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When you can't debate, race bait

by: Eric B.

Fri Aug 15, 2008 at 10:57:01 AM EDT


I can't for the life of me actually think of why Kwame Kilpatrick's presence in Denver should be a distraction from the proceedings.  Yes, I know, he's a mayor of a high profile city, and has been indicted on a wide range of crimes.

On the other hand, Detroit isn't that high profile a city. Aside from the fact that it's a working film-maker standard for a city in decay for moviemakers who wish to make films like The Crow, Robocop, and Action Jackson, it's influence is entirely regional (dwarfed regionally by Chicago) ... not national.  Why the press corps outside of Michigan would even think it worthy of more than a blip on the radar ... I leave that speculation to anyone.

We get a glimpse of what might make Democratics nervous here.

The Tennessee Republican Party and Michigan bloggers have posted YouTube videos of a speech Obama gave to the Detroit Economic Club in May 2007 in which he praised Kilpatrick as a "great mayor."

"We know he's going to be doing astounding things for many years to come. I'm grateful to call him a friend and colleague," Obama said at the time, which was eight months before the scandal swirling around Kilpatrick came to light.

"I think it's very important to watch what Obama does now," state Rep. Craig DeRoche, R-Novi, said Wednesday during a fund-raiser for Republican presidential candidate John McCain in West Bloomfield. "He's going to draw attention to his strong support of Kilpatrick.

The story, thankfully, goes on to point out that Obama never actually offered strong support for Kilpatrick, which -- since Obama was a state senator from Illinois and Kilpatrick a former represenative-turned-mayor of Detroit -- goes without saying absent evidence.

Those Michigan bloggers include Nick from RightMichigan here, and Joe Sylvester at The Conservative Dossier here.  There may be others, but I try not to wade that deeply in their world for obvious reasons.  Despite the fact that Obama and Kilpatrick have no demonstrable close relationship, Nick goes on to pre-emptively defend his criticism by alleging a conspiracy of silence on the part of Obama and the Michigan Democratic Party.

Without a clear, evident personal relationship between the two, that leaves leaves open the question of why link the two.  On the surface, both have things in common -- both come from urban areas, both are Democrats, and both are African Americans.

Because there is otherwise no reason to link the two, other than the existance of a video in which one Democrat said nice things about another Democrat publicly, there is no reason to assume that because both are Democrats likewise has any meaning. To tar the one with the alleged sins of the other requires an exercise in guilt by association so strained that it threatens to snap and cover the land with concentrated stupid.

The same could be said of the issue of race.  On the surface, it is a meaningless relationship, unless you actually subscribe to the notion that all African Americans know each other and provide cover for each other in times of trouble.

But, it is those underlying assumptions that make the connection of Kilpatrick and Obama where one doesn't exist so vile. Whether intended -- and there is no evidence to suggest that anyone has conciously made that connection -- that connection pokes at bigotries and prejudices burbling just below the surface, suggesting that you can find common ground between the two if you just think about it -- they're all brothers, don'tcha know, and brothers stick together. 

Eric B. :: When you can't debate, race bait
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Race has been an issue... (4.00 / 2)
in the campaign since the day Senator Obama announced his candidacy.  No one wants to talk much about, but that is the case.  In the end, it may well be the deciding factor in the presidential election. [Actually, race has been an issue at some level in most campaigns -- going back at least to 1860, but no one wants to talk about that, either.]

Be that as it may, the ongoing fiasco in Detroit is a distraction--and the Mayor's presence in Denver, as a Super Delegate facing 10 felony counts, will be a bigger joke on Michigan's population than the primary that wasn't was.  

This election is the Democrats to lose and the fact that Senator McClain has managed to close the distance, at least in those polled, indicates that they are well on the way to doing so.  If the Mayor hangs on and continues to put the spotlight on himself, Senator Obama will likely avoid the state as much as he possibly can while Senator McClain continues his visits.

The worst thing for Senator Obama in Michigan is this ongoing soap opera.  The best thing(s) would be for the party to strip the Mayor of his super delgate status; have him removed from office, either by the Governor or the City Council; and, have him convicted before the elections. Take him out of the equation completely.


Nailed it! (4.00 / 4)
"[Kilpatrick's] presence in Denver...will be a bigger joke on Michigan's population than the primary that wasn't was."

