Have the House of Clinton and the Democratic Establishment gone too ugly in the primary campaign? This week’s comments by Clinton supporter Pennsylvania governor (and former Philadelphia mayor) Ed Rendell prove how shallow the Clintons’ — and the Democratic Party’s — commitment to the African-American constituency really is.
Regarding the April 22nd primary election coming up in Pennsylvania, Rendell was quoted as saying “You’ve got conservative whites here, and I think there are some whites who are probably not ready to vote for an African-American candidate.” He also suggested that he would have beaten Lynn Swann by 5 less percentage points had Swann been white.
Rendell endorsed Hillary Clinton less than a month ago and is far too experienced a politician to say such things accidentally. (The Clinton campaign leaves accidents to Bill.) Why would the wife of “The First Black President” have a surrogate say that 5% of Pennsylvania Democrats are racists? Because Rendell’s comments put a germ in voters’ minds: “Hmmm…should I really be voting for a black guy?” and give them (pseudo-) intellectual cover should they answer “yes.”
In Nevada, Obama got almost 80% of the African-American vote, probably a surprise for the Clintons even against a black candidate. Bill Clinton famously “played the race card” in South Carolina, accelerating Hillary’s continued decline in popularity among blacks. Throughout their career together, the Clintons have made race an issue, gaining the support of blacks and seeming to support them in return. But how fickle they are, now using anti-black racism to try to capture more white votes.
But even that isn’t as “black and white” as it seems, because the Clintons are taking the race-baiting one step further: among Latino voters, a critical voting block in some of our biggest states. It is no secret, especially among people who live in our major urban areas, that there is little love lost between blacks and Hispanics in this country. The Clintons must be calculating that if they’re going to lose black votes to the black candidate, they should at least repeatedly emphasize his being black in order to capture the voters of Latinos and whites whom they apparently believe to be racist enough to vote Clinton just to avoid supporting someone with dark skin. And Obama has known that Hispanic voters have been a weakness for him, which is why he ran Spanish-language ads (links: Ad 1, Ad 2) in Nevada before that early caucus.
The Clintons may not be as wrong as we might like them to be. In an interview with the New Yorker, a Hispanic pollster for the Clintons is quoted as saying “The Hispanic voter — and I want to say this very carefully — has not shown a lot of willingness or affinity to support black candidates.” Latino radio host Luis Jiminez is quoted as saying “Hispanics will vote for a woman president before voting for someone who is African-American.”
In some fascinating research, Duke University professor Paula McClain tested the views of blacks, whites, and Latinos about each other. One key summary of their findings:
58.9 percent of the Latino immigrants in our study reported feeling that few or almost no blacks are hard working; approximately one-third (32.5 percent) of the Latino immigrant respondents reported feeling that few or almost no blacks are easy to get along with; and slightly more than a majority (56.9 percent) of the Latino immigrant respondents reported feeling that few or almost no blacks could be trusted. Among whites, the comparable figures are only 9.3 percent indicate that few or almost no blacks are hard working; only 8.4 percent believe that few or almost no blacks are easy to get along with; and only 9.6 percent feel that few or almost no blacks could be trusted. Consistent with our theoretical expectations, it does appear that many Latinos hold very negative stereotypes of blacks.
You can see a tabular summary of McClain’s data HERE.
To be fair, the Latino propensity not to support black candidates is based, at least in part, on feeling that Hispanics have more in common with whites than with blacks, and also, since the groups now represent similar percentages of the population, that a white politician is less likely to be biased toward blacks when handing out goodies from the Federal treasury…both perfectly plausible views.
But even such deeply-held suspicious of “the other” can be overcome when the candidate (or her campaign machine) is being so obviously racist, so it is not surprising that Clinton’s strength among Latino voters is waning…as it is among every other demographic. In the Nevada caucus, Clinton took 64% of the Hispanic vote, as compared to 26% for Obama. And in the California and New York primaries on Super Tuesday, Clinton took 69% and 73%, respectively; in California, Hispanics represented nearly 30% of the turnout.
Since then, however, the Hispanic tide has begun to shift away from Clintons. Exit polling in both Virginia and Maryland showed Obama winning the Hispanic vote by 8%-10%, though the percentage of Hispanic voters is much smaller than in many of the Super Tuesday states. If you are Obama, you’d have to think (in the lingo of stock traders) that “the trend is your friend”. And you surely want it to be, going into the heavily Hispanic voting in the critical Texas primary on March 4th.
During the short time when Condoleeza Rice’s name was being bandied about as a potential GOP candidate for the presidency, I never heard a peep from even the most conservative Republicans that her race would be a negative. Cynics might suggest that even if someone thought that, he would never say it. But I believe it is because the Democrats have for generations played the game of identity politics, creating victim groups and promising them special appreciation and special treatment. Black versus white, rich versus poor, gay versus straight — Democrats thrive on pitting Americans against each other instead of against our real competitors or enemies outside our borders.
Of course there is still occasional and real injustice in our nation. But the Democrats make a business of keeping it so and making those occurrences seem worse and more prevalent than they are. The Clintons, having reached the pinnacle in Democratic politics, “liberal” thinking, could now be crowned King and Queen of cynicism and racism. If there is any justice in this country, voters of every race will punish them as they deserve.
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