Friday, May 30, 2008

Who is fanning the flames of gender and racial divisions?

Republican Politics, American Style
Published on May 8th in Metro Eireann By Charles Laffiteau

In a column two weeks ago I began to discuss the politics of race and gender in America and ended by pointing to differences between the candidates positions on healthcare as well as Clinton’s propensity for fudging the truth. I also said that her lack of judgement on many issues had nothing to do with her being a woman, but instead were indicative of the kind of tactics used by many politicians; most of them males, in terms of telling people what they want to hear without substantive actions to back it up.
There is one more distinction I want to make between Obama and Clinton before I move on and that involves the issue of money. The Clintons have made over $100 million over the last seven years with Bill Clinton earning $52 million from speeches and consulting fees, which is more than all of the other former US Presidents have made combined.
Much of this money was paid to Bill Clinton by the same large corporations which have been Hillary’s most generous campaign supporters, hoping the Clintons would return to their positions of power in the White House. Anyone who believes Bill Clinton would have made anything approaching this kind of money from consulting fees and speeches if Hillary didn’t have any intention of running for President, is quite na├»ve in my opinion.
Yet Hillary claims she is fighting for the interests of working class families and small businesses. If this is true then why do the Clintons still owe many small businesses and working class union members many thousands of dollars in month’s old unpaid campaign bills, while Obama owes them nothing in unpaid bills for his campaign?
Among the Clintons’ hundreds of unpaid campaign bills is $7,700 owed to Ohio and Massachusetts theatrical stage employee union locals and $4,400 to New Hampshire’s Winnacunnet Cooperative School District. Furthermore, the campaign has stopped returning phone calls or e-mails and didn’t respond to a certified letter from Forty Two, an Ohio event production company which employs union workers, regarding over $30,000 in unpaid stage and equipment bills.
A union employee of Forty Two has this to say about Clinton; “We worked very hard to put together these events on a moment’s notice and do absolutely everything to a ‘t’ to make it look perfect on television for her and for her campaign. Sen. Clinton talks about helping working families, people in unions and small businesses. But when it comes down to actually doing something that shows that she can back up her words with action, she fails.” Sounds like a bit of buyers remorse from a Clinton supporter to me.
Clinton supporters like Geraldine Ferraro, who claim that Clinton is being ganged up on by the old “boys club” political establishment and that Obama is in the frontrunners position now because he is a “black man”, conveniently ignore the Clinton shortcomings that I have cited in my columns. These shortcomings have nothing to do with Clinton’s gender, but everything to do with the poor judgement and weak values she possesses. This also explains why Clinton and her supporters regard women (or former members of the Bill Clinton administration like Bill Richardson) who won’t vote for her as “traitors”.
Clinton is much more subtle, but no less effective, in her appeal to women to vote for her because she is a woman too, by repeatedly making comments about women approaching her with stories about how important her running for president is to them.
Clinton has also begun to play the race card by telling Democratic super-delegates that they must support her because “Obama can’t win” and leaving off the rest of the line “because he is black”. Clinton’s supporters are much more direct however, telling super-delegates that the reason Obama can’t win is because many white voters won’t vote for Obama in November because of the recent publicity surrounding some of the racist comments his former church pastor has made during some of his sermons over the years.
Obama has disavowed those statements by his former pastor and in a historic speech about race relations in America sought to explain to Americans why whites and blacks are still divided on racial issues forty years after the death of Martin Luther King. Obama’s speech was the most honest and forthright speech about US race relations that I have ever heard and, should he become president, it will go down in history as one of the best speeches he has ever delivered. Obama was raised by a single white mother and his white grandmother. I believe this speech came from his heart since he wrote it and then delivered it for 38 minutes without ever once referring to notes or using a teleprompter.
Obama addressed white voters by describing the effects of generations of discrimination on African Americans who grew up in a more segregated America, like Rev. Wright. Obama said “That anger may not get expressed in public, in front of white co-workers or white friends, but it does find voice in the barbershop or the beauty shop or around the kitchen table. At times, that anger is exploited by (black) politicians, to gin up votes along racial lines, or to make up for a politician's own failings.”
Obama also addressed black voters telling them that “a similar anger exists within segments of the white community. Most working- and middle-class white Americans don't feel that they have been particularly privileged by their race. So when they are told to bus their children to a school across town, when they hear that an African American is getting an advantage in landing a good job or a spot in a good college because of an injustice that they themselves never committed, resentment builds over time. ”
So you decide; which Democratic candidate is trying to persuade Americans to move beyond racial and gender divisions and which one is still trying to fan the flames of these simmering old resentments to get elected?

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