Bingo.

Doesn't matter whether it should be relevant to Obama's candidacy or not; bottom line is that to an awful lot of people it would be, period.

Think of it this way--I wouldn't want ANYONE who was currently facing 10 felony counts attending the convention either, regardless of their race, party or home town!


[ Parent ]
Operative word... (4.00 / 2)
Keeping the mayor out of Denver is clearly smart politics, but that's not the point here.

Any objective look at the Democratic convention tells you that the problems of Detroit's mayor aren't anything more than a freakish sideshow to what's going on.  If his presence there was really a distraction for -- well -- anyone except rightwing bloggers, it's a statement on where are priorities really are as opposed to what they should be.  Kilpatrick's problems are Kilpatrick's problems.  They aren't Obama's, the national Democratic Party's, and only tangentially a problem for the state party.  It'd be one thing we're talking about a convention of state Democrats and the mayor was scheduled to play a substantial public role.  But, out in Denver, his travails should be dwarfed by what is really happening out there.

Among the Trees


[ Parent ]
Very high profile (4.00 / 3)
One correction, Eric. You cannot believe how high profile this scandal is nationally. I've had Members of Congress who, as soon as they know I'm from Michigan, stop and have a complete conversation with me about how bad it is and how its impacting his mom. Seriously!

People here in DC knows almost as much as I do about what's going on. My faint protests that I don't actually live in the city has no impact. No one north of Toledo makes any distinction whatsoever between Detroit and the rest of Michigan. It's really, really bad....

(So yes, Kilpatrict would be a HUGE distraction in Denver. I can't blame Obama for "uninviting" the mayor. Embarrassing!)

Nothing is easier than solving a problem on the back of the poor. People who don't have lobbyists or clout.


Excellent point, Yvette... (4.00 / 2)
The fact that his mother is a fairly long-term Congresswoman has almost certainly increased the awareness among the beltway crowd.

Plus, yes, it's sad but true that pretty much the only thing anyone from outside of Michigan knows about it is "Detroit", "they build cars there" and "shaped like a hand".


[ Parent ]
Detroit and D.C. (4.00 / 1)
I can guarantee outside Michigan and D.C. that Kilpatrick's travails aren't much more than a minor issue, something they run across when reading the morning news.

It certainly impacts people's impression of Detroit specifically and the state of Michigan generally, but I don't think anyone who lives someplace other than Michigan or Washington is going to tune into coverage of the Democratic National Convention and expect to hear about Kwame Kilpatrick.

That's one of the things that makes so bad what the Tennessee Republican Party and Michigan's rightwing bloggers have done.  If the video was of one white politician praising another white politician, and that was all the positive there was to the relationship, no one would make a big deal out of it.  But, there are underlying issues to poke at here.

Among the Trees


[ Parent ]
Right, Eric, the audience for all this Kilpatrick stuff is clear to the repubs: (2.25 / 4)
It's people who are bothered - whether obviously, or subliminally - about voting for a Black man. Kilpatrick through his own large appetites personifies the kind of Black politician that is fearful to those persons: violent, sex-crazed, dishonest, filling his administration with cronies of questionable qualifications. Whether or not these are true is beside the point - they are being spoken.

Kilpatrick is important: Not to the actual convention, but to the images that will be presented, the suggestive words that will accompany them. Race is the point.


what a sick comment (0.00 / 0)
Kilpatrick through his own large appetites personifies the kind of Black politician that is fearful to those persons: violent, sex-crazed, dishonest

who needs the KKK or repubs when you have the michigan liberal.

is this place ever going to stop gorging on this stuff?

America either revives its industrial base or it dies. There is no future for people in a post industrial America.  


[ Parent ]
Sicko, part 2 (4.00 / 1)
I agree. The man had an affair and covered it up! Nothing that white politicians do all the time without being called violent, sex crazed or having their ethnicity called into question.

Sorry kid, but you are way out of line with that comment. Have to give you a goose egg.

Nothing is easier than solving a problem on the back of the poor. People who don't have lobbyists or clout.


[ Parent ]
Perception (4.00 / 1)
Yes, it's a sick comment, but Kidspeak is being accurate in describing how many white people irrationally feel about blacks and how Republicans will do everything they can to play on white people's fears, prejudice, and racism. It does not matter that there is no justifiable reason for the fear, prejudice, or racism. It does not matter that many white politicians have the same large appetites. It's simply something to be exploited for political gain.

