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Democrats - eating their own
Posted by: McQ on Friday, May 09, 2008

I have been fascinated watching the reaction to Hillary Clinton's words about how the vote seems to be breaking down in the Democratic primary. Apparently noting the race of those she seems to be attracting and noting, simply by their number, they constitute a broader demographic, apparently has racist overtones if you listen to the likes of Joe Conason in Salon.
But this time she violated the rhetorical rules, no doubt by mistake. It was her offhand reference to "working, hard-working Americans, white Americans" that raises the specter of old Dixie demagogues like Wallace and Lester Maddox. Was she dog-whistling to the voters of Kentucky and West Virginia?

While I still cannot believe she actually intended any such nefarious meaning, she seemed to be equating "hard-working Americans" with "white Americans." Which is precisely what Wallace and his cohort used to do with their drawling refrain about welfare and affirmative action. This is the grating sound of Richard Nixon's Southern strategy, even though Tricky Dick would never quite stoop to saying such things in public.

Of course, Nixon enjoyed a more commanding position politically than Clinton must now endure. She has been reduced to extolling her support from hardworking white folks — especially those who have "not completed college" — in an effort to prove that she can build a "broader coalition" in November than Obama.
My goodness, in racial terms, can you draw upon two worse stereotypical bogey men than George Wallace and Lester Maddox (both solid Democrats at the time)? And invoking Richard Nixon's name is an obvious attempt to drag the racial implications over to the right side of the spectrum.

The fact remains that the class of voter Hillary Clinton is talking about, or at least a solid portion of that class, has always been Democrat. Its not like she's talking about stealing them from the Republicans. It is, in fact, the Republicans who've managed to steal them, at times, from the Democrats. They were called "Reagan Democrats" for a reason. Whether or not the appeal by both Reagan and Nixon was along racial lines is debatable. What isn't debatable is these voters are and always have been traditionally Democrats.

Black voters make up 25% of the Democratic voter base and 14% of the population. That obviously isn't enough to win an election. So the candidate who appeals to the broadest coalition of voters, one assumes, would be the best candidate for the party. What Clinton often leaves out of her pitch is the 90% support Obama enjoys among blacks. However, when he or his staff note that, no one thinks they're engaging in racial politics. It's a statistic, a way of analyzing how the vote breaks down for the candidate. It's in every exit poll we see.

So why is it, when Clinton does a similar analysis in a pitch to the party to be it's nominee, her noting the race of the supporters generates comments like this:
What she should not ignore, however, is the damage that her increasingly reckless behavior is inflicting on her reputation and that of her husband — especially when she starts to sound like a reincarnation of the late George Wallace.
What an absurd comparison, but at the same time a perfect example of how unable we are to talk about race and its role in politics. If Clinton's discussion is akin to that of George Wallace, then I must not remember the Wallace era as it actually happened.

While some may not like the implication that "white" workers are the "hard-working" Americans, I'm pretty sure that wasn't her intent, and even Conason acknowledges that. But it doesn't stop him from taking her to task for even suggesting some of the voting may be race based - on both sides.

Voters vote for a candidate for a variety of reasons. Noting that a particular group of a particular race and background have a tendency to vote for one Democrat over another doesn't mean that group is doings so based solely on race. Certainly some will. But then with 90% backing by black voters the same can be said in Obama's case, can't it? Why no discussion of "dog whistles" and "reputations" when that stat is thrown around?
 
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Previous Comments to this Post 

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It was the link between ’hard working’ and ’white’.

Clearly a very very stupid thing to say, because the inference that non-whites aren’t ’hard working’ isn’t that hard to draw from her statement, or that whites somehow work harder, etc.

The one thing I took from that yesterday was how strikingly stupid it was to categorize her appeal in THAT way. She should have stuck with a demographic that wasn’t tied to an alleged work ethic.
 
Written By: looker
URL: http://
Nah, it couldn’t have been an intentional mis-statement. No way she’d have said something like that when she’s already pulling in the white vote at 60-40-ish.
 
