Going Old South on Obama: Ma and Pa Clinton Flog Uppity Black Man
By ISHMAEL REED
During Bill Clinton’s first run for President, I appeared on a New York radio panel with some of his black supporters, including Paul Robeson, Jr., son of the actor and singer. I said that Clinton had character problems. They dismissed my comments and said that I didn’t know anything about politics and should stick to writing novels. (Clarence Page, who has monopoly on the few column inches and airtime made available to black columnists by the corporate media, said the same thing about me. I should stick to creative writing and leave politics alone.)
These criticisms didn’t deter me. Writing in The Baltimore Sun, I was the first to identify Clinton as a black president as a result of his mimicking a black style. (I said he was the second, since Warren G. Harding never denied the rumors about his black ancestry.) As a result of his ability to imitate the black preaching style, Clinton was able to seduce black audiences, who ignored some of his actions that were unfriendly, even hostile to blacks. His interrupting his campaign to get a mentally disabled black man, Ricky Ray Rector executed. (Did Mrs. Clinton tear up about this act?) His humiliation of Jesse Jackson. His humiliation of Jocelyn Elders and Lani Gunier. The welfare reform bill that has left thousands of women black, white, yellow and brown destitute, prompting Robert Scheer to write in the San Francisco Chronicle, “To his everlasting shame as president, Clinton supported and signed welfare legislation that shredded the federal safety net for the poor from which he personally had benefited.” (Has Ms. Clinton shed a tear for these women, or did she oppose her husband’s endorsement of this legislation?) His administration saw a high rate of black incarceration as a result of Draconian drug laws that occurred during his regime. He advocated trade agreements that sent thousands of jobs overseas. (Did Mrs. Clinton, with misty eyes, beg him to assess how such trade deals would effect the livelihood of thousands of families, black, white, brown, red and yellow?) He refused to intervene to rescue thousands of Rwandans from genocide. (Did Mrs. Clinton tearfully beseech her husband to intervene on behalf of her African sisters; did Ms. Gloria Steinem, whose word is so influential among millions of white women that she can be credited by some for changing the outcome of a primary, and maybe an election, marshal these forces to place pressure upon Congress to rescue these black women and girls?)
Carl Bernstein, appearing on “Air America Radio,” January 9th, described Clinton’s New Hampshire attacks on Obama as “petulant.” His behavior demonstrated that regardless of Bill Clinton’s admiration for Jazz, and black preaching, he and his spouse will go south on a black man whom they perceive as being audacious enough to sass Mrs. Clinton. In this respect, he falls in the tradition of the southern demagogue: grinning with and sharing pot liker and cornbread with black folks, while signifying about them before whites. Though his role models are Martin Luther King, Jr. and John F. Kennedy, he has more in common with Georgia’s Eugene Talmadge (“The Wild Man From Sugar Creek,”), Louisiana’s Huey Long, and his brother, Earl, Edwin Edwards, who even hinted that he had black ancestry to gain black votes, Alabama’s George Wallace, Texas’s Pa Ferguson, and “Kissing Jim” Folsom, who wrote, “You Are My Sunshine.” He employs the colorful rhetoric of the southern demagogue, the rustic homilies (“till the last dog dies), the whiff of corruption.
Having been educated at elite schools where studying The War of the Roses was more important than studying Reconstruction, the under educated white male punditry and their token white women, failed to detect the racial code phrases that both Clintons and their surrogates sent out- codes that, judging from their responses, infuriated blacks caught immediately. Blacks have been deciphering these hidden messages for four hundred years. They had to, in order to survive.
Gloria Steinem perhaps attended the same schools. Her remark that black men received the vote “fifty years before women,” in a Times Op-Ed (Jan.8) which some say contributed to Obama’s defeat in New Hampshire, ignores the fact that black men were met by white terrorism, including massacres, and economic retaliation when attempting to exercise the franchise. She and her followers, who’ve spent thousands of hours in graduate school, must have gotten all of their information about Reconstruction from Gone With The Wind, where moviegoers are asked to sympathize with a proto-feminist, Scarlett O’Hara, who finally has to fend for herself after years of being doted upon by the unpaid household help. Booker T. Washington, an educator born into slavery, said that young white people had been waited on so that after the war they didn’t know how to take care of themselves and Mary Chesnutt, author of The Civil War Diaries, and a friend of Confederate president Jefferson Davis’s family, said that upper class southern white women were so slave dependent that they were “indolent.” Steinem and her followers should read, Redemption, The Last Battle Of The Civil War,” by Nicholas Lemann, which tells the story about how “in 1875, an army of white terrorists in Mississippi led a campaign to ‘redeem’ their state–to abolish with violence and murder if need be, the newly won civil rights of freed slaves and blacks.” Such violence and intimidation was practiced all over the south sometimes resulting in massacres. One of worst massacres of black men occurred at Colfax, Louisiana, in 1873. Their crime? Attempting to exercise the voting rights awarded to them “fifty years,” before white women received theirs. Lemann writes, “Burning Negroes” met “savage and hellish butchery.”
