Thursday, January 31, 2008
Here is a position on the current election.
IF YOU WERE OPPOSED TO THIS WAR BEFORE IT STARTED,
THE CHOICE IS CLEAR--BARACK OBAMA GOT IT RIGHT!
PDA's roots began in opposition to the Iraq War. PDA's entire existence has been a daily fight to end a war that never should have been started. We all know that. And over the next few days, we have a chance to act in harmony with our antiwar roots.
Here's the essence of the situation: if Senator Obama can make it through next Tuesday in decent shape--or better--the electoral terrain in the rest of the month of February seems very favorable to his candidacy. But Senator Clinton is going for a knockout punch right now, this week, trying to dominate in places where PDA has some strength, states like California and Massachusetts.
Why should PDA care? Well, since PDA's top-ranked candidates--Kucinich and Edwards--have now withdrawn, PDA supporters who wanted to could still make a difference in the next few days for our third-ranked candidate, Barack Obama, especially in California and Massachusetts.
PDA supporters who wanted to could still make a difference in the next few days, especially in CA & MA. We could email our personal lists, call our friends, blog our support online, volunteer, vote. We could, if we wanted to, choose to act.
My own thoughts, as a lifelong antiwar activist, are pretty straightforward at this point. There are two main candidates left.
One of them, Barack Obama, spoke out against the war in October of 2002, before it started. http://www.barackobama.com/2002/10/02/remarks_of_illinois_state_sen.php
The other one, Hillary Clinton, voted to authorize that war only 8 days later.
Their speeches are worth reading. Obama got it right. Clinton got it wrong. I'm going to support the one that got it right.
Yours in the movement,
PDA from Roxbury on,
Formerly with Kucinich '04 & '08
This message was not paid for or coordinated with any candidate or campaign.
Progressive Democrats of America is a grassroots PAC that works both inside the Democratic Party and outside in movements for peace and justice. Our goal: Elect a permanent, progressive majority in 2008. PDA's advisory board includes seven members of Congress and activist leaders such as Tom Hayden, Medea Benjamin, Thom Hartmann and Rev. Lennox Yearwood. More info: pdamerica.org | Spread the Progressive Word--Shop PDAstore!
Monday, January 28, 2008
The Clinton campaign's assertion that Latinos
historically haven't voted for black candidates is divisive -- and false.
January 28, 2008 Gregory Rodriguez - Los Angeles Times
If a Hillary Clinton campaign official told a reporter that white voters never support black candidates, would the media have swallowed the message whole? What if a campaign pollster began whispering that Jews don't have an "affinity" for African American politicians? Would the pundits have accepted the premise unquestioningly?
A few weeks ago, Sergio Bendixen, a Clinton pollster and Latino expert, publicly articulated what campaign officials appear to have been whispering for months. In an interview with Ryan Lizza of the New Yorker, Bendixen explained that "the Hispanic voter -- and I want to say this very carefully -- has not shown a lot of willingness or affinity to support black candidates." The spin worked. For the last several weeks, it's been on the airwaves (Tucker Carlson, "Hardball," NPR), generally tossed off as if it were conventional wisdom. And it has shown up in sources as far afield as Agence France-Presse and the London Daily Telegraph, which wrote about a "voting bloc traditionally reluctant to support black candidates."
The spin also helped shape the analysis of the Jan. 19 Nevada caucus, in which Clinton won the support of Latino voters by a margin of better than 2 to 1. Forget the possibility that Nevada's Latino voters may have actually preferred Clinton or, at the very least, had a fondness for her husband; pundits embraced the idea that Latino voters simply didn't like the fact that her opponent was black.
But was Bendixen's blanket statement true? Far from it, and the evidence is overwhelming enough to make you wonder why in the world the Clinton campaign would want to portray Latino voters as too unrelentingly racist to vote for Barack Obama.
University of Washington political scientist Matt Barreto has compiled a list of black big-city mayors who have received broad Latino support over the last several decades. In 1983, Harold Washington pulled 80% of the Latino vote in Chicago. David Dinkins won 73% in New York in 1989. And Denver's Wellington Webb garnered more than 70% in 1991, as did Ron Kirk in Dallas in 1995 and then again in 1997 and 1999.
He could have also added that longtime Los Angeles Mayor Tom Bradley won a healthy chunk of the Latino vote in 1973 and then the clear majority in his mayoral reelection campaigns of 1977, 1981, 1985 and 1989.
Here in L.A., all three black members of Congress represent heavily Latino districts and ultimately couldn't survive without significant Latino support. Five other black House members represent districts that are more than 25% Latino -- including New York's Charles Rangel and Texan Al Green -- and are also heavily dependent on Latino voters.
So, given all this evidence, why did this notion get repeated so nonchalantly? For one, despite the focus on demographic changes in America, journalists' ignorance of the aspirations of Latino America is pretty remarkable. They just don't know much about the biggest minority in the nation. And two, no Latino organizations function in the way that, say, the Anti- Defamation League does for Jewish Americans. In other words, you can pretty much say whatever you want about Latinos without suffering any political repercussions.
Unlike merely "exuberant" supporters, whose mushy grasp of facts Clinton has explained by saying they can sometimes be "uncontrollable," pollsters such as Bendixen most certainly work -- and speak -- at the whim and in the pay of the candidate.
So what would the Clinton campaign have to gain from spreading this misinformation? It helps undermine one of Obama's central selling points, that he can build bridges and unite Americans of all types, and it jibes with the Clinton strategy of pigeon-holing Obama as the "black candidate." (Witness Bill Clinton's statement last week that his wife might lose South Carolina because of Obama's growing black support.)
But the social costs of the Clintons' strategy might end up being higher than the country is willing to pay. According to Stanford Law professor Richard Thompson Ford, who just published "The Race Card: How Bluffing About Bias Makes Race Relations Worse," such political stunts can be "self-fulfilling prophecies."
"It could make black voters more hostile to Latinos," he said. "And Latinos who hear it might think that they somehow ought to be at odds with blacks. These kinds of statements generate interracial tensions."
At the Democratic presidential debate in Nevada, Tim Russert asked Clinton whether the New Yorker quote represented the view of her campaign. "No, he was making a historical statement," she said. "And, obviously, what we're trying to do is bring America together so that everybody feels like they're involved and they have a stake in the future."
From the L.A. times
Sunday, January 27, 2008
In doing so they made me as proud to be an American as I've felt in a very long time. In recent years the politics of racial division have been used almost exclusively by cynical, right-wing Republicans. But to their great shame the Clintons have now replaced Lee Atwater, Jesse Helms and Ronald Reagan as the poster children for dealing from the bottom of the deck, for playing the race card to incite racial fear and resentment to divide our communities along the color line.
