Rejecting the Racist vote

This column also was published on UPI’s Religion and Spirituality Page on May 12, 2008

OK, so the Democratic primary season is just about over, and this may be a moot point, but as Hillary Clinton wages her final efforts to convince Democrats that she should be the nominee in November, I’ve become increasingly uncomfortable with her rhetoric because it seems to contain a racist subtext which panders to the worst elements of American society.

Here’s what I mean: since Senator Clinton will not win the pledged delegates necessary to secure the nomination, her only hope is to convince the Democratic superdelegates that she is more likely than Barack Obama to win a general election. To that end she has attempted to convince superdelegates that she, unlike Obama, will attract the votes of working class white men, a voting block large enough and volatile enough to sway an election in key states.

There’s nothing explicit here. I could be wrong, and I know that Senator Clinton’s campaign would deny it, but as I listen to and read about Hillary Clinton’s suggestion that working class white men won’t vote for Barack Obama, it sounds to me like she is suggesting that working white folks are racists who won’t vote for a black man but who will vote for a white woman.

I don’t happen to believe that blue-collar white men are racists. Some of them are, but so are some white, Harvard-educated CEO’s. Racism isn’t about class, it’s about hardness of heart, a condition found in just about every demographic.

But even if it is true—especially if it is true—that working-class white men are particularly racist, I’d like to think that Senator Clinton—and the whole Democratic Party—would want nothing to do with their votes. I’d like to think that Senator Clinton and the Democratic Party would say, “if you won’t vote for Barack Obama because African blood runs in his veins, then we don’t want your vote. Go to hell.”

I’d like for John McCain and the Republican Party to say the same thing. I suppose that a certain number of American voters, regardless of the issues, will vote Republican in the fall if Barack Obama is, indeed, the Democratic nominee. I’d like to see Senator McCain and the Republican Party reject those votes, to say “if you are a racist, your votes are not welcome in the Republican Party.”

The idea that a person of African descent should come within a stone’s throw of the Oval Office is remarkable, even in this day and age. It’s something worth celebrating, even for those who, because of political inclinations, won’t vote for Barack Obama. No matter how far Americans have come in overcoming the racism that has deprived non-whites of opportunities, we still have some great distance to go, and I’d hate to see our meager progress thwarted by political ambition.

So here’s my challenge to Hillary Clinton and to John McCain if they are listening: reject the racist vote. Lead with courage and with integrity. Show Americans that no prize, not even the White House, is worth pandering to the bigots among us.

7 thoughts on “Rejecting the Racist vote

  1. Pingback: Politics in America » Rejecting the Racist vote

  2. Great post ben…. I wish these politicians would do the right thing too… guess we better keep praying and speaking out until they do eh?

    BTW I finished my internship today with Clarendon Hill…. 24 hours away from summer!

  3. I come from a long line of white workers who wore blue collars. They were occasionally anti-semetic, irreverent and racist. They were under-paid, worked too hard, and drank too much. Their kids were pushed to do better through education. Most of them fought in one of our wars and had scars from it and voted Democratic.

    I have lived and worked with white workers who wear white collars most of my life. They are occassionally anti-semetic, irreverent and racist. They were better paid, worked too hard, and drank too much. Their kids were pushed to do better through education. Most of them avoided our wars and voted Republican.

    For the life of me, I cannot make heads or tails of this experience. Perhaps I am a Libertarian, but I’m still a WASP.

    God save us all!

    “Few things are harder to put up with than the anoyance of a good example.” Mark Twain

    “Human history is God’s risky adventure with mankind.” Hendrik Kraemer

    “Standing behind all great people are the unsung heroes who make all the greatness possible.”
    HUBBERT HORACIO HUMPHREY III

  4. Interesting column, Ben, but you’ve left a few things unexamined.

    First, Obama and his partisans can’t have it both ways. There may be a racist subtext in Madame Clinton’s pronouncements. But since the Iowa caucuses, Jesse Jackson, Jr. has been collaring every other black super delegate he can and exhorting them to stand in solidarity with Obama. No subtext there; it’s a pure call for racial solidarity. Obama has said nothing to repudiate such tactics.

    Next, Madame Clinton is stating a provable fact. Indeed, working-class whites have little reason to vote for Obama, given his sneering comment to the political elite at that San Francisco fund-raiser a while back about how such people cling to religion or guns or whatever in times of crisis. It can be argued that Obama has never exhibited any indication that he has any inkling at all about the concerns of working and middle class white and Asian and Latino folk — the polls seem to showo that those folk know and fully understand that. (Personally, I place my faith in God; neither Obama nor any party could ever be substitutes.)