“They were all killed, unarmed, at close range, while begging for mercy. Those who tried to escape, were overtaken, mustered in crowds, made to stand around, and, while in every attitude of humiliation and supplication, were shot down and their bodies mangled and hacked to hasten their death or to satiate the hellish malice of their heartless murderers, even after they were dead.
“White posses on horseback rode away from the town, looking for Negroes who had fled, so they could kill them.”
Elsewhere in the south, during the Confederate Restoration, black politicians, who were given the right to vote,” fifty years before white women” were removed from office by force, many through violence. In Wilmington, North Carolina, black men, who “received the vote fifty years before white women,” the subject of Charles Chesnutt’s great novel, The Marrow of Tradition:
“On Thursday, November 10, 1898, Colonel Alfred Moore Waddell, a Democratic leader in Wilmington, North Carolina mustered a white mob to retaliate for a controversial editorial written by Alexander Manly, editor of the city’s black newspaper, the Daily Record. The mob burned the newspaper’s office and incited a bloody race riot in the city. By the end of the week, at least fourteen black citizens were dead, and much of the city’s black leadership had been banished. This massacre further fueled an ongoing statewide disfranchisement campaign designed to crush black political power. Contemporary white chronicles of the event, such as those printed in the Raleigh News and Observer and Wilmington’s The Morning Star, either blamed the African American community for the violence or justified white actions as necessary to keep the peace. African American writers produced their own accounts-including fictional examinations-that countered these white supremacist claims and highlighted the heroic struggles of the black community against racist injustice.”
Black congressmen, who, as a rule, were better educated than their white colleagues were expelled from Congress.
Either Gloria Steinem hasn’t done her homework, or as an ideologue rejects evidence that’s a Google away, and the patriarchal corporate old media, which has appointed her the spokesperson for feminism, permits her ignorance to run rampant over the emails and blogs of the nation and though this white Oprah might have inspired her followers to march lockstep behind her, a progressive like Cindy Sheehan wasn’t convinced. She called Mrs. Clinton’s crying act,” phony.”
Moreover, some of the suffragettes that she and her followers hail as feminist pioneers were racists. Some even endorsed the lynching of black men. In an early clash between a black and white feminist, anti-lynching crusader Ida B. Wells opposed the views of Frances Willard, a suffragette pioneer, who advocated lynching.
“As the president of one of America’s foremost social reform organizations, Frances Willard called for the protection of the purity of white womanhood from threats to morality and safety. In her attempts to bring Southern women into the W.C.T.U., Frances Willard accepted the rape myth and publicly condoned lynching and the color line in the South. Wells argued that as a Christian reformer, Willard should be speaking out against lynching, but instead seemed to support the position of Southerners.”
Ms. Willard’s point of view is echoed by Susan Brownmiller’s implying that Emmett Till got what he deserved, and the rush to judgment on the part of New York feminists whose pressure helped to convict the black and Hispanic kids accused of raping a stockbroker in Central Park. After DNA proved their innocence (the police promised them if they confessed, they could go home), a Village Voice reporter asked the response of these feminists to this news; only Susan Brownmiller responded. She said that regardless of the scientific evidence, she still believed that the children, who spent their youth in jail, on the basis of the hysteria generated by Donald Trump, the press, and leading New York feminists, were guilty.
Feminist hero, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, offended Frederick Douglass–an abolitionist woman attempted to prevent his daughter from gaining entrance to a girls’ school–when she referred to black men as “sambos.” She was an unabashed white supremacist. She said in 1867,” [w]ith the black man we have no new element in government, but with the education and elevation of women, we have a power that is to develop the Saxon race into a higher and nobler life.”
