Brief Convention Notes: Hillary, Forum on Black Politics, Michelle

It’s a sure sign of fame, when a person can be referred to by their first name, and everyone knows who is being talked about. So it is with Hillary Clinton and Michelle Obama.

I can’t be more emphatic: Hillary Clinton gave a great speech yesterday. It had so many memorable lines, it’s difficult to pick out any one or two of them as prominent. But these parts of her speech were especially memorable for me:

..I will always remember the single mom who had adopted two kids with autism, didn’t have health insurance and discovered she had cancer. But she greeted me with her bald head painted with my name on it and asked me to fight for health care.

I will always remember the young man in a Marine Corps t-shirt who waited months for medical care and said to me: “Take care of my buddies; a lot of them are still over there….and then will you please help take care of me?”

I will always remember the boy who told me his mom worked for the minimum wage and that her employer had cut her hours. He said he just didn’t know what his family was going to do.

…I want you to ask yourselves: Were you in this campaign just for me? Or were you in it for that young Marine and others like him? Were you in it for that mom struggling with cancer while raising her kids? Were you in it for that boy and his mom surviving on the minimum wage? Were you in it for all the people in this country who feel invisible?

That struck a chord with me, as it no doubt will with many of Clinton’s female supporters.

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Were the Concern Trolls Right About the Harsh Democratic Primary?

The problem for Obama and Clinton: by ratcheting up their attacks on each other, they risk weakening the eventual nominee in the general election against McCain. They are certainly supplying the Republicans with a priceless amount of free advertising. Clinton’s “red phone” ads raising questions about Obama’s preparedness to be commander in chief, and Obama’s counterattack commercials challenging Clinton’s judgment, are likely to be re-aired by GOP politicos into the fall if she somehow manages to emerge as the nominee. Indeed, one reason for Clinton’s success on Tuesday appeared to be her campaign’s decision to attack Obama’s integrity and honesty—raising questions about his relationship with a Chicago real-estate magnate charged with extortion and his reported waffling over the NAFTA trade pact, as well as his readiness; exit polls showed that late deciders broke decisively for the New York senator.

…Clinton’s… wins (in Ohio, Texas, and Rhode island) made it probable the Democratic battle would go on for some time to come despite Obama’s seemingly insurmountable lead in pledged delegates and Clinton’s loss in Vermont on Tuesday.

from Newsweek, March 5, 2008

“Concern troll” is a term of derision that is applied to people who whiningly post statements of worry or concern on internet forums, without adding anything new or informative or enlightening to a discussion. Some “concern trolls” are pure “trolls”-as described on Wiktionary, they post on internet forums claiming to share the goals of forum members while deliberately working against those goals. They do this by claiming “concern” about group plans to engage in productive activity, urging members instead to attempt some activity that would damage the group’s credibility, or alternatively, to give up on the group’s goals or projects entirely.

The concern trolls were in full force during the Democratic primary battle between Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama. As Newsweek observed, the ire raised by the intensity of their fight led many to feel that the winner might be badly damaged in the general election campaign against John McCain.

Well, it looks like the concern trolls were right. A large of part of the media narrative during the Democratic Convention this week has been the dissatisfaction of Hillary supporters. John McCain has actually done a political ad featuring a former Clinton supporter who has gone over to the dark side now claims she will vote for John McCain.

It’s been a public relations mess for the Obama campaign and the Democratic Party.

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The Bradley Effect: A Reason for Obama to Choose Hillary Clinton as VP?

You can’t trust polls. Especially when black candidates are involved.

And that could mean big problems for Barack Obama, problems that argue for something that almost certainly won’t happen: choosing Senator Hillary Clinton for Vice President.

What is Obama’s polling problem? It’s called the Bradley affect. Rebecca Curtis describes this phenomenon in the Huffington Post:

The Bradley Effect’s named for the long-time African-American Mayor of Los Angeles, Tom Bradley, who ran for Governor of California in 1982. Election-eve, Bradley was so far ahead of his white Republican opponent that newspapers printed headlines saying “Bradley Wins!” But he lost by 50,000 votes. Why? White voters who’d claimed they’d support him changed their minds–in the voting booth.

In 1989, Douglas Wilder, the Democratic black Lieutenant-Governor of Virginia, ran for Governor, and stayed nine points ahead of white Republican Marshall Coleman all through the race. Yet on election-day, Wilder won by just half a point.

Also in 1989, African-American Democrat David Dinkins kept an eighteen-point lead over his rival for mayor of New York, white Republican Rudy Giuliani; until final tally. Dinkins squeaked by with two points.

In 1990, African-American Democrat Harvey Gantt ran against white Republican Jesse Helms for a North Carolina Senate seat. Throughout the contest, Gantt (like Obama) was predicted to win by 4-6 points. He lost to Helms by six.

