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Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Clinton on the Wrong Side of History

This piece was published on that fateful day of the Pennsylania Primary. The piece was very hopeful on that score. That outcome notwithstanding, the major thesis about Clinton being on the wrong side of history is right on. Moreover, Clinton has not shown the restraint to resist exacerbating racism and white nationalism. Rochelle Riley is a local columnist whose columns are consistently on the side of both justice and rationality.

Clinton lets dream take a backseat


The worst won't be that Sen. John McCain will win the presidency. The worst will be that America came so close to Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.'s dream.

And the greatest irony is that Bill and Hillary Clinton were on the wrong side of history.
As Democrats do the Pennsylvania primary today, my head is filled with unbelievable TV news reports on how the candidates polled among bowlers, gun owners and beer drinkers. And how I wish my grandmother was alive to see Sen. Hillary Clinton paint a black man as too eloquent and elitist to be president.

Democratic attempts to call this election anything other than what it is will not work: This isn't politics as usual. What is at stake in this election is THE DREAM.

That the Clintons have been too shortsighted to see it means they are missing the watershed event -- America accepting a man and his ideas without regard to his color. This election is the moment that civil rights workers of all colors died for in the 1960s, the moment for which my grandmother prayed.

Core voters start to wane
Missing the dream is Hillary Clinton's first mistake. Her second is alienating core voters: black women, Christians and hard-working Americans who don't have to make six figures to enjoy good arugula.

"I'm about sick of Hillary," said longtime Clinton supporter JoAnn Watson, a Detroit city councilwoman. "I came straight out of the women's movement. I've been pushing women, and promoted by women, all of my life. But to witness what has happened in this race ... You know the love affair the black community has had with the Clintons? That's over.

"I, like the rest of the Democratic world, thought last September that she was probably going to get the nod. But something has happened to transform America and when" Obama "got the Iowa nod, and I saw tears streaming down the faces of Iowa farmers who would never have voted for a black man for dogcatcher before, I fell on my knees and started shouting."

In Clinton's attempt to describe the Rev. Jeremiah Wright's passionate rhetoric to Sen. Barack Obama, the stones she threw also hit some of her core supporters.

And finally, Clinton has tried to make the case that her baggage has been strewn across America, while Obama is untested. The truth is she has so much more baggage than Obama, and the Republicans haven't even begun to sort her dirty laundry.

Hopes for Wright's speech
When Wright speaks this Sunday at the world's largest sit-down dinner, 10,000 strong and sponsored by the Detroit Branch NAACP, Clinton supporters hope he'll inflame again, while Obama supporters hope that he'll provide context that most media have not.

Whatever he utters, it will have less to do with Obama than Bill Clinton's actions will have on his wife's campaign and tenure. Wright isn't going to the White House.

Clinton can run again in eight years, but only if she doesn't damage herself so much that her core voters are gone for good.

Her campaign is over. Maybe Pennsylvanians can make her see that -- and THE DREAM -- today.

Contact ROCHELLE RILEY at 313-223-4473 or