Steinem should read. Race, Rape, and Lynching by Sandra Gunning, and Angela Davis’s excellent Women, Culture, & Politics,” which includes a probing examination of racism in the suffragette movement. The Times allowed only one black feminist to weigh in on Ms. Steinem’s comments about Barack Obama, and how he appealed to white men because they perceive black males as more “masculine” than they, an offensive stereotype, and one that insults the intelligence of white men, and a comment which, with hope, doesn’t reflect the depth of “progressive” women’s thought.
Do you think that the Times would offer Steinem critics like Toni Morrison Op-ed space to rebut her? Don’t count on it. The criticism of white feminism by black women has been repressed for over one hundred years (Black Women Abolitionists, A Study In Activism,1828-1860,by Shirley J.Yee).
I asked Jill Nelson, author of Finding Martha’s Vineyard, Volunteer Slavery and Sexual Healing, how she felt about Gloria Steinem’s use of a hypothetical black woman to make a point against Obama. She wrote:
“I was offended and frankly, surprised, by Gloria Steinem’s use of a hypothetical Black woman in her essay supporting Hillary Clinton. I would have liked to think that after all these years struggling in the feminist vineyards, Black women have become more than a hypothetical to be used when white women want to make a point, and a weak one at that, on our backs. It’s a device, a distraction, and disingenuous, and fails to hold Hillary Clinton – or for that matter, Barack Obama and the rest of the (male) candidates – responsible for their politics.”
On the second day of a convention held at Seneca Falls, 1848, white suffragettes sought to prevent black abolitionist Sojourner Truth from speaking. The scene was described by Frances Dana Gage in Ms. Davis’s book:
“Don’t let her speak!” gasped half a dozen in my ear. She moved slowly and solemnly to the front, laid her old bonnet at her feet, and turned her great speaking eyes to me. There was a hissing sound of disapprobation above and below. I rose and announce ‘Sojourner Truth,’ and begged the audience to keep silence for a few moments.”
Many minority feminists, Asian-American, Hispanic, Native-American and African-American, contend that white middle and upper class feminists’ insensitivity to the views and issues deemed important to them persists to this day.
Their proof might be Ms. Steinem’s lack of concern about how Ms. Clinton’s war votes affect the lives of thousands of women and girls–her brown sisters–in Iraq and Iran. One hundred and fifty thousand Iraqi people have been killed since the American occupation was ordered by patriarchs in Washington D.C., patriarchs who were responsible for the welfare reform act.
With this in mind, I recently asked Robin Morgan, who was editor of Ms. magazine, when I was called the worst misogynist in America, whether she still held those views. I replied to this accusation that I should be accorded the same respect given to the men who ran the magazine at the time, Lang Communications. It was made by Barbara Smith, a black feminist whom I debated on television and whose bitter comments about the white feminist movement make mine seem timid. She also criticizes the white Gay and Lesbian movements. She said that when she tried to join the Gay and Lesbian March on Washington, the leaders told her to get lost. That they weren’t interested in black issues. That they wanted to mainstream. About me, she wrote in The New Republic magazine, edited by a Marty Peretz, a man who once said that black women were “culturally deficient,” that my black women characters weren’t positive enough. For running afoul of this feminist “blueprint” for writing that she tried to lay on me, her views and those like hers were repudiated by Joyce Joyce, a black critic who deviates from the party line.
I also reminded Ms. Morgan that the Ms. editorial staff reflected the old plantation model, even though its founder, Gloria Steinem, said that she’s concerned about the progress of black women. White feminists had the juicy editorial Big House positions, while women of color were the editorial kitchen help as contributing editors. A few months later, Ms. Morgan resigned as editor and was replaced by a black woman, but not before taking some potshots, not at misogynists belonging to her ethnic group, whose abuse of women has been a guarded secret, according to feminists belonging to that group, but at Mike Tyson and Clarence Thomas (incidentally, when the white women who ran for office as a result of Ms. Anita Hill’s testimony against Clarence Thomas arrived in Congress, they voted with the men).
Robin Morgan had her secretary respond to my recent letter and from the letter I gather that Ms. Morgan hasn’t changed her mind. I’m a worse misogynist than the men in the Pentagon, and those who passed Clinton’s Welfare Reform bill. I guess that bell hooks, another black feminist, who won’t be invited by the men who run the Times to respond to Ms. Steinem, was right when she wrote in her book, Outlaw Culture, that white feminists are harder on black men than white men, but like other black feminists, from the 19th century to the present day, her point has been ignored by the mainstream media, who, when they view feminism, and just about every other subject, all they can see is white! (Except when it’s crime, athletics, and having babies out of wedlock!)
