Here are excerpts from two recent columns by Earl Ofari Hutchinson on race and gener in the Dem primary campaigns. Nice to hear from someone who actually thinks rationally and sticks to real facts. (Earl Ofari Hutchinson's forthcoming book is "How the GOP Can Keep the White House, How the Democrats Can Take it Back." -- sounds like a must read.)
The Hutchinson Report: Ferraro Flap Raises a Key Question -- Does Race Trump Gender or Is It Vice Versa?
Date: Thursday, March 13, 2008
By: Earl Ofari Hutchinson, BlackAmericaWeb.com
A defiant Geraldine Ferraro told ABC's Diane Sawyer that she had "absolutely" no regrets about saying that Democratic presidential contender Barack Obama was getting the kid-glove treatment because he's black. Ferraro could be defiant. The former Democratic VP candidate and Hillary Clinton advisor had just voluntarily stepped down in response to the howls from the Obama camp for Clinton to fire her for what they called her racist and insulting remarks.
The Ferraro-Obama flap was just the latest in the long and rancorous, name-calling and finger-pointing attacks that Clinton and Obama have leveled at each other. But the Ferraro tiff did raise one intriguing question: Does race trump gender, or is it the other way around? That question has been perched on the lips of pundits since Obama and Clinton tossed their hats in the ring last year.
In the case of Obama, the question was always whether whites would back an African-American for president. In the case of Clinton, the question was whether men would back a woman for president. Ferraro flatly said that the media was sexist and that it had relentlessly dumped on Clinton because she's a she. Obama, in his retort, hinted that race was an obstacle and that he had worked doubly hard to cast his campaign above race and stick to the theme of change, presumably meant change for all.
The politically correct view is that Clinton and Obama's entrance into and drive for the presidency will permanently alter the hostile mindset of many men that a woman is not equipped to hold the highest office and the thought of many whites that a black man is not equipped to be president. Yet, in Democratic primaries in January and February, Obama held his own or surpassed Clinton's vote total with white men. He did it in some of the most traditional bastions of white male voter resistance to backing a black candidate in elections past. Meanwhile, Clinton got substantial white male support in her big primary win over Obama in Ohio. But the racial divide did appear with a vengeance in the Mississippi primary, where Obama got the bulk of the black vote, and Clinton got the bulk of the white vote.
So whether Ferraro was totally on the mark about men and Clinton and race and Obama will continue to be debated, squabbled over and picked apart by the two Democrats. One thing that's for sure: The candidate who has a Cheshire cat-like grin on his face at the rancor between them over race and gender is named John McCain.
Ferraro Keeps Getting it Right, Obama Should Apologize to Her
March 14, 2008 by Earl Ofari Hutchinson
A justly defiant Geraldine Ferraro just keeps getting it right. She told NBC that if anyone should apologize for playing the race card it's Democratic presidential contender Barack Obama. She flatly and rightly blasted Obama for virtually calling her a racist for merely saying what Ray Charles (may he rest in peace) could see and that's that the media has employed a blatant, no grotesque, double standard when it comes to tip toeing around any criticism no matter how slight and muffled of the hyper thin skinned Obama. Yet let rival Hillary Clinton (or God forbid hubby Bill) even breathe the R word about Obama and the screeches from the clinically obsessive Hate Hillary Clubbers are swift and loud.
Ferraro bore the full brunt of their noisy howls and the double standard when she dared intimate that the media and much of the public has turned like Lot's wife into a stone mute on race with Obama while unleashing a 24/7 barrage of sometimes thinly veiled and other times outrageous sexist innuendos, wisecracks, taunts and ridicule of Clinton. As Ferraro correctly noted if you scratched out gender from the cracks at Hillary and penciled in race and made the same veiled and not so veiled racial digs at Obama the howls of protest would be heard on the Moon.
A textbook case was the Martin Luther King, Jr. versus Lyndon Baines Johnson flap a couple of months ago. Clinton in an innocent and in fact praiseworthy and totally factual statement said that Johnson played the major role in getting the 1964 Civil Rights Act through Congress. Oh Boy! Clinton was: take your pick: A. a maligner of Dr. King B. a slanderer of the civil rights movement C. a closet bigot. When Clinton fought back the by now all too predictable pattern from the Obama camp kicked in. First self-righteous indignation, followed by deliberate distortion of her actual statement, followed by personal attack and slander, and then the capper, plausible deniability that Obama never made an issue of it in the first place.
But here's the bigger problem with all this. The great strength of the Obama campaign has rested squarely on his pitch that he's the post-civil rights guy, with a broad based, issue driven, non-racial appeal. That's the front door, image enhancing spin. The back door, under the table pitch is to subtly play race at every turn... to snatch at every chance to turn even the slightest reference to race by Clinton or anyone in her camp, such as Ferraro, into a federal case. This tired act is wearing thin and thankfully a few that have not totally abandoned all sense of reason are seeing through this melodrama...
The even bigger problem with all of this is that this shows beginning warning signs of backfiring. That was plainly evident in the Mississippi primary. Obama would have gone down to a crushing defeat if it wasn't for the black vote. His on the surface hope and change message fell flat on its face with white voters. He won exclusively with the black vote (90 percent). Clinton got the overwhelming bulk of the white vote. The racial polarization was in the Democratic primary! If Obama is the eventual Democratic nominee it isn't political rocket science stuff too figure out how he'd fare in the general election in the state if he had to depend on the black vote alone.
Now back to Ferraro. She didn't just ask for an apology from Obama for virtually calling her a racist, she also warned that if the Obama camp persists in this shell game on race, that he risks alienating many Democrats... She included herself in that category. It may already be too late on that score. Race is just too good and too juicy a plum to abandon when it serves a campaign purpose. In other words, Geraldine, while you certainly deserve an apology from Obama, don't hold your breath waiting for it.
New America Media National Political Affairs Writer Earl Ofari Hutchinson is an author and political analyst.