The good people of South Carolina responded Saturday with a shout of "!Ya Basta!" ("Enough Already!") that can be heard ringing from sea to shining sea. Obama won an overwhelming, historic, landslide victory by more than doubling Clinton's vote in the Democratic primary. Obama won with both women and men, he won in every age category, and he won an overwhelming majority of black voters. Here in the deepest of the deep South, Obama also won with whites under 30 and earned an impressively large portion of whiter voters overall. But wait, it gets even better. The Clintons' slash and burn, divide and conquer, racially divisive campaign was specifically designed to bring white voters into the Clinton camp while conceding the black vote to Obama. Guess what? It didn't work. Clinton got trounced among black voters as planned, but she didn't win the white vote, either. Instead my man John Edwards did.
Sen. Edwards, the most progressive candidate in the race, won the white vote in this conservative state by rejecting the Clintons' dirty politics of racial division and joining with Obama to wage the politics of hope, the politics of social justice, and the politics of transformational change. Among those white voters who made up their minds over the last few days, Edwards beat Clinton by an even wider margin. (You can see the exit polls here.) In a state where up until now the former President has been a revered figure and where Sen. Clinton led in the polls just last month, three quarters of South Carolina Democrats, black and white together, rejected the Clintons and their morally bankrupt politics of division by voting for either Obama or Edwards. As Sen. Obama said so eloquently in his victory speech, the politics of the past were defeated by the politics of the future.
From the bottom of my heart, I'd like to thank the good people of South Carolina. We may finally be witnessing the birth of a New South after all, and perhaps a New America. The vision of hundreds of enthusiastic Obama supporters, black and white together, representing every age, gender, and socio-economic group and chanting, "Race Doesn't Matter! Race Doesn't Matter!" during Sen. Obama's uplifting victory address brought me to tears. The last time I have felt this much hope for our racially scarred and divided country was twenty years ago when another charismatic, progressive black leader, the Rev. Jesse Jackson, swept the Super Tuesday primaries with the original version of the politics of hope. Yes, we should probably point out that the chanters were technically incorrect. Race does still matter in America. The gap in median financial wealth between white and black families, for example, is a an appalling 31:1.
Yet the symbol of racial unity emanating from South Carolina last night at Obama-fest 2008 was nevertheless a beautiful sight to behold in a nation desperately in need of something and someone to believe in. I'm only 43 years-old and plan on sticking around for a long time to come, but as a veteran racial justice educator and activist I honestly didn't expect to see something this inspiring happen again in my lifetime. Somewhere in my own almost forgotten past, I can vaguely recall this feeling. Although I was much younger and more idealistic back then, a generation later I can still almost feel the goose bumps, can still almost feel the sensation of prideful tears welling in my eyes, can still almost hear, however faintly, the inspiring words of Jesse Jackson echoing in my ears... "Keep Hope Alive! Keep Hope Alive! Keep Hope Alive!"
Rev. Jackson, I have tried, I swear I've tried, but keeping hope alive has been hard, very hard. Hope has been in too short supply during the last twenty years of war, suffering and torture; stolen elections and the horrors of Katrina; the increasing racial divide and the demonization of our Latino immigrant sisters and brothers; the rollback of women's rights and the hateful attacks on our lesbian and gay neighbors; and perhaps most heartbreaking of all, the shameful and absolute abandonment of our poorest and most disenfranchised fellow Americans. Yes, it's been a long, difficult and often frustrating journey for the generation of young rainbow activists who you created and inspired during the 1980's. We have tried to keep our hope alive, to keep alive the dream of your mentor and our hero, but in all candor we have failed more often than we have succeeded. Yes, we have continued to fight the good fight, but at times our wealthier, more powerful, more violent and more cynical oppponents have gotten the best of us. Our hope is still alive, yes -- but we must admit that at times it has been hanging on by a thread, and a very fragile one at that.
And then last night in Columbia happened. We heard all those voices so filled with hope, we saw all those faces so full of joy and excitement, we saw in their eyes the earnest longing for something more, something greater, something deeper, something better. "Yes We Can! Yes We Can!" "Keep Hope Alive! Keep Hope Alive!" Different words, a different time, a different voice. But the sensation, I believe, is the same. The same desire for unity, for cooperation, for justice, for equality, for compassion, for social change. The same willingness to work, to sacrifice, to struggle and, if need be, to suffer to bring about that change. Twenty years later perhaps a new leader and a new generation has given us a reason to, once again, keep our hope alive. Yes We Can, I believe, Yes We Can! And if you don't think last night was a powerful moment in American political history, keep in mind that this writer is not even a Barack Obama voter, but rather a supporter of John Edwards.
Tomorrow Begins Today,
[If you missed Obama's inspiring address last night, I'm sorry for you, but you're in luck. We've posted the video below.]
Friday, January 25, 2008
It was tragicomic to watch non-Spanish speaking pundits explain the 'reality' of the Nevada vote while standing in the artificial light of the casinos during one of the first caucus meetings held entirely in Spanish. Reporters had to wait for translators to tell them what campaign workers were saying before they could report it to us. Understanding the electoral needs of casino, hotel, restaurant and other workers who labor in a new economy -- and require new hours for voting -- proved very difficult for many in the media to understand.
Typical of these conclusions are statements by the liberal New Republic's John Judis. He explained Latino support for Clinton this way: "Latino immigrants hold negative stereotypical views of blacks and feel that they have more in common with whites than with blacks." Judis backed his claims with a modicum of academic seriousness as he quoted "experts" like Duke University political scientist Paula D. McClain. McClain told me in an interview that she neither speaks Spanish nor watches the primary source of Latino news and political information, saying: "I don't watch Univision." Quoting her makes little practical sense.
By AL GIORDANO, January 22, 2008
Las Vegas, Nevada.
The chairs in the Concorde Ballroom of the Paris Casino were arranged as if for a wedding, but were more a prelude to an ugly divorce.
On one side of the at-large caucus room were supporters of Senator Hillary Clinton, led by an organizer for the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME), overwhelmingly Mexican-American.
On the other side of the aisle were supporters of Senator Barack Obama, led by a shop steward for the Culinary Workers Local 226, overwhelmingly African-American.
Both groups were made up predominantly of women. They shouted at each other, booed, hissed and hurled thumbs down in open, sneering contempt for the opposition. The hostility toward their sister workers on each side had more to do with each other than with the candidates they supported.
Capitalism and its politicians have long played divide-and-conquer to divide immigrants from other economically suppressed demographic groups. A generation or two ago, Irish, Italians and Jews were districted by those in power into the same Congressional, legislative and city council districts to compete for the same scraps of political representation while White Anglo-Saxon Protestants took the rest of the pie. The same has occurred in recent years to shoehorn blacks and Latinos--the two most solid Democratic Party voting demographic groups - into increasing conflict.
During last June's debate over the federal Immigration Reform Bill, the overtly racist Minutemen organization took time off from patrolling the border vigilante style to hold a small march in Los Angeles against reform. They recruited a sole black minister who brought along half-a-dozen men from his congregation for an anti-immigrant rally that had no more than two-dozen participants. This, justifiably, provoked anger among Mexican-Americans and others in LA, and thousands marched in counter-demonstration. Truth is, there were far more African-Americans marching with the pro-immigrant group than that stood with the Minutemen, and that fact saved the situation from becoming uglier.
