Ayers, Dohrn accuse Hillary of 'white supremacy'
Unrepentant radicals charge 2008 elections had 'racist' undertones
November 12, 2009
By Aaron Klein
JERUSALEM Hillary Clinton's 2008 campaign for the Democrat
nomination deliberately appealed to white supremacy, fear and
anxiety, charged longtime Barack Obama colleague and Weatherman
terrorist William Ayers and wife, Bernardine Dohrn.
In a co-authored article in the socialist Monthly Review magazine,
[see below] the two radicals argued last year's national elections
had "racist" undertones and that President Obama's ascent to power
can be used to "build a new society."
"[Hillary] Clinton flagrantly appealed to white voters' identity as
'workers' or 'women' offering white people any reason to vote
against Obama without saying he's black and followed the ancient
and dismal road of racial discourse that appeals to white supremacy,
fear and anxiety," wrote Ayers and Dohrn.
The two referenced a New York Times opinion piece by feminist
activist Gloria Steinem, "Women are Never Front-Runners," written on
the eve of the New Hampshire primary. Steinem argued the gender
barrier had not yet been broken and asked, "Why is the sex barrier
not taken as seriously as the racial one?"
Ayers and Dohrn charged Steinem had asserted a "superior victim
status on the part of white, powerful women."
The duo went on to claim the 2008 presidential elections had racist
"The invisible race talk was about 'blue collar' or 'working class'
or 'mainstream' or 'small town' or 'hockey mom' or 'Joe the plumber,'
but we were meant to think 'white,'" they wrote.
Continued Ayers and Dohrn: "All the talk of Senator Barack Obama's
exotic background, all the references to him as 'unknown, 'untested,'
a 'stranger,' or a 'symbolic candidate,' or 'alien,' a 'wildcard,' or
an 'elitist.' ... The discourse was all about race, us and them,
understood by everyone in the United States even when the words
African American, black or white are not spoken."
The couple, however, took pride in Obama's win.
They said Obama's presidency "calls for us to have to agitate for
democracy and egalitarianism, press harder for human rights, link the
demands that animate us, and learn to build a new society through our
collective self-transformations and our limited everyday struggles.
"We must seek ways to live sustainably; to stop the addiction to
consumption and development and military power; to become real actors
and authentic subjects in our own history," they wrote.
The two added, "Now their experience can be put to use mobilizing
those same people to insist on the changes they imagined."
Ayers became a name in last year's presidential campaign when it was
disclosed the radical worked closely with Obama for years.
Ayers, and his wife, Dohrn, were two of the main founders of the
Weather Underground, which bombed the New York City Police
headquarters in 1970, the Capitol in 1971 and the Pentagon in 1972.
The group was responsible for some 30 bombings aimed at destroying
the defense and security infrastructures of the U.S.
Characterizing Weathermen as "an American Red Army," Ayers summed up
the organization's ideology: "Kill all the rich people. Break up
their cars and apartments. Bring the revolution home, Kill your parents."
"Everything was absolutely ideal on the day I bombed the Pentagon,"
Ayers recalled in his 2001 memoir, "Fugitive Days." "The sky was
blue. The birds were singing. And the bastards were finally going to
get what was coming to them."
Ayers brandished his unrepentant radicalism for years to come, as
evidenced by his now notorious 2001 interview with the New York
Times, published one day after the 9/11 attacks, in which he stated,
"I don't regret setting bombs. I feel we didn't do enough."
Ayers posed for a photograph accompanying the New York Times piece
that showed him stepping on an American flag. He said of the U.S.:
"What a country. It makes me want to puke."
Ayers and Dohrn helped launch Obama's political career with a
fundraiser in their home. WND columnist Jack Cashill has produced a
series of persuasive arguments that it was Ayers who ghostwrote
Obama's award-winning autobiography, "Dreams from My Father."
What Race Has to Do With It
Bill Ayers and Bernardine Dohrn
Who could have imagined the 2008 presidential campaign?
Commentators, media people, and especially politicians fell all over
themselves proclaiming that the 2008 election had, "nothing at all to
do with race." And yet every event, every speech and comment, every
debate and appearance had race written all over it. Stephen Colbert,
the brilliant satirist, hit it on the head when he asked a Republican
operative, "How many euphemisms have you come up with so far so that
you won't have to use the word 'Black?'" Everyone laughed good-naturedly.
It turns out that they and everyone else had plenty. When Senator
Hillary Clinton spoke of "hard-working American workers," everyone
knew who she meant, but just in case anyone missed it, she added,
"white workers." The invisible race talk was about "blue collar" or
"working class" or "mainstream" or "small town" or "hockey mom" or
"Joe the plumber," but we were meant to think "white." All the talk
of Senator Barack Obama's exotic background, all the references to
him as "unknown," "untested," a "stranger," or a "symbolic
candidate," or "alien," a "wildcard," or an "elitist," which one
Georgia congressman admitted meant "uppity," all the creepiness
packed into the ominous "what do we really know about this man?," and
all the questioning of his patriotism, the obsession with what went
on in his church (but no other candidate's place of worship)all of
it fed a specific narrative: he's not a real American, he's not
reliable, he's the quintessential mystery man. The discourse was all
about race, us and them, understood by everyone in the United States
even when the words African American, black, or white are not spoken.
