Clintons’ Wreckage

A 2007 Gallup poll showed 94 percent of U.S. respondents saying they would vote for a Black presidential candidate, while 88 percent indicated they would vote for a woman. A Newsweek poll released on May 26th showed roughly 70 percent of voters agreeing that the country is ready for a Black man to serve as president, up from just 37 percent in the 2000 election. The political landscape has at long last shifted sharply away from the racist and sexist bigotry that have kept the popular majority so divided historically, ignoring their shared interests–and thereby allowing the political status quo to continue to flourish.

But this seismic shift in mass consciousness was nowhere to be seen in the Democratic primaries in recent months. On the contrary, as Hillary Clinton’s quest for the Democratic nomination succumbed to the momentum of Senator Barack Obama’s, the multi-millionaire Clinton ludicrously posed as a populist spokesperson for that minority of stereotypical rural, racist whites who steadfastly refuse to vote for any Black candidate — complete with photo-ops swilling shots of whiskey and posing on the back of pickup truck. As New York Times columnist Bob Herbert noted, “There was a name for it when the Republicans were using that kind of lousy rhetoric to good effect: it was called the Southern strategy, although it was hardly limited to the South. Now the Clintons, in their desperation to find some way — any way — back to the White House, have leapt aboard that sorry train.”

The Clintons’ last-ditch effort was in full display at the Democratic National Committee showdown on Saturday, May 31st at a Washington, D.C. hotel. Hundreds of bitter Clinton supporters protested inside and outside while the DNC’s rules committee attempted to forge a compromise on the contested delegations of Florida and Michigan, which violated party rules by holding early primaries. As the rules committee met, tensions ran high. Jeering and cheering filled the hotel ballroom, while “one woman, wearing a blue ‘Team Hillary’ shirt, shoved a man in a suit and tie wearing a small Obama button on his lapel,” according to the New York Times.

Clinton’s supporters, whipped into a frenzied and desperate attempt to rescue her long-doomed campaign, couched their complaints as an attempt to restore “democracy” to the primary contests. But the racial overtones were hard to ignore. Harriet Christian, one of Clinton’s more unruly supporters, was captured on YouTube calling Obama an “inadequate black male” exploiting the “white woman running for president,” as she vowed to vote for McCain in November rather than cast a vote for Obama.

Former vice-presidential candidate Geraldine Ferraro had primed the pump for the angry Clinton mob just one day earlier, in a racist tirade that appeared as a Boston Globe op-ed piece. There, Ferraro clumsily fused the interests of feminists and white racists in an anti-Obama rant. “Perhaps it’s because neither the Barack Obama campaign nor the media seem to understand what is at the heart of the anger on the part of women who feel that Hillary Clinton was treated unfairly because she is a woman or what is fueling the concern of Reagan Democrats for whom sexism isn’t an issue, but reverse racism is,” she wrote.

Ferraro made headlines in March when she told the Torrence, California newspaper, the Daily Breeze, “If Obama was a white man, he would not be in this position.” She later defended her comments by stating angrily, “I will not be discriminated against because I’m white.” She resigned from Clinton’s finance committee afterward but clearly reserves her right to articulate the clarion call of white racists—all in the name of feminism. “If you’re white you can’t open your mouth without being accused of being racist,” she argued in the Globe. “They [racist whites] see Obama’s playing the race card throughout the campaign and no one calling him for it as frightening… [W]hen he said in South Carolina after his victory ‘Our Time Has Come’ they believe he is telling them that their time has passed.”

One of Hillary Clinton’s scandal-ridden younger brothers, Tony Rodham, briefly escaped the DNC melee at a nearby Irish bar, where he seethed over a beer, as his pregnant wife and small children waited for him to finish. There, he told a Los Angeles Times reporter, “I’m just here to make sure Americans are represented by one vote for every person.” (Rodham apparently does not appreciate that most democracies require more than one candidate to appear on the ballot, in contrast to Michigan’s, where only Clinton’s name was on offer.)