As census trends explode to bring, just two or so decades from now, the Caucasian population of the United States into minority status, entire industries have been launched to prevent a majority alliance from forming along class-solidarity lines. There are book contracts aplenty waiting for divisive pundits like Earl Ofari Hutchison, author of The Emerging Black GOP Majority (2006) and Latino Challenge to Black America (2007) and who dedicated much of 2007 and, now, 2008 to bashing Obama over on The Huffington Post. Black-Latino tensions bubble up from high school brawls in Los Angeles to City Council antics in Buffalo, and of course in the prison system where gangs choose up sides so often along ethnic and racial lines.
But now it's exploded out into the open in the Democratic presidential nomination battle, with the Clinton campaign leading the charge. In recent weeks, efforts by Clinton surrogates to wage racial politics against Obama were viewed by reporters as efforts to sway white voters away from Obama: a national Clinton co-chair implied that Obama had a drug-dealing past, a former US senator repeated disproved Islamic smears, and most recently a billionaire black entertainment mogul introduced Clinton by resurrecting the drug canard. All three then staged public "apologies." But it's the words of Bill and Hillary Clinton that have sent the signals from above, from the latter's angry uncle acts in New Hampshire and Nevada and his defense of a voter suppression lawsuit there, to the former's exaltation of LBJ as the real MLK, the strategy has been to bait Obama supporters into respond in kind. Then they claim to be "victims" of false accusations of racism.
Remarkably, the race-baiting has had little effect on those white voters that would be expected to bite, particularly those in rural areas--considered by white urban and suburban liberals to be the racist ones--who in Iowa, New Hampshire and Nevada delivered bigger percentages for Obama than urban and suburban voters. But perhaps the white folk were never the intended target of such divisive politics. No, it led, instead, to the afro-hispano-divide on Saturday in Las Vegas, one that could cause lasting harm to all progressive efforts--electoral or not--in the near future of the United States of America.
The Clinton White House vs. Mexican-Americans
When president from 1989 to 2001, George H. W. Bush tried to gain approval for a North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) with Mexico and Canada, just as Ronald Reagan tried before him, he couldn't convince a Democratic Congress to go along. That magic trick required the Democratic regime of Bill Clinton--backed by a multi-million dollar corporate lobbying campaign, off which many Clinton '92 campaign staffers made good money pressuring fellow Democrats--who rammed NAFTA through.
NAFTA took effect in 1994, soon devastated the Mexican family farmer, many of whom fled across the US border while many more were displaced into Mexican cities and border states to work in post-NAFTA sweatshops. That, in turn, sparked a marked increase in undocumented workers in the US, who are now on the receiving end of the same repressive policies and media-fed demonization that were perfected against African-Americans and now utilized, likewise, against Hispanic-Americans.
In 1993, when President Bill Clinton took office, there were 80,815 men and women in federal prisons. By the end of his two terms, in December of 2000, there were 125,692: an increase of 55 percent over eight years, according to the US Department of Justice.
Federal drug enforcement counted for more than half of the 45,000-strong increase in federal prisons, leaving a total of 63,898 drug war prisoners, more than half of the federal prison population, at the end of Clinton's term. That was the consequence of mandatory minimum sentences, which the Clinton administration, and particularly Attorney General Janet Reno, pledged to reform in January 1993, but quickly abandoned during those eight years in power.
The Center on Juvenile Justice concluded at the end of the Clinton years, "When William Jefferson Clinton took office in 1993, he was embraced by some as a moderate change from the previous twelve years of tough on crime Republican administrations. Now, eight years later, the latest criminal justice statistics show that it was actually Democratic President Bill Clinton who implemented arguably the most punitive platform on crime in the last two decades. In fact, 'tough on crime' policies passed during the Clinton Administration's tenure resulted in the largest increases in federal and state prison inmates of any president in American history."
The Clinton administration's criminalization of the economically poor fell heaviest upon Hispanic-Americans. By 1997, more than halfway through the Clinton White House years, 27 percent of federal inmates were Hispanic (compared to 17 percent of state level inmates). By 2000, 43 percent of all federal drug war prisoners were Hispanic, the most likely group to be first-time offenders, and the least likely to have committed a violent crime. (If anything, these numbers undercount the real impact, since most Hispanic inmates are classified by the prison system as "white.")
Contrary to what CNN's Lou Dobbs says, these Hispanic prisoners are not primarily "illegal immigrants." US born Hispanic men are seven times as likely to end up in prison than foreign-born Hispanic men.
And during Bill Clinton's presidency, the White House made no effort to reform immigration laws or set a path to citizenship for the millions of new immigrants streaming across the border as a result of NAFTA. President George W. Bush has been more progressive on the immigration issue than Clinton ever was.
But after winning the New Hampshire primary, Senator Hillary Clinton went to Nevada and made a noisy public play for Latino voters. Governor Bill Richardson of New Mexico, the Mexican-American in the presidential contest, obliged her by dropping out of the race and clearing the path for Clinton. She walked through a predominantly Hispanic North Las Vegas neighborhood as her first post-New Hampshire media appearance, and noshed guacamole and chips at the Lindo Michoacan restaurant. During that session, with the TV cameras running, a man shouted, "my wife is illegal." (What man, if his wife is truly in the country without permission, would advertise that fact on national television? The Clinton campaign had been caught earlier in the campaign planting questions, and this incident carried the same media-manipulating smell.) Clinton's response - "No woman is illegal!" - caused many to forget her doubletalk at a debate last October about drivers licenses for undocumented immigrants when she took both sides of the issue. Indeed, at Saturday's caucus, some of her supporters gushed to reporters that "Hillary supports amnesty" for immigrants.
That blatant level of pandering from the team that had, during eight years in power, done so much damage to Mexican-Americans and their country of ancestry both, has to be viewed now in the context of the race-baiting tactics that dominated the Democratic primaries in early 2008. According to the entrance poll of Nevada caucus-goers, 64 percent of Hispanic voters favored Clinton to just 25 percent for Obama, while 83 percent of African-Americans backed Obama to only 16 percent for Clinton. If those percentages hold in the February 5 California primary (and in contests that same day in Arizona, New Mexico and Colorado, also with large numbers of Mexican-American voters), Clinton may soon be on the road to the Democratic nomination.
Eight Days to Disarm a Time Bomb
The day after his narrow defeat in Nevada (while, due to white rural voters in the northern Nevada 2nd Congressional District, Obama edged out Clinton, 13 to 12, for Democratic National Convention delegates), Obama went to the Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta, Georgia, and seemed to acknowledge that he has work to do to reverse, or at least dampen, the trend of Latino voters for Clinton.
From the pulpit where Martin Luther King once preached, he said to the predominantly black congregation:
"if we are honest with ourselves, we must admit that none of our hands are entirely clean. If we're honest with ourselves, we'll acknowledge that our own community has not always been true to King's vision of a beloved community.
