-- 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.