Feminists are harder on Ishmael Reed, Ralph Ellison (yes, him too), and even James Baldwin, that gentle soul, than on Phillip Roth and Saul Bellow. Harder on Barack Obama than on Bill Clinton, to whom Gloria Steinem, a harsh critic of Clarence Thomas, gave a free pass when he was charged with sexual indiscretions by various women. She said that Bubba was O.K. because when he placed Kathleen Wiley’s hand on his penis and she said no, he withdrew it. That when other women said no, he also halted his sexual advances. A letter writer to the Times challenged Ms. Steinem’s double standard for white and black-men:
“Bob Herbert (column, Jan. 29) writes that Gloria Steinem said that even though Paula Jones has filed a sexual harassment suit against President Clinton, Ms. Jones has not claimed that the President had forced himself on her. ”He takes no for an answer,” Ms. Steinem intones.
Lest we forget, Anita Hill said no to Clarence Thomas. And her accusations nearly derailed his appointment to the Supreme Court.
Patricia Schroeder, the former Congresswoman, did not claim that ”somebody may be overstating the case” when Ms. Hill accused Judge Thomas of sexual misconduct, but Ms. Schroeder claims that now in Mr. Herbert’s column. Again the left inadvertently exposes its sliding scale of moral indignation.”
San Rafael, Calif., Jan. 29, 1998
Black feminists also charge that white feminists deserted them during the fight against Proposition 209, which ended racial and gender hiring in the state of California, even though Affirmative Action has benefited white women the most!
They charge that white women were missing in action during the fight against the welfare reform bill. It seems that the cheapest form of solidarity with which they can express toward their minority sisters is to join in on the attack on Mike Tyson, Kobe Bryant, and Clarence Thomas and Mr., a character in The Color Purple, who, for them, represents all black men.
Though Steinem accuses men of being mean to Mrs. Clinton, she expressed no outrage about surrogate Bill Shaheen painting Obama as drug dealer, or the innuendo promoted by Senator Bob Kerrey. Senator Bob Kerrey, who, apparently having made up with the Clintons, was recruited to associate Obama with what the
Right refers to as “Islamo fascists.”
He said, “His name is Barack Hussein Obama, and his father was a Muslim and his paternal grandmother is a Muslim.” He added that Obama “spent a little bit of time in a secular madressa.”
You’d think that the New School of Social Research would have fired Kerrey when he admitted to committing atrocities in Vietnam. Now this.
All of these attacks must be what Hillary Clinton meant when she warned her opponents,” now the fun begins.”
One of the charges made by some black feminists is that white women middle class movement figures embezzle their oppression.
In the New York Times, Gloria Steinem’s using a hypothetical black woman to do a house cleaning on Obama was what these women must have had in mind. (Phillip Roth does the same thing; uses his black maid characters to denounce black history and black studies: “Missa Roth, dese Black Studies ain’t doin’ nothin’ but worrying folks. Whew!) Her using a black woman as a prop must have annoyed Nobel Laureate Toni Morrison who made blistering comments about Ms.Steinem during an interview conducted by novelist Cecil Brown and carried in the University of Massachusetts’ Review, where Ms. Morrison made the harshest comments about Alice Walker’s novel, The Color Purple, to date, even harsher than those made by black feminist Prof. Trudier Harris, who, as a result of her essay, published in African American Review, faced such a hostile backlash from white feminist scholars that she stopped commenting about the novel, which has become a sacred text among white feminists, who are silent about how women are treated among their ethnic groups. Steinem said that had Obama been a black woman, he would not have made as much progress as a presidential candidate and added that white men would prefer voting for a black man over a white woman because they perceived black men as being more masculine than they.
I wrote a response to the Times:
Even Dr. Phil would probably snicker at the level of pop psychology employed by Gloria Steinem to explain the attraction of many voters to Senator Barack Obama. For example, she believes that the preference for a black male candidate over a white woman by some white males is based upon their admiration for the black male’s “masculine” superiority. “Masculine superiority?” All four of the current heavyweight champions are white as well as last year’s MVPs of the NBA were white men.
