Can The DNC Heal Itself Now?

The short and sweet of it is that the Democratic National Committee’s rules and bylaws committee decided to seat all of Florida and Michigan’s delegates at the convention in August. The catch? They only get a half-vote. This is meant to penalize them for moving up their primaries, which they did against the established rules. The decision keeps Obama’s lead in tact.

Enter angry Clinton supporters who are claiming that the Democratic Party is throwing the election away. Clinton supporter, Harriet Christian, went so far as to call Senator Obama an “inadequate black man.”

Can you imagine the fallout if an Obama supporter had been quoted in the media calling Clinton an ‘inadequate woman,’ let alone an ‘inadequate white woman?’ The media would have a field day - no make that week!

At general election time, I fully expect the Republican Party to try and incite mass hysteria at the polls under the guise of morality - and the Old Testament. What I don’t expect is for members of my own party to throw temper tantrums and put aside common sense by choosing to side with the opposition just because their candidate is losing.

These alleged Democrats - the same ones screaming for universal healthcare, gay marriage and ending the war in Iraq - are willing to throw it all away if their candidate doesn’t get the nomination.

Statements of Obama being an “inadequate black man” clearly show that the Democratic Party, as liberal as we might want to claim ourselves to be, still carry anti-black attitudes among its rank and file members. Attitudes that up until this point were for the most part covert, but over the past year have now become blatantly overt as Clinton supporters lash out in anger - and desperation.

I’d like to believe that the anger expressed by Clinton’s supporters is because of their devotion to her as a candidate and because of perceived injustices. But after a bevy of racist comments from both the Clintons and their supporters, I am more inclined to believe that there is a strong segment of Democrats, mostly white, who see Obama’s ascension as threatening, and it has nothing to do with Clinton’s experience.

I came to this conclusion after repeated charges by Clinton supporters that if she didn’t win the nomination that they were either not going to vote Democrat or were going to vote for McCain. Well, that and Clinton’s own admission that she’s the more electable candidate (which if you listen closely sounds a lot more like she’s touting her skin color rather than her experience).

This is much bigger than the notion that Clinton is the better candidate. If it was about her being the better candidate, then it would have been Obama is an “inadequate man” verses an “inadequate black man.” Clinton supporter Geraldine Ferraro would have blamed Obama’s popularity on his sex rather than his race. No, this is about the fear related to the unresolved racial tension between black and white America in a country that has yet to officially apologize for its role in slavery and the years of institutionalized racism that followed. It has left a bitter taste in the mouth of many blacks.

With my one Democratic vote, I know I can voice my opposition against the Republican Party, their failed policies, and conservative principles that further promote economic and social depression.

What I struggle with is how to voice opposition in my own party, where even those elected to represent my interests have conformed to the point where their own status within the party and with the Clinton’s has taken precedence over standing up against the party’s recent racist tirades. Tirades that, while mainly directed towards Obama, are a direct reflection of the party’s lingering anti-black attitudes among some of its white members.

There’s all this talk of party unification among Obama and Clinton supporters going into November, but very little has been said about reconciling with black Democrats. After it’s all been said and done, they have spent the last year watching Obama being called everything but a nigger (in public) and his wife Michelle a ‘washer woman.’

As one of those black Democrats, am I expected to just turn the other cheek and continue on in a party that is fine having blacks as members, but divided on whether or not we’re capable of serving as leaders or the Commander-in-Chief?

It’s been 37 years since Democratic Representatives Shirley Chisholm, William Clay, George Collins, John Conyers, Ronald Dellums, Charles Diggs, Augustus Hawkins, Ralph Metcalfe, Parren Mitchell, Robert Nix, Charles Rangel, Louis Stokes, and DC Delegate Walter Fauntroy founded the Congressional Black Caucus. And even though Democrats are on the verge of having a black presidential nominee, and we have 43 members currently serving in the CBC, the Democratic Party itself has been and continues to be mostly white led (male and female).

From the DNC officers and Democratic Party organizational leadership, black faces are far and few between on the leadership pages, which could explain the lingering pre-Reconstruction, anti-Black attitudes among some white Democrats regarding Obama’s ascendancy.

Earlier this year, California Representative and CBC member Diane Watson said that when people her age in the party are dead and gone, people Obama’s age and younger could come in and run things. I just don’t think I can wait until then—in fact, I don’t think the country can wait until then.

We need change now. Not just a change in the White House, but change in our own party before we self-implode. For far too long, black voters have participated in political deference when we should be asking our CBC brothers and sisters why (regardless of whom they are supporting for president) they are silent when members of the party refer to their colleague (Obama is in the CBC), as an “inadequate black man?”

If he’s an inadequate black man, what does that make them? The Democrats need to be challenged on why minorities, females, and those under 30 are encouraged to vote, but not to lead. Why is it that when they attempt to lead their voices are quickly drowned out? I need to know why it’s more of an asset in California to be a gay male or female in the Democratic Party than to be black—straight or gay.

Obama says it’s time for ‘change’ and Clinton says that she’s got the ‘experience.’ Well my experience with change is that it doesn’t come without a struggle, but it does come. If I owe anything to these two candidates, it’s gratitude for awakening the need to ask why and to challenge the status quo in my own party, which is much more gratifying at the end of the day than walking away in disgust with the whole damn process and declaring myself an Independent.

Jasmyne Cannick is a critic and commentator based in Los Angeles who writes about pop culture, race, class, sexuality, and politics as it relates to the African-American community. A regular contributor to NPR’s ‘News and Notes,’ she was chosen as one Essence Magazine’s 25 Women Shaping the World. She can be reached at www.jasmynecannick.com or www.myspace.com/jasmynecannick.

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