2008 Presidential Election, Race and Racism
Professor Vernellia Randall
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The Archie Bunker strategy?

 

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Will Bunch
3/13/08 Phila. Daily News 6

Before she made history in 1984 as the first woman to run on a national ticket, Geraldine Ferraro was Archie Bunker's congresswoman.

Yes, yes, TV's "All in the Family" politically incorrect patriarch from the 1970s was fictional. But his character lived in the 9th Congressional District of Queens, a blue-collar, middle-class bastion that is the spitting image of time-worn Pennsylvania burgs where Sen. Hillary Clinton hopes to rack up votes a generation later.

"Let me tell you something about this neighborhood," a Queens bar patron told the Associated Press back when Ferraro was Democrat Walter Mondale's running mate. "It's like an Archie Bunker neighborhood here. Really conservative . . ." The man reportedly dropped to a whisper. "If Archie were real and he lived here, he'd be the mayor."

Well, it may be on the level of whisper now, but you have to wonder if the Clinton campaign is pushing "an Archie Bunker strategy" for whipping up those white, ethnic, middle-class enclaves here on April 22 - with foot soldiers like Ferraro, wittingly or not, on the front lines.

Ferraro resigned as a member of Clinton's finance committee last night, but only after leaving an indelible new mark on a campaign against Sen. Barack Obama that is already blotted by racial and gender identity warfare.

Echoing earlier remarks, including some in the Daily News last month, Ferraro told a California newspaper this week: "If Obama was a white man, he would not be in this position. And if he was a woman (of any color) he would not be in this position. He happens to be very lucky to be who he is."

When confronted on the original quote, she came back with: "Racism works in two different directions. I really think they're attacking me because I'm white. How's that?"

How's that, indeed? As for candidate Clinton, her initial reaction, while calling the comments "regrettable," was surprisingly low-key - especially in a year when other candidates have been called on to "reject and denounce" supporters who are way off the reservation.

But for the Clinton campaign, such a move against Ferraro would amount to rejecting and denouncing the mirror image of its core supporter: White, female, ethnic, over 60 (Ferraro is 72), Catholic, urban, associated with big-time labor unions.

And it's fitting this idealized backer would be "Archie Bunker's congresswoman," since just a few days ago Bloomberg News asked publicly whether Obama has "an Archie Bunker problem" with the 2008 electorate - losing badly in white urban neighborhoods. The news service quoted some voters were openly skeptical of a black presidential candidate. The NBC News exit poll in Ohio - a state with similar demographics to Pennsylvania - found one-in-five Democrats saying race was a factor in their vote, and 80 percent of those backed Clinton.

And so Ferraro's comments came after Clinton herself told CBS' "60 Minutes" that Obama is not a Muslim "as far as I know," after her husband said Clinton's South Carolina loss didn't matter because Jesse Jackson had won there, and after the paternalistic-sounding complaint that Obama is "not ready" to be commander-in-chief. Does that sound like "an Archie Bunker strategy"?

Perhaps. But now she'll have to execute it without Archie Bunker's congresswoman. *

To comment on this article or read Will Bunch's other political coverage, visit his blog, Attytood.com.

 
 

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