Party. Why? If blacks come to embrace triumph, rather than grievance, the wound to liberal Democrats would be mortal. It wouldn’t take much of a desertion of the black vote to make Democrat hopes of recapturing Washington a permanent pipe dream.