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Have the Clintons Lost the Black Community Forever?

Black America Web.com, News Analysis, Jackie Jones Posted: Jun 09, 2008

It was an impromptu event -- a quick e-mail suggesting a gathering at Charlies, a neighborhood bar in Northwest D.C., near Walter Reed Army Medical Center, to celebrate Sen. Barack Obamas victory in the Democratic primary campaign.

The bar, which is usually pretty low-key, had a DJ that night. When the group jumped up on the dance floor and start chanting Obama! Obama! and making Os with their forefingers and thumbs, the deejay started pulling out the old school message music.

Aint no stopping him now. Hes on the move! the group chanted to McFadden and Whiteheads Aint No Stoppin Us Now as they jammed on the dance floor.

Near the end of the evening, new lyrics were ad libbed to Gladys Knights Neither One of Us to poke fun at Democratic rival Sen. Hillary Clinton, with folks waving good-bye at the close of the song. Even later, it was James Browns The Big Payback:" Messin with Obama. That aint right I dont know karate, but I know ca-razy. Yes, we do.

Oh, there was other stuff in between, but it was clear the people who assembled -- and soon, the other patrons of the club -- were in the spirit of celebrating the nomination of a black man as the Democratic nominee for president and enjoying Clintons defeat just as much.

While reporters and pundits talked about how Clinton could make amends with the Democratic Party by bringing her supporters into the fold to support Obama, Clinton and her husband, former President Clinton -- whom Toni Morrison once dubbed the first black president -- have some other fence mending to do. Many black people say the Clintons tore their behinds with the African-American community and may not be able to recapture the favor they once enjoyed.

Can the Clintons make amends after some of the things they and their surrogates said about Obama and, by extension, black people, during the campaign? If so, what can they do?

No, and nothing, Robby Brown, of Silver Spring, Maryland, told BlackAmericaWeb.com. It came down to integrity. Even to the last day (of the campaign), she was still fighting. If she had come out Tuesday acknowledging his win, I think everybody would be cool.

It was clear Tuesday evening that Obama had more than the 2,118 delegates needed to clinch the nomination, even before all the votes were in from the South Dakota and Montana primaries. Clinton, however, in a speech at Baruch College in New York said she would make no decisions that night about where her campaign was headed. Her campaign manager introduced her to the crowd as the next president of the United States, and Clinton emphasized that she had won more votes in the primaries than Obama and refused to say she was ending her campaign.

The Clinton campaign's dismissiveness of Obamas candidacy; the suggestion that voters in the caucus states didnt really represent the will of the people or that black voters were voting solely on the basis of race and that his wins didnt matter because past candidates Rev. Jesse Jackson and/or Rev. Al Sharpton fared well in some of the same states and didnt win the nomination; calling Obamas position on the war a fairy tale; to some, diminishing the work of Martin Luther King, Jr., by saying it took a president for his efforts to reap benefits and, near the end of the campaign, saying Obama had no connection to hardworking white people leaves both the Clintons with a long row to hoe.

I don't think they can ever restore what they destroyed, said Greta Fuller of Southeast Washington. I think that the faith the people had in them was abused.

As far as Im concerned, (the Clintons) didnt earn that faith in the first place. We were deluded about their interest in us, said Verna Avery Brown, who organized the get-together with her husband, Robby.

We were thinking, 'Heres a people that may be trying to look at us as individuals intellectually,' Fuller said, but when it came down to white is white and black is black, they threw down stones that wounded. The wounds may heal, but we now know, 100 percent, where they are. Actually, Im grateful. I can make a decision knowing and say to them, 'You really dont have my back.'

What can they do? They can say, I was wrong to play the race card. Racism is addictive. They can say, My ego makes me confused. They can say, my dreams allowed me to forget who I was and (please) let me redeem myself, Marquette Foley, a D.C. resident told BlackAmericaWeb.com.

According to Joia Jefferson Nuri, a Maryland resident, Clinton would need to go beyond exhorting her followers to support Obama and fall on her sword.

She needs to use her ego and say, Hes the only one who can beat me, so he must be bad! Shes got to bring it down and say, I was just campaigning. I played the (race) card to win.

I was a Clinton supporter all the way, said Tamara Smith, a Silver Spring, Maryland resident, who was not a part of the Obama group.

Smith said she took a lot of heat for being a Clinton supporter, but she saw beyond what she described as political rhetoric.

What people don't seem to understand is it is not so much the comments on the campaign trail that are of critical importance here. Frankly, I got sick and discouraged at all the media hype on he-said-she-said stuff and lack of real focus on issues, solutions to critical problems this nation faces with the war, economy, environment, jobs, etc., Smith told BlackAmericaWeb.com.

The Clintons have always supported black folks in appointments, funding social programs, job training, day care/Head Start, etc. I do not know what the Obama record is -- lots of great speeches, a new change, Harvard educated. So what?

Smith said, however, she would support Obama and the Democratic party only because we must redirect this country as we will continue to face the downward spiral.

Marialice Williams, a black Republican in overwhelmingly Democratic Washington, D.C., said she intends to vote for Obama in the fall, but that she believed the Clintons would be able to make peace with the black community, principally because of the efforts of Jim Johnson on the VP search team.

Williams, who is active in local politics in Washington, told BlackAmericaWeb.com that Johnson, who is a former president of American Express and Fannie Mae, is a major Clinton supporter who would work with the Obama campaign as well as the Democratic Party, and no doubt amends will be made.

By the end of the evening, the crowd at Charlies Bar was still chanting Obamas name on the dance floor, but the energy was focused more on the pride his candidacy instilled.

This is our time, one man said as he walked out. This is our chance. Its the only chance weve got to put our name on this thing. Weve got to do it.

Related Articles:

Leaving the Campaign at Wounded Knee

Clinton Supporters' Anti-Black Attitudes and Why I'm Still a Democrat

Change Comes to the Democratic Party

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