The politics of perpetual outrage

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.

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  • David

    ot showing sufficient respect for Dr. King is like not showing enough reverence for the Holocaust or like questioning Israel – all totally unconscionable!!

  • Al

    I guess Clyburn’s feelings were hurt. If you state a fact which does not allow for another’s perception of that fact, you could be asking for a fight. But I must agree also. Johnson did one heck of a lot of arm twisting to get the Civil Rights Act passed.
    And in a Democrat controlled Congress, he had to use the Republicans to do it.
    Now the repeating of that fact would hurt the feelings of all the Libs.
    Al

  • swampacreage

    King didn’t get a chance to get into elected politics at the fedeal level because he was snuffed out in 68 by a delusional raciist(s) Ray / FBI. We don’t need a return to race riots !

  • jj

    It’s astonishing how many people know nothing about history (I mean real history: what actually happened, as opposed to the populist fairy-tale). Or perhaps, considering the state of American education, it’s not astonishing at all. Why would history be taught any better or more accurately than anything else?

    As you (and, I guess, Hillary) quite accurately point out: Martin Luther King had not a thing to do with passing any legislation or writing any laws: he was a member of no legislature and was without legislative power.

    And if James Clyburn is the highest ranking anything anywhere, (other than half-wit, taking the title from Maxine Waters), and is at the same time that historically ignorant, then that’s just another reason to worry for the future of the country. At some point you have to put your education aside and go learn something. Most of us do. Clyburn clearly never did.

    OR….. he’s simply going to vote for the black guy, and needed a reason to slide out of supporting Hillary. The fact that he gave a reason that makes him sound like the village idiot is of less consequence to his democrat street cred than if he just came out honestly and announced that a big part of the reason, maybe a major part of the reason – maybe 100% of the reason; is race. He sure can’t admnit that, can he?

    Democrats are wonderful people, aren’t they? They will tangle themselves up in race and sex issues every time. It’s as inevitable as sunrise. As Rush Limbaugh says: “Put a paper bag full of excrement on the sidewalk in front of them, they’ll step in it every single time.”

    As far as MLK was concerned, when his widow died a few years ago and the world trekked to her funeral, I frankly wondered why. What was her contribution? And then I figured it out. Given that he had precisely the same difficulty controlling a portion of his anatomy that Mr. Hillary does controlling his, I guess her major contribution was to recognize that her husband personified something great, and go with that point of view; rather than seeing him as just another lying, cheating, screwing-around dog, and sticking a bread-knife into him.

  • http://wolfhowling.blogspot.com GW

    If we are seeing racisim being used as a charge to shield Obama from criticism, this portends to be an ugly Presidential electoral cycle indeed. And the fact that Obama’s campaign gave these charges of Clintonian racisim an affirmative wink and a nod is more than disquieting.