Dick Morris knows something about the way Bill and Hillary Clinton think. In 1996, he managed Clinton’s successful campaign for re-election. After having fallen from grace, he’s turned against the Clintons and is no longer close to them. Still, people pay attention to things he says. And three days before the South Carolina primary, Morris said something that made people sit up and pay attention.
In an article entitled “How Clinton will win the nomination by losing South Carolina” Morris laid out a strategy which he is convinced the Clintons have adopted. It is such an insanely Machiavellian approach that one is tempted to say that it’s the product of a sick mind. And yet it appears to be precisely the strategy that the Clintons adopted in the Palmetto state.
It goes like this. Obama unites people across races and classes. He won Iowa, a virtually all-white state. As Morris wrote, “Obama has done everything he possibly could to keep race out of this election.”
Obama was criticized by Jesse Jackson four months ago for failing to speak out on the issue of the Jena 6, Black students accused of murder following an explosion of racial tensions at their Louisiana school. Jackson said Obama was “acting like he’s white.” (John Edwards called for his supporters to travel to Jena to protest and has been outspoken on the continuing racial divide.)
But the Clintons are making sure that race is very much part of this election, as we saw last week. Morris thinks this is deliberate, and writes “if Blacks deliver South Carolina to Obama, everybody will know that they are bloc-voting. That will trigger a massive white backlash against Obama and will drive white voters to Hillary Clinton.”
Dick Morris may be crazy. But he may be onto something here. It all depends on what you think about race in America.
If you believe that Martin Luther King’s vision has come true, and that Americans now “live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character” — well then, Obama will win Black and white votes and go on to capture the Democratic nomination and the presidency.
But if you think that racism is still very much alive in America, you can begin to imagine politicians taking that into account, and turning it to their advantage. If Dick Morris is right, intentionally or not, Obama’s massive victory in South Carolina might mark the beginning of his downfall.