Geraldine Ferraro discusses how the protracted and nasty Democratic primary season has split the party, enough for her to be concerned about November.

LAST YEAR at the beginning of the presidential primary season, Democrats were giddy with excitement. Not only did we have an embarrassment of riches in our candidates but we had two historic candidacies to enjoy. Once and for all our country would show that racism and sexism were not part of our 21st-century DNA.

Here we are at the end of the primary season, and the effects of racism and sexism on the campaign have resulted in a split within the Democratic Party that will not be easy to heal before election day. Perhaps it’s because neither the Barack Obama campaign nor the media seem to understand what is at the heart of the anger on the part of women who feel that Hillary Clinton was treated unfairly because she is a woman or what is fueling the concern of Reagan Democrats for whom sexism isn’t an issue, but reverse racism is.

As you may know, Ferraro is a Clinton supporter, so her criticism needs to be looked at through that lens. But the main issue here I think is that identity politics hath wrought this on the Democrats themselves. Frankly, I’ve not seen the sexism or racism Ferraro alludes to. I have read criticism of Obama from Clinton-supporting sites like TalkLeft, and I’ve read (rather nasty) criticism of Clinton from Obama-supporting sites like Daily Kos.

What I have seen are complaints that the Clintons are corrupt liars, Obama doesn’t have broad enough appeal within the base, jabs against folks in Appalachia, and other such sniping, but not sexism or racism. In fact, Ferraro’s column later notes that some are requesting an investigation in whether or not it actually happened.

In response, a group of women – from corporate executives to academics to members of the media – have requested that the Shorenstein Center at Harvard University and others conduct a study, which we will pay for if necessary, to determine three things.

First, whether either the Clinton or Obama campaign engaged in sexism and racism; second, whether the media treated Clinton fairly or unfairly; and third whether certain members of the media crossed an ethical line when they changed the definition of journalist from reporter and commentator to strategist and promoter of a candidate. And if they did to suggest ethical guidelines which the industry might adopt.

The Democrats are tied to that anchor that is identity politics, and while they may wish to paint Republicans as the primary practitioners of racism and sexism, this primary season at least has given them a long-overdue opportunity to look inward. Seeing racism and sexism at every mention of race and gender in their own party has had a (hopefully long-term) sobering effect on them.

As for Reagan Democrats, how Clinton was treated is not their issue. They are more concerned with how they have been treated. Since March, when I was accused of being racist for a statement I made about the influence of blacks on Obama’s historic campaign, people have been stopping me to express a common sentiment: If you’re white you can’t open your mouth without being accused of being racist. They see Obama’s playing the race card throughout the campaign and no one calling him for it as frightening. They’re not upset with Obama because he’s black; they’re upset because they don’t expect to be treated fairly because they’re white. It’s not racism that is driving them, it’s racial resentment. And that is enforced because they don’t believe he understands them and their problems. That when he said in South Carolina after his victory “Our Time Has Come” they believe he is telling them that their time has passed.

Stinks being on that end of the false accusation, eh?

[tags]Geraldine Ferraro,Democrats,racism,sexism[/tags]

Filed under: DemocratsDougPoliticsRace Issues

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