CNN Democratic Presidential Debate Tonight

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I am going to refrain from commenting on this until tomorrow. I will be watching and would love to hear your perspective on this open thread.  Let loose and don’t you dare hold back.

Lurleen’s Ghost: false prophets, empty symbolism, and the endurance of white supremacy

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Then the LORD said unto me, “The prophets prophesy lies in My name. I sent them not, neither have I commanded them, neither spoke unto them. They prophesy unto you a false vision and divination, and a thing of nought and the deceit of their heart.- Jeremiah 14:14

Beloved, believe not every spirit, but test the spirits whether they are of God, because many false prophets have gone out into the world. -1 John 4: 1

The Battle of Selma, an internecine conflict between Queen Hillary and the Safe Negro, Barack Obama, for the black vote, was waged in February and the combatants were both in rare form. To the uninitiated, it seemed that the courageous people who were battered and bloodied on the Edmund Pettus Bridge to secure African Americans voting rights inspired both. That would be wrong.

What the world witnessed was a big show of religiosity cynically calculated to pander to the vast majority of politically active and deluded black people facing a Hobson’s choice between two “articulate and clean” false prophets whose symbolic candidacies mask a hidden agenda to tend to America’s ruling class as servants and protectors of capitalist imperialism.

Michael Parenti, author of “Dirty Truths” has written: The history of the United States has been one of territorial and economic expansionism, with the benefits going mostly to the U.S. business class in the form of growing investments and markets, access to rich natural resources and cheap labor, and the accumulation of enormous profits. The American people have had to pay the costs of empire, supporting a huge military establishment with their taxes, while suffering the loss of jobs, the neglect of domestic services, and the loss of tens of thousands of American lives in overseas military ventures.

The greatest costs, of course, have been borne by the peoples of the Third World who have endured poverty, pillage, disease, dispossession, exploitation, illiteracy, and the widespread destruction of their lands, cultures, and lives.

The racial dimensions of our economic, political and military hegemony over the world’s people of color are an unstated but unmistakable form of white supremacy. Black Agenda Report has tilled the soil on this ground quite thoroughly. I highly recommend reading their piece on this subject. The meaning of Selma has been percolating in my mind for some weeks now and it gelled Friday while I dozed off in Barnes and Noble after work. What I would like to explore with you, if you’ll permit me, is the triumph of white supremacy over our politics and why I think Hillary and Barack are both agents of its facilitation.

In telling the story of white supremacy’s evolving political stranglehold, it is useful to examine the past as a template for the present.

One of the reasons I came to the south is because of its politics. Among the most colorful in the nation, the south has produced some world-class pols and demagogues. Some of the most notable: LBJ, Huey Long, and George Wallace. All three possessed an intuitive understanding of power. Both Huey Long and George Wallace understood the value of machine politics and the practical uses of propaganda.

Bill Clinton is not the first southern pol to advance his wife forward to maintain a foothold on power. Texas Governor James Ferguson was, running his wife Miriam and in his footsteps followed Alabama Governor George Wallace. Stephan Lesher, author of “George Wallace: American Populist,” picks up the story, “Wallace learned about the Fergusons shortly after Lurleen’s announcement; his source, of all people, was the President of the United States during a White House briefing on Vietnam for the nation’s governors…Then, Johnson regaled him with one of James’s 1924 campaign speeches in which he had explained how the couple would operate if Miriam was elected: he would be her number one assistant, he would say, but he would also “tote the wood and draw the water at the governor’s mansion.” Wallace knew a good line when he heard it-and adapted it in every speech he would make over the next months.”

George Wallace pursued the presidency with a vigor we’ve not seen recently until the emergence of the Clinton juggernaut. Running four times in 1964, 1968, 1972, and 1976, he used every asset at his disposal to hold the Governorship of Alabama as a powerbase and springboard to the Presidency. One of those assets was his wife, Lurleen. Forced out by term limits in 1966, he ran Mrs. Wallace in his place as a surrogate. She pledged to the people that she would “let George do it” [run the state].

I have been thinking of the demure and modest homemaker thrust into the limelight by a controlling husband to maintain his own power and to make up for his unconscionable philandering. By elevating her to the governor’s chair, he gave her something no other man could: power and status. In so doing, he repaired their unhappy marriage. The same could be said of the Clintons despite Hillary’s unquestioned ability to run this country without her husband. She would not be on the cusp of making history without him. Echoing the Fergusons before them, we are still “getting two for the price of one.” And make no mistake, he is “tot[ing] the wood and drawing the water” for this campaign behind the scenes.