"We have scorned our gay brothers and sisters instead of embracing them. The scourge of anti-Semitism has, at times, revealed itself in our community. For too long, some of us have seen immigrants as competitors for jobs instead of companions in the fight for opportunity."
The Obama camp certainly recognizes the problem, but so far hasn't taken that message to the ground level, to the homes and neighborhoods and restaurants, and, yes, in front of television cameras, to break bread together with Mexican-Americans and make his case more forcefully.
Obama--not Clinton--was a co-sponsor of the Immigrant Reform Bill that was the central issue of 2007 for the Latino population. He has to make that case and do so fast or the black-Latino rift that the Clintons have so cynically encouraged could become the story of the remaining Democratic primaries, leading to such acrimony that one group, or the other, stays home in November.
In addition to those factors, Obama needs to shine an eviscerating light upon the actual record of the first Clinton administration and the brutality of its increased prosecution of Hispanics for non-violent federal drug crimes. According to a 2003 survey by Fairbanks, Maslin, Maulin & Associates for the Drug Policy Alliance, a wide majority of Latinos in California oppose prison terms for drug offenders.
Short of a rumored, pending--but as of yet unconfirmed--Obama endorsement by Senator Ted Kennedy, the most visible sponsor of the Immigration Reform Bill and highly respected by many Latino voters, Obama is going to have to confront the black-Latino rift seen in Nevada head-on if he has hope of gaining the nomination.
The terrible Clinton legacy of US government mistreatment of Mexican-Americans--including the majority that are legal citizens--provides the constitutional law professor and civil rights lawyer from Illinois the opening to do so. But the time bomb of black-Latino division is ticking and could explode, if not disarmed in the next week, as soon as Tsunami Tuesday rolls in on February 5.
Parts of this story were originally published in The Field--http://ruralvotes.com/thefield - where Al Giordano has been writing about the presidential campaign.
Al Giordano, the founder of Narco News, has lived in and reported from Latin America for the past decade. His opinions expressed in this column do not reflect those of Narco News nor of The Fund for Authentic Journalism, which supports his work. Al encourages commentary, critique, additional analysis and news tips for his continued coverage of the US presidential campaign to be sent to his email address: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Thursday, January 24, 2008
Don't get me wrong, I still believe that Sen. Edwards is far and away the best candidate in the race, and the only major candidate who isn't bought and paid for by the corporate elite. As I've written repeatedly, for my money John Edwards is without a doubt the best progressive Presidential candidate since Rev. Jesse Jackson and arguably the best since Bobby Kennedy. To his credit, on substantive policy issues the Edwards campaign platform is the best of the major candidates, not only on his central theme of class and economic justice, but with regards to race and gender equality as well (for details, see John Edwards' Plan to Build One America). As the campaign has moved to Edwards' racially diverse home state of South Carolina over the past few days, our candidate has spoken out passionately on the need to address the appalling 10:1 racial wealth gap (which, by the way, is 31:1 in terms of financial wealth) and more broadly on the moral necessity to combat the injustices produced by America's history of slavery, followed by Jim Crow racism, followed by decades of continued racial discrimination in the post-civil rights era.
Still, Fletcher's critique is both fair and instructive with regards to: 1) the failure of the Edwards team to incorporate high profile people of color into the campaign's inner inner circle or as campaign spokespersons, with the notable exception of actor/activist Danny Glover; and 2) the failure of the Edwards campaign to consistently include an analysis of racial and gender inequities as central themes of his campaign, along with his bold, courageous critique of corporate power -- which, it's worth noting, is probably the most powerful challenge to the corporate rulers of our democratic plutocracy since the legendary labor leader Eugene Debs was forced to run his Presidential campaign from a federal prison cell in 1920. These strategic mistakes have certainly played a role in the failure of Edwards' populist campaign, thus far, to catch fire in the African American and Latino communities that comprise a large and increasing sector of the U.S. working class and form the voting base of the Democratic party.
I experienced this weakness within our campaign up close and personal while speaking on behalf of Edwards' candidacy at Sacramento's Black Political Convention just a few days ago. While on a personal level I was welcomed warmly and courteously by this group of civicly engaged African Americans, my political message was less well received. As a disciple of Dr. King and a veteran of Rev. Jesse Jackson's Presidential campaigns, I tried to make the case that John Edwards represents the 21st century heir to Dr. King and Rev. Jackson as the torch bearer for the rainbow movement for economic and social justice. With a few exceptions, however, the crowd, many adorned in Obama gear, wasn't having it. Several folks -- respectfully but passionately -- let me know as much during a very engaging discussion. The exceptions, by the way, were not just good for my morale, they represent an important reminder that communities of color are not monolithic. After my presentation, for example, an energetic young woman emerged out of the sea of ocean blue Obama placards and buttons to kindly tell me that my presentation had won her over to the Edwards camp and to ask where she could get campaign materials. Since I had stupidly forgotten to bring my box of Edwards swag to the event, it was quite fortunate that I had at least remembered to fasten my favorite, rainbow colored Edwards button to my lapel that morning so our prize recruit didn't have to leave empty handed. Several other folks confided in me that, although they were supporting Obama, they also liked Edwards and saw him as an acceptable second choice. The day was certainly not a total political loss for those of us in the Edwards camp. Although Obama easily won the Sacramento Black Convention's Presidential straw poll, we did manage to secure second place by beating Rep. Kucinich and Sen. Clinton, respectively, by more than two-to-one margins.
Still, for the Edwards campaign to be successful we need to become more than an acceptable second or third choice for minority voters. While Sen. Obama certainly represents a very appealing and skilled African American candidate, and Sen. Clinton is married to the so-called "first black President," they are both corporate friendly politicians who inhabit the moderate center of the Democratic party. Neither is calling for the kind of transformational change our country so desperately needs, nor are they prepared to lead the kind of struggle necessary to bring about that change. It is Edwards, more so than any national figure in a generation, who has responded to Dr. King's clarion call to speak on behalf of the voiceless, to represent the powerless, to offer hope to the hopeless. Yet, as Flecther argues and the polling data corroborate, Edwards' campaign has thus far failed to inspire the disenfranchised and to attract a critical mass among those huddled masses who yearn to breathe free.
On the bright side, as Fletcher also points out, it may not be too late. The immature personal bickering between the Clintons and Sen. Obama has turned off many Democratic voters and created a political opening for Edwards' underdog campaign. By all accounts Sen. Edwards won the South Carolina debate earlier this week and the polls show that he is rapidly closing the gap on his $100 million opponents in the cash strapped Palmetto state, with the nationally front-running Clinton camp privately bracing themsevles for the PR disaster of another third place finish this Saturday. The question is, will Sen. Edwards demosntrate the progressive instincts and political courage to seize the moment by fully embracing a rainbow vision? Is he prepared to fill the leadership vacuum that has plagued the rainbow movement since the political decline of Rev. Jackson in the 1990's and the tragic death of Sen. Paul Wellstone in 2002? To paraphrase Jackson, will John Edwards be the one who keeps our hope alive?
