The trouncing that Hillary Clinton got in South Carolina proved that the racist and entitled campaign that the Clintons ran there backfired.
The Clinton campaign kept saying, “He’s black, black, black,” as author and South Carolina activist Kevin Alexander Gray pointed out on Jesse Jackson’s “Keep Hope Alive” program Sunday morning. And Bill Clinton used coded language, like the “old okie-dokie,” which served to remind whites of Obama’s blackness, Gray added. That's like saying don’t fall for the old “shuck and jive.”
And speaking of “shuck and jive,” that’s exactly the phrase Andrew Cuomo used to disparage Obama in New Hampshire, saying he can’t use that “shuck and jive” at press conferences.
Obama’s black, get it.
Or Bob Kerrey, another Clinton supporter, saying, “I like the fact that his name is Barack Hussein Obama, and that his father was a Muslim,” and that he went to school in a madrassa, as Bob Herbert noted in The New York Times. Kerrey later apologized, Herbert added, as did Andrew Young, for saying, “Bill is every bit as black as Barack. He’s probably gone with more black women than Barack.”
Or take Bill Clinton's ludicrous comment that Hillary is "stronger than Nelson Mandela." (The not-so-subtle dig being that she's not only stronger than that black man Obama, she's stronger than the strongest black man on the face of the Earth.)
To say nothing of the nonsense about Clinton being the first black President, which Obama was forced to address in the CNN debate, and which Bill Clinton seems to revel in.
(Racist tactics are nothing new for Bill Clinton. After he all, he used the “Sister Souljah” comment to wink at the white base in 1992, and he made a point to hustle back to Arkansas during that campaign just so he could execute a mentally retarded black man named Rickie Ray Rector.)
And sure enough, after the embarrassing loss, the Clinton campaign tried to dismiss the results by stressing the black vote that Obama got and by mentioning that Jesse Jackson had won South Carolina in 1988, as well.
True to form, Hillary Clinton didn’t even give a concession speech, demonstrating again the haughtiness of someone who believes she’s entitled to the White House, someone who won’t deign to properly acknowledge this upstart Obama who stands in her way.
There was no acknowledgment from the Clinton camp of the magnitude of the whupping, or of the huge turnout for the party as a whole, or at the level of intensity among Obama supporters of every race.
That intensity, and that diverse base of support, was hard to ignore at the Obama victory speech.
“We have the most diverse coalition of Americans we’ve seen in a long, long time,” Obama said. He talked about rallying “Americans from all walks of life around a common purpose—a higher purpose.”
Obama gamely took on the Clintons and all their slimy tactics. He’s keeping his head high, and he’s begun to show that he can take a punch and fight back. (In his victory speech, he noted that he’s “up against the idea that it’s acceptable to say anything and do anything to win an election.” No mystery there about what he was referring to. And he also talked about moving beyond the “distractions and drama that passes for politics today”—an allusion to the long-running Clinton soap opera.)
But I don’t want to sow illusions here. As Kevin Alexander Gray pointed out, Obama has not built a substantive progressive movement. His beyond-partisanship pitch is either naïve or disingenuous. He early on allied with some of the most homophobic preachers in South Carolina. His positions on nuclear energy and military spending are reactionary, and his policy on health care is not nearly progressive enough. He has been, for the most part, quiet on the discriminatory criminal justice system in America and the assault on our civil liberties that Bush and Cheney have waged. And his Presidency would not end the U.S. empire or even rein in the rampaging capitalism that is destroying this country. (Hillary Clinton’s wouldn’t, either, needless to say.)
But many people see and hear in Obama the hope of at least moving beyond the Clinton dramas and perhaps making a clean break with our racist past. Such are the appeals of his campaign, which were obvious in Iowa and again in South Carolina.