What Sparked the Racial Debate?
Sen. Clinton was fighting accusations that she diminished the role that Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. played in the creation of the Civil Rights Act. In a nutshell, it came across—to some people—that she was downplaying his contribution and propping up the role of President Lyndon Johnson. In essence, it was perceived that she was saying that it took a White man to save Black folks by passing the Civil Rights Act, despite how great Dr. King may have been.
Now, I also want to explain why I believe the entire race-based discussion that rampaged all weekend was legitimately sparked by her comments. Let’s quickly look at the context for why Sen. Clinton felt compelled to make comments about Dr. King and LBJ.
1. At the New Hampshire debate, Sen. Clinton said that Sen. Obama shouldn’t give Americans “false hope” with promises of change in the country.
2. Sen. Clinton also said that words were great, but that change was hard work.
3. Sen. Obama had a very powerful counter-argument about change leading to some of the greatest moments in our history. He spoke of Dr. King and JFK. And, he said that we shouldn’t diminish the power of words. He said that when Americans are inspired, great things can happen.
4. Sen. Clinton had no response to this argument.
5. Later, Sen. Clinton (probably after consulting with her advisers because they thought Sen. Obama’s argument might get some traction for him) made a statement to Fox News in response to what he said about the power of words. In that interview, she said that Dr. King was a great orator and an inspiration, BUT it took Lyndon Johnson to sign the Civil Rights Act into law.
Sen. Clinton’s entire counter-point against Sen. Obama—to the American people—was that he might be a great speaker and he may inspire you, but that doesn’t amount to the kind of power that can get things done or change laws/lives. Only the President can sign laws/get things done.
She needed to prop up the role of president simply to take a swipe at Sen. Obama’s ability to move people through speech. By diminishing the power words, she felt she could diminish some of the sparkle of Sen. Obama. You know the cliché, all talk and no action. I think she was trying to prop up the role of president, in general, to counter Obama’s message. She inadvertently ended up coming across as though she was diminishing Dr. King. She created a hornet’s nest of problems in the process because it clearly was her intent to diminish “the speaker.” Dr. King got swept up in that line of defense against Sen. Obama.
Now that the background is done, let’s get to Johnson and Rangel in the post, below.
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