Monday, January 14, 2008
Baseless Base Claims
The more the Democratic primary campaign begins to take on the shape of the 1984 Mondale-Hart-Jackson contest, the more I've been thinking that in many ways Hillary Clinton is the political offspring of Geraldine Ferraro. That is, a woman whose historic candidacy is mitigated by the fact that she's a dynasty politician heavily wrapped up in Democratic machine politics.
By coincidence, it turns out that Ferraro just waded into the escalating dispute over the role of race in the campaign with perhaps the most asinine claim I've come across so far:
"As soon anybody from the Clinton campaign opens their mouth in a way that could make it seem as if they were talking about race, it will be distorted," Mrs. Ferraro said. "The spin will be put on it that they are talking about race. The Obama campaign is appealing to their base and their base is the African-American community. What they are trying to do is move voters from Clinton by distorting things. What have they got to lose?" (Emphasis added.)
Now I don't follow the war room point-counterpoint press releases, so I don't know for sure if the Obama campaign is trying to spin Clinton's statements. But given how much pains the Obama campaign has taken to avoid racial identity politics, given the difficulty he experienced early on gathering black endorsements, and given how well he's just done in two lily white states, to claim that his "base is the African-American community" is pretty offensive. It's also a not-so-veiled attempt to reduce him to the level of a "black politician" (ie. an interest group novelty candidate) as opposed to a statesman, in a way that no one tried to do with Bill Richardson, for instance.
That it comes on the same day that Obama picked up two endorsements from LA latino politicians makes it all the more ridiculous. Those endorsements are significant, by the way, for the way in which they overcome traditional Black-Latino animosity, which has been a hinted at but largely unspoken subtext to Obama's possibilities out west.