Friday, January 18, 2008

The Times They Have a-Changed, Hillary

Dr. King's dream began to be realized when President Lyndon Johnson passed the Civil Rights Act of 1964. ... It took a president to get it done.
-- Hillary Clinton, Jan. 7, 2008


What follows here perfectly sums up one of my overall problems with Hillary (and her establishment), and nails the reason why he MLK comments generated so much animosity...
The analogy Clinton was implying was obvious: I'm Lyndon Johnson, unlovely doer; he's Martin Luther King, charismatic dreamer. Vote for me if you want results.

Forty years ago, that arrangement -- white president enacting African-American dreams -- was necessary because discrimination denied blacks their own autonomous political options. Today, that arrangement -- white liberals acting as tribune for blacks in return for their political loyalty -- is a demeaning anachronism. That's what the fury at Hillary was all about, although no one was willing to say so explicitly.

The King-Johnson analogy is dead because the times are radically different. Today an African-American can be in a position to wield the emancipation pen -- and everything else that goes along with the presidency ...Why should African-American dreams still have to go through white liberals?

Times must have indeed a-changed, because that is the first (and probably last) time Charles Krauthammer and I will agree. He's right, and dare I say, the whole column is worth reading.

What Hillary said pissed people off, because on it's face, it's a slight to MLK, and belittles his own role in his accomplishments, but Krauthammer does the best job of exposing the underpinnings of Hillary's flawed perspective (the psychiatrist finally makes an effective diagnosis).

The Democratic Party has long been the defender and advocate for the down-trodden, and for good reason. The Clintons, especially Bill, have traded on that legacy so effectively that he was literally called the "first black President" (news to Obama, I'm sure). The same is true for gays, and as a more recent battleground, more accurately demonstrates what I (and Krauthammer) am talking about...

Because the Republicans are so clearly the party of white, straight people—even better if they're rich—minorities never have an alternative to the Democrats. So, the Democrats take their support and votes for granted. Much like the GOP and the religious base—they pander to them during election time, and then fail to deliver when in office. For the GOP, they never actually give the evangelicals the pro-life carrot...And the Democrats via Clinton? He rewarded the support of GLBT voters with the Defense of Marriage Act and "Don't Ask, Don't Tell." (NOTE: This gets to the whole Obama/Reagan thing. More on that later.)

Hillary may actually a better-prepared "experience" candidate than Obama by some definitions, and she (and Edwards) surely have to walk a fine line when opposing a transformational candidate like Obama—nobody wants to LOOK LIKE they are getting in the way of a historic moment.* I'm not saying people should step aside for Obama—run your race and make your case, but if you're going to stand in Obama's way you better make damn sure you never use "you're not quite ready to handle this by yourselves yet" as a reason.

It's why it appears voters of color are abandoning the Clintons for Obama, not just because "Holy Shit!" they can vote for a black President, but because Hillary and her fake-black husband want to hold on to them, "Wait! Are you sure about this guy? You're rolling the dice here...you know us!"

It's fucking condescending. They are too wrapped up in their own roles as benefactors. The fact that the framework where this is occurring, race, is incidental and only applies to this gaffe. It's a larger problem than that...which leads back to this...

I said at the top that this was one of my "overall problems" with Hillary. Not the "race" part, or any specific instance as much as the fact that everything is all about her. And that somehow she has to do it. None of the other candidates can do it, and the country can't do it without her. Doesn't matter what "it" is. That's not leading, it's taking over. And it won't work, especially for her.

--

I'm not questioning the beliefs of Bill and Hillary Clinton regarding social issues. Really, I'm not. But I question the commitment. In Bill Clinton's Presidency, I think he was all too ready to triangulate and abandon those beliefs and commitments. This campaign has revealed in no uncertain terms that power, and regaining the White House, is a by-any-means-necessary proposition. And why, if they win, retaining that power will always trump even their own beliefs.

UPDATE: Slight edits/additions. Also, there have been a few other things I've read on this, I hope to find those links.

WaPo on why the old-school civil rights leaders are lukewarm on Obama. It's similar to the Clintons problem—he's not beholden to them, and he represents, if not their obsolescence, but the passing of a torch they need to hang on to.

*Yes, I realize a woman President is also historic, but because Hillary is who she is (the very embodiment of establishment power), it frankly loses a bit of luster up against Obama. Plus, she wields that power and status so brutally it's unbecoming of a transformational candidate.

21 comments:

Smitty said...

Excellent post, Mr. F. Well said.

I had not seen the framework behind why her statement was so aggregious. In fact, John Stewart even spoofed it the other night (not that he's the bastion of all opnion, but he usually bashes if bashing is in order).. But under this framework, the quasi-racism is just as racist as the blatant shit.

Racists are at lesast up-front about their irrational hatred. But this is a very condescending level of racism that is the underpinning of her statement.

And ultimately reason num 3,459 why I didn't support Hillary when Michigan's oh-so-useful vote came around.

Mr Furious said...

I don't want to feel like I'm viewing everything through a "racism filter." I don't believe that Hillary or Bill Clinton are "racist" in the traditional sense of that word by any means.