The campaign of 1966 was an interesting spectacle that reminds me of the current 2008 contest. The Alabama establishment had two contenders to choose from and chose only one: Lurleen Wallace and by extension, George. Former Governor Patterson who had defeated George for Governor in 1958 was a bitter segregationist. George’s spirited defense of white supremacy deflated his sails and she won going away. Patterson provoked the immortal statement from George in Marshal Frady’s legendary biography “Wallace,” “John Patterson out nigguhed me. And boys, I’m not goin’ to be out-nigguhed again.”

Indeed, he never was. He came to be seen as the personification of segregationist resistance. He introduced himself to the American people by way of an incendiary Inaugural Address penned by a Klansman in which he proclaimed, “Segregation Now! Segregation Tomorrow! Segregation Forever!” Additionally, he reaped nationwide publicity for his melodramatic stand in the schoolhouse door of the University of Alabama. His demagogic advocacy of white supremacy connected him with the masses of disaffected whites fearful of black advancement. He turned their disaffection into an independent movement that mainstream Democratic and Republican politicians are still accommodating.

Dan Carter, author of the article “Legacy of Rage: George Wallace and the Transformation of American Politics” wrote, “Unwilling to listen to the dwindling handful of politicians who spoke of unpleasant choices, Americans willingly turned to the more satisfying task of exorcising demons. For politicians, it was a dilemma not unlike that facing George Wallace in 1962. I started off talking about schools and highways and prisons and taxes-and I couldn’t get them to listen,” he confided to an old supporter. “Then I began talking about niggers-and they stomped the floor.”

“Although working and middle class Americans in the 1960s periodically expressed uneasiness over inflation and the failure of wages to keep pace with the cost of living, widespread economic insecurity and declining incomes were not characteristic of the decade. It was primarily a sense of cultural and social dislocation- and out and out racism-that furnished the fuel for George Wallace’s angry rhetoric.”

Bill Clinton, although still a college student, was an active political operative by this time and a Capitol Hill intern for segregationist Arkansas Senator William Fulbright. He saw for himself how potent the politics of race was during the desegregation of Little Rock, Arkansas Public Schools a decade before. Governor Faubus parlayed his opposition to desegregation into an unprecedented six two-year terms as governor, a tenure equaled only by Clinton himself. In addition, Bill couldn’t have possibly missed Arkansas tepid support of LBJ in 1964 and its plurality support of Wallace’s third party bid in 1968.

Despite protestations to the contrary, white supremacy is still a factor today and has been supported by an exclusive focus on the integration of the ranks of politicians, public accommodations, and the desegregation of the public schools and institutions of higher learning. There is another institution, which is sadly deficient in its adherence to fairness and the rule of law: the judiciary. We’ve lost many battles and are losing the war.

The foundation of equal opportunity is crumbling before our eyes and the Roberts Court is leading the charge to destroy it once and for all. How did we get here? We got here because for some reason, we’re more concerned with electing politicians on the basis of showmanship-not policy. Politicians like Bill, Hillary, and Barack, use the politics of identity against us, rather than use it to create common ground.

The essence of their positions regarding judicial selection and due process reflect the political expediency of politicians on the make. Bill Clinton in 1992 famously executed Ricky Ray Rector, Christopher Hitchens described the incident “Lobotomized by his own bullet, this disabled black convict did not understand either his trial or his sentence. Executed by Clinton to draw attention from the Gennifer Flowers flap (about which he also lied) Rector outdoes Willie Horton by every definition of racist grandstanding. His snuffing was not just an election tactic, bad enough though that would have been. In power, Clinton fast-tracked capital punishment to the point where even Republican governors and legislatures have had to try and slow it down.”

As President, he fast-tracked executions by signing legislation that increased the number of crimes that were death penalty eligible and which severely short-circuited habeas corpus, resulting in the dramatically increased possibility of executing the innocent. He even executed someone in Arkansas whose innocence was legitimately in question. Alexander Nguyen of American Prospect wrote, “Also executed during the (1992) campaign was Steven Douglas Hill, who was convicted of shooting a state police investigator after he and an accomplice escaped from a state prison. Hill confessed to the crime, but his partner Michael Cox has insisted for years that it was he, not Hill, who pulled the trigger. In all, Arkansas executed four people on Clinton‘s watch.

Hillary stood by and never meddled in the process of shedding unnecessary blood to elevate themselves to the ultimate power of the Presidency. Given the choice between standing for what’s right and sacrificing power, she chose to support her husband and sacrifice a life giving the lie to the arguments regarding gender diversity in the ranks of elected politicians. While in the Senate, she and her rival, Barack Obama, have played it safe-very safe. The youthful opposition to the death penalty has given way to safe positions crafted to advance viable Presidential candidacies and leave undisturbed the grip of white supremacy over our Judiciary.

