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Jon Robin Baitz

Jon Robin Baitz

Posted: September 27, 2007 10:05 PM

On Race, Betrayal, and My Growing Appreciation of Hillary Clinton (UPDATED SLIGHTLY with a PPS)


Lately there has been some rather over-heated discussion in the papers and on the airwaves about the notion of betrayal.

The unsubtle agitprop "Betray-us or Petraeus" ad (yes, literally untrue, but a useful provocation), became a short-term totem which might re-emerge during the desperate and venal months ahead as an "election issue" to bore the pants off us all. Bush and the remainder of his team, who seem like mid-level Staples floor staffers, must be the actual target for such consideration, not one of his lesser uniformed functionaries.

So the Move-On ad whipped up various bores of the right into a frenzy of priggish obfuscation which in turn fueled a news-cycle or two worth of bush-league outrage in the US Congress and on Fox. The dew-laps on the representatives shook, the speeches were made, scorecards adjusted, Rome continues to burn. Elected Democratic representatives of both genders, in their ever-ugly ill-tailored suits ran for cover, like maladroit and husky kids at a grim game of musical chairs. People turned away from Move-On (and on and on), to watch Kid Nation, Perez Hilton, or Top Chef.

But today, this particular Thursday of 2007, I'll tell you who the real betrayers are, and let's see where the chips fall: The betrayers are every one of those GOP candidates for President who have declined to show up at the African-American voter forum tonight. The betrayers are Romney, Rudy, McCain and the irrelevant and entertaining Thompson.

Race is everything in America today. As much as mismanaged war. As much as fiscal malfeasance. Race is everything. It is at the core of justice and poverty and opportunity and education. Race is everything.

The no-shows, off to their fund-raisers, etc, are betraying a spiritual compact which democracy relies on. Because every white politician in this country running for national office has a huge and terrible compact inherent in the job, an awesome and final responsibility to insist that minority children be thrust into a safe and shining future, an equal one -- a more than equal one.

Because not to attend is a symptom of deep cultural amnesia. Not to attend is to give short-shrift to the civil rights movement itself. It is owed to the memory of Dr. King. Not to answer that call at that forum is to reveal oneself as out of step, out of tune, and out of time. To not go, is to fly over New Orleans and turn around towards Washington, in the manner of the impeachable President we now enjoy. To decline this forum is to reveal a thoughtless pragmatism of the sort that should make one ineligible to even vote let alone run for office.

It is not an act of racism by these men; merely one of shallowness so short-sighted as to be worthy of ideological LASIK surgery.

Whither the romance of a white politico who can excite an unmoved, unimpressed, disenfranchised black electorate? (Oh yeah, they tried to impeach him for lying about his libido.)

And to those who wish to write letters about the stupidity of black Republicans -- don't bother. I don't see why African-Americans shouldn't expect the GOP to offer them an alternative to the anemic soup of the Dems. Every time I write a post, there is a slew of feverish letter writers who reduce the subject at hand to a dullards' game of isolationist and partisan tag.

As I have said before, the mystical and romantic power of this nation is on the wane. The invisible beauty that sometimes runs below the surface of American life is fading away. For years, as a kid, I watched the whites of South Africa become sallow and gummy with indifference and hardness. White politicians in America owe the black electorate their full attention and nothing less. Or else you can hardly blame African Americans for turning to sharpies like Sharpton for leadership and a boost of serotonin, can you?

PS Some months ago I wrote of a run-in I had with Hillary Clinton at an L.A. fundraiser. I watched her on the compulsively entertaining and strangely marvelous Joe Scarborough show last week and found her to be stirring. And then she laughed on FOX like Redford in The Candidate and I liked her even more. The real person was showing up, and she's been running circles around the other would-be nominees. What the hell is happening? Is it that I turned the TV back on, and my brain is no longer whirring away like the dreidel it is?

PPS : Sat, Sept 29. Regarding my after-thought of an observation on Hillary Clinton, which seems to have provoked a number of responses: A slightly closer-reader would note that I did not endorse her in my little PS. That was about mood, tide, an internal, and emotional polling. She was suprising, and it signaled a kind of relaxation in her which was attractive. It could even be construed as an ironic and very back-handed compliment to note that a politician seems more flesh and blood and less mechanical this week than she has in the past. The PS is a minor footnote to my assertion that in order for this country to even approach a condition in which the American dream come near to realizing the mystical glory it craves - as a notion - all of us white people might want to start understanding that we are ALL African-Americans today, or else, we are not Americans at all. Romney, Rudy, the hapless Thomson, and (sadly)
McCain, are, in this bloggers opinion, lesser Americans, and unstatesman-like, because of the choice they made not to bother going to the debate in question.