Kathleen Parker thinks Bernie Sanders has been awfully rude to black people:
African Americans in the South can’t get a break when it comes to voting, as history can’t deny.
After all they’ve endured through slavery, Jim Crow and the fight for civil rights, their voices are still treated dismissively by tone-deaf politicians who would ask for their votes....
This month, having lost massively to Hillary Clinton across the Southeast, [Bernie] Sanders commented that the bevy of early Southern primaries “distorts reality.” In other comments soon thereafter, perhaps covering for what was obviously a lapse in political acumen, he clarified that those early states are the most conservative in the country.
Not really. And not really.
While some segments of the South are undeniably conservative, Dixie is also home to a large and reliably Democratic cohort -- African Americans. Many of the most liberal people serving in today’s Congress were elected by Southerners, and especially black Southerners. The reality is that Sanders failed to earn their votes in part by treating the South as a lost cause.
In the same column, Parkers also questions the racial attitudes of the Clintons:
But the Clintons, too, have been dismissive toward black voters when things didn’t go their way. During the 2008 primaries when it was clear that Barack Obama would trounce Hillary Clinton in South Carolina, Bill Clinton remarked that Jesse Jackson also had won the state in 1984 and 1988.
No one needs a translator to get Clinton’s meaning. His next hastily drawn sentence -- “Jackson ran a good campaign. And Obama ran a good campaign here” -- did little to distract from the implication that Obama would win because he was black....
Hillary Clinton got herself into a hot mess when she asserted that President Lyndon Johnson was responsible for the Civil Rights Act, which many saw as dismissive of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.’s legacy. She scrambled to explain herself and mitigate the damage, but feelings once hurt are hard to mend.
None of this remarkable in and of itself -- but why is Parker, of all people, suddenly concerned with the feelings of black voters? After all, she's the columnist who questioned Barack Obama's Americanism this way in 2008:
"A full-blooded American."
That's how 24-year-old Josh Fry of West Virginia described his preference for John McCain over Barack Obama. His feelings aren't racist, he explained. He would just be more comfortable with "someone who is a full-blooded American as president."
Whether Fry was referring to McCain's military service or Obama's Kenyan father isn't clear, but he may have hit upon something essential in this presidential race.
Full-bloodedness is an old coin that's gaining currency in the new American realm. Meaning: Politics may no longer be so much about race and gender as about heritage, core values, and made-in-America. Just as we once and still have a cultural divide in this country, we now have a patriot divide.
Who "gets" America? And who doesn't?
The answer has nothing to do with a flag lapel pin, which Obama donned for a campaign swing through West Virginia, or even military service, though that helps. It's also not about flagpoles in front yards or magnetic ribbons stuck on tailgates.
It's about blood equity, heritage and commitment to hard-won American values. And roots.
"Blood equity"? Seriously?
I've read enough right-wing bushwa over the years to have a pretty good sense of how Parker would reconcile these two columns if you challenged her. She'd insist that she was concerned not with Obama's race, but with the question of whether his values were shaped by American experiences -- his own and his forebears'. She'd piously insist that she, too, recognizes slavery and Jim Crow as great stains on America's character. She'd probably insist that, as far as she's concerned, the civil rights struggle showed that black people were fighting for "American values" for generations. (No, really -- the more respectable right-wingers have all memorized a speech like this.) Obama, she'd say, was a latecomer to all this, what with being Kenyan by "blood" and all.
Never mind the fact that, as Greg Mitchell has written,
... Obama, in fact, is half-white, is related (god help us) to Dick Cheney, and can trace his family back as far as McCain in America -- to George Washington, even. And speaking of "generations of sacrifice": Obama’s grandfather fought in World War II.
Obama isn't the only government figure Parker has deemed inadequately American. Here's what she wrote about Elena Kagan in 2010:
The magnificent author and son of the Great Santini, Pat Conroy, began "The Prince of Tides" with these words: "My wound is geography. It is also my anchorage, my port of call."
Those 13 words imprinted on my brain when I first read them years ago and have stuck with me. Somewhat oddly, they came to mind upon the nomination of Elena Kagan to the U.S. Supreme Court.
... though we are what we do, what we do is not all of what we are. We are also products of place. Where we grew up and how we experienced the physical environment of our formation are also a part of who we are.
What is Kagan's geography? What is her anchorage, her port of call?
Coincidentally, she shares the same home town as the other two women on the court. Assuming Kagan is confirmed, all three women will hail from New York. Kagan grew up on the Upper West Side of Manhattan, Sonia Sotomayor is from the Bronx and Ruth Bader Ginsburg is from Brooklyn.
... spending one's formative years walking past the infamously crime-riddled Murder Hotel en route to school, as Kagan did -- and, say, walking past the First Baptist Church to ballet class -- are not the same cultural marinade.
... It seems remote to unlikely that a woman whose life has involved Baptist churches and ballet slippers would find herself on a track to today's Supreme Court, though that ought not to be the case. Women are not of one cloth. (As a footnote, retired Justice Sandra Day O'Connor grew up between El Paso and an Arizona ranch and is a famously good dancer.)
Kagan had an immigrant grandfather who, as The New York Times told us, "manufactured and sold hats and clothing in New York." I thought we were a nation of immigrants. I thought conservatives, in particular, cherished entrepreneurship and small business owners.
But to Parker, I guess, you'd have to be the right kind of small business owner -- Protestant and steeped in the blood of either the Civil War or Western expansion. And I guess she'll welcome black Southerners into that group of Real Americans when it suits her (i.e., when she can use them as a club to beat a liberal).
The Clintons, ultimately, come off reasonably well in Parker's column on Sanders:
Clinton ... has more than paid her dues, and African American voters have rewarded her loyalty. For his part, Sanders not only confirmed African Americans’ concerns about his disconnect from their daily lives but also was badly mistaken about the South’s distance from reality.
In the South, black votes matter -- a lot -- and no one has understood this better than the Clintons.
A lot of people would agree with Parker on this, but it's an odd column for her to write, given her history. Then again, the Clintons and the Rodhams are "full-blooded" Americans by Parker's standards, while Sanders is -- well, what's his "anchorage"? What's his "cultural marinade"? Not a lot of Baptist churches in there, right, if you know what I mean?
Crossposted at No More Mr. Nice Blog