Bush has twice nominated arch Conservatives to the Supreme Court and twice Barack and Hillary refused to filibuster those nominations to death.  He and Hillary cast the right vote on the Alito nomination against cloture (shutting off debate), but they were just going through the motions.  Neither put up a fight against John Roberts, although they voted against him. A passionate level of opposition and principled advocacy would have sent a powerful signal to the civil rights community that those two meant business and would have provided political cover for their weak-kneed colleagues to man-up and follow suit.

John Kerry said it best of John Roberts, “Judge Roberts argued against using the “effects test” to determine whether section 2 of the Voting Rights Act was violated. Instead, he believed and “intent” test—requiring proof of a discriminatory motive should be required, regardless of the fact that many victims of discrimination would be unable to prove real discriminatory intent and therefore unable to enjoy the protections afforded by the Act. In some cases, the effect of Judge Roberts’ intent test meant that disenfranchised individuals had to prove the motive of long dead officials who crafted election rules. That is a foolish standard when it comes between citizens and their constitutionally protected right to fair representation in our democracy.”

As someone who represented a majority black legislative district created as a nod to the Voting Rights Act, Barack Obama, should have vigorously filibustered both of Bush’s reactionary appointments. Their collective hostility to the Voting Rights Act, Affirmative Action, and race discrimination claims were more than sufficient to ignite the fires of Barack’s righteous indignation. Alas, the safe Negro never gets angry or loses his temper on behalf of our people because it would get in the way of playing kiss-ass to Senate colleagues and the white power structure he hopes one day to join as our President.

So, chirren, let me end as I began because the scriptures are clear, “Beloved, believe not every spirit, but test the spirits whether they are of God, because many false prophets have gone out into the world.” Hillary and Barack have both been tested in the heat of political battle for their progressive mettle and adherence to truth and in my mind, both have failed and revealed themselves to be false prophets and “New Democrats” in thrall to white supremacy.

Hillary’s midwestern makeover

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By Anne E. Kornblut and Perry Bacon Jr.
Washington Post Staff Writers
Sunday, June 3, 2007; A01

For years, when Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton talked about her family, it was usually her famous husband or their well-known daughter. But Clinton has recently been discussing a more elusive figure in her life: her mother.

“She didn’t have a very easy time of it as a young child,” Clinton (D-N.Y.) said during an address to Democratic Party activists in California, describing the journey Dorothy Howell Rodham made in search of a home after her teenage parents divorced in 1920 and sent her away.

Drawing attention to her low-profile mother — who is in her late 80s and lives with the Clintons on Whitehaven Street in Washington — is one of several ways Clinton is seeking to give voters a new perspective on her biography. Armed with extensive polling data and an image road map tested in Upstate New York, the Clinton campaign has embarked on an ambitious effort to present the candidate the way they want her to be seen: as a pragmatic Midwesterner with a compelling life story of her own, rather than just the famous, and sometimes polarizing, senator and former first lady most of the country already knows she is.

Clinton tells crowds at the opening of virtually every speech that she was “born into a middle-class family in the middle of America, in the middle of the last century.” One of the least-known facts about her, according to campaign operatives, is that she is a native of suburban Chicago, not Arkansas or New York.

Howard Wolfson, the campaign’s communications director, said the senator is responding to the fact that voters “understandably want to know biographical information about people running for president.”

“People have a sense of Senator Clinton in the Senate; they obviously have a sense of her as first lady,” Wolfson said. “But most people do not know what she did before coming to Washington. We found that in New York: We ran ads in 1999 and 2000 about the work she had done prior to becoming first lady.”

Now, Wolfson said, “There are people who say they know everything about Hillary Clinton, and then you ask where she was born, and they have no idea.”

The challenge is more than just getting voters to connect to Clinton: She has extremely high negative ratings to try to counteract.

Introducing biographical information about her childhood and early adulthood, her advisers hope, will flesh out the familiar caricature of Clinton as an overly ambitious careerist who leaves scandal in her wake. After 15 years in Washington, she is also seen as an inside-the-Beltway figure; underscoring her Midwestern upbringing is, they believe, one way to shift that view (while also, not coincidentally, appealing to voters in Midwestern swing states such as Ohio).

