Sorry I can't recall the name of the pundit to credit for this (forgive me, it was well into the 100th hour of binging on post-New Hampshire bloviating). But props to the guy/gal who said to keep both eyes open for what South Carolina Congressman Jim Clyburn says next.
Well, Clyburn has spoken, in the New York Times, and it doesn't sound so good for Hilary Clinton's shot at the critical, 40+percent of the South Carolina democratic primary voters who are black.
It's absolutely amazing how far and how fast the worm can twist and turn when it comes to race, identity and politics these days. Not six months ago, it was all about how Barack Obama wasn't really black, and had no favor with African-Americans versus the wife of the "first black president of the United States," Bill Clinton. In September (though only reported last week) former UN Ambassador Andrew Young was smirking about how Bill Clinton in his day (and we know he puts in some long days) had probably bedded more sisters than Obama.
Not that he needs it, but here's a real big reason to wipe that smirk off, Andy. Jim Clyburn said he's frustrated by recent Bill/Hil coments that, in essence: dreams like Martin Luther King's are nice, but don't count for much without a Lyndon Johnson to get them realized. Read: You're no King, Barack, and even if you were, you'd still need a white master power broker to get things done.
Once more the ironies are too thick to spoon:
- Clyburn is the foremost heir of what King wanted for the political empowerment of southern blacks; he is the MAN in South Carolina. If he moves from strategic neutrality to even winking in Obama's direction, South Carolina goes for Barack.
- Lyndon Johson's schizophrenic legacy to the Democratic Party (civil rights acts, yes, Vietnam, no) is a very strange plank for a boomer like Hilary to use against Obama. Talk about being stuck in the past!
- Young's career and authority to speak on this begins with being one of King's right hands; it may very well end here with his last, fatal gaffe. What the hell was he thinking??
- Measuring the Clintons' bond with black folks by counting Bill's black conquests is like saying Strom Thurmond was a friend of the black man because he secretly fathered a black daughter with one of his servants. That should go over really well with black folks in South Carolina, of all places
But the thing is this: Who's blacker;
- the white couple that openly practice (and in Bill's case master) black cultural tropes and are on personal hugging terms with the black political establishment at every level,
- the half-white, half-African guy who is beyond talking about having marched with people who marched with King and owes nothing to the black political old guard?
And the bigger thing is: Is the Obama phenomenon once more dragging us, kicking and screaming, beyond the question of black authenticity, period?
Obama messes folks up because he refuses (generally) to campaign in blackface mask. Yes, he does tend to sound a little more down home before black audiences. But he doesn't primarily present himself to us as a vessel for our racial complaint.
That's the mask traditional post-civil rights black pols generally wear, with pride. And it's the mask white pols —fake or sincere—put on when they seek black votes. No one ever wore it better than Bill Clinton, and thus Hilary by proxy.
But there's something about this moment that is peeling this mask from Hilary Clinton's face, right before our eyes.
Poor—and I mean it sincerely—Hilary.