Anyone who dared to point to these proxies and to call them
euphemisms for race was promptly accused of being a racist, and, of
course, of playing the ever-useful race card.
In this carnival atmosphere throbbed the omnipresent and not so
clandestine campaign drumbeats that the senator from Illinois is a
secret Muslim, that because his father was a Muslim, the son is
forever a Muslimassuming, of course, that faith in Islam is
disqualifying. In a year of loopy ironies, it took a conservative
Republican, retired general, and disgraced Bush secretary of state
Colin Powell, to vigorously call the question, movingly insisting
that it should be perfectly fine to be an American Muslim, and a
president. In a perfect storm, Powell was immediately accused by
white commentators of siding with his race.
Then there was the lethal mix of gender, race, ethnicity, and class.
In the wake of Obama's primary win in the "heartland" (white) state
of Iowa, the Clinton campaign escalated. Gloria Steinem's Op Ed in
the New York Times on primary eve in New Hampshire, "Women are Never
Front-Runners," laid down the gauntlet, asserting a hierarchy of
oppression, claiming that it was women who were the most despised,
vilified, and unfairly treated by the media and by historycompared
to the (supposed) deference to black men. "Why," she wrote, "is the
sex barrier not taken as seriously as the racial one?" Steinem's
intervention made a dichotomy of race and gender, and instead of a
complex analysis of the breakthroughs of discriminatory barriers,
here was an assertion of superior victim status on the part of white,
powerful women. It obliterated the half of African Americans who are
women, and the half of women in the United States who are women of
color. Intending to highlight the real river of misogynist venom
unleashed against Clinton, it posed and perpetuated racial division
rather than intersection and unitythe popularly recognized hallmarks
of the Obama campaign.
Hillary and Bill Clinton seized on this framing of feminism as a
white women's concern with escalated race talk. Hillary proclaimed on
Fox News, "I don't think any of us want to inject race or gender in
this campaign." But the Clintons promptly resorted to the well-worn
"Southern strategy" in South Carolina and the border states. They
dismissively referred to Reverend Jesse Jackson's historic campaigns
of 1984 and 1988 as purely race-based, rather than recognizing the
unique "rainbow" coalition that included white workers, farmers, and
professionals and was to be a harbinger of the Obama campaign.
Clinton flagrantly appealed to white voters' identity as "workers" or
"women"offering white people any reason to vote against Obama
without saying he's blackand followed the ancient and dismal road of
racial discourse that appeals to white supremacy, fear, and anxiety.
In fact, the prolonged Democratic primary served to chart the Rovian
path the Republicans would later hone and utilize in the general
election against Obama. Combined with their brazen strategies of
voter suppression, demagoguery, and hate, the defense of the color
line would become the core of the McCain/Palin convention and
subsequent attack machine. dfsFabricated issues of "character,"
values, and patriotism dominated the discourse, appeals were floated
to white voters' racial resentments and fears, and the deliberate
marketing of the Republican Partyour kids used to call them
"Repulsicans"as the bastion of white peoples' interests saturated
targeted states across the land.
On March 18, 2008, Barack Obama delivered an epic, masterful speech
in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania on race and identity. Senator Obama's
talk was called, "A More Perfect Union," and it tapped a deep longing
to be free from the racialized straightjacket of anxiety, fear, and
separation. The comedian Jon Stewart got it right when he said, "He
treated the American public as if we were adults!" Obama managed to
frame the discussion of racial justice in terms of broad American unity.
The speech was designed to redeem his campaign momentum in the wake
of relentless, replaying videos of a line delivered by Reverend
Jeremiah Wright, Obama's pastor, after September 11. In it Wright
challenges Americans to question the nation's sense of exceptional
goodness, and the refrain "God bless America" in light of our
history. It was an edgy sermon to be sure, and apparently most
dangerous of all, it was delivered by an angry black man. Using a
technique honed by the far right over thirty years, the media seized
upon and de-contextualized a sentence from Wright's lifetime work,
characterizing him as "ranting," "raving," and "divisive." Liberals
joined the discrediting party, referring to him as that "loony
preacher," spewing "bigoted and paranoid rantings." In reality
Reverend Wright's sermons were no more incendiary than everyday
conversations when white people aren't looking or listening, or than
Dr. Martin Luther King's sermons a generation before.
In contrast Senator McCain's active association with the Reverends
Hagee, Parsley, and Robertson and the remarks by Governor Sarah
Palin's Pentacostal "spiritual warfare" and "prayer warriors"
ministry remained unmemorable and apparently unremarkable. Hagee's
political preaching remained in the realm of the acceptable,
including his assertions that AIDs is an incurable plague, God's
curse against a disobedient nation, until an audio clip surfaced in
which he preached that what Hitler did in the Holocaust was God's
plan to drive Europe's Jews back to the land of Israel. Only then,
did McCain disassociate himself from his insidious religious flock.
Nothing stopped the McCain and Palin campaign from agitating,
encouraging, or at the very least tolerating shouts of "Kill him!"
when Obama was verbally attacked by the candidates from the stump.