As the Presidential campaign shifts from overwhelmingly white regions of the country to more racially diverse states such as South Carolina, California, New York, Illinois and Texas, there may still be time for the Edwards campaign to reach its progressive and electoral potential by fully embracing the rainbow agenda that Bill Fletcher, Jr. and our Sacramento Progressive Alliance advocate, and that Edwards' competitors cannot embrace, regardless of their intentions, because of their structural dependence on corporate money, corporate support, and the corporate media. Alone among the contenders, John Edwards, the son of a mill worker and the economic populist par excellence, has the potential to tap into the progressive rainbow tradition of Frederick Douglass and William Lloyd Garrison, of Alice Paul, W.E.B. Du Bois, and Ida B. Wells, of Dr. King and Bobby Kennedy, of Dolores Huerta and Cesar Chavez, of Jesse Jackson and Paul Wellstone. Whether or not Edwards is prepared to take this political leap will significantly effect the future -- not just the future of his Presidential campaign, but, more importantly, the future of progressive politics in the 21st century.
Tomorrow Begins Today,
Edwards' Strategic Mistake
Bill Fletcher, Jr., Executive Editor
January 24, 2008
In the aftermath of the Nevada caucuses, it is not entirely clear where the Edwards campaign is going, but I do not think that he can yet be counted out. Nevertheless, it is important that we reflect on the Edwards campaign and the weaknesses it has displayed.
The irony of the situation is that Edwards has been crossing the country, discussing the plight of the working class and the non-working class poor. He initiated his campaign in New Orleans, giving symbolic attention to a city that was not only devastated by Hurricane Katrina, but devastated by its aftermath. He has openly acknowledged his mistake in voting to allow Bush to invade Iraq, and has been offering the elements of a new foreign policy.
And yet, he is being eclipsed. The symbolism of a Black candidacy and a Women’s candidacy has many people on the edge of their seats, unwilling - and perhaps unable - to listen to what Edwards has to say.
Edwards, however, is not blameless in this situation. It is not just what has been done to him, but what he failed to do VERY early on in his campaign. Edwards, much like Kucinich (in both the 2004 and 2008 Kucinich campaigns), fell prey to the historic "white populist error." What is this error, you ask? Simply put, it is the idea that unity will magically appear by building a campaign that attacks poverty and corporate abuse, supports unions and focuses on the challenges facing the working class, BUT IGNORES RACE AND GENDER.
The labor union movement makes this mistake all the time. It is the idea of inoculation, for lack of a better term. The notion suggests that one can be "inoculated" against racism and sexism by emphasizing the common economic injustices we all face. Once we recognize these, the theory goes, we can put aside our differences based on race and gender and march forward in unity.
It does not work that way. The history of social justice struggles in the USA is littered with the casualties from this approach. IF unity is built that way, it is temporary, but more often than not, it does not come into existence at all.
Former Senator John Edwards could and should have constructed a campaign based upon the notion of social/economic justice and inclusion, rather than restricting himself to economic justice and "change." In order to pull that off, however, he would have needed to have convened his own "rainbow coalition" as his campaign central committee. In other words, he would have needed to have had both a broad tent and real inclusion, not just diversity.
Let me make the point more graphic. If one thinks about the Edwards campaign what people of color do you - the reader - associate with it? Quickly now, don’t hesitate. Your answer will probably be mine: Danny Glover (who has been actively campaigning for Edwards). There is nothing wrong with Danny Glover. I worked with him at TransAfrica Forum and both like him and respect him. I think that it is wonderful he is on the campaign trail, but he is only one person. Why are there not other leaders of color joining Danny on this sojourn? Edwards needed to secure their involvement very early on.
Second, Edwards needed a program that matched that "rainbow coalition." He needed to be less afraid of using the “R” word - race - and the “G” word - gender - in describing what is happening in the USA and the nature of the injustices that blight this land. That would mean that his program for action, in addition to speaking to matters of class, needed to remind his audience that the USA still suffers from a significant racial divide and gender inequality. That would have been entirely consistent with the rest of his message. In that sense, we needed Edwards to be an advocate for racial justice and gender justice. He should not have assumed that he could use issues of class to subsume other forms of injustice.
Third, Edwards needed better positioning. He was correct to have launched his campaign in New Orleans, but he needed to go a few steps further. We needed him seen in East Los Angeles, the Pine Ridge reservation, and New York’s Chinatown. We certainly needed to see him in Buffalo, New York with workers of all stripes watching their town disappear and he needed to be in Appalachia in touch with a segment of the white poor who continue to be forgotten. In other words, there are actual locations where he needed to situate himself so that entire sections of the population would get a chance to interact with him, listen to him, and have him listen to them.
Fourth, we needed and continue to need from Edwards a bit of movement-building. A critical image for me in the 1980s was the fact that the Rev. Jesse Jackson was not only running for the Presidency, but that he was calling forth activists to build a movement. Even though Rev. Jackson did not follow through as we might have hoped, the message was very clear: build a movement and build organization.
Former Senator Edwards has contrasted himself with Senator Obama - his colleague in the "change" world - because Edwards emphasizes that we will need to FIGHT to bring about change. That is absolutely correct. But to fight, one must have organization. It cannot be that the candidate is the only one or the main one doing the fighting.
John Edwards made avoidable mistakes and, I believe, it is costing him. At a minimum, knowing that there was the possibility of an Obama run, Edwards should have thought differently about the entire basis of his campaign. The problem he currently faces is that, as a result of this failure, while there are many people across the country who like what he has to say, they do not necessarily see themselves in his campaign.
Bill Fletcher, Jr. is Executive Editor of The Black Commentator. He is also a Senior Scholar with the Institute for Policy Studies and the immediate past president of TransAfrica Forum.
Wednesday, January 23, 2008
Today, the U.S. economy is in trouble. Foreclosures, bankruptcies, unemployment and poverty are up. Jobs are going out; drugs and guns coming in. The New York Times reports that the “swift deterioration in the job market” hit “teenagers, blacks and Hispanics” the hardest, with unemployment increasing at “triple the increase for whites. Over one-third of all African Americans between 16 and 19 are now unemployed. The number of children without health insurance is growing.
© Copyright 2008 Digital Chicago, Inc.
Tuesday, January 22, 2008
In the End, Union Support Not Enough for Obama
January 20, 2008. Page A 13.
Good analysis of what unions can and can not do for a candidate. And, views on the Latino vote in Nevada and California.
http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2008/01/19/AR2008011902407.html?referrer=An emailarticle http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2008/01/19/AR2008011902407.html?referrer=emailarticle
January 21, 2008
In the edgiest debate of the Democratic presidential race, Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton repeatedly engaged on Monday night in bitter and at times personal exchanges with one another.
And John Edwards effectively pointed to the heated squabbling between the two frontrunners in anticipation of Saturday's South Carolina Democratic primary as a deviation from the issues that matter.
Clinton accused Obama of doing legal work for a Chicago slumlord and charged that her opponent "did the bidding of the insurance companies" when health care was debated in the Illinois legislature.
