Thursday, May 22, 2008

Clinton Gave Voters Permission to be Racist

By Cenk Uygur

Yesterday, RJ Eskow was on our show and we had an interesting discussion of why so many people in West Virginia and Kentucky admitted to pollsters that they voted based on race. This is otherwise known as racism. It's also something that people are usually loathe to admit. So, why did 21% of the voters in Kentucky freely admit that race was an important factor in their vote?
It's because Hillary Clinton's campaign gave them permission to be racist. Let me explain.
Normally the race issue is a third rail in American politics; you're not allowed to touch it. But Clinton did two important things to change that paradigm. First, she turned it into a legitimate issue by framing it as a matter of electability. The argument is -- it's not that you wouldn't vote for a black guy, but knowing how you and others around you feel, you know the black guy can't win.
This argument has soaked into the Hillary team so much that I'm afraid they've actually come to believe it themselves. That's part of the reason why they can't let this campaign go. I keep hearing them say -- we can't let the party make this kind of mistake. It is profoundly disappointing to see them internalize this ultimately racist argument.
What's interesting is that the primaries allow them to make this kind of race-based argument. In the general election, you can't say -- don't vote for this guy because he's black. But in the primaries you can say -- don't vote for this guy because you know in the general election people will not vote for him because he's black. It's not that you're racist, wink, it's that so many other people are, wink.
The second way they gave their voters permission to be racists is by using thinly veiled code words like, "I'm looking out for people like you." The very thin veil on these code words was lifted when Senator Clinton flat out said she was looking out for "hard working white Americans." And presumably Obama wasn't. And why is that? You don't have to be a rocket scientist to understand the implication that he wasn't looking out for people like them because he wasn't one of them.
So, when the voter in Kentucky stepped into that booth, he didn't necessarily think, "I'm going to vote against Barack Obama because he is black and I'm racist." He thought, "Hillary Clinton is looking out for people like me. Obama cares more about his own people. And besides which he's going to lose in the general election because who would elect a black guy as president?"
Voila, he has been given permission to vote based on race. Now, how many of you think that the Clinton team stumbled upon this phenomenon and how many of you think they understood this and took full advantage of it? Well, now you understand why so many of us are frustrated and disappointed with the way Hillary Clinton has run her campaign.
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