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Clyburn tries to put the toothpaste back in the tube


goldberry's picture
Submitted by goldberry on

... that Clyburn's remarks about blaming voters' inner racism for criticism of Obama would have been taken out of context and misconstrued?

"QUESTION: What do you think of Obama's election prospects?

CLYBURN: I think they're improving every day. I think the president has been a good president, a great commander in chief. I think when people allow themselves to — you know, I'm 70 years old. And I can tell you; people don't like to deal with it, but the fact of the matter is, the president's problems are in large measure because of his skin color. All you got to do is look at all the signs they're carrying out there and look at the mail that I get. As I said, I'm 70 years old, I been going through this kind of stuff all my life. I know what kind of mail I get, I know what kind of phone calls I get, I know what people are saying who call the office."

Racism is ugly and wrong and disgusting. But if you run your campaign and whole raison d'etre on your skin color, it should not be a surprise when ignorant people start equating skin color with accomplishments.

What about the rest of us who don't give a flying f&*( about skin color and just want him to do his job? Are we racists because we are holding him to high standards? Wouldn't it be racist to *not* hold him to the standards of, oh, I don't know, Bill Clinton, at least? That would be like saying he needs a four year handicap because he has to overcome accusations that he's african american. That's the weirdest fricking thing the Democrats have rolled out yet. They must think we're stupid.

Backlash is coming. As far as I know, racism is not illegal in thought, even if it is in practice. It's a sorry situation but not at all surprising.

Submitted by lambert on

First was the con. That was the "hope and change" part, and no, not all who bought into that used racist smears as a weapon. However, there was also a category of fan (as opposed to supporter) who had drunk so deep of the Kool-Aid that they could literally conceive of no other reason to oppose Obama except racism.

Second was the thuggery and intimidation. Partly caucus fraud (e.g., TX), and partly the false smears of racism. Now, it is true that bloggers had less influence than they like to think, but it's also true that bloggers were over-represented in the class of persons who could have punctured the bubble of the con through critique. (Always assuming the Rs hadn't simply written 2012 off, which I've always rather thought they did.)

So, "won on it"? Not as Clinton did with "It's the economy, stupid!" But certainly an important, indeed indispenable element of the victory. Witness the bloggers who reach for racism is the totalizing explanation even today.

UPDATE One might also think of 2008 campaign as a high road/low road one. For the high road (the con) we had the unity Pony, hopenchange, etc. For the low road (the thuggery), we had Clyburn (see again the Wilentz article). Both necessary but only sufficient together. The high road won Obama the votes. The low road took out his opponents.

Valhalla's picture
Submitted by Valhalla on

Haw, McClatchy.

Anyway, nice summary -- both the con and the thuggery were essential to Obama's nomination and election. Not sure it's helpful to whittle it down to just one. Some things are so bad that arguing about which is worse is useless -- all you need to know is, they're both odious.

Although I do quibble over whether you've identified 2 categories or 3 -- since the relentless racism accusations weren't nearly all just KA-sodden fans who could not conceive of other reasons to oppose him. There was plenty of intentionality around by people who knew better (as Wilenz documents). And perhaps the racism smears can be marked up under the broader heading of thuggery, too, but such a particular species of thuggery deserves its own grouping, I think.

But good to know they're starting early! Of course, the con is gone (not counting those who still buy into the con, there's plenty of those left out there). Not that I doubt there's more thuggery coming, but I can't see it having quite so much momentum without quite the same number of adoring, analytical-free fans behind it.

mass's picture
Submitted by mass on

I agree with goldberry. How many people would have bought hope/change from Obama if he were a white dude? I'd say zero.

Submitted by lambert on

... on material that's just as gauzy as hopenchange. Warren Harding. Heck, Obama's idol, Ronald Reagan. So I don't buy what you're saying.

On the other hand, there was also a contingent of Obama supporters who thought a "community organizer" with black skin just had to be a liberal. (I think such people are numerically small, but important in the activist community. So if Clyburn thinks such people are the main cause of Obama's problems, that would indeed mean that Obama's skin color was the problem, and that isn't about racism, making Clyburn right and me wrong. But I can't believe Clyburn means that.)

Valhalla's picture
Submitted by Valhalla on

Or, you're both right. Certainly the hopenchange got more traction and credibility coming from someone whose election in and of itself represented a historic (sorry) change. And Obama's marketing scripts, with coy references to his funny name and so on, played that up. Certainly the bullying fan base made that connection. Plenty of white dudes have failed with hopenchange type messages, too. More than have succeeded, I'd guess, since really, hope and change are stock political messages of just about every politician (and partly why Obama's sloganeering did so much better with younger people who hadn't heard them a million times before).

That doesn't mean that thousands of starry-eyed liberals and superficial liberals didn't, as you say, fool themselves that skin color equated with their preferred political orientation. Both can be true.

As an aside, I remember about a year after Toyota introduced the Prius, I read a study that determined that the top reason people bought a hybrid was not because they were concerned about the environment, but because they wanted others to perceive them as being concerned about the environment. Voting for Obama became a similar class- and political-orientation badge of post-raciality. (ok, that's probably not a real word).

Anyway, Obama's race figured into his popularity in multiple, not-mutually-exclusive ways. They're aggregate factors, not zero-sum ones.