It's the worst of all worlds for the DemocratsCommentary


Two very bad things have happened to Barack Obama. One is that he has been Jesse Jackson-ized. The other is that he has been Michael Dukakis-ized and John Kerry-ized.

Only one bad thing has happened to Hillary Clinton. It was that her husband continued to run his mouth and wag his finger without attention to plain truth. If she'd file for divorce right now, she'd likely gain six points in the polls.

The biggest political news last week was not that Hillary beat Obama by 10 points in Pennsylvania. It was two other things.

One was that she beat him that soundly despite his getting an estimated 92 percent of the black vote. She beat him from 2-to-1 to 3-to-1 in rural counties where white working people predominate.

The Democratic vote is thus fully polarized racially, just as Bill Clinton endeavored to make it in South Carolina by dismissing Obama's win there as nothing more than Jackson's in 1988.

That was despite the fact that Obama had just won one of our whitest states, Iowa, and run a strong second in another, New Hampshire.

Positioned to be a transformational figure, Obama instead got typecast by the man who, in 1992, cynically appealed to white people by blasting a black rapper.

For all the deserved criticism he's taken for abandoning one of his few remaining virtues -- racial reconciliation -- to drive a political wedge in his wife's favor, Bill's tactics have borne fruit. It's now white people for Hillary and blacks for Obama, and there are more white people than black.

Second, Republicans in two conservative Southern states, North Carolina and Louisiana, saw advantages in running ads seeking to tie local Democrats not to Hillary, but to Obama. That's a sure sign that he is seen as the more culturally alien, the more out of the mainstream and the one about whom fears could most easily be fomented.

He is now an updated version of Dukakis and Kerry, who were seen in the South as of frightfully alien values.

Here's a conversation of two 30-something Southern males overheard the other evening:

"Can you believe it? I'm more afraid of Obama than Hillary."

"Yeah, I know. I mean, if you won't put your hand over your heart for the National Anthem ..."

(There's this picture. You've probably received it by e-mail. Obama is standing to listen to a band play the "Star Spangled Banner." A big flag waves behind him. His hands are at his side. Personally, I've never saluted a band. This is silly, but powerful, because it's a simple symbol. Dukakis vetoed a bill to mandate the recitation by Massachusetts school children of the Pledge of Allegiance. Mandating a pledge is clearly an unconstitutional infringement on the free expression that the flag ought to stand for. But it doesn't seem to work that way with the mushy, pliable center of American politics.)

In Louisiana, the Republicans have run two ads seeking to tie a Democratic congressional candidate to "the radical agenda of Obama and Pelosi." That's not, mind you, Hillary and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, who is as easy a Southern target as a San Francisco liberal.

In North Carolina, Republicans are running a commercial calling on two Democratic gubernatorial candidates to say whether they support or denounce Obama's "associates," meaning the Rev. Jeremiah Wright and that old domestic terrorist, William Ayers, into whose Chicago home Obama once stepped.

Hillary, meantime, has all the momentum, except for Bill's claiming insanely that Obama had played a race card on him, then claiming with exponential, finger-waving insanity the next day that he hadn't said what he had plainly said, as a radio tape verified.

She needs to put a muzzle on the tomcat.

John Brummett is an award-winning columnist for the Arkansas News Bureau in Little Rock and author of "High Wire," a book about Bill Clinton's first year as president. His e-mail address is jbrummett@ arkansasnews.com.

 

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