The convention is a snooze until Bill & Hill show up, so here is the fourth post in the Affirmative Action series. Actually, the mess that is the convention is a perfect opening to the post. Obama did not do the politically intelligent thing and ask with total seriousness (if no discernable ethusiasm) that Hillary be VP. Yes, I think she would have taken the job (more fully explained below) and I would have been obliged to vote for her. In his bungling of this, the most important decision a party nominee can make prior to actually being president (though I think, this year, given the sad-sack choices, we have to say they are running for the office of Preznit), Obama and his backers in the DNC show once again that they cannot hear what is being said directly to their faces and they do not see has been written large on every political screen since New Hampshire.
People don't give a fuck about race. Iraq isn't motivating them all that much, either, since it's obvious the question is not if but when we leave. They are scared to death of the brutal economic times ahead and they want someone to have some answers that will make their own lives more secure.
Is the campaign even talking abut this? Have they said anything concrete about helping ordinary Americnas get through the coming financial storm? Not according to Krugman or Somerby whose opinions I trust even if I don't want to hear what they say. Instead, we're getting week after week of whining about race and personal smears and impugning patriotism and who owns how many houses and whose more "in touch" with the middle class. Given the crap Biden has spewed about Obama in combination with his history of borderline racist and misogyistic remarks, it all sounds like the Obamacans are substituting their own guilty consciences for the opinion of the general public. They are so certain that the attacks will be on race and Obama's foreign/exotic presence that they appear to only be on the offensive for these kinds of arguments. They presume racism, xenophobia, accusations of elitism, questioning of patriotism. They are not wrong, because these are under attack as they are in every battle with the Republicans, but the expectations and responses are focused on these things to the exclusion of more dangerous inroads.
Also, these are the obsessions of the Stevensonian class. The power brokers of the party long ago hitched their wagons to race as the beast of burden that would pull them through to moral victory. They were on the side of the right and the good. The part of the party that would not align on this matter has been jettisoned, a necessary act that had to be done. But now the tunnel vision about race hasd become a political and cultural straight jacket. The race baiting of the campaign. Labeling Ohio voters "Archie Bunkers" for supporting Hillary. Belittling Pennsylvania voters who won't see themselves being delivered from their benighted lives by Obama. Dean's repeated references to Republicans as "the white party." The deafening howls that the only reason voters like me fail to vote for Obama is because we are racist.
The big question for me is how many Obamacans truly in their hearts believe that race explains everything in this campaign. That number is the measure of the vulnerability of the party.
The Republicans, who regard racsim as a strategic weapon and not as an evil to be eradicated, refuse to join the party. Why waste money and resources when the Democrats are doing the damage all on their own? They will, of course, throw in racist appeals before the end because they are Republicans, but they have a more effective approach for now. Where has Obama lost ground among Democratic voters? In the populations most endangered by the faltering economy and the long term erosion of socio-economic standing. He did not address what mattered most to them, which was their increasing vulnerability to the ordinary dangers of life - insurance, health care, retirement, wages, job security, housing. To fail to do this was what makes Obama come across as elitist.
The assault on AFAC by the Republicans is yet another example of how they use personalization and moralizing to turn an argument about institutions and government policy into one about personal benefit. The focus on the individual who is not hired or admitted is turned into a narrative of dark forces colluding to deprive a deserving, hard working person of their rightful place and giving it to some unqualified person, completely ignoring the larger cultural context of the program. When the college admissions process is gamed by elites to gain access to the most desireable institutions, then the broader argument becomes harder to defend.
Some have mistaken my earlier arguments about Obama and affirmative action to mean that I am attacking him from a Republican, anti-AFAC position, that I support people who make such arguments, or that I think this is a "valid" criticism of him.
I'm not going to do their work for them, which is one reason I have remained silent on this topic for so long. There is a difference between saying that someone is not the best choice because he lacks experience and using false representations of affirmative action to smear a prominent Democrat in order to increase the efficacy of your campaign to destroy affirmative action.
I'm talking about the Democratic leadership's inability to understand how the simple facts of Obama's personal history combined with the blatent favortism and machinations of the DNC on his behalf is being used to effectively undermine the campaign and, more importantly, the liberal policies of the party. To respond "Racist!" when the charge is "Unqualified!" is stomping right into the sterotype of how Republicans say Democrats use AFAC - to place unqualified minorities into positions they have not earned, do not deserve and cannot perform. This is the real mesage behind the latest attack ad trying to use Hillary. It was not primarily about whether Hillary said Obama was not qualified (Like Republicans care about Hillary? Puh-leeze...), but about getting the optics in front of the viewers - white person who is really well prepared pushed aside for brown person who isn't. And with the Stevensonian fanaticism about race, they are providing all the wrong responses to this assault. The Republican campaign theme, now that Hillary is not on the ticket, is this: Look at the Democrats engaging in reverse discrimination with the office of the Presidency itself. If they will do this, they will stop at nothing to give your jobs away.
The problem is that the Democratic leadership have nothing to promote except Obama himself. They don't have policies that distinguish them from the Republicans (Sorry, we tried "I'm not Bush!" with Kerry. Didn't work out so well.), there is not a measure or cause Obama can claim as his own (AUMF is off the table with Biden as the VP), and the people most harmed by current conditions have been told that they are not wanted in Whole Foods Nation, that they are racist panhandlers at the door (Keep building that unity!).
Bill Clinton always talks about the powerful interests that try to keep us down. This is a child of the South, a man whose perceptions and convictions were forged in the middle of the battle against segregation. He was then, as he remains today, on the right side of the battle. When he talks about powerful interests, he is talking about the political and economic elites who purposefully set the poor, working and lower middle classes against each other over race in order to maintain their privilege. When the Big Dog advocates unity, it is to fight the divisions that keep people poor, disempowerd and vulnerable. He's talking about political unity to craft the policiy that will create and defend institutions that make people's lives materially better. This is unity for the sake of power.
Unity itself, taken as a good and a goal for its own sake, is powerless. It is the great High Broderistic wet-dream of perfect bipartisanship under God, party bosses indivisible, with lobbyists and cocktail weenies for all. It is ponies for everybody when what people really want is annual medical checkups and their privacy protected. "Unity or else" is a dead end because it does nothing for people. Which is why the Republicans and The Village like it. Keep the rabble in its place.
Unity for the sake of power has always been Bill's message, and now we see he was never alone with it as we listened to Hillary patiently discuss wonky topics with intent townspeople all across the country. If we do not unify for the sake of our goals, then those who profit from our disunity have won. That is what I see motivating Hillary's current campaigning, even as she is being assailed within her own party for daring to be an inspiring figure and unify voters in November. For the sake of her constituents, she will not yeild an inch to either the Republicans or the Obamacans' attempts to drive her out of public life.
The obvious injuries of class are being dismissed by the DNC and other Democratic power brokers this round, in a year when going to the policy left made perfect sense. The Republicans are eagerly pursuing the votes of those who feel injured on this count, but do so to fan the flames of resentment and division. The Stevensonian wing is all too enamored of its own moral superiority on race, too contemptuous of the Bubbas and the Bunkers, to make the slightest move to win back and thus defend this constituency.
At this point, I can no longer believe that it is just bad judgement, though stupidity is on full display. The rejection of Clinton Democrats is real. Why?