As featured on p. 218 of "Bloggers on the Bus," under the name "a MyDD blogger."

Monday, January 28, 2008

The Kennedys And The Clintons

Ted Kennedy is apparently not just endorsing Barack Obama today, he's going on the road for him, appearing in California, New York, New Jersey, Arizona and New Mexico. The Western states are notable. Kennedy has endeared himself to the Hispanic community with his work on comprehensive immigration reform. We saw in Nevada the split between Latinos and African-Americans, and if Kennedy can walk that back, it's very helpful for Obama's campaign.

But there's another component to the Kennedy endorsement. Over the last week, we have seen a former President turn himself into the attack-dog-in-chief, and while I don't think there was a racial component during the race, there ABSOLUTELY was one after the race, when he referred to Jesse Jackson's wins in South Carolina for virtually no reason. First of all, the Jackson wins were in caucuses that were lightly contested. Second, it was an explicit racial distinction, even if Jackson himself was not offended by it. And finally, it just put Clinton in the forefront, as if he was running for a third term. Part of this is the fact that the media is mesmerized by the Clenis and will put a microphone in front of Clinton no matter where he is or what he says. But he's certainly doing himself no favors, either. Here's Anonymous Liberal:

Which is why it is so disillusioning to see him engaged in what is obviously an attempt to marginalize his wife's chief rival as "the black candidate." Just today, he was trying to spin away Obama's overwhelming victory in South Carolina by going out of his way to compare Obama to Jesse Jackson. There has clearly been an attempt by the Clinton campaign over the last week or so, led chiefly by Bill Clinton, to dismiss Obama's success in South Carolina as being all about race. The goal has been to transport us back in time 20 years, to turn what had begun as an almost post-racial election into a replay of 1988. As Clinton knows, if Americans come to see Obama as the candidate of African-Americans--like Al Sharpton or Jesse Jackson in prior presidential races--his support among whites, hispanics, and other ethnic groups will plummet.

If this strategy is successful, it will all but ensure that Hillary Clinton wins the nomination. In that sense, it's smart and crafty politics. But it will only accomplish this at the expense of progressive ideals and the well-being of the country generally. It will take a moment in history that could have marked a huge step forward for the country and turn it into a huge step backward. It will take a moment that could have gone a long way toward smoothing over long-simmering racial tensions and instead only further inflame them.

Clinton is sullying his reputation, harming the Democratic coalition, and setting back race relations in this country, and he's doing all of this solely to advance his wife's near-term political prospects. It's as if he's become so focused on winning this primary battle that he's completely lost sight of all larger considerations.

It's hard to argue with any of that. And it's hard to argue with the statement that Clinton is doing whatever he can to pull his wife across the finish line, including the slippery slope of challenging established DNC rules just days before they are to be enacted.

It was said that Ted Kennedy would stay out of this race in order to bring the party together and heal it after a bitter primary fight. Actually, I think he's ENTERING the race to do the same thing. By taking aside against the tactics of former President Clinton and his wife, he's directing where he would like the Democratic Party to go. This is a central part of Kennedy's reasoning in all the stories today.

Kennedy's decision came after weeks of his rising frustration with the Clintons over campaign tactics, particularly comments by the couple and their surrogates in South Carolina that seemed to carry racial overtones. Kennedy expressed his frustrations directly to the former president, but to no avail. He came to his endorsement decision over the past week, after speaking to numerous family members, especially younger ones, and gave Obama the word on Thursday, people familiar with the endorsement said.

This is more of a rebuke than an endorsement. And it's one that is well-deserved. Honestly, I don't support Hillary Clinton but I think she deserves better than the campaign she's running, although clearly she supports it at some level.

We'll see if the rest of the Democratic Party delivers the same rebuke on February 5.

UPDATE: I'm seeing the same pattern. People I know who aren't deep observers of politics are fed up with Bill Clinton's tactics and are moving to Obama. From the standpoint of actual states Obama has an uphill battle on February 5. But when I see more anecdotal information like this, part of me wonders if we're heading for a landslide. Seriously.

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