Then there was Bill Clinton comparing Obama’s campaign to that of Jesse Jackson’s unsuccessful run in 1988. The capstone came in May, when Hillary Clinton started openly boasting about her superior support from white voters.
The effort was not so blatant as George H.W. Bush’s Willie Horton ad, but the attempt to play on racist attitudes through constant repetition and association was unmistakable — in addition to playing into right-wing conspiracy theories that Obama is a secret Muslim who was born in Africa. It’s likely why in West Virginia — a state so racist that some guy in a Texas prison got 40 percent of the Democratic primary vote in 2012 — Clinton won a smashing victory.
This brings us back to today’s presidential race. Many of the demands posed by activists focus on rhetorical gestures of support and solidarity (a notable feature of the Netroots confrontation last weekend). But this raises this issue of trust: A very charming, cynical person could simply promise support using the right words, win the election, then forget all about it.
Does the Hillary Clinton of 2008 sound like someone who’s genuinely committed to the cause of racial justice? If she has changed her views, now would be a good time to explain.