Monday, January 14, 2008

Hillary's Meta-Racist Campaign Against Obama

Bob Johnson, founder of Black Entertainment television and a prominent Hillary Clinton supporter, made the following remark yesterday:
"To me, as an African American, I am frankly insulted the Obama campaign would imply that we are so stupid that we would think Hillary and Bill Clinton, who have been deeply and emotionally involved in black issues when Barack Obama was doing something in the neighborhood; I won't say what he was doing, but he said it in his book when they have been involved," Johnson said.

The Richmond Democrat had this response to Johnson's remarks:

Clinton's campaign has been pursuing a fairly obvious strategy of having surrogates attack Obama while the campaign itself denies any involvement. As Josh Marshall wrote:
We seem to be at the point where there are now two credible possibilities. One is that the Clinton campaign is intentionally pursuing a strategy of using surrogates to hit Obama with racially-charged language or with charges that while not directly tied to race nonetheless play to stereotypes about black men. The other possibility is that the Clinton campaign is extraordinarily unlucky and continually finds its surrogates stumbling on to racially-charged or denigrating language when discussing Obama.[1]
There has been an entire string of these "gaffes" from Clinton surrogates. What we have here is a deliberately planned campaign of smear.

Yesterday, Clinton surrogate Bob Johnson implied that Barack Obama's time as a community organizer was actually spent dealing drugs, then, hours later, backed away from those comments and denied any such implication. Marshall reacted to these theatrics.

Now, the clear logic of this statement is that the Clintons were fighting the good fight back when Obama was just off goofing off. Being a community organizer is like the epitome of engaged involvement in community issues. So Johnson's statement literally makes no sense if it's a reference to Obama's time as a community organizer.

The Richmond Democrat points to another instance of "not-so-subtle" exploitation of racism by the Clinton camp

[Sergio Bendixer, Clinton pollster] was also frank about the fact that the Clintons, long beloved in the black community, are now dependent on a less edifying political dynamic: “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 Political Scene: Minority Reports, Ryan Lizza, The New Yorker.

Today, Hillary Clinton insisted: "I do not think either of us want to inject race or gender in this campaign." Yet, plainly that is precisely what she and her campaign are doing. In the case of the Hispanic voter, the appeal to racism is of the dog-whistle variety: intended only to be heard by the groups harboring negative attitudes toward a black candidate.

Yet, how can such exploitation of racism work for liberals who take no small pride in their self-perceived abhorrence of racism? I would suggest that for such an audience, Hillary's camp exploits a higher-order racism. Liberal Democrats would not countenance the idea that Obama's race should count as a reason not to vote for him. They are quite ready, however, to believe that it is a reason that counts for others, the benighted racists. That fact can then be exploited as a second-order reason for those who could never be moved by a more crude, first-order appeal to racism. A similar dynamic is apparent in having Bob Johnson make reference to Obama's admitted youthful drug use. While this was unacceptable for Bill Shaheen, and resulted in his dismissal from the campaign, there is no similar response to Bill Johnson's remark. Here, the liberal attitude can be this: it is fine for a black man to criticize Obama for his drug use, but since that behavior fits into a racial stereotype, it is not all right for a white man to do the same. Thus, the Clinton campaign, by finding a prominent African-American supporter, can continue to have the drug issue raised in public by using a black surrogate.

In several ways, Hillary's campaign is exploiting a higher-order or meta-racism into this primary campaign.

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|| headland, 11:42 AM


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