Written By: Arcs
URL: http://
I have to agree that HRC’s choice of phrasing was clumsy and wide open to a variety of (mis-)interpretations. That said, the punditocracy has a strong tendancy to look for hidden meanings in candidate statement that recall age-old prejudices implicitly. Today they are referred to as "dog whistles" whereas years ago the same talking heads referred to "code words" and the like. It is the same generations-old attempt to keep a potent wedge issue alive - candidate X is an implicit racist knuckle-dragger. HRC is but the latest victim of this meme.
 
Written By: CR
URL: http://
I don’t think Hillary’s choice of words was clumsy. She was shrewdly using words that reflect how Archie Bunker Democrats view themselves...as hard working unionists who are the backbone of the country. Hillary’s choice of words resonates well with her target audience and makes them feel like she understands them. It’s no different than using "oppressed" and "Black" together. They are identity words that resonate well with the target audience.

Clearly Hillary wouldn’t have gone where she’s gone if Obama hadn’t locked up the Black vote. I think she’s basically written off the Black vote (at least for now) and trying to get the wrap on a larger constituency who could possibly lead her to a victory in the primaries.

 
Written By: Bob
URL: http://
Get out your Nixonian "codebook"
 
Written By: Neo
URL: http://
As a somewhat disintersted observer, I think the dems have passed the point of no return, and Obama is going to be their nominee. I use the term "point of no return" deliberately. HRC would win the general election in a cakewalk; she knows it, the pros in the party know it, but there isn’t a damned thing they can do about it without a bloodbath. Hillary is staying in just in case someone finds a photo of Obama in a grip and grin with bin Laden, or equivalent.

I’m not saying that Obama can’t win; I’m saying he *can* lose, which is something you can’t say about HRC. I’m not going to make a long post of this (if I felt like doing that, I’d have my own blog) but look at what people who have analysed the combination of electoral college and demographics think about the general election.

The difference is, unfortunately but realistically, identity politics. Obama has 12% of the voting population, HRC has 53%. Don’t tell me that we’re above that. "We" aren’t. Look at the number of Dems who *won’t* vote for the "other" candidate in the general, and then look at independents and, most importantly, Republicans who would vote for which Dem.
 
Written By: bud
URL: http://
I essentially agree with your analysis, bud.

To partially borrow from 1992, "It’s the numbers, stupid".

Nonetheless, RW lost the battle and may have lost the war.

She forced BHO to move from an aracial candidate to "the black" candidate. In so doing, she split the "working" person vote.

 
Written By: vnjagvet
URL: http://www.yargb.blogspot.com
Where’s mkultra to condemn the racist comments of a leading Democrat?

 
Written By: Steverino
URL: http://steverino.journalspace.com
Here’s an interesting post from Gallup: Obama’s Support Similar to Kerry’s in 2004.
Barack Obama’s current level of support among white voters in a head-to-head matchup against John McCain is no worse than John Kerry’s margin of support among whites against George W. Bush in the 2004 presidential election.
I wouldn’t argue the data as Gallup does, but the main thing I take away is that Bush took 58% of the white vote in 2004 to Kerry’s 41%. I hadn’t known it was so high.

Recently Hillary took 60% of the white vote against Obama. If this election does continue to racialize and 60%+ of the white vote goes to McCain (the polls don’t show this now), I don’t see how Obama can win. If that does happen, it may be a very ugly race.

But I don’t see what can be done for this. True, I disagree with Obama’s left politics and wouldn’t vote for him on that basis, but I must admit that it bothers me to see a black candidate with a 90%+ black bloc behind him who reveres Malcolm X and has attended a black power church with a nutty preacher for 20 years. Obama can make all the noble unifying speeches he wants, it doesn’t make up for his tenure at Trinity and the oh-so-careful way he handles Rev. Wright and Louis Farrakhan.
 
Written By: huxley
URL: http://
57 and one to go
 
Written By: Neo
URL: http://
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