Moreover, Ms. Steinem is a long time critic of black men as a group. She said that the book, The Color Purple, in which one black man commits incest, told “the truth” about black men, the kind of collective blame that’s been used against her ethnic group since the time of the Romans.”
I also made a reference to her abandonment of a tearful Shirley Chisholm’s presidential candidacy after supporting it. If she’s so concerned about the political fate of a black woman’s presidential bid, why did she desert Ms. Chisholm in favor of the man?
She also said that “Gender is probably the most restricting force in American life.” The fact that when white women received the vote, they experienced little of the violence that accompanied black men being awarded the right to vote, fifty years earlier, suggests that some groups, black men, black women, Hispanics, Asian-Americans and American Indians face more restrictions than white women, whose college enrollment is far higher even than that of white men. ( Steinem said that women are never “Front Runners. How many white women senators are there? How many black?)
Cecil Brown, author of the bestselling Hey, Dude Where’s My Black Studies Department, wrote:
“I grew up in North Carolina, where I often heard my mother and my aunts speak of the racism of white women against them. Their experience is that of millions of black women who were and are discriminated by white women.
In the Bay Area, where I now live, a professor friend told me, recently, that a white female student told him that she found the use of the expression, “white woman” in his lectures offensive, and asked that he not use it.
“Like this student, Ms Steinem avoids the phrase “white woman,” because it historicizes their gender. While she lectures to us about black men, white men, and black women, she can only think of her white women as women.
“It’s time to take pride in breaking all the barriers,” Ms. Steinem ends her remarks. We have to be able to say: “I’m supporting [Hillary] because she’ll be a great president and because she is a woman. But do we dare say that we should support her because she is a white woman?”
Our letters were not published, but one written by a black feminist exposed the divide between black and white feminists, one that is rarely aired since white feminists have more access to the media than black ones and in their books report, falsely, a solidarity between them and black women.
Among letter writer Karin Kimbrough’s comments:
“As a black woman and a feminist, I find it depressing to see Gloria Steinem set up this tired, false debate as to whether a black man or a white woman is more disadvantaged in national politics.
She cites as evidence that ‘black men were given the vote a half-century before women of any race were allowed to mark a ballot.’ So what?
My parents (who are Ms. Steinem’s age) vividly recall racism in the Deep South, including barriers to voting as well as the barriers to many other supposedly granted rights like eating in restaurants, staying in hotels and using public facilities. These were all rights white women actively enjoyed.”
Camille Paglia also weighed in:
“Hillary’s disdain for masculinity fits right into the classic feminazi package, which is why Hillary acts on Gloria Steinem like catnip. Steinem’s fawning, gaseous New York Times op-ed about her pal Hillary this week speaks volumes about the snobby clubbiness and reactionary sentimentality of the fossilized feminist establishment, which has blessedly fallen off the cultural map in the 21st century. History will judge Steinem and company very severely for their ethically obtuse indifference to the stream of working-class women and female subordinates whom Bill Clinton sexually harassed and abused, enabled by look-the-other-way and trash-the-victims Hillary.”
An example of the problems that Barack faces as a result of there being few blacks having jobs in the old media occurred during an appearance by a white woman reporter on “Washington Journal,”Jan.14. So pro-Hillary was this reporter, Beth Fouhy, that one woman called and said that she thought that this woman was a Hillary spokesperson, before noticing that she was from the
Associated Press. Obviously the media have been infiltrated by Steinem’s legions.
Scathing comments about the white feminist movement by black feminists are included in The Feminist Memoir Project, edited by Rachel Blau DuPlessis and Ann Snitow. Timesperson,Maureen Dowd also challenged Steinem, who is hard on black guys, but once confessed in the Times that she becomes embarrassed when a male of her ethnic group becomes involved in a scandal. Challenging Steinem’s argument that “she is supporting Hillary [because] she had no ‘masculinity to prove.'” Dowd wrote, “Empirically speaking, her masculinity is precisely what Hillary
has been out to prove in her bid for the White House. What else was voting to enable W. to invade Iraq without even reading the National Intelligence Estimate and backing the White House’s bellicosity on Iran but proving her masculinity.”
Desperate, when the campaign moved into New Hampshire, the Clintons launched the brass knuckles attack on Obama that commentator William Bennett predicted would happen after Mrs. Clinton was upset in Iowa.
