The Ostroy Report
May 20, 2008
And there you have it. The mother of all race cards. The thing that so many Democrats have quietly feared but haven’t actually voiced. But one conservative pundit, Michelle Bernard, has been the only talking-head so far who’s had either the bravado or the stupidity–I’m not exactly sure which–to actually say it out loud.
Appearing on MSNBC’s Hardball with Chris Matthews Monday night, Bernard was part of a roundtable group discussing the Democratic primary battle between Sen. Hillary Clinton and Sen. Barack Obama. Near the program’s end the conversation turned to the likelihood that Obama will end up with a majority of delegates Tuesday, and what impact that would have on the remaining unpledged super delegates in closing out this rancorous nomination process. Bernard boldy predicted: "Hillary Clinton’s gonna become the Ron Paul of the Democratic Party. There is no way the super delegates can take this away from Barack Obama. There will be race riots in the street if he wins enough super delegates…" And with that supremely irresponsible, reckless, race-baiting comment she was abruptly cut-off by an incredulous Matthews as he closed the show.
Bernard, president of the Independent Women’s Forum, a conservative women’s group founded in 1992 has, for some reason, become as ubiquitous on MSNBC as Matthews himself. She appears almost nightly on Hardball, and can also be found on the cable network’s other political programs. First of all, she’s a conservative, but is rarely if ever introduced as one. Next, she consistently showers Obama was such effusive on-air praise and support that one has to wonder whether or not there’s some ulterior motive in play. Bernard’s no dummy. She studied philosophy and political science at Howard University and received her law degree from Georgetown. It’s at least fair to ask if Bernard’s secret mission, suspected of so many other right-wingers in the media, is to promote Obama so feverishly because they believe they’d have a better chance of defeating him in November rather than Clinton?
But let’s get back to the main issue here. The issue of Bernard’s incredible race-baiting declaration. The whole primary process has driven both Democrats and Republicans mad. Many have done and said things that make absolutely no sense, that is of course unless race is the underlying factor. Let’s take the whole super-delegate issue, for example. As every student of politics knows, the super delegate system was implemented 25 years ago to give party leaders and officials the power to decide the election if no candidate obtains the required minimum delegates; to choose a nominee if they felt that the people were sending an unelectable candidate into the general election. This was prompted by the weak campaigns of George McGovern in 1972 and Jimmy Carter in 1980. The responsibility of this elite group would be to ultimately decide, in extremely close elections exactly like the current Obama/Clinton battle in which neither candidate will reach the required 2209 pledged delegates necessary to win the nomination, who gets to represent the party in November. Dems da rules, kids. I ain’t makin’ this stuff up.
But something very strange has happened in 2008. People are forgetting the rules. People are forgetting why super delegates exist. People are saying that Obama should get the nomination simply because, on the last day of primaries, June 3rd, he’ll have more delegates than Clinton. Wouldn’t life be grand if it were that simple. If all a candidate needed was "the most" delegates we wouldn’t have a 2209 minimum; we wouldn’t need or have super delegates. We would simply just play out all the primaries and award the prize to the one who leads the delegate count at the end. No need to assess momentum, popular vote, overall electability or anything else.
Now, I’m going to go out on a very big limb here and say that race is at the root of this 2008 willful forgetfulness. That the rules are being overlooked because Obama is black. Because Democrats, as a general rule, are so insanely obsessed with being politically-correct that they cannot stomach the thought of how they’d be perceived within the black community if Obama’s anticipated coronation were to be overturned. That yes, in the incendiary words of Bernard, there might even be…ssshhhh…get closer, I don’t want to say this too loudly…"race riots in the streets" if this happened. So as a result, we have a legion of Democrats, Obama supporters, party officials and pundits declaring for months now that "it’s over" and that Clinton should exit and let Obama assume what’s rightfully his….rather than go about the process as the party intended 25 years ago when it created the super delegate system.
Now I know the above supposition will not make me popular. In fact, some might even say I’m crazy….maybe even call me a racist for it. But ya know what’s really crazy? It’s the ridiculous notion that the super delegate system wouldn’t be operating as the party leaders planned had this year’s tight battle been between two white men such as Sens. Joe Biden and Chris Dodd. Would we be pounding the table in absolute, unconditional support for Dodd if perhaps he led Biden by 150 delegates at the end of the primaries, but well short of the 2209 minimum? Would all the media’s talking heads be saying… "Dodd’s ahead by 150 delegates…how could the super delegates overturn the will of the people…that’s unjust!" Would party officials and the media be rushing to get Biden out of the race early so that the "rightful nominee," Dodd, could declare victory? Hell no. There’d be all sorts of back-room analyzing and maneuvering to decide which of these old white guys would be best to send into the general election against the other side’s old white guy. And that would be it. Just as the party planned it 25 years ago. And there’d be no rioting in the streets. Unless of course, had Dodd lost, the Connecticut Starbucks crowd took to the streets and started pelting the police with their grande double-decaf whipped low-fat mocha lattes.
Will super delegates abdicate their ultimate responsibility and send into the general election someone who they might feel is not the best, most electable candidate because they fear the repercussions of the black community and the PC police? Will Democrats simply close their eyes, cross their fingers and hope for the best this November? Is losing in November more palatable perhaps than being labeled a racist, who overturned the "will of the people" or who may have even caused…race riots?
The simple truth is, Hillary Clinton, for all her warts and unpopularity, has certainly given super delegates a fairly compelling narrative. Technically, she leads in popular vote; she has won most of the big, core blue states; has captured the critical Democratic base of white working class, women, seniors, Hispanics and Catholics; and, since March 1, has racked up more delegates and popular votes than Obama. Now before the Obamacans start frothing at the mouth, I’m not saying that these facts should make her, not Obama, the nominee. I’m not saying it should materially change anything. What I am saying though, is that these factors should rightfully give pause to the super delegates, and the media, so that the process, and both candidates, can be fully flushed out and vetted before anyone is coronated. That we should at least let the system work as the party leaders planned 25 years ago before we have a rabid chorus of "quit" from everyone. Again, would all this be happening if the names were Dodd and Biden instead of Clinton and Obama? I suspect not. And that’s a damned shame.
On another note, we could use your help at The The Adrienne Shelly Foundation. We are a tax-exempt, non-profit organization dedicated in my wife’s honor to help carry out her spirit and passion, with the goal of assisting women filmmakers. Adrienne was brutally killed in NYC on November 1, 2006. Through the Foundation, her commitment to filmmaking lives on. We’ve established scholarships, grants, finishing funds and living stipends at NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts/Kanbar Institute of Film; Columbia University; American Film Institute; Women in Film; the Independent Feature Project; the Nantucket Film Festival; and the Sundance Institute. We’re very pleased to announce that one of last year’s grant recipients, Cynthia Wade, just won an Oscar for Best Documentary Short Subject for "Freeheld." We are proud of Cynthia and to have supported this film. Your generous contribution will go a long way towards helping us continue to achieve our very important mission.
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