By Joe Sims
Why did Obama lose yesterday’s New Hampshire primary? In the opinion of the editor’s of none other than the New York Times, major consideration has to be given to the injection of racism into the campaign by none other than Hillary and Bill Clinton themselves. In its lead editorial, the Times wrote that Senator Clinton ran an “angry campaign" in New Hampshire and:
“polls showed that voters noticed. She won narrowly, but came perilously close to injecting racial tension into what should have been — and still should be — an uplifting contest between the first major woman candidate and the first major African-American candidate.”
For the centrist NYT to say “perilously close” in reality means that it actually occurred – so much so that it was cause for alarm. The editorial continues:
“In the days before the voting, Mrs. Clinton and her team were so intent on talking about how big a change a woman president would be — and it surely would — that some of her surrogates even suggested that it would be a more valuable change than an African-American president…In Mrs. Clinton’s zeal to make the case that experience (hers) is more important than inspirational leadership (Mr. Obama’s), she made some peculiar comments about the relative importance of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and President Lyndon Johnson to the civil rights cause. She complimented Dr. King’s soaring rhetoric, but said: “Dr. King’s dream began to be realized when President Lyndon Johnson passed the Civil Rights Act of 1964. ... It took a president to get it done. ”
Clinton has been all along not-so-subtly suggesting that Senator Obama is not up to the task of being president, not “experienced enough” in the New York senator’s words. In essence, Clinton is arguing that Obama is not “qualified.” Now where have we heard that before?
The Times editors saw it this way:
“It was hard to escape the distasteful implication that a black man needed the help of a white man to effect change. She pulled herself back from the brink by later talking about the mistreatment and danger Dr. King faced.”
If Mrs. Clinton “pulled back” her husband, in the opinion of the Times went way over the line. They wrote:
“Former President Bill Clinton, who seems to forget he is not the one running, hurled himself over the edge on Monday with a bizarre and rambling attack on Mr. Obama.”
A conclusion that the Clinton's engaged in racially charged campaigning in New Hampshire seems unavoidable. Whether it was deliberate or unconscious isn't important. What is important is that it helped turn the election in their favor. In this regard, any discussion of the “Bradley effect” in the New Hampshire primary must consider the added influence of the Clinton’s role. (The Bradley effect is named for the late Tom Bradley who ran for governor of California and lost narrowly after being well ahead in the polls). It wasn’t that voters just made up their minds at the last minute, they were pushed in a certain direction by the Clinton couple themselves.
One should not be surprised by the Clinton’s ploys. After all it was Bill Clinton himself who traveled to a Rainbow Coalition meeting in Washington during his first campaign and attacked a young rapper “Sista Souljah” to prove he wasn’t “pandering” to the Black vote. It was also Clinton who traveled back to Arkansas to preside over the execution of young mentally disabled African American man. It was the same Clinton who went to a Black church and chastised African Americans for behaving with “reckless abandonment” and loose morals.
In all likelihood several factors combined to produce the New Hampshire vote: the swing of undecided women voters; strong union support for Clinton and an effective get-out-the vote effort, and the playing of the race card by the Clinton’s themselves.