Monday, January 14, 2008

Idle threat of the week

Barack Obama's caucus win in lily-white Iowa was hailed by some as a historic next step into America's post-racial future. There may be an element of truth to this conclusion, but both Barack Obama's and Hillary Clinton's campaigns have spent the past week making sure the American public knows that not only is race still very relevant, it's what to talk about when asking for votes.

While it's true the two candidates have tried hard to play down the racial rhetoric themselves, their surrogates and an eager press have managed to whip everything from LBJ's legislative history to Sidney Poitier's performance in "Look Who's Coming to Dinner" to fairy tales into a referendum on black and white in America. As a primary showdown in South Carolina looms, one can only imagine what else will be sucked into this vortex of racial bad feelings.

And then what happens when Clinton and Obama move on to California to court Hispanics, the pesky third race which could ultimately decide the Democratic primary?

The only reprieve to this barrage of racial baggage might be if the tone of the campaign shifted more towards gender grievances. It could be a Clinton spokesperson signaled a move in this direction when he expressed "shock" that Obama's campaign was using "99 Problems" as one of its theme songs. In the 2003 hit Jay-Z raps about having "99 problems, but a bitch (possibly a not-so sly reference to Hillary's womanly demenor) ain't one."

Only with practically no policy difference between the two candidates -- Hillary says 70 billion for economic stimulus, so Barack says 75 -- there is plenty of room for both racial and gender animosity in the debate. And the Democratic Parties attempt to transcend race in their primary is the Idle Threat of the Week for January 7th to 13th.

Fans of the racial theater can only lament that master actor Rudy Giuliani isn't somehow more involved.

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