Sunday, January 27, 2008

Politics: It's a dirty game

So, political consultant and commentator Dick Morris thinks Hillary Clinton's loss in South Carolina will be the springboard for her coronation as the Democratic nominee for president.
The Clintons are encouraging the national media to disregard the whites who
vote in South Carolina’s Democratic primary and focus on the black turnout,
which is expected to be quite large. They have transformed South Carolina into
Washington, D.C. — an all-black primary that tells us how the African-American
vote is going to go...

...If Hillary loses South Carolina and the defeat serves to demonstrate
Obama’s ability to attract a bloc vote among black Democrats, the message will
go out loud and clear to white voters that this is a racial fight. It’s one
thing for polls to show, as they now do, that Obama beats Hillary among
African-Americans by better than 4-to-1 and Hillary carries whites by almost
2-to-1. But most people don’t read the fine print on the polls. But if blacks
deliver South Carolina to Obama, everybody will know that they are bloc-voting.
That will trigger a massive white backlash against Obama and will drive white
voters to Hillary Clinton. SOURCE

(Thanks for the tip, Gina)

If you shake your head at the calculated ugliness of the 2008 presidential campaign and the 2000 and 2004 Bush campaigns before it, and wonder what these bloody political battles say about the eroding soul of our nation, take heart: dirty politics are nothing new.

One of my favorite podcasts, Hometown Tales, aired a themed episode this week called "Dirty Politics." The show was chock full of tales that prove dirty political dealings are at least as old as this republic.

Have you heard of Claude Pepper? He was a liberal Democrat who represented Florida in the Senate for nearly 20 years. During a heated 1950 primary race against former supporter George Smathers, Pepper was attacked as a communist sympathizer, but his place in political lore was sealed by the "redneck speech," which Time magazine reported was delivered by Pepper's rival to a poorly educated audience. Part of the speech went like so:

"Are you aware that Claude Pepper is known all over Washington as a shameless extrovert? Not only that, but this man is reliably reported to practice nepotism with his sister-in-law, and he has a sister who was once a thespian in wicked New York. Worst of all, it is an established fact that Mr. Pepper, before his marriage, habitually practiced celibacy."

Problem is, the speech, which demonstrates disdain for Pepper's common supporters, was never delivered. Though the Smathers campaign denied his having made the speech, as did the reporters who covered his campaign, the hoax followed Smathers to his death.

And did your American history books tell you about poor Rachel Donelson Robards Jackson, wife to President Andrew Jackson? According to Wikipedia: Prior to her marriage to Jackson, when she was 17 years old, Rachel married Captain Lewis Robards of a prominent Mercer County, Kentucky family. His unreasoned jealousy, though, made him impossible for her to live with and they separated in 1790. Later, Robards told her that he had filed for divorce and the divorce was final. Trusting him, she married Jackson. Two years later, however, it was discovered that the divorce had not been finalized, making her marriage to Jackson invalid. She and Jackson re-married in 1794.

However, during the 1828 presidential campaign, the press found out about the premature marriage, and accused Rachel of adultery, attacking her mercilessly. She died of a heart attack on December 22, 1828, two weeks after her husband's victory in the election. Over 10,000 people attended her funeral. Jackson was buried on Christmas Eve in her white inauguration gown. She never had the opportunity to serve as first lady. Some say the stress of the brutal campaign did her in.

In the 1884 presidential election, James Blaine's supporters attacked Grover Cleveland with "Ma, Ma where's my Pa?" which referred to the Democrat having fathered an illegitimate child in 1874. When Cleveland was elected President, his supporters added the line, "Gone to the White House, Ha, Ha, Ha!"

So, mud slinging, personal attacks and dirty dealing are nothing new. And since Dick Morris is probably right--last night the media was changing the official narrative from black people are voting for Hillary Clinton and black women are choosing gender over race to of course black people are going to band together to send the black candidate to the presidency--I hope this time American voters see through the distortions to make their own decisions based on policy and what is best for the country.

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