The Clinton strategy?
- From: jose <josefsoplar@xxxxxxxxx>
- Date: Wed, 30 Jan 2008 08:54:57 -0800 (PST)
The Clinton strategy?
Ruben Navarrette Jr., San Diego Union-Tribune
Wednesday, January 30, 2008
Having polarized blacks and whites, the Democratic primary campaign
was already becoming sleazy. And now that Latinos have been added to
the mix, it's become surreal.
We're being told that Latinos won't vote for Barack Obama because he's
black. The implication is that Latinos are racist.
Sergio Bendixen, a Latino who conducts polls for Hillary Clinton,
suggested during an interview with Ryan Lizza of the New Yorker that
"the Hispanic voter - and I want to say this very carefully - has not
shown a lot of willingness to support black candidates."
John B. Judis, writing in the New Republic, insisted that Latino
voters could be a firewall for Hillary Clinton in part because of "a
legacy of an older Latin American prejudice against blacks that has
been transplanted to this country."
And, in the New York Times, Adam Nagourney and Jennifer Steinhauer
cited "a history of often uneasy and competitive relations between
blacks and Hispanics, particularly as they have jockeyed for influence
in cities like Chicago, Los Angeles and New York."
Nagourney and Steinhauer neglected to mention that each of those
cities have, in the past, elected black mayors who captured the
majority of the Latino vote.
It's true that in most polls, Hillary Clinton has a 2-1 advantage with
Latino voters over Barack Obama.
But does the Eastern media really expect us to buy the idea that the
44 million people who make up America's largest minority have a beef
with African Americans? Does that include the Latinos who backed Obama
in his campaigns in Illinois, and those who now support his
presidential campaign? If anything, Latinos - especially those whose
families have been in this country for generations - tend to have a
keen understanding of racism, which makes them more likely to identify
with the plight of African Americans.
Next thing you know, pundits are going to tell us that Latinos are too
macho to elect a woman president.
There are plenty of reasons why Latinos might support Hillary Clinton.
Her husband won two national elections in which he earned more than 60
percent of the Latino vote. She has racked up scores of endorsements
from prominent Latino officials, including Los Angeles Mayor Antonio
Villaraigosa, Sen. Bob Menendez of New Jersey, and former Housing
Secretary Henry Cisneros.
Not that there isn't racism in this election. That's the surreal part.
There certainly is. But none of it involves Latinos. Rather, it's the
kind that has been the most prevalent in U.S. history - whites versus
Things got really nasty in South Carolina, where former President Bill
Clinton dealt a whole deck of race cards before - and even after - the
vote. And yet Obama cruised to victory with more than 80 percent of
black support and nearly a quarter of the white vote.
This, despite the ex-president's despicable efforts to scare off
Obama's white supporters by trying to define the Illinois senator
solely by race. Last week, a top adviser to the Clinton campaign
acknowledged to a reporter from the Associated Press that the
campaign's objective is to define Obama as "the black candidate."
And so, Bill Clinton tried to portray Obama as someone who draws his
support almost exclusively from African Americans and speculated that
South Carolinians would vote along racial lines. After the votes were
cast, he took one last shot by comparing Obama's victory to those
enjoyed in South Carolina by Jesse Jackson during his 1984 and 1988
Hurricane Bill couldn't have done more damage to his wife's campaign
if he had tried. Wait. Maybe he did. Maybe the plan was to write off
South Carolina, knowing that black voters would turn out
overwhelmingly for Obama. Then Hillary comes off as a victim of
identity politics, and white and Latino voters become more sympathetic
to her in future primaries.
An African American friend suggested to me recently that the Clinton
campaign might be willing to swap black voters for Latinos. The
Clintons could be counting on Latino voters to make up the votes
they're losing from African Americans. It's possible.
In 1968, Richard Nixon embraced a Southern strategy that used the race
issue to carve up the electorate and scare up support from white
voters. Republicans turned to the strategy time and again until the
South was largely in their hands.
Well, with Arizona, New Mexico, Colorado and California all holding
primaries or caucuses next week, this could be the Clintons'
Southwestern strategy - an elaborate racial bank shot that is just as
divisive and unsavory as its predecessor.
Ruben Navarrette Jr.'s e-mail address is
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