Why the reversals? Some white voters lie about whom they support, so as not to seem racist. But most probably intend to vote for the black candidate, and simply, on the day of election, freak out. They feel suddenly nervous about the black candidate’s “competence,” or “experience,” and pick the “known quantity,”–the white guy.

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Clinton Campaign’s Heavy Hand May Have Cost It the Nomination

In the wake of Sen Hillary Clinton’s failed bid to win the Democratic presidential nomination, the big question is, how and why did this happen? How did a person who had a huge lead in money, name recognition, and support from the Democratic Party establishment lose to a young, relatively unknown, African American novice?

If you do a Google search on the subject, you’ll find pages and pages of sources, more than you could read in a day, or maybe a week. Most agree on a few things:
• the Clinton campaign showed poor judgment in ignoring small states and caucus states.
• the Clinton campaign was not able to match the Obama campaign’s Internet-based, small donor fund-raising machine.
• Clinton’s vote for the Iraq War hurt her standing among progressives and the anti-war elements of the Democratic Party.
• Barack Obama turned out to be a unique, charismatic competitor.

All of that is probably true. But I think a lot of people are missing an element that was key, although not necessarily decisive: in the end, the superdelegates got tired of being pushed around by the Clintons. And without the support of the superdelegates, the Clintons were doomed.

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Clinton Endorses Obama; What Should She Do Next?

Hillary Clinton has formally acknowledged that Barack Obama has clinched the Democratic nomination for president. Her concession/endorsement speech was a great event, and great news for the Democratic Party. The Obama campaign NEEDED this if they were to have any hope of winning what promises to be a tough campaign against John McCain.

It remains to be seen if all of Clinton’s supporters will now be in the Obama camp. I don’t know if everybody will take it as credible that she now supports Obama, after all the negative things she’s said about him. Who can forget her statement that McCain has a “lifetime of experience, I (have a) lifetime of experience… Senator Obama (has a) a speech he made in 2002”? That and other comments she made as part of her scorched earth, throw the kitchen sink at Obama approach have probably permanently demonized him in the minds of many Clinton proponents.

What she can do very credibly, though, is attack John McCain. She needs, for example, to tell all the women who are thinking about voting for McCain that, any disrespect I got in this primary, is nothing like the disrespect I would have gotten from McCain and the GOP.

Put in another way, she would probably have more success attacking McCain than supporting Obama.

I’d love to see her throw the kitchen sink at McCain and see what sticks. If she can do that, it would be a big win for the Obama, even if Clinton’s supporters don’t have the same rapture for him that they have for her.

Political Miscellany 6/3/08

A lot of black politicians supported Hillary Clinton’s presidential run, and that could put their careers at risk. Now that Clinton is on the cusp of losing the nomination race to Barack Obama, it’s being reported that she’s asking Obama to help her peeps out:

In addition to seeking Obama’s help in raising money to pay off some $20 million-plus in debts, Clinton is known to want Obama to assist black officials who endorsed her and who are now taking constituent heat, including, in some cases, primary challenges from pro-Obama politicians.

Speaking of mending fences, an LA Times article talks about how Clinton will need to repair her relationship with black New Yorkers in the aftermath of her election race with Obama.

Even as she continues her longshot presidential bid, Hillary Rodham Clinton faces a political rift in New York, where black leaders say her standing has dropped due to racially charged comments by her and her husband during the campaign. African American elected officials and clerics based in New York City say Clinton will need to defuse resentment over the campaign’s racial overtones if she returns to New York as U.S. senator.

State Sen. Bill Perkins, who represents Harlem, said constituents recently phoned him because they wanted to demonstrate outside Bill Clinton’s Harlem office against comments by the former president.

Belated congratulations to Karen Bass. Bass has become the first black woman to lead a state legislature, by virtue of being selected as Speaker of the California State Assembly. She assumed her duties on May 13, 2008.

Bass is from the 47th District of California, which includes many parts of Los Angeles county, including Westwood, Culver City, and Baldwin Hills. She is the vice chair of the Legislative Black Caucus, and has commissioned a report to research the basic demographic profile of Black Californians including the basic social and economic conditions. The State of Black California report included a statewide organizing effort to involve Black Californians in identifying their concerns and making legislative recommendations.

We wish her the best in her groundbreaking role.

