Ferraro still shocked, shocked! to find identity politics in play

Usually, when a politician sticks a foot in her mouth, she endeavors to remove it as quickly and quietly as possible. Not Geraldine Ferraro, the first woman on a major-party presidential ticket, who rode Walter Mondale’s nomination to a big 1984 win — of one state. A week after asserting that Barack Obama would still be cooling his heels in the Senate if not for his race, she continued to sound that theme on behalf of her candidate, Hillary Clinton:

When the subject turned to Obama, Clinton’s rival for the Democratic Party nomination, Ferraro’s comments took on a decidedly bitter edge.

“I think what America feels about a woman becoming president takes a very secondary place to Obama’s campaign – to a kind of campaign that it would be hard for anyone to run against,” she said. “For one thing, you have the press, which has been uniquely hard on her. It’s been a very sexist media. Some just don’t like her. The others have gotten caught up in the Obama campaign.

“If Obama was a white man, he would not be in this position,” she continued. “And if he was a woman (of any color) he would not be in this position. He happens to be very lucky to be who he is. And the country is caught up in the concept.”

Remember this moment when Obama wins the nomination and begins to complain about the criticism from Republicans. The Democrats will accuse John McCain and the GOP of race-baiting, and of trying to stir racial animosity to defeat Obama. Ferraro’s repeated exhortations along these same lines, and Democratic silence on her tactics, will speak volumes when the same people accuse Republicans of crypto-racial attacks. There’s nothing crypto about what Ferraro is doing.

As AP pointed out last month, Ferraro has no problem assuming that Democrats have supported Obama for his race. Why doesn’t Ferraro admit that Hillary’s support comes from the same kind of identity politics? Furthermore, Hillary would not even be in the Senate if not for her being Bill Clinton’s wife. Until he left the White House, Hillary had never run for political office, and without his extensive career and considerable charisma — a quality she notably lacks on the stump — she wouldn’t have won her seat in 2000.

Ferraro and the Democrats can’t make a much better case for Hillary to be President than they can for Obama. That problem will remain with them regardless of which candidate eventually wins the nomination, and despite Ferraro’s protests, neither will win it on the strength of experience or on policy. The Democrats have gone all-in for identity politics at the expense of both, and Ferraro’s complaints ring very hollow indeed.