Obama told Clinton he was fighting to help workers in Chicago when "you were a corporate lawyer sitting on the board of Wal-Mart."
Clinton accused Obama of playing fast and loose with his positions. "Senator Obama, it is very difficult having a straight-up debate with you because you never take responsibility for any votes. That is a pattern," she charged, drawing jeers from the crowd, which generally awarded cheers to the applause lines of the candidates.
Obama complained about "a set of assertions made by Senator Clinton as well as her husband that are not factually accurate" and suggested that the Clintons were generalizing about legislative votes on complex issues to paint a negative picture of him. (Later in the debate, he ruminated about whether he agreed with author Toni Morrison that Bill Clinton was "the first black president." He got a laugh when he said he'd check out the former president's dance steps to see whether he was a "brother." Clinton got her laugh when she replied, "I'm sure that can be arranged.")
Obama returned more than once to his objections regarding Bill Clinton's role in the campaign. Unfortunately, Obama lodged his complaints about the mischaracterization of his record on the same night when he was doing much the same thing.
Noting that Obama had attacked both his foes for votes they had taken, Edwards said, "What you're criticizing her for, by the way, you've done to us."
Obama struggled to explain himself by explaining voting procedures in the Illinois Senate. But it was a tough sell, although perhaps not so tough a sell as Clinton's attempt to dodge a question from Edwards about whether she would bring the troops home from Iraq within a year.
In short order, Edwards had gotten the best of both his opponents. That was the order of the night. Again and again, Edwards took the side of one of the frontrunners against the other, effectively serving as an arbiter between the two.
It was an ideal position for Edwards, the outsider candidate who is struggling to distinguish himself from two opponents with more money and better poll positions.
But the former senator from North Carolina had to fight for it. More than half an hour into the debate in South Carolina, where voters will participate in a high-stakes Democratic primary on Saturday, CNN moderator Wolf Blitzer had presided over what was essential a showcase for Clinton and Obama.
"Are there three people in this debate, not two?" interjected Edwards. The 2004 Democratic nominee then delivered what may have been the most effective soliloquy of the night. Referencing the bitter back-and-forth between his two opponents, Edwards asked, "This kind of squabbling -- how many children is this going to get health care? How many people are going to get education because of this? How many kids are going to get to go to college because of this?"
"I respect both of my fellow candidates," he continued, "but we have got to understand this is not about us personally. It's about what we are trying to do for this country,'
Of course, Blitzer interrupted. But Edwards held his ground. "Let me finish here," he said. "Lord knows, you let them go on forever."
The crowd cheered as loudly as it had for anything said by Obama or Clinton. And even CNN senior political analyst Bill Schneider noticed, saying, "This could be a debate where John Edwards gets back in the game. He's effectively making his points, while Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton are in silly squabbles. Voters have too many concerns to care about Obama and Clinton's political potshots."
Radio commentator Carl Jeffers agreed, explaining that, "There are a lot of Americans who are turned off by this personal animosity between Clinton and Obama and that benefitted John Edwards."
That was certainly Edwards' hope.
"The reality of the race is that I am running against two celebrity candidates who have raised over $100 million each. I'm an underdog, but I'm a serious underdog," the candidate said after the debate, noting that he has won delegates despite a lack of media attention. "I think that people who watched this debate with an open mind were probably impressed."
What is not known, at a point when everyone seems to be taking sides in an increasingly intense fight between Clinton and Obama, is how many people watched this debate with an open mind. There skirmishing between the Clinton and Obama camps may simply solidify support for he leaders. But in this fluid race, did Edwards connect with enough undecided and wavering voters to secure a credible finish in South Carolina's primary? The answer to that question will determine whether John Edwards, who had a good night Monday, will have a good enough night on Saturday in South Carolina to remain the serious player he deserves to be in a race that goes national in two weeks with the February 5 "tsunami Tuesday" primaries and caucuses.
The triumph of global capital and crony capitalism over the past several decades has created a country of Silicon Valleys and Berlins, SoHo lofts and storm-ravaged Lower Ninth Ward bungalows. The last time Edwards ran for President, he called this the "Two Americas" and promised to stitch them together. But from the day Edwards announced this campaign in the Lower Ninth, he has presented himself as a warrior for one of those Americas as it fights to wrest back some of the ill-gotten gains from the other one--the "moneyed interests" and "entrenched corporate power" that have a "stranglehold on our democracy."
By Bill Fletcher, Jr.
Monday, January 21, 2008
Sunday, January 20, 2008
Make sure you are registered, and then forward this email to your friends, family, and neighbors. Remind them that they need to be registered if they want to support Barack.
Remember, you do not need to be a Democrat to participate in the primary. Republicans and unaffiliated voters who choose "Decline to State" as their party preference can vote for Senator Obama.
Once someone is registered as "Decline to State," here's how it works:
Unaffiliated voters must specifically request a Democratic ballot. If they are voting in person, they can request the ballot at the polling place.
If they are voting by mail, they must contact their County Elections Officer and request a Democratic ballot by January 29th: http://my.barackobama.com/CAVoteByMail
Our campaign wants as many Californians as possible to participate in the Democratic primary -- to support Barack, but also to reconnect with the political process.
For the full rules on registering to vote, visit the website of the California Secretary of State:
Make sure you are registered and spread the word,
Saturday, January 19, 2008
Obama had pinned his Nevada hopes on an outpouring of support from the 60,000-member Culinary union. But it appeared that turnout was lighter than expected at nine caucuses established along the Las Vegas Strip, and some attending held signs reading, "I support my union. I support Hillary."
Democrats looked next to South Carolina to choose between Obama, the most viable black candidate in history, and Clinton, seeking to become the first woman to occupy the White House. The state is home to thousands of black voters, who are expected to comprise as much as half the Democratic electorate.
After that, the race goes national on Feb. 5, with 1,678 national Democratic convention delegates at stake.
The split Democratic verdict in Nevada resulted from the proportional manner in which delegates were awarded. Obama emerged with one more than Clinton because he ran strongly in rural areas.
Overall, Clinton leads the delegate race with 236, including separately chosen party and elected officials known as superdelegates. Obama has a total of 136, and former North Carolina Sen. John Edwards has 50.
From the Sacramento Bee
Friday, January 18, 2008
10am-3pm: Celebration at the Sacramento Convention Center Featuring: Job, Health & Education Information; Low-Income Resource Fair; Financial Workshoips; Music, Dance; Activities for Kids
The fundamental problem facing our society today is what Dr. King referred to as "materialism" or "economic exploitation" -- what today we simply call corporate power run amok. The corporate takeover of our democracy and society essentially began with the election of Ronald Reagan in 1980 and has continued unabated under the administrations of Bush Sr., Clinton, and Bush Jr. Sadly, none of the Republican candidates and neither of the corporate sponsored, $100 million dollar Democrats (Clinton and Obama) have demonstrated the courage to publicly challenge corporate power.