His voice shaking with rage, a livid Bill Clinton said that Obama’s positions on the war in Iraq was a “a fairy tale,” and that nominating Obama was “a roll of the dice.”
Writing in The Washington Post, Jan.13, Marjorie Valbrun, voiced the reaction of many blacks to Clinton’s performance:
“If anyone needed any proof that the mean Clinton machine is alive and well in this campaign, all they had to do was watch Bill Clinton deliver his angry diatribe against Obama in New Hampshire last week just before the primary. His red-faced anger was clear and a little scary, too. It wasn’t what he said but how he said it. His tone was contemptuous of his wife’s main challenger, whom he described as a political neophyte who for some reason was being granted a honeymoon with the national media.
This is the same Bill Clinton who took on Sister Souljah, a young and, at the time, controversial black rapper who made incendiary racial remarks after the Los Angeles race riots. Many people accused Clinton of using the rapper, and an appearance before Jesse Jackson’s Rainbow Coalition, as an opportunity to distance himself from Jackson, the ultimate race man. The move helped reinforce his white moderate bona fides.”
On Jan.13th, when Tim Russert interrogated Mrs. Clinton whether the attacks on Obama by her, her husband, and her surrogates were racist, she filibustered and dismissed such concerns as the one made by Ms. Valbrum and other blacks in a patronizing manner. She falsely accused Obama of comparing himself with JFK and MLK. He didn’t. He invoked their names to make a point about hope. How some hopes, considered false by cynics, can be fulfilled.
So offended by what he considered a black man getting “cocky” with his wife, Clinton blew his top. “Cocky” was the word that nuns educated Bob Herbert used to admonish Obama. Herbert, one of three blacks whom the Times views as unlikely to alienate their readership, pointed to an exchange between Obama and Mrs. Clinton. When Mrs. Clinton, during a debate, commented that voters found Obama more “likeable” than Mrs. Clinton, Obama said that Mrs. Clinton was “likeable enough.” Obama’s reply prompted an Ante Bellum white man, Karl Rove, to refer to Obama as “a smarmy, prissy little guy taking a slap at her.” He said that this exchange threw the primary victory to Mrs. Clinton. Notwithstanding the irony of Karl Rove referring to someone as “smarmy,” if a reply as mild and innocuous as Obama’s leads to his being flogged by Clinton and reprimanded by one of the Establishment’s Black tokens, Obama is going to be restricted in his ability to take on the political brawlers and hit persons aligned with Clinton like Don Imus’s buddy, James Carville, a man who sneers at people who live in trailer parks, and who practices a no-holds-barred political strategy.
Both CNN and Carl Bernstein said that Clinton, in the midst of giving this uppity black the required flogging (Clinton’s a Jeffersonian. Flogging blacks was Jefferson’s idea of recreation), had misrepresented Barack’s record. Also, those who commented about Hillary Clinton’s tearful breakdown missed the commentary that accompanied this calculated attempt at seeming human and personal, which occurred, as Jesse Jackson, Jr. noted, in The Daily News, when her advisors told her that she appear to be more human. “Why didn’t she cry for the victims of Katrina?” he added.
She said that she didn’t want to see the country “go backwards,” or “spin out of control,” the kind of vision of black rule promoted by D.W.Griffith’s Birth of a Nation, and Neo-Confederate novelist Tom Wolfe’s “A Man In Full.” (Unfortunately for Obama, this was during a week that saw post election violence in Kenya where Barack’s father was born.) Hers was the kind of rhetoric that was used by the Confederates whose rule was restored by Andrew Johnson. Give the black man governing powers and no white woman will be safe. This was Mrs. Clinton’s Willie Horton moment.
