I've hung with Hillary as long as I can, despite generally preferring Obama's thoughtful approach to politics and policy (see the race speech from Philly). I was willing to stick with her in spite of Bill's racial comments and her trainwreck of a campaign. But after her no-longer-subtle race-baiting last week ("working, hard-working Americans, white Americans"), I can't stomach her any more. She is not going to win, and these tactics aren't anything but spiteful and divisive.But I have to respectfully disagree. I don't think the "hardworking white people" comment was a very apt thing to say for several reasons which I'll articulate later. However, I view the comment as a progressive step forward in racial politics. Here's Hillary's comment.
"I have a much broader base to build a winning coalition on," she said in an interview with USA TODAY. As evidence, Clinton cited an Associated Press article "that found how Sen. Obama's support among working, hard-working Americans, white Americans, is weakening again, and how whites in both states who had not completed college were supporting me."To refer to whites as "white Americans" is a very progressive thing in terms of American racial politics. For years, the media and whites in general have referred to whites in generic sounding but racially charged language as "normal Americans," "everyday Americans," the "mainstream," or just "Americans." In this language, to be white (middle-class, heterosexual, etc.) is to be mainstream, normal, and American. To be black, Hispanic, Asian, poor, or gay is to be exotic, outside the mainstream, and "not really" American. Americanism was for white people. Multi-culturalism was for everybody else.
There has been some comment about Hillary's "white Americans" remark reading non-whites out of America. Actually, it's the opposite. By referring to working-class whites as "white Americans," Hillary is reading white people into multi-cultural American. Just like there are African-Americans, Mexican-Americans, Japanese-Americans, and gay Americans, there are now white Americans. White people in general might be a majority but white people can be divided into many different groups and Hillary's comment treats working-class whites as a specific American subculture rather than generically American. Because Hillary's comment gets away from representing whites as generically "real" Americans, it represents a triumph of multi-culturalism and somewhat of a breakthrough in American political representation.
The real clumsiness in Hillary's formulation comes with the honorific "hard-working." To me, this is a class-oriented kind of remark in which Hillary is looking to praise working-class whites. So she calls them "working" or "hard-working." The comment comes off as exclusionary in the sense that Hillary can be seen as implying that either non-whites or Obama's highly educated white supporters in towns like Madison, Wisconsin, Chapel Hill, North Carolina, and Iowa City, Iowa or Morehead, Kentucky are not hard-working.
But I don't think that's the case. Instead, I believe that Hillary was looking for a way to include white working-class and non-college educated people into a language of specific praise from which they're normally excluded because of their relative lack of education, relatively low incomes, and relatively low political profiles (unless they're unionized). She didn't want to treat working-class whites generically as "regular" people the way white people are usually described. She wanted to praise them but ended up with a formulation that made everybody else sound lazy.
What I'd like to suggest is that Hillary was not being racially provocative but was instead being awkward and unskilled because she is plowing new ground in terms of political rhetoric. I believe that was also the case with a lot of the "racially-tinged" comments made by Hillary, Andrew Cuomo, and Ed Rendell (the exception was Bill Clinton's obnoxious comments after the South Carolina primary). Interestingly enough, the Hillary campaign has done a lot for multi-cultural politics in the United States even if they haven't succeeded in getting Hillary elected.