Nationally, the older white woman -- Clinton -- carries the senior vote, the white vote and the women's vote. The younger black man -- Obama -- carries the youth vote, the black vote and the male vote. This was perhaps inevitable in the first campaign in which a woman and an African-American have a serious chance at the presidency. But it received a significant gravity assist from Bill Clinton's South Carolina forays into racial politics.
Did Bill Clinton deliberately encourage racial polarization by saying before South Carolina that one expects women to vote for Hillary and blacks for Obama? Or, after the primary, by dismissing Obama's victory with: "Jesse Jackson won South Carolina twice"?
With Bill Clinton you never know. And there is no proving cause and effect, but the chronology is striking. Two weeks before the South Carolina primary, Obama was leading Hillary among blacks by only 53 percent to 30 percent. Ten days later, Obama was ahead 59 to 25. On Election Day, he got 78 percent of the black vote. By the time the campaign trail reached Mississippi on Tuesday, Obama was getting 92 percent of the black vote. And only 26 percent of the white vote.
The pillars of American liberalism -- the Democratic Party, the universities and the mass media -- are obsessed with biological markers, most particularly race and gender. They have insisted, moreover, that pedagogy and culture and politics be just as seized with the primacy of these distinctions and with the resulting "privileging" that allegedly haunts every aspect of our social relations.
They have gotten their wish. This primary campaign represents the full flowering of identity politics. It's not a pretty picture. Geraldine Ferraro says Obama is only where he is because he's black. Professor Orlando Patterson says the 3 a.m. phone call ad is not about a foreign policy crisis but a subliminal Klan-like appeal to the fear of "black men lurking in the bushes around white society."
Good grief. The optimist will say that when this is over, we will look back on the Clinton-Obama contest, and its looming ugly endgame, as the low point of identity politics, and the beginning of a turning away. The pessimist will just vote Republican.
Charles Krauthammer is a 1987 Pulitzer Prize winner, 1984 National Magazine Award winner, and a columnist for The Washington Post since 1985.
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