ELECTION ’08: Archie Bunker Edition

This week was the low point (so far) in this year’s primary season, as charges and reverse charges of racism we made by each of the Democratic contenders for the presidential nomination. Things that were thought buried were excavated, and things that were thought dead crept from their graves like a George Romero movie. As Hillary Clinton settles into her ‘kitchen sink’ strategy and tries to consolidate her lead in Pennsylvania, her squad has shown that there is nothing that they won’t use to dig into Obama’s delegate and popular vote leads. What the public is left with is the same types of tactics that the establishment has used in decades past. Still, the question isn’t one of morality, but rather have these attacks been effective? This is what we’ll be looking at in this episode of Election ’08.

Presidential election politics started off late this week as Client #9, and former Governor of New York, Eliot Spitzer stole national headlines, getting sunk in possibly the biggest American political scandal of the new millennium. I don’t need to get into the details; you guys know the story now and if you haven’t heard of Ashley Dupre you probably will just in time to distract you from anythingreallyimportant. All in all, the only thing of substance that has come out of this whole quagmire is that David Paterson, Spitzer’s former right hand man, has become the first black Governor of New York, and first legally disabled Governor in America. Kudos to him; we would have liked to have seen him take it in an actual election, but a W is always a W. We wish him the best of luck. Anyway, by the time that dust storm cleared Obama had taken the Mississippi primary by a huge margin (61 to 37) owed, in large part, by the overwhelming support of blacks in the state, who voted for Barack by nearly a 9 to 1 margin. Perhaps this might have helped him retake some of the momentum he lost during the Texas and Ohio losses, but he was cut off at the pass by, of all people, Geraldine Ferraro, who stole his glory with a completely asinine statement that was as controversial as it was stupid. In an interview with the Daily Breeze, Ferraro said:

"If Obama was a white man, he would not be in this position. And if he was a woman (of any color), he would not be in this position. He happens to be very lucky to be who he is. And the country is caught up in the concept."

After Obama’s campaign asked Clinton to denounce Ferraro’s comments, Ferraro went on a one day media tour repeating the comments and then, in a move that literally made my jaw drop, accused Obama of being racist:

"Any time anybody does anything that in any way pulls this campaign down and says let's address reality and the problems we're facing in this world, you're accused of being racist, so you have to shut up…Racism works in two different directions. I really think they're attacking me because I'm white. How's that?"

At first my mind was boggled by the duplicity of the statement, but then I recalled something that shed some light onto the source of Ferraro’s bitterness. From Wu-Tang Clan’s Clan In Da Front:

“I gamed like Ella, the bitch caught a fitz like Gerald/ Geraldine Ferraro/ who’s full of sorrow cause the hoe didn’t win/ but the sun will still come out tomorrow…”

Obviously, Ms. Ferraro might harbor some anger towards blacks for the Wu’s criticism. Thanks GZA; the sun never came out.

Seriously though, Ferraro’s comments do have some somber foundations, some that she’s knowledgeable of and some that she isn’t. It’s glaringly apparent why she made her statement in the first place. Pennsylvania, the arena for Clinton and Obama’s next bout—a bout that will likely seal the presidential nomination for one of the two candidates—has a very large poor white blue-collar population.

This is the type of demographic where Ferraro’s argument works well, since it harkens to Affirmative Action, a policy that many poor whites use to scapegoat their financial problems. ‘Why are I unemployed?’ They ask. Well simply (but wrong) they think that it’s because they’ve lost their job to an unqualified black man, and thus, in our current political climate, the more ‘qualified’ candidate, Hillary, is losing to her less ‘qualified’ opponent Barack, because he’s black and she’s white.

It’s a very simple but insidious ploy that unfortunately will work. There was no wonder in my mind why Hillary waited until Ferraro had finished her speaking tour before condemning said remarks; it’s an even older political ploy to throw out trash like this and see if it sticks before reining it back in.

But on a personal note, Ferraro’s words do have some truth to them, a truth that escapes both the speaker and her white audience. Yes, Obama’s rise, in part, is because of his dark skin. But it’s not because of any Affirmative Action policy (which is so silly when you think about it—did Iowa, or Vermont, or Utah, or any of the states with large white majorities walk into the voting booth and say, ‘Gee, I better vote for this guy to institute a policy of racial equality?’ I don’t think so.), it’s because of something that my dad, and I’m sure a lot of other black fathers and mothers told their children.

Being black in America doesn’t mean you have to be a good as your white competition, it means you have to be better than them. And not just a little better, you have to be WAY better. You can’t be Larry Bird, you gotta be Michael Jordan; you can’t be Arnold Palmer, you gotta be Tiger Woods; you can’t be Norman Schwarzkopf, you gotta be Colin Powell. A lot of people have said, “Well, if Barack Obama was white he would have been John Edwards.”

But what they don’t see is that Barack Obama had to be better than John Edwards—he had to be Barack Obama, and that’s why Edwards is at home drinking beer on his sofa while Obama has the delegate lead.

However, the Ferraro story did have teeth, and while she eventually resigned from Hillary’s campaign team, the media then followed up with an old story regarding the connection between Obama and the Minster of his church in Chicago, Rev. Jeremiah Wright. Now this has been floating around for a while, and for those who haven’t heard of Rev. Wright he has made some strong, incendiary statements regarding America’s drug, racial, and foreign policies. In sum, he’s pretty much the standard for African-American ministers.

It’s also worth noting that Wright was a Marine who served this country with distinction and holds several advanced and honorary degrees. Regardless, Obama took a day to set the record straight regarding his relationship with Wright, which can be summed up in this quote Obama made to MSNBC.com:

“I strongly condemn” [Wright’s statements, but] “I would not repudiate the man…He’s been preaching for 30 years. He’s a man who was a former Marine, a biblical scholar, someone who’s spoken at theological schools all over the country…What I hope is [that] what the American people will trust is what I believe…my values, my ideas, what I’ve spoke about in terms of bringing the country together will override a guilt by association.”

For those interested in what Wright said, a few of his speeches were quoted in the above article and Andrew Sullivan has the full text of a speech here. Whether you agree with Wright’s messages or not, what needs to be said is, a) Obama has fully and clearly denounced those controversial statements; b) in no way are Wright’s tone and words similar to Obama’s, and in fact Obama has gone out of his way to express an entirely different attitude and rhetoric than his minister; and c) when placed in it’s biographic context, Obama and Wright’s relationship was more personal than professional, as Obama joined Wright’s church to explore and learn about his African-American ancestry, not because he thought it would help him become president of the United States.

Personally, I don’t think that much of this whole issue and I think it distracts from the real issues that should be debated in this primary season. It pales to John McCain’s relationship to his nutty pastor John Hagee, and it’s inconsequential when compared to Hillary Clinton’s refusal to disclose her tax returns and Bill Clinton’s refusal to disclose the donors to his Presidential Library.

If the press is going to have a field day sifting through Obama’s religious connections and personal life than it’s their job to give equal time to his opponents. Clinton has claimed that the media is pro-Obama, but this week the media seemed determined to prove her wrong.

Things to look forward to this week: McCain is taking full advantage of Democratic in- fighting to tour over Iraq, so expect him to rise above this bickering and give a very presidential looking statement about how great the surge is going. Both Obama and Hillary will try to then tear down that statement, but their attacks will lack strength as they rip each other to shreds marching to Pennsylvania.

Look for John Edwards to endorse Obama or Clinton. Word is he’s going to back Hil, but I just can’t see him not endorsing Barack. Refusal to do so will lose him incredible amounts of credibility among his grassroots supporters.