Rodham described himself as a “yellow dog Democrat, all my life” while threatening, “If my sister doesn’t end up with the nomination, I gotta take a look at who I’m gonna vote for.” Lest there be any confusion about Rodham’s political motives, his commitment to women’s rights is highly suspect. His first wife, Nicole Boxer (daughter of California Senator Barbara Boxer) was forced to sue him in court last year to retrieve $158,000 in back alimony and child support payments he had failed to deliver since they parted ways. Nevertheless, he played a prominent role in Clinton’s fracas at the DNC, which consciously pitted the interests of ‘60s generation white feminists against the African-American candidate.


Hillary Clinton’s entourage appeared to be above the fray on May 31st, hundreds of miles away, relishing victory in the Puerto Rican primary. But the Clintons were the key architects of the thinly veiled race-based campaign strategy that escalated when Hillary Clinton’s own presidential aspirations disintegrated after Iowa’s caucuses delivered victory to Obama in January. The Clintons appeared unable to gracefully relinquish control over the party apparatus that they have so ruthlessly abused over the last twenty-odd years. Indeed, they were barely able to conceal their outrage that the First Lady of the so-called “first black president” could be so easily upstaged by an actual Black presidential candidate.

Before embracing a classic “Southern strategy,” the Clintons seem to have paid close attention to polls such as one conducted by the Los Angeles Times in 2006 that reported only 34 percent of respondents said they could vote for a Muslim for president. Even prior to the January Iowa caucuses, at least two Clinton staffers forwarded an email reading, “Let us all remain alert concerning Obama’s expected presidential Candidacy. Please forward to everyone you know. The Muslims have said they plan on destroying the US from the inside out, what better way to start than at the highest level.” Clinton summarily fired the two staffers, yet the campaign theme remained, even as right-wing bloggers circulated rumors, as the Washington Post reported, claiming that Obama is “a ‘Muslim plant’ in a conspiracy against America, and that, if elected president, he would take the oath of office using a Koran, rather than a Bible.”

Indeed, when Clinton was asked on March 2nd in an interview on CBS’ 60 Minutes whether she believes Obama is a Muslim, she replied, “No, no why would I — there’s nothing to base that on,” while adding suggestively, “as far as I know.” In contrast, John McCain chastised a radio host for repeatedly referring to “Barack Hussein Obama” during an interview. Clinton’s campaign denied leaking a widely circulated photo of Obama wearing a turban and also denied leaking a rumor that the young Obama had “spent at least four years in a so-called madrassa, or Muslim seminary, in Indonesia” to Insight, an online conservative magazine. Insight editors insist their source was the Clinton campaign.

Opinion polls have reported in recent months that roughly one in ten U.S. voters erroneously believe that Obama is a practicing Muslim. Moreover, a Pew Research Center survey released on March 27th showed that, while Obama has a highly favorable image among Democratic voters of all races, the breakdown shows his clear areas of demographic weakness. The report noted, “white Democrats who hold unfavorable views of Obama are much more likely than those who have favorable opinions of him to say that equal rights for minorities have been pushed too far; they also are more likely to disapprove of interracial dating, and are more concerned about the threat that immigrants may pose to American values. In addition, nearly a quarter of white Democrats (23%) who hold a negative view of Obama believe he is a Muslim.”

In early May, Hillary Clinton ventured into territory once limited to the likes of white supremacist George Wallace, telling USA Today that Obama’s support has been weak among “hard-working Americans, white Americans”—invoking the racist stereotype of “lazy” African-Americans embraced by the most reactionary section of the voting population. “There’s a pattern emerging here,” Clinton added, reinventing her waning campaign as a crusade for whites unable to stomach the prospect of voting for a Black presidential candidate.

In this process, Clinton has shifted the parameters of election year politics backwards by several decades–away from the most urgent issues facing voters, which include falling living standards, lack of healthcare and the Iraq war—to a debate over whether a Black person has a democratic right to become president over the persistent opposition of a minority of white racists who happen to be “swing voters.” She has deliberately stoked the mistaken and racist fear that Muslims threaten the principles of democracy.

