Color of politics
This is another blog entry I wrote back in January but never published. At the time people were giving Hillary Clinton grief for her associations, and bad comments made by her surrogates. Today, if Sarah Palin or a surrogate makes similar comments, they are defended to the end – and anyone who objects is labelled a woman hater. My how the world changes in just a few months.
[January 2008] It was only a matter of time before the topic of race started to creep more visibly into the presidential elections. That’s a real shame. I was enjoying the campaigns when it seemed like gender and race weren’t even blips on the radar. Clinton and Obama were politicians avoiding issues just the way we like all of our politicians to avoid issues. I’m not naïve. I was wondering how long the honeymoon would last. I knew that the candidates wouldn’t sling their own mud but that people would start slinging it for them, whether that’s what they wanted or not. But at the same time it felt good for just a moment to think that people could put such things beneath them.
At the moment there’s so much verbal judo going on that I have a hard time figuring out who the idiots are. Are people making innocent statements that are getting twisted into something racial? Are people making racial statements between the lines and hoping no one will notice? Are people setting up other people to make racial comments? Are politicians really so stupid that they’re going to continue to let other people speak for them without moderation? Are people really so stupid to think that if some politician is racist that they’re going to make stupid mistakes to let you know that they’re racist? I was going to ask if politicians are really so stupid that they think playing the race or gender card will work in their favor. Unfortunately based on how the public reacts to these topics I’m afraid playing the card – whatever it happens to be – very frequently works.
It works because someone who isn’t African-American can’t say the name Martin Luther King without someone else saying "what did you mean by that, how dare you invoke his name". It’s unfortunate but some topics are just too "charged". People’s eyes light up and prepare for indignation no matter how the man is referenced. Is it better to not say the name of a great black man? Somehow I think that defeats the point of people rising to make a difference in the world. So anyway, playing certain cards does work. Barack Obama is trying to align himself with both the vision and oratory of John F Kennedy and Martin Luther King. Hillary is saying Barack isn’t a Kennedy or a King for many reasons – but she has to be very careful how she does it.
Let’s digress for a moment and be specific about why this topic is so tender. Someone was introducing Senator Clinton, did it very poorly, made a comment about Kennedy being assassinated (what the hell was on his mind?) and it reflected badly on her. People get real bent because King was also assassinated and Obama is black and people are terrified that Obama might get it too. This is something I too have worried about – and do note that I’m not citing favoritism for any candidate here, a tragedy is a tragedy. I don’t care what color someone’s skin is, or what gender they are, if they’re qualified to run the country I want them in office. It would be a terrible thing for this country to lose a president and many of us are afraid of some idiot making a dreadful decision for everyone else. Here’s an article on the topic.
Notice that nothing was said to link the words "black", "president", and "assassinate" – people made these connections on their own and all hell broke loose. The point here is that somehow this was twisted by some people into racism associated with the Clinton campaign.
Hillary got a black eye (bad choice of words?) from that fiasco but as I alluded earlier she also said that it wasn’t Mr. King who got legislation passed but the President of the United States, and that it takes a strong president to pass strong legislation. Yes, believe it or not, people did indeed get their panties ruffled over that. It wasn’t a racial comment, though it was an example of a strong president that she should have avoided. Much more is on this page. What’s important for this topic of color however, is the discussion got turned into a discussion of color, even though it really had nothing to do with color. It was inevitable.
After all of this mess, it amazes me that CNN can get one of their talking heads who has nothing to say but (something like…) "I don’t have any evidence to support this, and I’m not saying anything, but it’s possible that someone in the Clinton campaign could be playing the race card". Yeah, and it’s possible they’re playing 51 other cards too, so what ARE you saying? Sounds to me like you’re putting the race joker in the deck when it wasn’t there in the first place. Does Mr. Obama really need that wildcard to give him an edge in the south or anywhere else? I don’t think so. I think he will do well, or fail, on his own. Unfortunately Mr. Obama also seems to have people playing the race card for him whether he likes it or not. That could hurt him if America starts to polarize on race. And how in blazes does Jesse Jackson get his face on TV every time some other African-American is in the news? He and Al Sharpton (just assume the title Reverend precedes the name of any of these idiots) get called out of the abyss by the media, they say absolutely nothing that will make any difference, and then they crawl back.
What kind of journalism is this when they give the camera to people who have no information and some of them are even afraid to state an opinion on which they can be quoted? Is hearsay the replacement for information? When did we cross the line from analysis to innuendo? Doesn’t the media realize how fragile public opinion is, that when they put idiots on the tube saying "race may be an issue" that "race becomes an issue"? Of course they realize… they’re not stupid. Racial tension makes for great news.
[October 2008] It seems the topic of race faded for a while but then in the last couple months, and especially just this month, we’re seeing it become a primary topic again, only due to people’s insecurities. A senator had to retract a statement that his older consituency may be a bit racist. Of course some people are indignant but isn’t this really just covering up a general fact? I think this guy just got nailed for saying something in public that most people wouldn’t have a problem saying in private. In another state, people were passing around political flyers recently with pictures of ribs, watermelon, and chicken. No the whole state isn’t racist but some people certainly are. Before JFK it was a big deal for catholics to be running for office. At one time it was a big deal for a jew to run for office. In this presidential election we’ve also had a woman and a hispanic running. People need to let go of these biases against any group that is remotely different from their own.
It’s not just about race, gender, or religion – the latest rally is around Joe the Plumber and Joe from Scranton. If you can’t vote for a candidate because they share your race, gender, or religion, vote for them because they’re "middle America", just like you – whatever that means. It’s really a shame when people make color an issue when it’s not, but I don’t see that as any different a distraction than when they talk about grandma, the kids, apple pie, their humble and troubled beginnings, or when they focus on a guy named Joe. There are so many things people should be focused on besides these things, and yet this is how we elect the people who will help to lead in our world. That’s the color of our politics, and it’s far from black and white.