3.12.2008

Ferraro quits after injecting race back into conversation

Former vice-presidential nominee Geraldine Ferraro caused quite a stir yesterday when she said that Obama would not have been in this position if he were not a black man, and then defended herself by saying she was being criticized because she was white. After one more day of back-and-forth on this issue, with the Clinton campaign avoiding to defend Ferraro but refusing to disavow her or kick her out of the campaign, Ferraro chose to end the controversy herself by announcing that she was resigning from her position as an informal adviser on Hillary's finance committee. She released the following resignation letter:

Dear Hillary, I am stepping down from your finance committee so I can speak for myself and you can continue to speak for yourself about what’s at stake in this campaign. The Obama campaign is attacking me to hurt you. I won’t let that happen. Thank you for everything you’ve done and continue to do to make this a better world for my children and grandchildren. You have my deep admiration and respect, Gerry.

To the end, then, Ferraro remained unapologetic. She did not resign because she thinks she crossed a line but because she wants to be able to speak her mind more freely. While Ferraro's comments appear too caricatural to have been part of a conscious push by the Clinton campaign, it is true that the campaign did little to prevent this story from extending into another news cycle. In fact, their half-distancing themselves coupled with Ferraro's going around the media to defend herself was probably the best way to keep the controversy going one more day.

What is more puzzling is why Ferraro (or anyone else) could think that bringing up race could hurt Obama in the Democratic primary. It didn't in the run-up to South Carolina nor in the weeks following that primary; if anything, those two weeks (leading up to Super Tuesday) were among the best Obama has enjoyed throughout this campaign. And while blue-collar voters have stayed away from Obama, it is possible to explain that many other ways than the candidate's race. Unfortunately, the way in which these questions keep coming back is a bad sign of what the general election has in store. If Ferraro thinks that bringing up race like that could hurt Obama and racialize voting patterns, the GOP will likely hold back even less. The use of Obama's middle-name by some Republicans shows they are convinced that it will play in their favor. And while it has not hurt Obama in the primary up to now -- and probably will not going forward -- we still have to see what impact if any this all might have on the general election.

7 Comments:

  • I watched KO's special comment tonight re the Ferraro affair and did a quick check on the reaction comments on Huffpost & Politico. It looks about 90% positive as of now but I assume the Hillary camp is still trying to figure out how to deal with attacking an MSNBC personality. I think the comment itself will become the story in the next few news cycles. It will be interesting to see how other MSNBC commentators; especially Clinton friends like Andrea Mitchell; react.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, At 12 March, 2008 23:00  

  • Keith had it right on the mark! Good for him. The Clinton campaign is trying to court blue collar voters in PA. They have no shame.

    By Anonymous stone621, At 13 March, 2008 00:50  

  • Yep, She will win PA race baiting. Well, she didn't actually have to do it, its already here.

    Obama needs to downplay PA, he cant win here.

    However, with the obvious race baiting, a loss here will probable not mean much more than the 15-20 delegates that she will net here.

    Which isn't nearly enough.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, At 13 March, 2008 01:56  

  • Why is it race baiting to campaign vigorously among blue collar workers? Obama can do the same. Why is it not race baiting to campaign in MS, SC, GA, AL and other places with large African American constituents and use language such as bamboozled and hoodwinked, historical code words that mean the white man (or in this case woman)is lying and trying to cheat you? Racism is a two way street. What should Hillary do? Should she not campaign at all and simply say "okay I'll let Obama have 90% of the AA vote, and I won't try to get anyone to vote for me so I don't get accused of racism?" You people are idiots!

    By Anonymous Anonymous, At 13 March, 2008 05:17  

  • To answer your question Anonymous of 5:17 Hillary should play fair, hard for a Clinton I know but that is what she should do. Instead she is playing to the prejudices of the blue collar workers in PA (and OH). Obama has campaigned in blue collar areas and since they are very close on policy there is no reason for a 75-25% split other than race. Experience is not the factor here because neither of them come close to the experience of John McCain.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, At 13 March, 2008 08:04  

  • So if they are close on policy, then Obama shouldn't win 90-10 among AA's, right? So if whites vote 75-25 and AA's vote 90-10, who is really voting more based on race? If racism is truly treating people different solely on race (and both candidates are similar), who is the bigger set of racists. Can't have it both ways.

    Note I am just twisting words mentioned above. My own views are that race is playing a huge part but I think that either way both candiadtes are good enough for me. They ARE very similar. To me, it doesn't matter why people vote the way they do (its America and it is the voter's choice). I also think we as voters and Americans shouldn't spend time trying to figure out why people vote the way they do. let the campaigns deal with it.

    Every time Obama gets more than 30% of the white vote he is heralded as making people see him without color, every time he drops below 30% its because every white person in a rural area is a racist.

    This is very frustrating as a rural white (who now lives in Philly) to handle. Could be Hillary and the experience thing do matter more than promises of hope to some people (and not racism). Could be that the promise of hope and change do matter more than experience to some people (and not racism).

    Don't they all promise hope and to make things better....then they "Spitzer" themselves and screw the public.

    Sad for us who care...

    By Anonymous Anonymous, At 13 March, 2008 10:10  

  • People have short memories. Not to long ago, hillary led among African-Americans, then she ran a divisive dixiecrat campaign in South Carolina that angered African-Americans. Consequently, she caused African-Americans a great degree of trepidation and they embraced Obama because he was the most viable candidate left.

    The reason why Hillary Clinton is in her current predicament is because of the choices she has made, full stop. She ran an arrogant sluggish campaign and she ha got her head handed to to her, thus far.

    People forget that when Barack's parents were married, the Supreme Court had just ruled that states like Mississippi could no longer ban interracial marriage. Mississippi like the rest of the South has long history of vitrolic unjustified brutal oppression and violence against African-Americans. If African-Americans do not trust a candidate who says insensitive things and allows members of her campaign to state factually irresponsible things that are racially tinged then no one she be suprised Blacks wont vote for, nor should they accuse Blacks of reverse racism. The collective experience of African-Americans feared death because they were not the same color as the dominant white population. Why would they vote for someone who seeks to exploit the American fissures of race for crude political gain, they are taking affirmative action, as it were.

    By Blogger Jaimiaal, At 13 March, 2008 12:28  

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