Bill Clinton’s orchestrating his wife’s being more personal, was a brilliant stroke. One that might doom Obama’s candidacy, but will doom the Democrats’ chances to win the 2008 election as well. As a southern demagogue, Bill Clinton calculated that no black man can compete with a white woman’s tears, a left over from Old South thinking. Black men have been lynched as a result of the tears of white women. While Jesse Helms, another southern demagogue, used a black man’s hand in an ad that criticized Affirmative Action, Feminist Bill Clinton, who exploited a young woman, who held him in awe, and cost Al Gore an election, used his wife’s tears, so desperate was he to achieve a third term and redeem his being impeached. But judging from angry black callers into C-Span’s “The Washington Journal,” the day after the New Hampshire primary, and the following day, and my own non-scientific survey, many blacks finally get it. That they have been snookered by the Clintons. One angry man said that blacks supported Clinton during his marital problems and this is what they get for it. Another man said that he was going to vote for McCain as a way of protesting the Clinton’s treatment of Obama. On Jan.11, an irate black woman called in and said that she had been devoted to the Clinton’s since the 1990s, but after his attack on Obama, which she likened to ” a knife in my chest,” and which she described as “low down” she said that if Hillary were nominated, she’d either “vote Republican, or stay home.” Calling into the Journal on Jan.13, a black woman from Ohio said that many of her friends were upset with the “subliminally racist” campaign against Obama that the Clinton’s were conducting. These callers expressed the disgust that thousands of blacks feel about the Clintons dirty tricks campaign against Obama, which included sending out mailers making false statements about his view about abortion, and deceptively attributing another mailer, critical of Obama, to John Edwards. This black backlash against the Clintons provides the Republican Party with a golden opportunity to recruit black voters for McCain, but I doubt whether they will seize upon it. After all, while Clinton might have an office in Harlem, McCain has a black daughter!
A black Ph.D. caller said that he found blacks in a barbershop to be more prescient than he. They said that once whites entered the voting booth, they’d vote for the white candidate no matter what they said to the pollster. Some commentators recalled treatment that Howard Gant and Tom Bradley received. Both were considered shoo-ins by pollsters for Senator from North Carolina and Governor of California because whites misled pollsters about how they really intended to vote.
Later in the day of Jan.8, Larry Sabato of The University of Virginia , appearing on The Chris Matthews Show, commented about a previous segment during which Dee Dee Meyers and Pat Buchanan opposed Michael Eric Dyson’s argument that white racism was a factor in Obama’s New Hampshire defeat. He said, “I think its very naïve, given American history, to automatically dismiss the racial voting theory before it’s investigated. There is some evidence that race is one of several factors involved in this upset.” Chris Matthews, who, apparently, has taken a new look at racism in the United States, after the Imus debacle, and a couple of other white commentators, including NBC News Political Director, Chuck Todd, agreed with this sentiment that race was a factor. But most white commentators agreed with Pat Buchanan, and Dee Dee Meyers, former Clinton press secretary, who said that the difference between the polling that showed Obama with a double digit lead and the actual outcome had nothing to with white voters telling pollsters one thing and voting the opposite. For people like Pat Buchanan, nothing has to do with race, unless he can use race to stir up votes in one of his campaigns.
Predictably, The New York Times also followed the line that the racial attitudes of whites had nothing to do with Obama’s narrow defeat in New Hampshire, not surprising since the line of The New York Times, on the opinion page and elsewhere, is that we have entered a “post race” period.
Such is the rage of blacks against the Clintons after Iowa and New Hampshire that If Hillary Clinton is nominated, she will not be elected president. Obama and his “Joshua” generation will inherit a party that has lost its way. This would be a new development for the progressive movement since, from the abolitionists to the progressive movements of the 20th century, black progressives were the followers and not the leaders. When Frederick Douglass, Richard Wright and Ralph Ellison got out of line, the progressives replaced them with another more obedient black spokesperson. After he broke with his progressive sponsors, Richard Wright was assaulted (The God That Failed by Koestler, Silone, Wright).
An uninformed Times Op-Ed writer, a CMD, said that Obama had gotten farther toward the nomination than any other black. Not true. When Jesse Jackson won the Michigan primary, there was an eruption of panic among the party elite. Ben Wattenberg and others were brought in to smear Jackson with the charge of Anti-Semitism and out of this emergency arose the white conservative wing of the party, The Democratic Leadership Council, whose founder, Al From, still brags about how he put black people in their place. Clinton was the DLC’s candidate for president.