John Edwards recent scandal is different only in that he didn't fire a bunch of police officers to cover up the affair and there's no child. There's still some question as to the paternity of the child, and who was paid what and when and for why. The media have portrayed each affair very differently. They've been sympathetic to Edwards because of his "aw shucks, mah daddy worked in a meel" demeanor and his wife who's been suffering from cancer. And no one's talking about how this will effect the White vote for Democrats in North Carolina.

The same arrogance is at play on both Kwame's and Edwards' parts. But with Kwame, the press already didn't like him. Not to mention the general "Let's Kick Detroit" mentality that rules a good chunk of Michigan. And what you end up seeing is a Piranha Feast aimed at Whites Who Don't Like Kwame and Detroit.


[ Parent ]
A difference in perception (4.00 / 1)
I took the comment to mean something different, probably based on context.  I interpreted it to mean that the bit about Kilpatrick personifying those traits to mean that he feeds into stereotypes by people who believe that African Americans elected to office will engage in those kinds of things.  We've already seen a lot of that from the Right, from Rich Lowry's comment about "hip hop" being conflated with crime, and a few other comments the particulars of which escape me right now.

People who believe that weren't ever going to vote for an African American anyway, and it's because of those people that making an issue out of this video is so vile.  It feeds into their stereotypes.

That might be a generous interpretation, but I'm not always as precise as possible with the language I use.

Among the Trees


[ Parent ]
I agree white politicians do the same things (0.00 / 0)
and they aren't held up to the same kinds of judgments that are being made, nor are they linked in their actions to other politicians who are also white.

That doesn't change the reality that links will be made for Black politicians. It isn't right, it isn't fair, but to point out that it happens isn't wrong. (And I don't think it deserves the kind of rating you gave my comment.)

The problem is that it's too easy to have an essentialist view of persons that you aren't familiar with, e.g. that all persons who share one characteristic are assumed to be very similar. That's the thing that some people would try to do here, because many voters have little personal experience with Black persons. The fact that both men are politicians adds a second connection, which strengthens these negative attributions.

 


[ Parent ]
Suspension of belief (0.00 / 0)
"many voters have little personal experience with Black persons."

Okay, that's a fair point, but do many people also have little personal experience with lawyers? How about middle class families? Captains of a football team?

That's the real problem with your statement, kidspeak. Kwame is not "just" a black person. He's also a highly educated lawyer from an upper middle class family. It requires more than a blind leap of faith to link someone with a Juris Doctor from Michigan State University to a sex-starved, violent black man.

That would require a total suspension of belief.

Nothing is easier than solving a problem on the back of the poor. People who don't have lobbyists or clout.


[ Parent ]
He certainly isn't "just" a Black man. Not at all. (0.00 / 0)
He is very talented. He is educated, and good in particular at bringing people together with widely different world views. That's extremely important in Detroit. Hey, I voted for him, he had the goods.

But this is the United States!

It doesn't help how he's viewed to point to those positive facts about him - they don't erase the visual images the Mayor makes as a Black man, who is being featured prominently in the news because of the accusations against him, not because of his good qualities. It's the combination of images, accusations, and context that plays to so many of the ways that Black men have been stereotyped, added in to how flawed politicians have taken advantage of their power and the system.

The appeal will be made to both overt white racism and unspoken, often unexamined prejudices. Remember those ads against Harold Ford in Tennessee, who was not accused of any kind of law-breaking?


[ Parent ]
I think you are taking a piece of my comment out of context. (4.00 / 1)
It sounds like you think this is a racist comment. It isn't. Please re-read the entire comment:  I said "whether or not these things are true is beside the point - they are being spoken."

I was speaking of how Kilpatrick is being perceived by some, how he's being portrayed. And the fact that he is Black is being used to draw connections between how Kilpatrick is perceived and what Obama is supposedly like, however inappropriate those connections are.


[ Parent ]
This should go viral... (4.00 / 2)


Pray for the dead, fight like hell for the living. - Mother Jones

who are we? (4.00 / 2)
This is an important discussion. Kilpatrick's arrogance and abuse of power have nothing to do with Barack Obama. Can we not now move in this great nation beyond the shallowness of skin color?


[ Parent ]

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