Those pockets of racism are undeniable, and they continue to flourish in both so-called “Blue” and Red” states. And the Clintons have courted all of them, from Boston to West Virginia. While Hillary Clinton has undoubtedly been subjected to virulent sexism as she seeks to become president, the Obama campaign has played no role in contributing to it. In contrast, the Clintons must bear tremendous responsibility for embracing society’s most backward elements in their cold-blooded quest to move back into the White House.


In a rare report on the uglier encounters faced by Obama campaigners, the Washington Post described on May 13th, “For all the hope and excitement Obama’s candidacy is generating, some of his field workers, phone-bank volunteers and campaign surrogates are encountering a raw racism and hostility that have gone largely unnoticed — and unreported — this election season. Doors have been slammed in their faces. They’ve been called racially derogatory names (including the white volunteers). And they’ve endured malicious rants and ugly stereotyping from people who can’t fathom that the senator from Illinois could become the first African American president.”

Tunkhannock Borough, Indiana Mayor Norm Ball wrote a letter to a local newspaper explaining his opposition to Obama with anti-Muslim racial stereotypes. “Barack Hussein Obama and all of his talk will do nothing for our country,” he wrote. “There is so much that people don’t know about his upbringing in the Muslim world. His stepfather was a radical Muslim and the ranting of his minister against the white America, you can’t convince me that some of that didn’t rub off on him. No, I want a president that will salute our flag, and put their hand on the Bible when they take the oath of office.”

Obama supporters in Kokomo, Indiana (an historic bulwark for the KKK) have been chased by dogs and treated to a steady stream of racist invective. Obama’s Vincennes office was vandalized on the ever of the Indiana primary, spray painted with slogans such as, “Hamas votes BHO” and “We don’t cling to guns or religion– Goddamn Wright” as they proved otherwise.

Obama supporter Ray McCormick, who is white, arrived at the crime scene and took photos. “I thought, this is a big deal,” he told the Washington Post. But when he notified the Obama campaign, he was told that the incident was not newsworthy. All told, Obama’s Indiana campaign offices received three bomb threats from disgruntled locals, but the campaign chose not to raise these as a campaign issue. Likewise, Obama’s response to claims that he is a practicing Muslim has been reduced to repeated denial, rather than a defense of one of the world’s largest religions, which is currently so disparaged in mainstream Western discourse. “Barack has never been a Muslim or practiced any other faith besides Christianity,” states one of his fact sheets.

Obama is innocent of Ferraro’s charge that he has played the “race card” during the primary season, but this is unfortunate. Obama’s reluctance to forcefully challenge racism on the campaign trail has allowed the Clinton campaign to make the “Southern strategy” respectable once again, emboldening the racist white minority—in stark contrast to majority opinion in this changing political climate. To be sure, there has been an anti-racist backlash against Clinton’s white supremacist supporters. Even in Indiana, Clinton barely scored a victory, with an unimpressive 51 to 49 percent, while Obama attracted a strong percentage of white voters.

Now, as Clinton faces the inevitability of failure in her quest for the presidency, she is floating the possibility of vice president on Obama’s ticket. He should give her a middle finger, after surveying the wreckage the Clinton campaign has left behind.

U.S. politics are at a potential turning point, in which a nation founded upon slavery, with racism ingrained in its very foundation, could finally begin to correct its hideous past. This process is long overdue. But realizing it requires a candidate willing to wage a frontal assault on the minority of white Americans from all social classes who still cling to racism—who the Clintons have consciously emboldened—while championing the civil rights of African-Americans, Muslims, Latinos and Asians victimized by the system.

Sharon Smith is the author of Women and Socialism and Subterranean Fire: a History of Working-Class Radicalism in the United States. She can be reached at: This article first appeared on the SW website. Read other articles by Sharon, or visit Sharon's website.

11 comments on this article so far ...

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  1. Thomas Mc said on June 5th, 2008 at 7:08am #

    Hillary proved she’s just as ugly inside as Bush or Cheney, and the more the voters saw that, the less they wanted her in office. Any office.

  2. Shabnam said on June 5th, 2008 at 7:27am #

    Mr. Smith:
    I agree with you hundred percent when you write:
    “Obama is innocent of Ferraro’s charge that he has played the “race card” during the primary season, but this is unfortunate. Obama’s reluctance to forcefully challenge racism on the campaign trail has allowed the Clinton campaign to make the “Southern strategy”
    respectable once again, emboldening the racist white minority—in stark contrast to majority opinion in this changing political climate.”