Fortunately, one candidate has demonstrated the courage to challenge the corporate elite on behalf of the vast majority of working and middle class Americans: John Edwards. He deserves our support. More pragmatically, a vote for Edwards is a vote for the rapidly growing and increasingly powerful progressive, non-corporate wing of the Democratic party, what I call the "Rainbow wing" and what the late Sen. Paul Wellstone referred to as "the democratic wing of the Democratic party." A vote for Obama, and even more so for Clinton, represents an endorsement of the corporate status quo within a party that is supposed to represent labor and working folks, but cannot do so effectively as long as it is beholden to the same corporate elite that have traditionally controlled the GOP.
Because we still have three candidates running strong campaigns for the Democratic nomination, there is a fair chance that no Democrat will secure enough delegates to win the nomination outright. Thus, every vote for Edwards will be crucial to increase the influence of progressives at what may be a brokered convention in Denver this summer. Please keep that in mind as you make this important decision.
Keep the Faith,
Edwards sharpens criticism of Clinton, Obama
RENO, Nev. – John Edwards sharpened his criticism of Democratic front-runners Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama Thursday night, saying they are helping turn the party into the champion of special interests.
“When did our party change? When did we become the party that took more money from drug companies and insurance companies than the Republicans?” Edwards asked.
“Not when I'm president of the United States” he told hundreds of supporters who jammed a Reno union hall Thursday night.
The former North Carolina senator repeated his theme of being the only Democrat in the race who has never taken money from lobbyists or political action committees, but unlike a similar speech at a Reno hotel-casino on Wednesday, he called Sens. Clinton and Obama out by name.
“The person who raised the most money from oil and gas companies is not a Republican. It's a Democrat. It's Sen. Clinton,” Edwards said.
The party's 2004 vice presidential candidate said the contributions make his primary opponents beholden to big corporations, causing them to compromise on such things as health care reform and mortgage foreclosures.
“You can't take these people's money and challenge them and fight them in a way that is going to be necessary to bring about change,” Edwards said.
“We desperately need universal health care for every man, woman and child in this country. Sen. Obama's plan is not universal. It leaves as many as 15 million Americans uncovered,” he said.
Edwards said he supports Clinton's call to freeze interest rates for five years and place a moratorium on foreclosures for 90 days but “we have to do more than that.”
“What she has not called for, because the mortgage lending industry is against it, is allowing the bankruptcy court to restructure these loans. We need to give the bankruptcy court the power to restructure these loans,” he said.
Although Obama won the endorsement from Nevada's largest labor union – the 60,000-member Culinary Workers Union, Edwards said he's “optimistic” about his chances of winning the state's caucuses on Saturday due largely to “my brothers and sisters of organized labor.”
“I am without a doubt the strongest labor candidate,” Edwards said before boarding a plane to complete a campaign swing across Nevada in rural Elko later Thursday night.
“Even though I am the underdog running against two campaigns of $100 each, this is what is going to happen in Nevada on Saturday,” he said, pointing to the overflow crowd at the Reno headquarters of the United Brotherhood of Carpenters and Joiners.
“You are the foot soldiers in this movement. We don't have all the money on television ... but you are what we have,” he said, urging them to hold their ground when Obama and Clinton backers try to pull them into their camps at the caucus meetings.
“You've got to go in there with some guts and determination. Don't back away from what you believe in. You stand up for your candidate, i.e., me.”
Earlier Thursday during a speech in Henderson, Edwards picked a snippet from Tuesday night's presidential debate to criticize rivals Barack Obama and Hillary Rodham Clinton.
Asked to name a weakness, Obama mentioned his messy desk and reliance on staff. Clinton faulted him for it, saying she was better prepared to oversee the government bureaucracy.
Edwards said he was neither type and referred to his work as a lawyer who fought against big corporations.
“Sen. Clinton (is) saying what we need in a president is someone who knows how to run the bureaucracy. Sen. Obama (is) saying no, what we really need is a president of the United States who knows how to give a great speech,” Edwards told more than 200 supporters at a town hall meeting.
“I think what we need in the next president of the United States is somebody with some guts and fight and determination.”
Associated Press Writer Ryan Nakashima in Henderson contributed to this report.
Thursday, January 17, 2008
Forms Now Available to Run
By Frank D. Russo
Many of the articles written about the California Democratic Presidential primary focus on the horse race of the statewide popular vote, and by the time the ink is dry on this article there will probably be another poll and more prognostications as to who the likely winner is going to be when the votes are counted February 5.
While the statewide vote will provide a candidate with “momentum” and a victory, what is lost with this focus is that we are electing delegates to the Democratic National Convention—and that the bulk of the action here takes place locally, in each of our state’s 53 Congressional Districts. 241 of California’s 441 delegates are elected based on the share of the vote the candidates for President receive in those districts. Only 81 delegates are elected “at-large” and go to the winner of the statewide vote.
The remaining 119 delegates are selected (not elected). These include 66 “super delegates” (Members of Congress, Democratic National Committee (DNC) Members, and a former DNC Chair). Also 48 Pledged Party Leaders / Elected Officials (PLEOs) committed to candidates who receive at least 15% of the statewide vote and apportioned by their share of the vote. Another 5 are also appointed who are “unpledged” to any candidate.
A few readers have written in, asking how one enters the process to become a delegate to the 2008 Democratic National Convention, which will not only nominate candidates for President and Vice President, but also adopt the Party’s platform. Now that forms are available through the California Democratic Party (CDP) website to run as a Congressional District delegate, here are some of the rules and suggestions on how to apply and perhaps be part of history as a delegate or alternate at the August 25-28, 2008 Denver, Colorado convention. The CDP has more information on this process on their site and will begin listing those who have applied in each Congressional District.
Eric Bauman, Chair of the Los Angeles County Democratic Party, has written an excellent article on this as well.
California will send the largest delegation--441 delegates and 62 alternates to the convention-- split as evenly as possible between men and women.
While independent (Decline to State) voters may vote in the Democratic primary, to run you must be a registered Democrat and know your congressional district. You must file the form by April 2, 2008. When completing your form you must pledge your support for one presidential candidate. Should your chosen candidate drop out of the presidential race prior to this deadline, you have the option of filing a new form and pledging your support to one of the remaining candidates. You may run to be a delegate if you will turn 18 on or before November 4, 2008.
Filing of this form is not considered officially “complete” until the signed form is received by the CDP by either fax or mail. If sent by mail, it must be postmarked by April 2, 2008.
There will be 3 to 7 delegates allocated in each of California’s 53 Congressional Districts (CDs).
In addition, 40 CDs will each get 1 Alternate. Delegates are allocated to each Presidential candidate who receives 15% or more of the vote in any CD on February 5, 2008.
Caucuses, open only to registered Democrats, to choose district-level delegates will be held on April 13, 2008 by each such presidential campaign in each of California’s 53 CDs. Candidates running as district-level delegates will be notified by email of additional information they may need to know, such as the April 13 caucus sites and voting information.
