South Carolina degenerated into a ugly spectacle of racial tension and political ambition. To say the voters in South Carolina were turned off by the tactics of the two-headed Clinton is an understatement, by all accounts many were just plain offended and angry. Obama trounced Clinton, beyond any one's wildest expectations, in every demographic, in all quarters. It's still yet to be determined how South Carolina helps Obama on Super Tuesday, but at the very least, he is clearly back in the game.
One aspect of Obama's campaign, that I had admired previously, his intentional resistance to playing the race card. A candidate first, not much emphasis on skin color, no sense of pandering to a demographic. Whether your candidate of choice or not, it was a fascinating statement on just how far America may have come, the first hint that the debate was moving forward.
That sense all changed after New Hampshire, as the stakes were raised in this dogfight of a nomination. Unfortunately, it was the Clinton's that decided to interject race into the equation, in response to the idea that African Americans might rally to Obama. A pre-emptive strike, which ultimately soured the entire process.
Last night, African Americans did rally to Obama's side, exit polls suggest a full 80%. Obama carried all groups, women, men, drew even with whites, but it was what happened with African Americans that was interesting, and it may have a lasting impact.
After Obama's convincing victory, Bill Clinton referenced Jesse Jackson, arguing that he too had won South Carolina before, which was an attempt to downplay any momentum. Bill Clinton's characterization is just plain offensive, it diminished Obama's achievement, but more than that, it makes the parallel, based solely on race.
I remember when Jackson ran, particularly the first time. Jesse Jackson never had very much appeal outside of the African American community, in many respects his campaign was more of a statement, than a realistic opportunity to become President. Jackson did well, but there was always this sense that the bid was "limited".
I see no parallels with the Obama campaign, apart from the superficial. The fact that Bill Clinton made the connection, knowing full well the nature of the Jackson bids, was very disappointing, not to mention quite petty. Bill Clinton, the man fondly remembered as the symbolic "first black President" is now reduced to playing politics along racial lines, uses words to fracture, all in the name of personal ambition.
If Barack Obama is now the "black" candidate, it isn't because of his deeds, but in reaction to those of others. If African Americans are turning against Hillary Clinton, despite her impressive historical ties to that community, it more to do with the unseemly, then it is Obama using race to his advantage. The way in which the Clinton's have conducted themselves in the last few days will have lasting impact, and it would seem, it's justly deserved.