    As you have pointed out in this excellent article it was Hillary who used the race card from the beginning to steal the nomination. Obama must deal with his opponents, the racists, with different techniques from the one using now because his treatment of Hillary has not been effective so far and she has done everything to defeat him in November against McCain so she can come back with her racist and pro Zionist message once again in 4 years from now. I am with you hundred percent when you suggest Obama should ignore Hillary Clinton and give her a middle finger if she or her racist and anti feminist supporters demand a position on the ticket including vice presidency. Nothing is worse than that. She has shown beyond reasonable doubt that she is capable of using anything including inciting assassination to force her opponents out.

  3. hp said on June 5th, 2008 at 9:13am #

    The Clintons have racked up a body count which is the envy of psychopaths everywhere.

  4. Deadbeat said on June 5th, 2008 at 10:50am #

    Sharon Smith analysis is accurate and it also clearly explains why Obama did well among African Americans.

    Early in the primary season Clinton support among African Americans was greater than Obama’s until Clinton played the race card in New Hampshire and South Carolina. This aspect is missing in much of the critiques coming from Black Agenda Report and Glen Ford in particular. He has been unfairly hyper-critical of Obama’s African American supporters without articulating the divisive tactics of the Clintons.

    The long primary season helped to finally and unambiguously expose the Clintons to the general public. They’ve played the race and deploy divisive rhetoric.

    I do agree with Ms. Smith that Obama has been weak and defensive because he has deliberately avoiding confronting racism by believing that America has transcended race. I agree that this naive belief enabled the Clinton to dredge up the Southern Strategy. But once again had Obama brought up race then the media would have labeled Obama the “affirmative action” candidate feeding white resentment any how. Thus Obama IMO is kind of stuck between a rock and a hard place.

    I agree with Shabnam’s assessment of Clinton’s hardline and pro-Zionist stance. Obama to some degree provide some “moderation” with his desire to negotiate. Had there been match between Clinton and McCain (or any Republican except Ron Paul) would offer the public no choice. Which is what Zionists especially in the media wanted to set up for the American people.

    Again the awful situation this week where all of the major candidates and politicos have to genuflect before AIPAC really highlight the failure of the “left” to confront Zionism in the U.S. Had the “left” not demobilize the anti-war movement in 2004 it certainly would have greatly altered the discourse.

    Nader apparently is now talking a more critical stance on Israel. Which is useful. Unfortunately it arrives four-years too late.

    Obama, due to the vacuum caused by the “left’s” desire not to confront Zionism in the U.S and it’s subsequence demobilization, is “acceptable enough” a candidate to marginalize Nader this year. The “left” doesn’t have to do that for him like they did for John Kerry.

  5. Martha said on June 5th, 2008 at 10:51am #

    Keep repeating lies by posting nonsense like Sharon Smith’s and this African-American will cross this site off as another Whitey Tries To Show How Much S/He Cares.
    Ms. Smith is factually challenged. Hillary supporters in DC? That was Florida voters and not all voted for Hillary.
    Facts is hard Sharon Smith, facts is hard.
    I love when a Whitey tells me about racism. I really love that, Ms. Smith. The Clintons didn’t use racism, that’s trope that’s been repeated by the likes of Bob Herbert and considering his pre-NYT days, when he was telling lies about Blacks, I find it interesting that you, Great Whitey, would repeat that nonsense.
    I supported Hillary and did so because I’m a Democrat. What Socialist Sharon Smith has to say about the Democratic Party might be of interest but her nonsense in this is as laughable as when she tried to smack down Joshua Frank but only ended up making herself look bad (re: Ron Paul). Smith is also disgusting because I believe Hillary’s out of the race and here’s White Mama writing another slam on the woman.
    Smith writes for ISR and though she could hop on her ‘feminist’ high horse when it was time to go to town on Joshua Frank, the reality is she like all the other LOSERS in Panhandle Media avoided calling out the very real sexism.
    Now in Sharon Smith’s little world, it doesn’t matter. But in the real world and online, you can find many African-American women like myself calling it out.
    White Mama, we get it, you love the Black man. It’s a shame you never thought to care about women. Except when you needed to trash Joshua Frank.

