In the heat of the campaign for votes in Indiana, Hillary Clinton advised those around her to bet on the filly in the upcoming Kentucky Derby. Historically, it is not a sound bet. “Only three fillies have won the Kentucky Derby in its 134-year history, and none since Winning Colors in 1988” (1). What she meant to do, of course, was to draw a parallel to her own long-shot effort to win the Presidential nomination of her party.
One must be careful about the use of sports analogies. Tragedy struck at Churchill Downs as the filly “Eight Belles”, after “running the race of her life…finished second behind Big Brown in the Kentucky Derby on Saturday, then collapsed after the finish line and had to be euthanized” (1). What she hoped would be a stirring metaphor for her increasingly unlikely candidacy, Hillary — who has also compared herself to the fictional prize-fighter Rocky Balboa — tried to cast herself as the determined underdog who, by running the race of her life, would overcome all odds and win a glorious victory. It didn’t happen on this Saturday afternoon in Louisville. Instead after losing to Big Brown, tragedy struck.
This was not a good omen. These are not the kind of metaphors that will augur well as she continues fighting through the rest of the primaries. Already, smelling blood, the birds are circling overhead. Senator George McGovern, an early supporter and one for whom she labored in the fields of Texas supporting his forlorn effort 36 years ago, has now stepped forward urging her to drop out of the race, concluding that it is virtually impossible now for her to win the nomination (2). Hillary, however, is determined to stick it out. The question, for many of the party pols is ‘to what end’?
Many in the Democratic Party have long since given up hope that any good will come of this. Had the Clintons behaved themselves, had they not conducted a campaign worthy of Lee Atwater and Karl Rove, the fortunes of the party — and the nation — could and would have been much improved. Instead, many fear that as the Clintons become more desperate the attacks upon the party’s now sure nominee will grow more vicious and personal.
We didn’t have to long to wait. Standing before supporters in Indianapolis, Clinton, with a somber Bubba standing behind her, put on her game face and pledged to fight all the way to the convention. Expecting to have routed Obama, the Clinton camp had arranged for appearances next morning on all the network talk shows but, faced with these results, the campaign abruptly canceled her appointments and the candidate flew off into the night, announcing that she was moving the goal posts up into the mountains overlooking Charleston West Virginia. Soon she was recorded with yet another variation of her shopworn and increasingly racist rationale for continuing the fight. Quoting a recent Associated Press poll, Hillary, in an interview with USA Today, pointed to Obama’s difficulty getting the, “hard-working white vote,” saying that only she can best build that coalition, a coalition that must include working-class white voters, that can successfully challenge John McCain in the fall. There it was, once again, out in the open for all to see. Clinton is the White candidate. Obama is the Black candidate. And since one cannot win an election without the “White” majority…well you get the picture. To punctuate this theme, lest no one misunderstand the truly blatant racist appeal, Hillary was seen climbing the mountains of West Virginia, imploring the good citizens therein to “send ‘em a message’. This was the campaign slogan of that great race-baiter George Corley Wallace.
Meanwhile, the chattering classes have been doing their ‘bobble-head’ routine and parroting this drivel. Pat Buchanan, during his regular appearance on MSNBC’s ‘Morning Joe’ gave us yet another of his tired, dog-eared attempts at putting a ‘logical’ face on this clearly blatant attempt to play the ‘race card’. Saying that Obama has shown consistent difficulty winning over the ‘Scoop’ Jackson wing of the Democratic Party and, by extension, cannot build a successful coalition to challenge in the fall, Buchanan — a bedrock Nixon conservative — is seen here daily lecturing the Democratic front-runner on electoral politics.
First, Pat, THERE IS NO ‘SCOOP’ JACKSON WING OF THE DEMOCRATIC PARTY!!!! Henry ‘Scoop’ Jackson was a hard-working Democratic centrist who, after the departure of Hubert Humphrey from the national scene, momentarily — but unsuccessfully — tried to pick up his mantle. Like many others who have been touched with Potomac Fever, ol’ ‘Scoop’ — never realizing that the nation would recoil at the prospect of electing someone President who calls himself ‘Scoop’ — ran a few times for the Oval Office. He even went so far as to have some plastic surgery done around his eyes to make himself more telegenic. But Jackson never fared any better than, say, Dick Gephardt, or Paul Tsongas. To say there is a ‘Scoop’ Jackson‘ wing of the Democratic Party is as ludicrous on its face as saying there is a Richard Gephardt or Paul Tsongas or Paul Simon, or Mo Udall wing of the Democratic Party. In any case ol’ ‘Scoop’, far too decent a man, if he were alive today, would have no truck with these racists. Buchanan is just blowing it out his ass.
What Buchanan is doing, of course, is trying to put an acceptable veneer on that element of the Democratic Party that walked out of the 1948 convention, stood with George Wallace when he was in the party (pre-1968), outside the party (1968) and back in the party (1972). What he is referring to are the Democrats that bolted the party in 1968 and went with Wallace and Nixon and denied Humphrey the presidency. The other term for these turncoats is “Reagan Democrats” - another misnomer. Reagan didn’t bring a single Democrat to the Republican Party. What he did was re-capture Democrats who were already leaving the party — and it was not over economics, it was not over national security and defense, it was not over cultural issues, it was not over any question of principles, it was over race.
But Buchanan will have none of it. Daily, one can see him blathering on about the “culture wars”…reminding viewers of the hippies and the Chicago Riots, and all the rest. I doubt there were many young Democrats demonstrating in Grant Park in Chicago. Some young Democrats? Yes, I knew at least one…but mostly they were the sons and daughters of the affluent upper middle class, the stuff of which the later Republican and Libertarian movements would be built. No less that Jerry Rubin himself, one must be reminded, ended up being nothing other than a common Wall Street stock-jobber. But Pat paints with a wide brush trying desperately to offer a rationale—any rationale it seems—for why white working class voters quadrennially stand before the mirror, serrated knife in hand, and cut their own economic throats come election time. It is race, Pat, pure and simple.
What is lost in this analysis is that Obama has been making great strides toward bridging our racial divides, and would by now have been much further down the road had it not been for the malignant politics of the Clintons. Obama has won caucuses and primaries in states that are over 90% white. But this means little to those whose primary interest is to stuff him back into a narrow racial container and thereby marginalize him. To put it simply, if Clinton has demonstrated a superior ability to bridge the economic, ethnic, religious and racial divides, if Clinton is better able to build that winning coalition, why has Obama won more states, more caucuses, and three quarters of a million more votes?
It is a specious argument, and Buchanan knows it. He knows the game the Clintons are playing just as he knows why Nixon and later the Republicans have been able to turn the new South solid for the Grand Old Prostitute.