Wednesday, March 5, 2008

Everything I need to know about politics I learned from George Bush and John McCain

Why are these men hugging?

I mean it is rumored that President George Bush and John McCain loathe each other. Despite McCain's recent pandering to conservatives, he was a vocal critic of many of Bush's policies. And then, there is South Carolina. In an article in The Boston Globe, Richard H. Davis, McCain's 2000 campaign manager explains:
In South Carolina, Bush Republicans were facing an opponent who was popular for his straight talk and Vietnam war record. They knew that if McCain won in South Carolina, he would likely win the nomination. With few substantive differences between Bush and McCain, the campaign was bound to turn personal. The situation was ripe for a smear.

It didn't take much research to turn up a seemingly innocuous fact about the McCains: John and his wife, Cindy, have an adopted daughter named Bridget. Cindy found Bridget at Mother Theresa's orphanage in Bangladesh, brought her to the United States for medical treatment, and the family ultimately adopted her. Bridget has dark skin.

Anonymous opponents used "push polling" to suggest that McCain's Bangladeshi born daughter was his own, illegitimate black child. In push polling, a voter gets a call, ostensibly from a polling company, asking which candidate the voter supports. In this case, if the "pollster" determined that the person was a McCain supporter, he made statements designed to create doubt about the senator.

Thus, the "pollsters" asked McCain supporters if they would be more or less likely to vote for McCain if they knew he had fathered an illegitimate child who was black. In the conservative, race-conscious South, that's not a minor charge. We had no idea who made the phone calls, who paid for them, or how many calls were made. Effective and anonymous: the perfect smear campaign.

Some aspects of this smear were hardly so subtle. Bob Jones University professor Richard Hand sent an e-mail to "fellow South Carolinians" stating that McCain had "chosen to sire children without marriage." It didn't take long for mainstream media to carry the charge. CNN interviewed Hand and put him on the spot: "Professor, you say that this man had children out of wedlock. He did not have children out of wedlock." Hand replied, "Wait a minute, that's a universal negative. Can you prove that there aren't any?" SOURCE
I understand party unity and all. But how can you forgive someone who has attacked one of your own (in this case, a child)? How do you get past a person who is willing to leverage racist sentiment to get what they want?

I've been asking myself those questions a lot lately. I am increasingly disenchanted with Hillary Clinton and her campaign. In short, I am offended by the negative turn of the Clinton campaign and its reliance on the racist "southern strategy" to battle Barack Obama. It is still very much a possibility that Clinton could win the Democratic nomination. If she does, how can I as a black woman vote for a candidate, indeed a presumably liberal one, who is willing to slyly trade on racist and xenophobic fears to win the Democratic nomination? (Ex. Having surrogates use code words like "shucking and jiving," Bill Clinton comparing Obama to bogeyman Jesse Jackson, releasing a photo of Obama in Muslim dress, tepidly denying Obama is a Muslim in a way that leaves doubt) But then, how can I as a liberal cast a vote that ensures four more years of Republican rule and the continuation and creation of policies that could damage black Americans, women, the middle class, the poor, children and other groups that I care about for years to come?

The more I cruised my favorite political blogs yesterday, with their recapping of Clinton's race-baiting and her negative turn over the last few weeks, the angrier I became. "I CANNOT vote for her if she is the nominee," I vowed. What am I feeling so guilty about? I've heard Clinton supporters say the same thing for their own reasons.

Then I listened to activist Mark Thompson's (Matsemela Mapfumo) show "Make it Plain" on Sirius Talk Left. This smart brother explained how McCain can throw his arms around George Bush and why his first job after winning the Republican nomination was kissing Bush's ring at the White House. You wanna know?

McCain can cozy up to Bush because that's how politics works. That's how power works. Bush and McCain, both more powerful and privileged than either Clinton or Obama, have a vested interest in maintaining the status quo. The status quo keeps men like them in power and folks like me, and likely you, fighting for scraps. So, John McCain will grit his teeth, and swallow his pride and integrity (Wonder how he explains this to his daughter?), because as long as power is united and the oppressed are squabbling, nothing will change.

So, in November I could cast a vote for Nader or even McCain, instead of Hillary. Or maybe it will be the Clintonistas who will vote out of revenge. And I'm sure the schadenfreude will feel oh so sweet. But what will we have accomplished? Maybe we will have proven some point, but in the end we will be right back where we began before all this talk of making history. People of color, women, the middle class, the poor--We will be right back where "they" want us.
Oh, I know the Democrats are establishment, too. They are no radical, populist group. But they are the group that is working toward healthcare for all. They are the group that is working toward ending the war and restoring our reputation abroad (and thus increasing our safety). They are the party that wants to reform education and end No Child Left Behind. They are the party that is working to give work-a-day people a break. They work more for what I think this country needs than the party of 100 more years of war--a war where thousands more average men and women, and people of color will die, while the heirs of power stay home and companies like Haliburton line their pockets.
I cannot opt out of the political process. My foremothers and forefathers died for me to have a place at the table. So, I have a choice to make. I know which party I choose.
UPDATE: But on the other hand...Jack and Jill Politics makes a compelling case for doing the radical thing. Read the latest post here. The blog has several passionate posts on this subject. Check them out.
I am torn.


Mes Deux Cents said...

Hi Tami,

I will not vote for Hillary Clinton under any circumstance. Clinton figures that African American voters have no pride. She thinks that she can say or do anything to us and we will be so afraid of the Republican boogieman that we will still vote for her.

Well I for one am not afraid of the boogieman. If the choice is between McCain and Clinton then McCain gets my vote.

And I would even consider campaigning for McCain if Clinton is the Nominee.

JenSita said...

Thank You, thank you, thank you Tami for this beautifully written, articulate post. I have been searching for the right words to explain to people this very same thing! In the end, we would be voting even more against ourselves by throwing our votes! Fact is, there are millions of people who still need health care, access to college, education reform, etc. I am completely disillusioned by HRC's recent campaigning but the consequences of giving John McCain this election are bigger than my feelings. Thanks.

Tami said...

I hear you, MDC. And I respect where you are coming from. I know we've been going back and forth on this. I have to admit your argument has more resonance with me now. If I had typed this yesterday at 2 p.m., I would have been agreeing with you. Right now, though, I can't help feeling that by voting for McCain I would be cutting off my nose to spite my face. I really think that ultimately four more years of the Republicans would be bad for the black community.

But I have to say, I am feeling your views and Symphony's take on this more and more.

P.S. Hope you are enjoying your break from blogging!

slag said...

I've been assuming that I'll vote for Hillary over McCain, if she's the one that gets the nomination. It pains me to think it because, at the beginning of this primary season, there was so much opportunity and optimism in the air. And no one expects these people to be perfect (far from it), but we do expect them to be decent. So, the lack of decency Hillary has displayed in this campaign is extremely troubling.

That said, McCain embraced Hagee's and Bush's endorsements. I can think of few people in the world more loathsome than GW Bush, and Hagee, as you mentioned previously, is also disgustingly bigoted. I can't bear the thought of the next president being in the pockets of these people (again!). These people aren't outwardly acceptable--let alone venerated--in the Democratic Party. So, while I have plenty of reasons to question Hillary's decency, I see much more decency in the Democratic base than I do in the Republican base.

Like you said, I wouldn't be voting for Hillary but for Democrats. And for the people around the world who John McCain wants to bomb. And for the Supreme Court that simply can't absorb one more crazy misogynist rightwinger. And for the desire to see an articulate person speaking to the world.


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