The key to winning one of these prized Congressional District slots is to get as many of your friends and supporters to the caucus to vote for you and to persuade some of the others at the caucus with a combination of some of these: A warm smile, enthusiastic attitude, a good short speech (one minute, if memory serves me), a flyer, and joining with other candidates to run on a slate.
On May 18, 2008, there will be a delegate confirmation meeting where the 241 Congressional District level delegates will meet and confirm the 48 PLEOs, 81 at-large, and 5 “uncommitted” delegates and the 22 statewide alternates.
At-Large delegates and PLEOs file to be selected (by the Presidential candididates) between February11 and April 23.
The Delegation will also confirm 51 National Standing Committee members (17 to serve on the credentials committee, 17 on the platform committee, and 17on the rules committee). The Delegation Co-Chairs will also be confirmed.
You’ll have to pay your own way to the convention—getting there and meals and lodging--or take up collection. It’s exciting to be part of a large assemblage of Democrats from across the country, and well worth it if you are given the chance.
Posted on January 17, 2008
Wednesday, January 16, 2008
The woman vs. the black guy
Who's more terrifying to red states, smart Hillary or savvy Barack? The nation trembles
Wednesday, January 16, 2008
It's the question everyone seems to want to address, the imponderable and frightening and slightly insane sociopolitical phenomenon that's happening right now to such a degree that even the left is falling all over itself trying to digest and parse and comprehend it all at once, and simply can't.
It is this: Just how the hell did it come to pass and which planets finally aligned and what sort of Kool-Aid has been gulped by the universe that the two white-hot Dem frontrunners, the two brightest lights on the political spectrum for the 2008 presidential election also just so happen to be members of the two most controversial/least represented groups in modern uber-white ultra-patriarchal American snake-oil politics — which is to say, a smart, savvy woman and a smart, savvy black male?
It's a stunning thing to watch. Right now, the various spurts of venom aimed at Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama from conservative pundits and politicos are, at best, scattershot and convulsive, with only MSNBC's Chris Matthews proving himself to be a consistent blowhard jackass in his relentless slamming of Hillary by claiming that she only made it this far due to adultery-survivor sympathy. Hey, Chris? 2001 called. It wants its puerile, sexist analysis back. Thank you.
Yes indeed, the sexism that surrounds Clinton's run like a toxic fog is almost too easy to spot. (Fox News is, naturally, fueling its entire 2008 programming schedule with it.) It is de facto, built-in, implied and inherent in the coverage of just about everything she does, and what's most amazing to me is that people are still surprised that the sexism is there at all, much less so apparent and shameless.
To which I can only reply: I'm sorry, did you somehow miss the last seven years of brutal, testosterone-drunk war-sucking macho neocon hell? Did your noise-canceling headphones somehow block out the sound of those 10,000 tiny, clashing penises, banging like Satan's own baby rattle all the way from Osama's cave to the Oval Office to Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's gay fetish dungeon in downtown Tehran?
Because truly, while a record number of women currently serve in Congress, Washington is still very much an inbred old-boy's network, so deeply entrenched in ancient male power structures and so drunk on stagnant machismo and so poisoned by the Christian right's woman-in-her-place mentality, it will require a couple more decades and a few hundred more dead southern congressmen before the innate sexism finally fades to a tolerable scar.
(Actually, at the moment, it's tough to tell which aspect the right hates more about Hillary: the fact that she's a woman or the fact that she's a Clinton. I think it's a lethal mix of both, the unconscionable right-wing double whammy, insult added to injury and all resulting in a liberal vagina monologue the misogynistic right is simply not ready to hear.)
As for Obama, well, he's not so easy. The inherent racism simmering all over Bush Nation right now over his, um, Negro-ness? Blackitude? Really good tan? (they don't know what to call it, safely) is decidedly more subtle, more insidious, less acceptable as public display than flat-out, everyday Chris Matthews-grade sexism, and therefore, not so easy to spot. Not yet, anyway.
So far, no one on the right really seems to know the best way to play the race card against Obama. Not that they won't try. Will they go after the drug thing? Paint him as a friend to scary hip-hop thug rappers? Resort to saying 'Obama' and 'Osama' in the same sentence so as to confuse the same red state knuckle-draggers who still believe Saddam orchestrated 9/11? Hard to tell. But rest assured, they'll find a way.
Or, you know, maybe they won't. After all, the right has its own heaping bucket of problems right now, not the least of which is the weakest and craziest and least palatable field of GOP contenders in 50 years. There's the chipper creationist nutball who loves him some Chuck Norris, the stupefied Mormon mannequin who simply cannot believe the world is so icky and complicated, the doddering Iraq-loving war vet who seems to be getting more unstable by the minute, and the cross-dressing former New York mayor who has "9/11" tattooed on his ego in fake blood. And oh yes, a zany old anti-choice libertarian who somehow keeps raising piles of cash and sending fascinating postcards from the edge of political reason. Cool!
Perhaps this is the best news of all. The right is a fractured, inchoate mess, with the once Karl Rove-unified evangelical core now gloriously splintered and disillusioned and completely unsure where to turn to find a candidate who will hate gays and slam women's rights and mistrust foreigners as much as Bush promised, but never completely delivered. They can't yet attack Obama because they're too busy destroying themselves.
But I'm most amazed/amused at the one big question that keeps hovering over the media and infiltrating the political blogs — does all this excitement over Hillary and Barack mean the nation is finally ready for a female president? A black president? Have we, at long last, come so far that a guy like John Edwards, an excellent, likable, all-around candidate and a classic populist southern Democrat, actually finishes third?
The answer, I'm afraid, is no, we are not ready. Not by a long shot.
This is the big, astounding myth. See, "ready" would imply we've more or less eliminated the sexism and at least come to terms with the racism, and therefore neither is much of a factor in the slightest. It's a bit like asking if America is finally ready to rid itself of its toxic love of guns and strips malls and numb Christian groupthink. In other words, if you have to ask, we ain't.
However, we do seem to be at this weird flash point, a privileged moment in political history where the anti-Bush recoil has become so potent and the right-wing collapse is so profound and the women/youth vote (at least at the moment) seems so invigorated that it all might coalesce just right and catapult a woman or a black male into the presidency, despite the hardcore misogyny and racism built like a cancer into the framework of this nation. Hey, stranger things have happened.
Look at it this way: Much in the same way Bush whored Sept. 11 to drag the nation to its lowest emotional, fiscal and political point in 100 years, so could the new wave of enraged, inspired voters leverage the Bush nightmare itself to bounce us as far as possible in the other direction. Hell, it could be even weirder than that: Hillary or Obama wins the nomination, chooses the other as running mate. Talk about your perfect liberal storm.
Are we ready for it? Doesn't matter. Quit asking what amounts to a dispiriting, futile question, and let's go find out.
Thoughts about this column? E-mail Mark.
Mark Morford's Notes & Errata column appears every Wednesday and Friday on SFGate and in the Datebook section of the San Francisco Chronicle. To get on the e-mail list for this column, please click here and remove one article of clothing.