As many have commented before, and as I’ve commented here, politics is ever more becoming a process of analyzing ones own “feelings,” rather than actually looking at the candidates’ positions and history. Hillary bore the brunt of just the latest “you hurt my feelings” attack against her (which is a nice irony, I guess, because it was her husband who trail blazed the emotional style of politicking). This political kerfuffle arose, as far as I can see, because a South Carolina leader was personally offended that Hillary didn’t hit precisely the right note when speaking of Martin Luther King:
As the issue of race takes centre stage in the Democratic presidential contest, Barack Obama had a boost yesterday as he and Hillary Clinton compete for black and Hispanic votes.
In South Carolina, scene of a key showdown on January 26, where half the Democratic electorate are African Americans, one of the state’s most influential black congressmen hinted that he might endorse Mr Obama. He said he was angered by what he claims were were dismissive comments about Martin Luther King by Mrs Clinton.
James Clyburn, the highest-ranking African American in Congress and a veteran of the civil rights movement, referred to comments made by Mrs Clinton on Monday, the day before her stunning comeback in New Hampshire set up a brutal nomination battle with Mr Obama.
Mrs Clinton, trying to make a point about presidential leadership and Mr Obama’s constant references to Dr King, the civil rights icon, said: “Dr King’s dream began to be realised when President Lyndon Johnson passed the Civil Rights Act of 1964. It took a president to get it done.”
In fact, while I agree with little Hillary has to say, she was right in this case. King was the standard bearer for the desegregation battle but he was not, in fact, the one who accomplished desegregation at the federal. That job did, in fact, belong to the federal government, with Congress passing an act that Johnson then signed. For Clyburn to take umbrage at Hillary’s pointing out a historical reality, and to use that as the basis for withdrawing his support is the politics of the personal taken to the point of idiocy. It’s one thing to disagree with Hillary because you don’t believe her future plans or past practices provide the political benefits you desire; it’s another thing entirely to turn your back on her because you think that, by stating a historical fact, she damned with faint praise someone whose memory you think you own.
UPDATE: And more of the same:
A series of comments from Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, her husband and her supporters are spurring a racial backlash and adding a divisive edge to the presidential primary as the candidates head south to heavily African-American South Carolina.
The comments, which ranged from the New York senator appearing to diminish the role of Martin Luther King Jr. in the civil rights movement — an aide later said she misspoke — to Bill Clinton dismissing Sen. Barack Obama’s image in the media as a “fairy tale” — generated outrage on black radio, black blogs and cable television. And now they’ve drawn the attention of prominent African-American politicians.
“A cross-section of voters are alarmed at the tenor of some of these statements,” said Obama spokeswoman Candice Tolliver, who said that Clinton would have to decide whether she owed anyone an apology.
“There’s a groundswell of reaction to these comments — and not just these latest comments but really a pattern, or a series of comments that we’ve heard for several months,” she said. “Folks are beginning to wonder: Is this really an isolated situation, or is there something bigger behind all of this?”
In a race that’s getting bogged down in ugly racial overtones, everyone involved in this fight would do well to remember King’s words:
I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.
Of course, considering how little character the involved parties seem to be able to rustle up amongst themselves, maybe it’s no surprise that this is where things have ended up.