2008 Presidential Election, Race and Racism
Professor Vernellia Randall
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Playing Against a Stacked Deck


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Dr. Anthony Asadullah Samad, PhD|
The Democratic Presidential Nomination:
True Change is Playing Against a Stacked Deck
(and it still might win)
Between the Lines
January 24, 2008 - Issue 261


After the first Democratic primaries (or caucuses) for the party’s nomination, one thing has become real clear: the discussion about how to change the country has become an engagement on how to “spin” the country. What started out as a real conversation about change, has evolved into a press on which “buzz words” evoke the most passion in voters. If you want to say that some of the candidates are now trying to trick the voters - that would be a fair statement. Along with this is a “not so subtle” media bias that is trying to make sure the status quo prevails. While we all have our preferences, we still must be fair in our analysis. My preference is Obama - not (just) because he’s Black but because he has the most salient, unifying message. I also see Obama as the most likely candidate to beat the Republican nominee next November. This country can’t afford another eight years of Republican rhetoric on the war and the economy - while the profiteers rape the nation’s coffers.

Hilary Clinton invigorates every segment of the Republican Party base and loses to ALL of the Republican candidates in a national election. Why? Because they don’t see her as Hilary, they see her as “Billary” - an extension of her husband, former President Bill Clinton, and so far that analysis has played true. After losing in Iowa, we have witnessed what has been, in effect, a co-candidacy that will reflect the co-Presidency that will occur if the Clintons are returned to the White House. The Republicans ain’t about to let that happen.

In the meantime, Obama beats four of the five top Republican candidates and is even with the fifth. An American public that wants change can’t lose sight of the end game by getting twisted in the primary mix. And we can’t afford a Democratic Party without a message. Only one candidate in either major party had a resonating message going into the Iowa caucus. That message was “Change” and the messenger was Obama.

Now, after three Democratic contests in Iowa, New Hampshire and Nevada, and six Republican contests Iowa, New Hampshire, Wyoming, Michigan, Nevada and South Carolina, everybody’s talking about change. The term, change, has been highjacked, but the nation cannot allow true change to be co-opted. Both parties are stacking the deck against change. If we can call the marked cards in the deck early, we can play around them and true change still might win.

The first marked card in the deck is this “tag-team” act being pulled off by the Clintons. Hilary Clinton is a sharp candidate, but she is not a change candidate. She is an extension of her husband’s legacy, which has some good and bad aspects to it. Bill Clinton was a very popular President despite his checkered administration. She is not Bill, and has much higher negatives than her positives. She is considered the most polarizing political figure of all the candidates running. When people started to see through her “experience” play, she attacked “hope” and “change” (this is the controversial “King needed a President” comment), cried when her message wasn’t getting any traction (calling it “a game” that some people are playing) then rolled Bill out to bang on Obama’s plan for an exit out of Iraq (with his “fairy tale” comment). While Clinton built the best economy of the 20th Century, he was one of the weakest foreign policy Presidents we ever had (he slept while massacres occurred in Kosovo, Rwanda and Dakfur), but suddenly he’s gotten smarter as an ex-President. That’s how she pulled out New Hampshire. Then she busted the Union endorsement in Nevada, while having Bill spin Obama as “the establishment candidate.” The Clinton’s have run the Democratic Party for 16 years and Hilary has raised more corporate, lobbyist and special interest money than anybody in the race (from both parties). She’s as “establishment” as it gets and the Clinton’s are gaming the party at the expense of the party’s unity. Hilary bangs on Barack at the debate tables and Bill bangs on him as an “election observer” but he’s always constantly saying “we.” They intend to divide the party if it can’t be twisted for Hilary. The division factor will play large, come convention time, as the Democrats seek not to shoot themselves in both feet. They have a tendency to do that, you know. It happened in 2000 and 2004.

The second marked card in the deck is the media that continues to miscall the post-election analysis - particularly as it relates to voter behavior and Barack Obama. Both in New Hampshire and in Nevada, there were hidden racial factors that the polling didn’t pick up (whites in New Hampshire, Latinos in Nevada) and yet the discussion is being framed in the context of Obama losing traction.

Consider three things that have occurred since Iowa:

  1. Obama made up 20 points in the polls to win Iowa, 25 points in New Hampshire to lose by three points, made up 15 points in Nevada and still won more delegates than Hilary (13 to 12). Hilary has lost a national lead in the polls, in what was supposed to be an “inevitable” nomination and yet a Hilary slide is not the story
  2. Barack Obama has picked up twice the number of national endorsements (Governors and Senators, who will be the super-delegates at the convention) even as Hilary has, supposedly, won the last two primaries. Another aspect of the campaign being under-reported
  3. The change message has been muddled so the change candidate is not as apparent. Not only has Hilary modified her rhetoric to include change as the primary message, Romney, McCain and Huckabee all are calling themselves change agents in the Republican Party. Even Obama has tried to stretch his change message to distance himself from the other change converts.
Obama's “Reagan was change” comments was really a stretch, given that the Reagan Revolution was spurred out of a racial backlash of the social gains of the 1960s and 1970s and represented a social and economic retraction that produced the highest unemployment among African Americans since the Great Depression. Obama, trying to court Reagan Democrats, has to be careful that his examples of philosophical change are relevant to the true spirit of his change message. The Reagan example wasn’t, but with so many people talking change now, he was just trying to “outchange” the change parrots who are parroting his message. Polly can want a cracker, but you don’t have to give it. Make ‘em earn it. If they want to repeat “change,” make ‘em come with substantive examples.

The third marked card in the deck is this move to make Obama “a black candidate.” The question as to whether Barack is black enough has been asked and answered. His crossover appeal is unprecedented as his message resonates with all races and classes. The media is trying to say that the Clintons have more appeal with lower (economic) class Blacks and will split the black vote along class lines. African Americans have never been a monolith, but we cannot let the media (nor the Clintons) play us against each other. Then there are older Blacks, who remember what America was (and in some instances, still is), refuse to believe that a black President is even a remote reality and don’t want to “waste” their vote. As remote as it might be, it’s even more remote when the people who would benefit the most - believe the least. How many years have Blacks wasted their vote on a Democratic Party that took us for granted? Now is not the time to run scared or be frivolous in our political views. America will never change if we, Black America, don’t change it. Don’t let the pessimism card kill the greatest opportunity Black America has ever seen.

We know political change in this country is playing against a stacked deck of asceticism, cynicism, despotism, narcissism, racism, symbolism, parasitism and plain ole’ xenophobic extremism that seek to distort the view of what real change is and what it represents. If we can play past all marked cards in the deck of historical American politics, true change can still win.   

BlackCommentator.com Columnist Dr. Anthony Asadullah Samad is a national columnist, managing director of the Urban Issues Forum and author of the new book, Saving The Race: Empowerment Through Wisdom. His Website is AnthonySamad.com. Click here to contact Dr. Samad.


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