Sexism? What about the racism?

Shortly after Super Tuesday, I wrote several columns criticizing Hillary Clinton for various campaign tactics.

Each one of those columns drew responses from readers who would lambaste me as a sexist or as someone who was giving Barack Obama an easy pass.

In his Sunday column, Review-Journal Editor Thomas Mitchell mentioned one of the more recent respondents -- a woman who was outraged at my suggestion that some of Clinton's core supporters needed an anger management course. She proved me right, dropping a typically offensive ethnic slur that I've heard time and again this election year from Clinton supporters.

The dark underside of the Democratic race isn't that some people misunderstood criticism of a candidate as a gender swipe, but that many of those who felt that way wouldn't admit their own racism.

There were certainly instances this election year of Clinton receiving sexist treatment from some media. When she teared up in New Hampshire, talking heads freaked about the prospect of a president crying in front of a rogue international leader.

But while Clintonites were clambering for more scrutiny of Obama, the former first lady was hiding sources of her family's wealth, lying about her role as first lady -- from Balkan visits to the peace process in Northern Ireland -- and generally getting the benefit of the doubt from so many "blue-collar workers."

No one dared describe blue-collar workers as lower-class whites who fear losing whatever ground they have to African-Americans should Obama win the nomination or the presidency.

It's the same kind of disgusting politics that leads many Hispanics to view blacks as their competition for a piece of the American minority pie.

On Saturday, Clinton showed some of the class and grace that has eluded her for so much of this campaign. Sure, she waited a good four days after Obama had secured the needed delegates to win the nomination before conceding, but she did the best she could. Clinton mentioned Obama more than 10 times, encouraging her supporters to work for the common goals the two Democratic candidates had specified. But in her concession, Clinton again showed just what type of political animal she is.

I don't view her poor reference to the Robert Kennedy assassination as an isolated comment or two. Part of the reality for a woman who draws so much support from those lower-class whites and Hispanic is that so many of them are closet, if not outright, racists.

By her calculation, Clinton deserved the nomination. It was inevitable. At least, it should have been. And because history robbed her of her best shot with platitudes of hope and change, she must believe the Gods will correct this travesty.

There's really no reason Clinton should merely "suspend" her campaign, keeping all those delegates who stick with her for the national convention in Denver in August.

There was really no reason Clinton should have kept campaigning for all of those weeks in the wake of Super Tuesday when Obama racked up huge advantages in pledged delegates and began to make his nomination a mathematical inevitability.

Short of some Howard Dean scream or a new Rev. Jeremiah Wright revelation, Clinton was really in it only for the "what if" scenario that makes anyone who lived through 1968 shudder.

The Associated Press' Beth Fouhy suggested the suspension allows Clinton to retain her delegates and raise money. "It also means she could reopen her campaign if circumstances change before the Denver convention," Fouhy wrote, adding that Clinton gave no indication that was her intention.

Stuff could happen.

A week hasn't gone by this election year without my receiving a phone call or e-mail from someone hurling racial epithets. And rarely a day passes without my receiving a more veiled version of the same. It's usually about Barack Hussein Obama, always with the middle name -- "a Muslim who studied in a madras and won't wear a flag pin."

At conventions in Nevada, I heard Clinton delegates condemn Obama delegates as "hoodlums" and "ghetto trash." One delegate whose car was vandalized in Reno told me his first instinct was to blame Obama supporters until he realized another car with an Obama sticker also had its tires slashed.

These aren't voters concerned that Obama's health care plan doesn't go far enough. They aren't businessmen worried about their bottom line or veterans who really think Obama's fleeting Senate experience makes him any less ready than Clinton's vicarious foreign dealings.

Some of these voters would rather condemn sexism in the sharpest words and tone even as they condone racism.

History has been written during this Democratic primary, and Clinton can, and should, rejoice the 18 million cracks in the "highest, hardest glass ceiling." But whether this country is truly ready to break down racial barriers is another question, indeed. And it's one I still hear Clinton supporters asking in terms that make the alleged sexism appear downright PC.

The Obama-Clinton rift may ultimately be bridged, but this primary election only made other divisions wider.

Contact Erin Neff at (702) 387-2906, or by e-mail at