Racism Charges and the Clinton Campaign

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Kevin Drum had a very helpful discussion of the charges the Obama campaign and its surrogates have been leveling against Hillary Clinton. I'm not sure I agree with him in every case, but it's one of the best things I've seen on the subject. Any claim that it's Hillary who's really driving the racial overtones of the Democratic race is just ignoring a lot of what's out there. Some on her side have surely said things intended to be taken in a racially-negative way. But the examples he gives (and see the discussions he links to for arguments why the criticisms are indeed over-the-top) show that it's not simply an example of the Hillary side raising racial issues and the Obama side ignoring them and not making anything of race.

I had to take interest in the first two comments mentioning Geraldine Ferraro, who didn't come up in the post. What interested me most about their appearance is the assumption that that's a genuine case of racism that they must be taking to undermine his whole argument. First of all, if it's genuine racism that doesn't undermine his argument. His point is that many of the accusations of racism are going way too far. One case that is racism doesn't undermine that claim.

Second, I don't think it's fair to describe that as racist. If the same person who says Barack Obama's race has helped raise interest from the media and the Democratic higher-ups to jump-start his campaign also says of herself that the same is true from her being a woman, it strikes me as very unlikely that she's saying the former out of racism but is rather just acknowledging that the Democratic party is more likely to use affirmative action considerations for selecting presidential and vice-presidential candidates, something Democrats aren't generally opposed to and don't generally consider racist. (It's Republicans who are more likely to level that charge.) So why is it racist to point out that affirmative action techniques on that level might put someone in a position to get more attention than they could have gotten otherwise?

[I do realize that some people think Ferraro was saying more. According to them, she was claiming that no one would now support Obama if he weren't black. But I think that's a very unlikely interpretation. It's so radically at odds with the exit polls that I don't know how she could have thought she'd get away with saying something so empirically false.]

Update March 29: Is it racist for Obama to say the things of himself that Ferraro said of him?


It's racist because we don't like having deep conversations in this country ... we like bickering like children.

In other words, it's not. But we can't say that, because otherwise we'd have to have a deep conversation.

Having said that, Ferraro's comment was useless. Is Obama supposed to become less black so as to make the race fair? Ferraro's comment was pretty foolish, even if not racist.

I don't think it was foolish. I think she's just saying that he's benefited from affirmative action the way she did, and he's not quite so special as people are making him out to be. It's worth recognizing that if it's true. You don't have to think he should make himself less black to think that.

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