Hillary Clinton’s campaign has drawn fire for statements she or her surrogates have made that have been poorly received by african american voters. Her comment regarding Lyndon Johnson and MLK seems to have drawn the most ire, suggesting that it was Johnson’s presidential powers rather than the commitment and life risking political resistance of MLK and the movement that brought about the passage of the Civil Rights Act. Sen. Clinton is accusing the Obama camp of stirring the pot. Sen. Obama has called her remarks ill-advised, an accurate comment to say the least.
There is a deadly trap in this increasingly vitriolic confrontation for both candidates. For Clinton, she runs the risk of alienating in droves black voters and driving them right into the arms of Obama to lose the nomination. Or, she could win the nomination and lose the election because blacks vote republican or stay home in the general out of anger for the hardball tactics. For Obama, the focus on race could make that the dominant focus of his run, despite his best efforts to prevent race from becoming the sole prism by which his run is evaluated, with the result that non black voters are turned off, draining necessary vitality from his nomination run and his chances in the general.
The race issue carries within it the seeds of destruction for both these campaigns. If they are not careful, they will reap what they sow.