Most all of my problems with Hillary have to do with reasons other than the fact her rival is Obama—whether you're talking about the fact that he is my horse in the race OR the fact that he's black.

I NEVER wanted Hillary to be the nominee for many reasons, including:

1. No dynasties. Thirty years of Bushes and Clintons trading the White House is too much. You had your bite at the apple, move on.

2. Electability. HRC is the Democrat I viewed as most likely to lose—no other Democrat will rally the GOP base to the polls like Hillary. I'm not even sure if Obama turned out to be gay, it would be as bad.

3. Her Term. No PResident could possibly face a more hostile Republican opposition than Hillary. Absolutely NOTHING will get done.

Those were the reasons I opposed her nomination before I ever hitched up to Obama, and they all still hold true.

But the way she has campaigned since losing in Iowa has opened my eyes and made me realize I don't want her and the people around her anywhere near the levers of power ever again. They're not racist, but they are perfectly willing to thumb through "Chapter 3: Racism" in Karl Rove's playbook.

It's Exhibit A that the power is the most important thing to them. When can you remember Bill fucking Clinton losing his cool? Somebody else decided to mess with their plan, and when they couldn't ease them off the stage things started getting ugly.

I'm fucking done with ugly. Especially against your own team.

Toast said...

Re: Hillary's "experience", I think you'll like this piece over at Slate.

Mr Furious said...

Is that the Noah piece? I read an excerpt at Carpetbagger. i'll go check it out.

S.W. Anderson said...

"Today an African-American can be in a position to wield the emancipation pen -- and everything else that goes along with the presidency ..."

No, that's a hopeful proposition that's being tested this year in a big way. It's not yet an established fact, just Krauthammer's opinion.

Krauthammer, like the rest of the Republicans, has an agenda that's not about delivering good things to African Americans or Hispanics. It's about driving a wedge between those groups and Democrats, to help Republicans regain power in Congress and keep the White House.

We'll probably know more about where things stand after Huckabee and McCain, Clinton and Obama have campaigned across the Bible Belt.

S.W. Anderson said...

Not that Hillary Clinton is my first choice, nor that I think Bill Clinton is doing anything better than making an ass of himself in this campaign, but what Hillary said about LBJ's incredible power and skill getting Congress to go along with the civil rights acts was historically accurate.

Trying to make something vaguely racist out of it was lame.

steves said...

I agree with the previous poster. I sometimes think that the racist kabel gets thrown around too easily. Has Hillary supported any racist policy? Has she proposed any racist legislation?

steves said...

Oops, I meant label, not kabel. I don't think there is some kind of racist cabal that is getting thrown around.

Deb said...

James Alan McPherson spoke quite eloquently on the topic of LBJ and MLK the other day, and he violently agreed that the civil rights movement was successful because of LBJ. I'm with you -- that one comment from Hillary doesn't make her a racist, and I don't think viewing it through that filter is 100% accurate. She and her campaign are not that naive. But to your point, it's the attitude that statement represents. That seething sense of entitlement that soooo pisses me off and makes me not care that she's a woman and that electing her would be its own historical moment.

I'm not exactly screaming with joy over the idea of Obama as our candidate, because I think he has yet to be pressed against the wall the way the Republicans and press are sure to do once they get over their fear of being called racists. But Hillary is a broken glass Democrat if I've ever seen one. The right will stop at nothing to see her NOT get into office.

michelline said...

1. No dynasties. Thirty years of Bushes and Clintons trading the White House is too much. You had your bite at the apple, move on.

So Hillary is to be punished because her HUSBAND was president? Because last time I checked, she hasn't been president yet. So she hasn't exactly had a bite at the apple. And this whole dynasty thing is bullshit anyway. Bush I and Bush II are two totally different presidents and so would the Clintons be. So what if they're related?

Electability. HRC is the Democrat I viewed as most likely to lose—no other Democrat will rally the GOP base to the polls like Hillary

I can agree with you here. Partially this is because she's Hillary. But I think part of it is because she's a woman. I've always said a black man will get elected before a white woman. (this was before Obama was even a mote in the public eye).

Her Term. No PResident could possibly face a more hostile Republican opposition than Hillary.

I think there is some degree of truth in that statement, but I think you're ignoring that it won't really matter who's in office. Any Democrat will have a horribly hostile Republican opposition.

what Hillary said about LBJ's incredible power and skill getting Congress to go along with the civil rights acts was historically accurate.

I definitely agree with s.w. anderson here. All the rhetoric in the world and all the good will won't do jack shit unless the government buys into it as well. I don't believe there is a racist bone in Hillary's body.

Florida's primary is in the early voting stages now. I did cast my vote for Hillary, but in the end, come November, I'll cast my vote for whichever warm body has the (D) after his/her name. Because that's what's important.

Mr Furious said...

Alrighty. I have to respond to several comments here, but now is not the time (about to run out). I'll be back later today.

Mike said...

Great post, Furious. I don't think Hillary is racist at all. But she's not above using racist-tinged banter to make a larger point if it helps her campaign.

Mr Furious said...