“There are a lot things about Hillary you may not know that occurred in her life before she ever became a United States senator,” former president Bill Clinton intones in a biographical video on his wife’s campaign Web site. The segment goes on to show a montage of early photographs as Clinton describes his wife working for poor defendants while studying at Yale Law School, turning down lucrative job offers to work at the Children’s Defense Fund and chairing the national board of the Legal Services Corporation when she was 29 years old.

“When I saw that video on the Web site, I thought, ‘This is “The Man from Hope” all over again,’ ” Democratic consultant Peter Fenn said.

“The Man from Hope,” of course, was the moniker Bill Clinton assumed in 1992 and the title of his biographical film at the Democratic convention that year, when he relaunched himself as an up-by-the-bootstraps populist from Hope, Ark., rather than the silver-tongued governor his rivals were portraying.

Now, some of those same advisers — particularly Mandy Grunwald, who made the 1992 “Hope” film and directs all of the current Clinton media — are at work recasting Hillary Clinton.

Her transformation has been mostly about emphasis: Where she was once best known as a high-powered lawyer in a prominent Arkansas firm, she now talks about her legal work for the poor. Where she was once best known as the impassioned commencement speaker at her Wellesley College graduation in 1969, Clinton now reminisces about church outings on Saturdays as a child. At recent campaign stops in Iowa, she noted her father’s service in the Navy during World War II and the fact that while her family paid her college tuition, she paid for her books and then borrowed money to go to law school.

Fliers campaign workers distribute at events in Iowa encourage Hawkeye State voters to connect with a candidate with “strong Midwestern roots” and “the sense of community we Midwesterners hold dear.” “This is about introducing her to Iowa,” said JoDee Winterhof, the campaign’s Iowa director. “They know who she is, but these are the things people need to be reminded of.”

She eschews the large gymnasiums and big rallies that Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.) often favors, holding events in small venues and leaving time after each event to shake hands and sign autographs (an Iowa-specific move urged on her by former Democratic governor Tom Vilsack, who recommended avoiding the larger sites).

At these small events, Clinton attempts to show a personal side, appearing at a pizza parlor in Algona, Iowa, for example, and talking about her love of jalapeño pizza. She said at another event that “I’m a mother, not yet a grandmother, but there’s hope,” and noted, “When people ask me what I want for my last meal, I always say pizza.”

Clinton’s surrogates have taken the cue, portraying her as a salt-of-the-earth Midwesterner at every opportunity.

“She’s a Midwesterner, she relaxes, she just dives into it,” Christie Vilsack, the ex-governor’s wife, said in an interview after traveling with Clinton for several days. “She doesn’t have to change. That’s going back to who she was as a little girl.”

“If Hillary’s story is only about a first lady and a politician, how does somebody connect to that story?” Democratic pollster Geoff Garin asked. “Once you give people the fuller account of who she is and where she came from, you give them a whole series of places where they can connect and they can see themselves in her picture. Because she sort of emerged on the scene through her husband’s campaign and administration, she’s a hard person for regular people to kind of figure out, where do they fit in? And this lets voters figure out where the voters fit in.”

With two controversial brothers and with her father deceased, it makes sense that Clinton would gravitate toward her mother as she sketches her early life. In the California speech in late April, Clinton devoted more attention than almost ever before to telling her mother’s story to an audience. Repeating a story outlined at the beginning of her autobiography, Clinton recounted her mother’s journey from Chicago to California’s San Gabriel Mountains, where she lived with her paternal grandparents before moving on, at age 13, to become a mother’s helper with another family.

Clinton described her mother’s experience as “harsh,” but pivoted to a happier theme. “From my mother, I learned a love of education and learning,” Clinton said, even though her mother never went beyond high school. “They had what you might call a mixed marriage. My father was a rock-ribbed conservative Republican, and my mother was one of those women who didn’t say much when politics was the conversation, but I learned later would cancel out my father’s vote every single time.”

Rodham remains mostly in the background for now. Feisty and dry-witted (traits that friends say mother and daughter share), Rodham is unpretentious enough to blend into the crowd at her daughter’s public events. At a portrait unveiling at the Smithsonian last summer, she sat quietly in the front row, locking arms with her granddaughter, Chelsea; the two are reportedly very close.

On the rare occasions she has granted interviews over the years, Rodham has talked about her only daughter in loving but no-nonsense ways. Asked in a joint appearance on “Oprah” in 2004 if she wanted her daughter to run for president, Rodham replied: “The terrible responsibility that our presidents have, you know, and the — the day-to-day workload and all of that sort of thing, I don’t know that I would wish on anyone, actually.”

“But she would do great. I have to say that,” Rodham said.