Did you know? Only seven African Americans had previously been selected as head of a state legislature since the Reconstruction:
• Cecil A. Partee (D-Chicago), President of the Illinois Senate (1971-73; 1975-77)
• S. Howard Woodson (D-Trenton), Speaker of the New Jersey Assembly, 1974-75
• K. Leroy Irvis (D-Pittsburgh), Speaker of the Pennsylvania House of Representatives (1977-79; 1983-89)
• Willie L. Brown. Jr. (D-San Francisco), Speaker of the California Assembly (1981-95)
• Daniel T. Blue, Jr. (D-Raleigh), Speaker of the North Carolina House of Representatives (1991-94)
• Herb Wesson (D-Los Angeles), Speaker of the California Assembly (2002-04)
• Emil Jones, Jr. (D-Chicago), President of the Illinois Senate (2004-present)

Boyce Watkins of BlackProf.Com has an interesting piece titled Barack Obama Election Advice: Black Denunciations that Just Might Do the Trick. It talks about how Obama has had to play the “denounce/renounce/reject” game because of comments made by people he knows or has known.

As Boyce puts it,

Barack Obama is a nice guy, and I really want to see him have the chance to become president. After all, it appears that we’ve decided that having the first African American integrated into the highest office in the land is more significant than anything we must sacrifice in order to make that happen.[…]

So, I put together a list of suggested denunciations that can keep Senator Obama out of trouble in this campaign. He’s already denounced several black religious leaders and abandoned his church of the last 20 years, so he might as well get rid of anything else that might keep him from having a chance to receive complete validation from America. Black children should learn a lesson from all this: give up whatever you must in order to become successful. You are not quite good enough by being who you are, so you would be wise to disown all threatening aspects of your culture.   ”Mainstream” acceptance (translation: working at a predominantly white university, corporation or media outlet) is what makes you important in this world.  Don’t you forget that.  You can come back and work with black people if you can’t get a job anymore.

1) Medgar Evers…
2) Martin Luther King…
3) The other black “rabble rousers” …

And the list goes on. I think Watkins is going overboard on this. It seems like he’s equating Obama’s criticisms of Rev Wright and Reverend Phleger with being a denunciation of black people and black culture in general. That’s a real stretch.

PS, Obama has invoked the name and message of Rev Martin Luther King, Jr in several of his speeches.

Bill Clinton: Obama to blame for priest’s verbal attack on Hillary

Former president Bill Clinton charged that Senator Barack Obama “gets other people” to “slime” his wife, Senator Hillary Clinton – including pastors who speak at Trinity United Church. Trinity United is Barack Obama’s former church; he left the church after guest preacher Rev. Michael Pfleger made several offensive comments about Hillary Clinton.

Clinton was originally responding to a reporter concerning an article in Vanity Fair magazine which made several negative remarks about Bill Clinton’s behavior since he’s left office.

As he spoke, CLinton apparently went into an angry rant, during which he called the article’s writer “sleazy,” “dishonest,” “slimy” and a “scumbag.” Clinton then complained about the press and Obama:

It’s just slimy. It’s part of the national media’s attempt to nail Hillary for Obama. It’s the most biased press coverage in history. It’s another way of helping Obama. They had all these people standing up in this church cheering, calling Hillary a white racist, and he didn’t do anything about it. The first day he said ‘Ah, ah, ah well.’ Because that’s what they do– he gets other people to slime her. So then they saw the movie they thought this is a great ad for John McCain– maybe I better quit the church. It’s all politics. It’s all about the bias of the media for Obama. Don’t think anything about it.

Clinton’s remark feeds into the speculation that some Clinton backers have been trying to drive a wedge between women and Obama.

Obama’s response to Phleger’s comments was to say “as I have traveled this country, I’ve been impressed not by what divides us, but by all that that unites us. That is why I am deeply disappointed in Father Pfleger’s divisive, backward-looking rhetoric, which doesn’t reflect the country I see or the desire of people across America to come together in common cause.”

And while I’m on this subject, let me to vent a little about comments from some in the the media that Obama didn’t do enough to “apologize” for Rev Phleger’s remarks about Hillary Clinton.

Uh… what? Why should Obama have to apologize for something he didn’t say?

Now look. If Phleger was Obama’s spokesman, or part of the Obama staff, or even on Obama’s campaign payroll, then yeah – Obama would have had to apologize in that case. But that is NOT the case.

Obama is not responsible for what Phleger said, and as such, should not be held accountable for his comments, and as such, should not have to apologize.

The idea from Clinton that Phleger was doing Obama’s bidding is not merely unsubstantiated, it’s ridiculous. Obama needs Clinton’s support to win the election in November, and he’s said as much. It would be insane for Obama to have Phleger or anyone make such divisive comments. But perhaps in Bill’s fit of anger, common sense was eluding him.

It’s no wonder that Obama finally decided to leave Trinity United. Had he stayed, he would constantly get blamed for anything and everything that was said said there, a situation that is unfair to both Obama and the church. This will not be an end to Obama’s “pastor problems” on the campaign trail, but it should help.