2008 Presidential Election, Race and Racism
Professor Vernellia Randall
Speaking Truth to Power!

Race Card and Rep James Clyburn


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George Blumenthal
2/14/08 Myrtle Beach Sun News (S.C.) A8

Allow me to share with you a different perspective as to how race has been used in this election. An agreement was struck between U.S. Rep. James Clyburn and the Democratic National Committee. Under the terms of the agreement, the DNC moved the S.C. primary on the calendar so that it would precede Super Tuesday and focus extraordinary attention on the importance of the primary. In exchange for this preferable scheduling, Clyburn promised that he would stay neutral in the campaign and election.

The predominance of black voters in the S.C. Democratic Party was a major reason to give South Carolina early input in the process. Clyburn's promise to stay neutral was an acknowledgement of his strong political influence and his ability to affect the outcome.

Clyburn broke his promise. When former President Clinton criticized the voting record of Obama by calling [his claim he had consistently opposed the Iraq War] a "fairy tale," Clyburn immediately called the media to announce that he was going to respond to the comment. Clyburn suggested that these comments were somehow a racial slur.

At that point, the media pounced on the story and by the end of the day, the media had interviewed Jesse Jackson, Al Sharpton and dozens of other black luminaries, all of whom were aired on TV to decry Clinton as "racist," even though you had to read between the lines to find something he didn't say.

This story had legs and remained on TV for weeks before and after the S.C. primary. The effect was immediate. Eighty percent of the S.C. black population now believed the Clintons were racists. Not only did this conduct by Clyburn cause Hillary to lose South Carolina in a landslide, but it has propelled Obama nationally ever since. People all over the country believed that attacks on Clinton.

The "fairy tale" comments were repeatedly played out of context to omit the reference to the voting record. When talking about the Democratic race, every other sentence begins with: "Ever since South Carolina." Since that date, both Hillary and Bill Clinton have been repeatedly accused of playing the race card and making the campaign mean and nasty. There is a reason why Toni Morrison once called Bill Clinton the first black president. Up until Clyburn's comments, the black community knew that the Clintons cared about their needs and problems and worked for their betterment.

What Bill Clinton has learned is that you cannot attack the voting record of a black candidate without it being turned around as racist. No one has ever challenged the accuracy of Clinton's remarks about Obama's voting record on the war.

Obama runs heavily on the fact that he opposed the war. But he was not in Congress when the initial vote was taken, so we really do not know how he would have voted. We do know that ever since he has been in Congress, every vote he has cast has been in support of the war and he shares a war voting record identical to that of Hillary Clinton. These are facts that get no play in the media, and any attempt to bring them up will likely get you labeled as racist. If Obama wins or loses this election, you can give a great deal of credit to Clyburn. Every analysis and primary prediction concedes to Obama every state with a high percentage of black voters. So yes, Mr. Sunday, you and I can agree that race has become an important factor in this election cycle.


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