    While the Dems give lip service to being “beyond race” with Obama, they certainly do their best to maintain the elements of a ruling upper class. Exhibit One is the whole super delegate setup, which clearly is designed to make sure the “right” sort of Democrat is the standard-bearer. Exhibit two is the shameful business of the Florida and Michigan primaries, which the national party apparatus has decreed null and void for all practical purposes, because the people in those two states had the temerity to stage their primaries earlier than the national party grandees thought best. Were I a Democrat in either state, I would be contributing to a class-action lawsuit to test the constitutionality of that particular party decree.

    Then there is the matter of whether white voters will cast a ballot for a black candidate.

    I can tell you, this white voter won’t’ be casting a ballot for Obama — and his race has nothing to do with it. Here’s what is pertinent: the man is far left of center while having essentially no experience in either foreign or domestic policy. Given his public policy positions, I seriously doubt whether he has ever read an economics text. (When questioned on the inherent contradiction within his call for a greatly increased capital gains tax, his response was to blame Wall Street hedge fund managers.) His record is thin; he is a Chicago machine pol, was an undistinguished Illinois legislator for one term, and has been an undistinguished US Senator for less than one term.

    And yes, I have cast votes for black and other minority candidates for public office in the past, and likely will do so in future. As to those who are presidential timber, my vote would go to Colin Powell in a split second. But as it turns out, in spite of efforts to draft him for national office over the past 16 years or so, he has always declined. I expect he’s far too wise a man to want to run for president.

    Bill

  5. Thanks you for your responses!

    Congrats Sarah! Now it’s Philly or bust!

    Ronn, very well put.

    Bill, I want to be sure that it is clear that I don’t consider it racist to vote for candidates other than Obama. I just think it’s racist to vote against Obama because he’s black.

    Which, of course, raises another question: what about voting for Obama because he’s black? I think there’s a difference. One is a vote to keep someone out, another is a vote to put someone in. One shuts a door, the other opens that door.

    No matter who is our next president, an important barrier will be broken. For those who really want to shatter the glass ceiling that has kept women out of leadership positions in America, a vote for Clinton makes sense. As a man I’m not offended by that, because women really should have equal opportunities. For those who feel passionately that the children of military personnel serving overseas should be considered “Natural Born Americans” under the constitution might very well vote for John McCain, as his being born in the Panama Canal Zone will be a test of the constitutional standard for the Presidency, should he be elected. As someone who was born in Palo Alto, I don’t have a problem with military families voting for McCain, simply because they want their children to have the same rights as other American children. Similarly, Voting for Obama because he’s black shouldn’t be a threat to White Americans. I personally want to live in an America where an African American can be president, so Obama’s race could tip the scales in his direction in my mind if I were having a hard time deciding between him and someone else. As I have said before, I like the American he represents.

    As it happens, I also want to live in an America where a woman can be President and an America where non-native born Americans can be president. I have two daughters who are non-white, foreign born US citizens. I’d like for them to have equal status under the law. So no matter who gets elected, one barrier or another will be broken or, in the case of McCain, weakened.

  6. I think that Obama has been a little off with regard to his full-fledged support of Israel…in Florida. I wrote him a littler, asking for clarification:

    Dear B. O.

    As a contributor to your campaign and also a Christian who has opposed Zionism’s subjection of Palestinians through the years, I am greatly disappointed in your Florida presentation to the Synagogue community. I heard a great deal of praise and support of the Israeli State, but no comment on the legitimate claims of Palestinians who have waited for justice in the Holy Land for these long 60 years.

    America’s foreign policy has been flawed for years with regard to Israel and the Palestinians. We have joined our fate with Israel’s existence and the Palestinians be damned. Where is the justice in this pursuit? We need a foreign policy that yokes Israel and the Palestinians State’s existence together. Both states are to be protected or an Israel that grant’s its Arab citizens equal rights. Israel has put a heavy foot on the backs Palestinians since 1947. They are now living in an unrealistic space that does not support life or the pursuit of happiness. All Arabs know this history. Bill Clinton and Jimmy Carter knew it, but evidently Obama has yet to discover this historical imperative for having peace in the Middle East. Why can’t we support a peace process that gives dignity and peace and land for those who have lived in the Holy Land for centuries? Why do we have a forced choice between Jews and Arabs? Why must the USA stand with Israel and turn a blind eye to the injustices, its’ theft of land and killing of Palestinians that goes on under the guise of creating the State of Israel?

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