Bill Clinton Plays the Race Card -- and Loses

Larry Elder

1/31/2008 12:01:00 AM - Larry Elder

"Stupid Black Men: How to Play the Race Card -- and Lose," my new book, comes out Feb. 5, Super Tuesday. Unfortunately for former President Bill Clinton and his wife, no one sent an advance copy.

"Jesse Jackson," said Bill Clinton, "won South Carolina twice, in '84 and '88. And he ran a good campaign, and Sen. Obama's run a good campaign here." Clinton gave this response in South Carolina to a reporter's question about why it took two Clintons to beat Barack Obama. Clinton's response had nothing whatsoever to do with the question.

So why did Clinton say it?

Obama, unlike Jackson, actually got elected to something -- in his case, the United States Senate, from the state of Illinois. Obama, unlike Jackson, won the Democratic caucus in the mostly white Iowa, and finished a strong second in the mostly white state of New Hampshire. Obama is nobody's Jesse Jackson, and Bill Clinton knows it.

By invoking Jesse Jackson's name, Clinton attempted to portray Obama as the "black candidate." Clinton knows that the race-driven Jackson polarizes people. By branding Obama as Jackson-esque, Clinton hoped to peel away Obama's support from white voters and thus -- pardon the expression -- ghettoize Obama's candidacy.

Sen. Hillary Clinton even agreed that her husband crossed the line, and Rep. Jim Clyburn, D-S.C., a long-serving member of Congress, publicly called on Bill to "chill." Comically, even the Rev. Al Sharpton complained about Bill Clinton's behavior -- although Sharpton did not complain about any specific statement. What could Sharpton say? After all, Clinton attempted to alienate whites by invoking the race-hustling Jackson, and by extension Sharpton, too.

Before the primary, an MSNBC poll showed Obama getting only 10 percent of South Carolina's white vote. But Obama captured 24 percent, with Hillary Clinton and John Edwards getting 36 percent and 39 percent of the white vote, respectively. Edwards got more of the "white vote" than did Clinton!

Black voters account for 55 percent of South Carolina's Democratic vote, and Obama carried 80 percent of that vote. Is that racist?

Many Catholics voted for Jack Kennedy in the 1960s. Many Greek-Americans in 1988 supported Gov. Michael Dukakis' candidacy. And, yes, many blacks support Obama because he represents the first serious presidential candidacy of a black man. But remember, Obama is also a liberal. He condemns the Bush tax cuts, opposes the war in Iraq, wants a federal government takeover of health care, criticizes the alleged unequal criminal justice system -- in short, the kind of anti-Republican class warrior that black voters monolithically support. Blacks voted for Obama, rather than against Clinton and Edwards.

Al Gore in 2000 and John Kerry in 2004 -- two white candidates -- received over 90 percent of the black vote. Ever since the civil rights movement, the Democratic Party has marketed itself, along with a complicit media and so-called civil rights leaders, as the "good" party -- the party that supports blacks, women and other oppressed or underrepresented groups.

Black Republican candidates fail to attract support from black voters. Maryland Lt. Gov. Michael Steele ran for Senate, receiving just 25 percent of the black vote. Ohio Secretary of State Ken Blackwell ran for governor of that state, receiving only 20 percent of the black vote. And Lynn Swann ran for governor in Pennsylvania, garnering just 13 percent of the black vote.

No, the real problem with Obama's "black vote" remains no different from the basic problem of the knee-jerk black allegiance to the Democratic Party. Inner-city parents support vouchers. The Democratic Party does not. Blacks are more pro-life than nonblacks. The Democratic Party adamantly defends Roe v. Wade. Young blacks show keen interest in the concept of private accounts for Social Security. The Democratic Party remains adamantly against it. The "welfare state" -- that the Democratic Party wishes to expand -- destabilizes families, with 70 percent of black children born outside of wedlock. Raising taxes and expanding government depresses prosperity. A government takeover of health care, as shown in Canada and in England, results in long lines, lower quality and less accessibility.

Manipulators like Bill Clinton consider blacks stupid and want them to focus almost exclusively on the alleged problem of white racism. He hopes to channel anger against the Republican Party to ensure the black vote. In fact, many GOP goals -- low taxes, anti-welfare, pro-vouchers, private Social Security accounts, deductibility of insurance premiums on personal income tax returns -- stand to disproportionately benefit the black community.

This race-baiting misdirection won't work forever. The black community continues to prosper. And sooner or later, Obama's success will cause blacks to accept what Bill Clinton rediscovered in South Carolina: White racism is no longer a major factor in American life. As John O'Sullivan, the former editor of National Review, said, "White racism does exist, but its social power is weak and the social power arrayed against it overwhelming."