During this primary cycle, I've been a petulant, narcissistic little bitch because I've been profoundly disappointed with various Democratic candidates' choices to play with fire in terms of race- and gender-baiting, fear-mongering, cuddling up with homophobes, and generally playing politics in ways that I think are anti-progressive.
I'm old enough, savvy enough, and cynical enough to know that these tactics are not "accidental", and I've heard all the arguments that these are just "temporary" strategies of immediate necessity, which will be discarded once the Democratic nomination is settled.
However, I remain principled enough to find such tactics extremely disturbing – not just because of the personal dilemma it creates for me --"Hmmm. Vote for someone who will stoop to race-baiting, or someone who will stoop to gender-baiting? Hmmmm." -- not just because I believe that it threatens the chances of a Democratic presidential win in November – but most importantly, because I think that these tactics damage real people in real ways, and that this damage will resonate far beyond this presidential campaign, regardless of who is nominated, and finally, elected.
Please . . . Open Wide
When Ferraro spouts obviously racist statements (this is a nice way of saying: Drops a big old racist turd in the middle of the living room carpet), and the Clinton campaign does not vigorously distance itself from her immediately – it sends the message: "This is OK!" (or at the very least) "It's not that bad!"
The core of Ferraro's message: "Reverse racism exists! Black people are picking on white people!" – conveyed through a voice of power – a voice of power strongly associated with the word "Democrat" – will, I believe, resonate into the years to come, and will infiltrate the cultural consciousness as some kind of perversely validated viewpoint, and it will impact the daily lives of people of color who are already fighting a mountain of racism . . . . unless . . .
. . . unless it is rejected unequivocally, immediately, and vigorously by all people who identify themselves as Liberal, Democrat, and/or Progressive.
This is the slippery slope that I worried about from the beginning -- when Obama chose to "keep an open ear" to someone like Donnie McClurkin, when Cuomo "shucked and jived" while keeping an unmelted butter-cube in his mouth and claimed it was all about Teh Boxing, when Jackson managed a stunning double-whammy gender/race-bait with "her appearance brought her to tears, but not Hurricane Katrina", when Bill Clinton figuratively patted Obama's head with words like "kid" and "fairy-tale", and Obama figuratively patted Hillary's fanny with a phrase like "periodically feeling down".
However "subtle" these tactics are supposed to be -- or (stretching my imagination to to the extreme outer edges of the known Universe, and then out to the edges of any directly-adjacent Universes) however "unintentional" they were – they are all precedents -- precedents set by powerful people who are considered, by and large, to represent some part of the liberal end of the political spectrum – and they are, in my opinion, awful, horrible, no-good, very-bad treacherous precedents to set.
Actions and words from those in power which say: "It's OK to discount someone else based on their sex or race, as long as you don't really get caught -- and it gets you elected!" can too easily be translated to: "It's OK to fire someone based on their sex or race, as long as you don't really get caught -- and it helps your bottom line!"
And has anyone else noticed that the eroding slope of "liberal ethics" seems to be getting slipperier, and slimier, by the day?
If you don't buy my "Precedents of the Powerful" theory, try thinking back eight years.
Could you, then, even have begun to imagine the erosion of Constitutional Rights that we face today, and the culture of political corruption that is now so commonly accepted that we barely bat an eye when yet another politician is exposed as a hypocrite and a liar?
Rome didn't fall in a day, you know.
The incremental creep of neo-con precedent has, I believe, penetrated deeply into our culture – Confederate flags in Senatorial offices have turned to nooses on college campuses and schoolyards.
I believe that this creepy, creepy creep has also made headway into the heart of the Democratic Party, and that the people who will ultimately suffer will not be the rich and powerful.
Instead, this is who will suffer:
The black man who complains about racism in his law-school classes, who will hear: "You're just attacking me because I'm white! You wouldn't even have gotten in here if they weren't looking for minorities," and who will confront the statement of a noose hung over his door-knob when he returns to his dorm.
The gay kid who protests the inclusion of a homophobic minister at his high school assembly, who will hear: "We're just trying to give an ear to all sides," and who will confront the bullies lingering just outside the school property-line after sixth period.
The woman in a non-traditional job who gets justifiably angry when she's being harassed daily by her co-workers who will hear: "What? Are you 'periodically down' again? Maybe you don't have what it takes -- or maybe you're just trying to manipulate us!", and who will confront the caricature of herself "takin' it doggy-style from the whole crew" pinned to the bulletin board in the break-room.
Those who would be leaders must lead us in a direction that we want to go, and show us how to be better, not worse --
Because shit (unlike economics) actually does "trickle down".