COMMENTS: The Unexamined Race Card

On the campaign trail, NBC's Andrea Mitchell touched on Hillary Rodham Clinton's slippery formulation that ABC's Jake Tapper and CBS' Jim Axelrod cited Thursday, namely the claim to USA Today that her rival Barack Obama's support among "hardworking Americans, white Americans is weakening again." Mitchell wondered whether Rodham Clinton was "playing the race card" but shied away from explicitly spelling out her suspicions.

Here is what Mitchell did not ask:

--Of all the demographic groups amongst whom Rodham Clinton has an advantage over Obama--women, the elderly, Hispanics, Catholics, for example--why would she single out white working class voters as being crucial?

--What was she implying about the identity between "white" people and "hard-working" people? What insinuation was she leaving unsaid about non-whites and the shiftless?

--If it is true that Obama will have a problem attracting white working class voters in the General Election, does she attribute that to their racism? If so, why does she not condemn such attitudes rather than adduce them in her favor? Should she not actively campaign against such thinking instead of treating it as a fact of life?

--Alternately, if the reason for her superior appeal is not the voters' racial prejudices but her class-based policies--she is the better candidate for the proletarian base of the Democratic Party--why would she insert the modifier "white"? Surely any candidacy that helps the working class would benefit its members of all races: what was that word "white" doing there if her appeal is purely an economic one?

Obama supporter, Sen Edward Kennedy, for one, was in no doubt that Rodham Clinton's use of this particular electability argument was disreputable. Both NBC's Mitchell and ABC's Tapper ran Kennedy's soundbite on Bloomberg News that Rodham Clinton is not "in tune" with Obama's appeal to "the nobler aspirations of the American people." NBC's Mitchell countered with Rodham Clinton supporter Rep Stephanie Tubbs Jones (D-OH), who happens to be African-American: she is "not race-baiting; she is not trying to divide this country."

As Rodham Clinton pledged to continue campaigning until the end of the primary season on June 3rd, ABC's Tapper noted one flaw in her plan: "Money--her campaign is in serious debt." CBS' Jeff Greenfield pointed to another, superdelegates--"that steady stream towards Obama is beginning to look a little more like a flood." Is there any road to victory for her? "Win about 90% of the vote in every primary and hope for really bad news about Obama," was Greenfield's strategic advice. On ABC, George Stephanopoulos saw Obama giving Rodham Clinton "space to make her own decision" to concede defeat. Sooner rather than later would be better for Obama's General Election chances against John McCain, Stephanopoulos argued. Obama wants to use some of his huge fundraising edge to start running ads against McCain in battleground states but it is "awkward to do that" before Rodham Clinton's concession.


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