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.