  6. Deadbeat said on June 5th, 2008 at 10:54am #

    I guess “Martha” speaks for all Blacks. I’ would say that Sharon Smith provides a much more cogent analysis that Glen Ford has.

  7. Martha said on June 5th, 2008 at 11:13am #

    I wasn’t speaking for “all Blacks.” How interesting that a woman speaks out against the sexism and notes “many African-American women” and some presumably White man wants to come along and make it ‘gender-free’. I know I speak for Betty
    I know I speak for Marcia
    I know I’m in agreement with Renita J. Weems
    Ditto Sugar

    And I could go on and on. There’s a whole list of strong African-American women — including Maya Angelou — who spoke out against sexism and up for Hillary.

    Since you brought men into it even though I specifically noted “African-American women” I guess women on their own aren’t important. But along with Glen Ford and Bruce Dixon who are great writers, the many also include Ty:

    and Cedric:

    The candidate I’m supporting now is Ralph Nader and, deadbeat and Ms. Smith, I believe Mr. Nader just called out your political-crush today.

  8. Chris Crass said on June 5th, 2008 at 7:55pm #

    Wow. It’s gonna be so great when all old people are fucking dead. Humanity might not be so horrible then.
    Not keeping my hopes up or anything, though.

  9. anthony innes said on June 6th, 2008 at 6:19pm #

    Clintons and Obama are the same clique fighting over the power so can they serve their corporate funding supporters and line their own pockets.
    Picture (if you can) the Debate between Nader and Ron Paul and its possible to see the outline of real issues. This Congress is due in Court.
    Any candidate not standing on an agenda for IMPEACHMENT for shrub and his enablers is guilty of treason to the Constitution and thinking progressives everywhere should rally around this issue. Its bi partisan and speaks to the heart of what has the potential to make or break the citizenry of the USA.
    Honest Justice will protect and serve Women and all races alike .
    Off with the blinkers and focus for rule of the Law.
    IMPEACHMENT should be the theme for the struggle to November.
    MSM need to have their faces rubbed in it .
    The Dollar of the USA is headed for the bin unless the country shows its backbone and cleans house . No amount of posturing is going to restore the trust the rest of the world has lost in the ideals and aspirations of the USA.
    The education of the USA and the world will begin with an IMPEACHMENT agenda.
    Progressives do an end run around the cynics and the enemy.

  10. Eddie said on June 7th, 2008 at 1:18pm #

    I agree with Marth. Smith’s outraged that Hillary’s brother might not vote for Obama. What about when Michelle was on Today Show in February and said if Hillary got the nomination she wasn’t sure she could vote for her? What about when Michelle’s brother launched that sexist attack on Hillary in the pages of The New Yorker? Sharon Smith’s citing the Moonie magazine Insight and that’s funny enough but she really means Matt Drudge and can’t get her facts straight. Neither Drudge or Insight are reliable sources. I look forward to picking up the next issue of ISR and coming across further praise of Matt Drudge from Sharon Smith. There’s not a fact in her article, she’s bent them or made them up. I’d love to see her put links in this article because then readers would grasp how much she lied (or is just plain oblivious to the facts) in this article. I used to like her and enjoy reading her pieces in ISR. After this garbage, I’ll flip the page everytime I see her name. Forget Hillary, she owes all who read this article an apology.

  11. Max Shields said on June 8th, 2008 at 5:16pm #

    Great to have Clinton out of the picture. Now we can concentrate on the vacuous one. Clinton has always been a poor argument for Obama – but it’s the only one he’s really had.

    Now that’s watch as he slides over to the right. And he’s already done that, but out march the excuses: AIPAC made him do it, the nasty corporate elite made him do it, the military complex made him do it, US empire policy made him do it…one of these days maybe we’ll wake up and stop making excuses for him.

    If anybody thinks this guys got the spine to buck the system then they’re in fantacy land.