Okay. First. As I said repeatedly, I do NOT think either Hillary OR Bill Clinton are racist.

But, as Mike said, they are clearly not above having surrogates push that line with subtle or even not-so-subtle double-standards based on race. (ie: insinuating that Obama might have sold drugs, or that his drug problem rendered him a junkie as opposed to a recreational user, that he needs to pass a 'Farrakan Test'...)

But the larger issue of my post was less about the race aspect, and more about the entitlement, the superiority complex, and the power-craving that leads to something like race even becoming an issue.

Mr Furious said...

In order...

swa: "No, that's a hopeful proposition that's being tested this year in a big way. It's not yet an established fact, just Krauthammer's opinion.

CErtainly. Obama is a long way from PResident, and even if he were to win, he might be completely marginalized as opposed to powerful. His point, and I agree, is that Obama is the first serious candidate that has come this far, and on his own terms. Not on somebody elses coattails, and not through the ranks of the old-school black establishment. If he can reach office, he will be his own man (as much as any of them) and will be a liberating presence for minorites.

Krauthammer, like the rest of the Republicans, has an agenda that's not about delivering good things to African Americans or Hispanics. It's about driving a wedge between those groups and Democrats, to help Republicans regain power in Congress and keep the White House."

No question. I don't plan on agreeing with anything that jackass writes for a very long time. But I still think his point was valid. What he chooses to do with it is another matter.

Mr Furious said...

"...what Hillary said about LBJ's incredible power and skill getting Congress to go along with the civil rights acts was historically accurate."

Sort of. From Obama's perspective, it was the grassroots efforts of MLK and others that enabled LBJ to even touch the issue. Without clear public sentiment supporting him, he never would have been able to push shit through Congress... Which relates directly to the difference between Obama and Clinton. He hopes to come into office with a more broad base of support that Hillary, one that includes independants and Republicans, and be better positioned to demand changes. He wants a bottom-up approach.

Hillary will come into office by the skin of her teeth with no Republicans voting for her, and no Republican willing to cross the aisle and work with her. Her top-down approach will go nowhere.

Mr Furious said...

steves: "Has Hillary supported any racist policy? Has she proposed any racist legislation?"

Her attacks on Obama since losing in Iowa have definitely been aimed at peoples fears, and have a net effect of being racist.

Example: Criticizing Obama's opposition to mandatory sentencing. This is a position that is frankly b.s., but also an issue that disproportionally effects minorities—while stoking reactions from whites. She also criticized him for his record on "criminal defendant's rights." Last I checked people are innocent until proven guilty, and she is referring to Obama convincing everyone in Chicago who opposed him, to have the police videotape interrogations (this, incidentally, is a terrific example of Obama's negotiating skill).

Both of these are more subtle versions of "Willie Horton."

Mr Furious said...

Deb-

Again, LBJ deserves plenty of credit, but not at MLK's expense. Which IS what Hillary was doing.

Mr Furious said...

Mish-

1. Billary is a unit, and they had their eight years. She even had her crack at healthcare. They did nothing but solidify their specific DLC wing of the party. They ushered in the GOP Congressional revolution, and left the party a shambles. They do NOT get another bite at the apple. And I disagree strenuously about the family/dynasty aspect.

She doesn't get to capitalize on being a first lady and then separate herself from it.

2. Electability. Funny. Mrs F says the same thing about a black man before a woman. There is no question in my mind tha an anti-Hillary vote is the only way we can lose this fall. That scares the shit out of me.

3. LBJ was a reknowned dealer, and came to the White House after being the dominant force in Congress and had hat momentum, plus the grassroots, public support to make changes.

If HRC wins the White House she will NOT have the public sentiment, nor will she have any sway over the opposition. She will come into office in a hyper-partisan environment.

Obama MAY assume office under the umbrella of bipartisanship and cooperation, with perhaps the support of a broader coalition of voters and more of a mandate. He will also hopefully carry some Congressional seats with him (unlike HRC, who will HURT down-ticket races). Republicans might be diminished further, and public support for Obama will give them incentive or cover to work with him in ways they will not be called upon to work with the Clintons.

All hypothetical of course, but in Hillary I can only envision worst-case scenarios. Obama offers a chance at something different.

steves said...

Mr. F, I agree that discussing mandatory sentences certainly plays on some people's fear, but I don't believe just because someone supports something that disproportionately hurts one group, that menas they are a racist. It is certainly a possibility, but there are other motivations. I support equal access, but not quotas. Am I a racist?

From what I have read, LBJ was a termendous force in getting the Civil Rights Act passed. He bullied Congress and twisted arms when he needed to, despite the risk and the damage to his party. After it was signed, he said "We just lost the South for this generation."

Chris Howard said...

"...what Hillary said about LBJ's incredible power and skill getting Congress to go along with the civil rights acts was historically accurate."

I heard somewhere that LBJ may have had trouble getting it passed if Kennedy hadn't died. apparently he pushed it as a legacy for JFK, among other things.

Mr Furious said...

No Steves, you're not a racist and neither is Hillary. But if she's willing to exploit things she knows will play on the racism of others, that's hardly something I admire in a leader...