Bro­ken eggheads make no omelets

The Washington Times Weekly - - National -

The Democrats in­vented race-bait­ing, mak­ing it a sta­ple of cam­paign­ing for nearly a cen­tury. (The Repub­li­cans gave us a civil war.) Now race pol­i­tics is back, and this time ev­ery­one gets to play.

With Hil­lary dead and gone with­out even a de­cent wake, most of the pun­ditry is busy with the fatwa, de­cree­ing be­head­ing with a dull knife for any­one who says ir­rev­er­ent things about Barack Obama.

Hil­lary Clin­ton, who sud­denly couldn’t push a crip­pled child’s wheel­chair across a busy street with­out tak­ing se­vere crit­i­cism for how she did it, learned last week that she broke the brass rule of Amer­i­can pol­i­tics, that “race,” ex­cept for mean­ing­less and in­sin­cere plat­i­tudes, is the great un­men­tion­able.

“I have a much broader base to build a win­ning coali­tion on,” she told USA To­day. “The As­so­ci­ated Press found how Obama’s sup­port among work­ing, hard­work­ing Amer­i­cans, white Amer­i­cans, is weak­en­ing again, and how whites in both states who had not com­pleted col­lege were sup­port­ing me. There’s a pat­tern here.” Note how care­ful the lady was in even say­ing that much, all but trip­ping over the word “white.”

Paul Be­gala, one of her trusted spin­meis­ters, was a shade blunter: “Obama can’t win with just the eggheads and African-Amer­i­cans. That’s the Dukakis coali­tion. He car­ried 10 states.” His op­po­site in the CNN spin room, Donna Brazile, re­torted that it was such no­tions that di­vide Democrats. “Go sit with Bill Ben­nett,” she told him (pre­sum­ably in the back of a bus).

What Hil­lary is talk­ing about is what ev­ery thought­ful Demo­crat in Wash­ing­ton, in­clud­ing Mzz Brazile, is talk­ing about, that the slash and burn pri­mary cam­paign has set up the kind of pres­i­den­tial cam­paign that ev­ery­one thought im­pos­si­ble only weeks ago. The exit polls from May 6 had to sober Mr. Obama’s wise men. Hil­lary won about 6 of ev­ery 10 white vot­ers in both In­di­ana and North Carolina, and Paul Be­gala’s re­mark that no­body can win a na­tional elec­tion in Amer­ica with “only eggheads and African-Amer­i­cans” is merely to state the ob­vi­ous.

The sta­tis­tics are plain enough: While Barack Obama was win­ning 92 per­cent of the black vote in In­di­ana — where blacks made up about 15 per­cent of those vot­ing May 6 — Hil­lary was win­ning 60 per­cent of the whites. The per­cent­ages were roughly sim­i­lar in North Carolina, and 92 per­cent of 15 per­cent is im­pres­sive mostly as a tes­ta­ment to racial loy­alty. As­pir­ing eggheads in the fac­ulty lounges at Duke, Chapel Hill, North Carolina State and Wake For­est, added to black vot­ers, gave Mr. Obama his blowout in North Carolina. This says noth­ing con­clu­sive about an elec­tion night in Novem­ber.

The mob moved de­ci­sively May 8 to make Mr. Obama not only in­evitable, but un­touch­able, to treat Hil­lary as some­thing dread and prob­a­bly in­fec­tious. Toni Mor­ri­son fa­mously de­scribed Bill Clin­ton as our first black pres­i­dent, but not last week. “Peo­ple mis­un­der­stood the phrase,” she said. “I was de­plor­ing the way in which Pres­i­dent Clin­ton was be­ing treated vis-a-vis the sex scan­dal that was sur­round­ing him. I said he was be­ing treated like a black in the street, al­ready guilty, al­ready a perp. I have no idea what his real in­stincts are, in terms of race.” Maybe she doesn’t know, but if you want to get the idea that she’s sug­gest­ing his in­stincts are evil, that’s prob­a­bly all right with her.

No one both­ers to con­sider what those work­ing whites in North Carolina, In­di­ana and the other big states that Mr. Obama couldn’t win find sus­pi­cious about the man from Illi­nois. Maybe it’s the com­pany he keeps in Chicago, the crazy big­oted preacher, the un­re­pen­tant and unre­deemed ter­ror­ists, the sleazy slum­lords. Maybe the work­ing stiffs don’t trust his wife, who de­cided Amer­ica was OK only when it looked like Amer­i­cans might re­ward her with a lease on a big house on Penn­syl­va­nia Av­enue. Maybe it’s the mys­tery about the why and how he keeps so much hid­den in the shad­ows. Maybe it’s the change they can’t be­lieve in.

Wesley Pruden is ed­i­tor emer­i­tus of The Times.

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