The reason for the 1960s rift between the Black Power people and the New Left was because when the black nationalists arrived at Freedom Summer, the northeastern liberals were giving orders, while the blacks were taking the risks. The black nationalists took control of the movement and dragged Stokely Carmichael, who was devoted to non-violence, kicking and screaming into their ranks, and into their philosophy of armed self-defense, according to Askia Toure, whom Mary Snow in her book, Freedom Summer, accuses of purging the Northern Liberals from SNCC. The progressive white women left SNCC, but not before borrowing the SNCC manifesto and using it as it their own, according to Snow. They changed the pronouns and this became the beginning of the modern feminist movement. The reason that much of the feminist movement’s fire is aimed at the brothers is because some of these women went away mad (Going South by Debra L.Schultz). Based upon Stokely Carmichael’s remark that the position of women in SNCC was “prone,” they accused the black men in SNCC of misogyny. According to black women, who were members of SNCC, the white feminists, led by Casey Hayden, took Carmichael’s comments out of context. Their views about their clashes with white feminism are printed in The Trouble Between Us by Winifred Breines, a book ignored by Mark Leibovich,writing in The New York Times,Jan.13. He repeated the charge about Carmichael made by white feminists without asking black feminists what they thought. Typical of a member of the Old Media, which takes its cues from those whom the patriarchy has appointed to lead the movement.
If Cynthia McKinney is nominated for president by the Green Party, a test for corporate feminists like Gloria Steinem, so concerned about the lack of opportunities for their black sisters, black voters will flock to McKinney by the thousands, which might tip the balance if the contest is close between Ms. Clinton and her Republican opponent. Others will leave the line for president on the ballot, blank. This rage against the Clintons will go unnoticed by the segregated old corporate media, which has more information about the landscape of Mars than trends in the Black, Asian-American and Hispanic communities. They rely upon their hand full of colored mind doubles, who tell them what they want to hear.
Modern day Indian scouts. When they’re not available, all white panels instruct each other about who is a racist and who is not, how black people feel, how they are going to vote, continuing what some blacks regard as the white intellectual occupation of the black experience, an attitude that dates all the way back to a letter written by Martin Delaney to Frederick Douglass, 1863, in which he complained about the favorable treatment Douglass gave to Harriet Beecher Stowe’s book, Uncle Tom’s Cabin, while ignoring his Blake, or the Huts of America, 1859. “She can not speak for us,” he wrote.
Clinton will still receive some support from some black democratic loyalists, and celebrities although some of them are beginning to distance themselves from the couple after Iowa and New Hampshire smears against Obama, but a large number of black people, who helped elect Clinton, twice, will defect.
Representative James E. Clyburn, a black Congressman from South Carolina, told the New York Times (Jan.11, 2008) that “he may abandon his neutral stance in his state’s primary, based in part on comments by Senator Hillary Rodman Clinton about President Lyndon B.Johnson and the Rev. Dr, Martin Luther King, Jr.” He
and other blacks interpreted Hillary Clinton’s remark about the two as implying that Johnson did more for the cause of Civil Rights than King, who, like Obama, made great speeches.
Also one wonders whether Henry Louis Gate’s Jr., media appointed leader of the Talented Tenth (a phrase that W.E.B DuBois used to appoint the black elite as the true leaders of the Negro masses, an insult to grassroots leaders like Fannie Lou Hammer), will follow suit. While smearing a number of black male writers as misogynists, in the Times and elsewhere, when Bill Clinton was caught with his pants down, Gates, Jr. said. We will “go to the wall for this president.”
Are the Clintons new in a south where husbands like George Wallace extended their power by getting their wives elected? Hardly. Take the Fergusons.
In Texas there was a couple called the Fergusons, affectionately called “Ma and Pa Ferguson.”
Miriam Ferguson was a quiet, private person who preferred to stay home in her big house in Temple, Texas, and take care of her husband, raise her two daughters, and tend to her flower garden.
But in 1923 she was elected governor of Texas, the first woman governor elected in the United States.
Her husband, Jim Ferguson, served two terms as governor, but during his second term he was impeached, which meant he could not run again for public office. So Miriam agreed to run to clear his name and restore the family’s honor.
She served two terms as governor: from 1925 to 1927 and from 1933 to 1935. She and her husband became known as ‘Ma’ and ‘Pa’ Ferguson. Her campaign slogan was, ‘Two Governors for the Price of One’.
Remind you of anyone?
Ishmael Reed is a poet, novelist and essayist who lives in Oakland. His widely-accalimed novels include, Mumbo Jumbo, the Freelance Pallbearers and the Last Days of Louisiana Red. He has recently published a fantastic book on Oakland: Blues City: a Walk in Oakland and Carroll and Graf has recently published a thick volume of his poems: New and Collected Poems: 1964-2006.
He is also the editor of the online zine Konch.
Copyright 2008 Ishmael Reed