The candidates' failure to aggressively disassociate themselves from
such threats appeared to have lost them a significant part of the
independent electorate, and all moral credibilityan encouraging
development. The right-wing attack on Congressman John Lewis's mild
rebuke, however, comparing these white crowds to segregationist
supporters of Governor Wallace forty years previously, again
illuminated the incendiary role of race.
As soon as Barack Obama began winning primary battles, Michelle
Obama, the senator's brilliant, accomplished wife, became a target
for the far right-wing haters. Brazen commentators mixed up a bitter
brew of misogyny and racism, and sloshed it generously throughout the
blogosphere: she's anti-American; she's a disgruntled and hectoring
black nationalist seething with unresolved racial rage; she's
Reverend Wright but with estrogen and even more testosterone; she's a
ball-breaker who wears the pants in the family. Maureen Dowd referred
to the attacks as "Round Two of the sulfurous national game of 'Kill
Demonizing Michelle Obama began in earnest when, in February 2008,
she said that because of her husband's campaign, hope was sweeping
the nation, and that, "For the first time in my adult life, I am
really proud of my country." Those fifteen words were played over and
over in a stuttering loop of outrage on right-wing cable, and stood
as absolute proof that she (and he) came up fatally short in the
"real American" department. In this narrative, uncritical
pride-in-country is assumed to be a given, the default of all the
good people; anyone who can separate affection for people, a land, an
ideal from the actions of a state or a government is a de facto
traitor. There's absolutely no room here for refusal or resistance,
for criticism, skepticism, doubt, complexity, nuance, or even
thought. Citizenship equals obedience. Right-wing "commentator" Bill
O'Reilly's first reaction to Michelle Obama's proud-of-my-country
comment was to say, "I don't want to go on a lynching party against
Michelle Obama unless there's evidence, hard facts, that say this is
how the woman really feels." Interestingly, almost no one remembers
her joy in the expanding and participatory electorate she was seeing,
in contrast to her relatively mild critique, because the "first time"
never stopped repeating. And almost no one recalls O'Reilly's
racialized threat of personal violence because it conveniently
disappeared from the media's discourse without a trace.
Fox News called her "Obama's baby mama," derogatory slang for an
unwed mother. (Fox later apologized.) The National Review featured
her on its cover as a scowling "Mrs. Grievance," and referred to
Trinity United Church of Christ as a "new-segregationist ghetto of
Afrocentric liberation theology." It is always black people who have
to clarify an unstated assumption (as if John and Cindy McCain's
church, like George Bush's and Ronald Reagan's, are models of
"post-racial," integrated America). Take a look. It's like the famous
question: "Why are all the black kids sitting together in the
cafeteria?" The white kids never explain why they sit together.
On the night Barack Obama claimed the nomination, he walked on stage
with Michelle and she turned and gave him a pound or a dap, a playful
and affectionate little fist bump. It flew around the Internet like
topsyreviewed, debated, photo-shopped, commented uponuntil E. D.
Hill called it a "terrorist fist jab" on Fox News and that proved to
be one step too farHill was ridiculed and scorned and eventually
apologized. Simultaneously, of course, it was seized upon and
imitated by new waves of young admirers.
But Michelle Obama had become an established, larger-than-life target
for racial and gender animus on conservative blogs. Where were the
(white) feminists to defend her and decry the rot? And the liberals
seemingly can't help themselves eitherthe New York Times ran a
positive puff piece on her in which they noted that compared to her
husband, "Michelle Obama's image is less mutable. She is a black
American, a descendent of slaves and a product of Chicago's
historically black South Side. She tends to burn hot where he banks
cool, and that too can make her an inviting proxy for attack." So
much racialized and racist craziness packed into three short sentences.
In the aftermath it's time to remember that President Lyndon Johnson,
the most effective politician of his generation, was never involved
in the Black Freedom Movement, although he did pass far-reaching
legislation in response to a robust and in many ways revolutionary
movement in the streets. Franklin Delano Roosevelt was not a labor
leader, and yet he presided over critical social and pro-labor
legislation in a time of radical labor mobilization in shops and
factories across the land. And Abraham Lincoln was not a member of an
abolitionist political party, but reality forced upon him the freeing
of an enslaved people. Each of these three responded to grassroots
movements for social justice on the ground.
And it's to movements on the ground that we must turn as we think
beyond this election or the next, and considerin the midst of
massive economic calamitythe problems and possibilities of building
a future of peace and love and justice. We may not be able to will a
movement into being, but neither can we sit idly waiting for a social
movement to spring full grown, as from the head of Zeus. We have to
agitate for democracy and egalitarianism, press harder for human
rights, link the demands that animate us, and learn to build a new
society through our collective self-transformations and our limited
everyday struggles. We must seek ways to live sustainably; to stop
the addiction to consumption and development and military power; to
become real actors and authentic subjects in our own history.
It is surely a unique, awe-inspiring moment. The Obama campaign
offered up a new paradigm, activated young people under thirty who
have not heretofore exercised the franchise, and illustrated that
substantial numbers of white people and Latino people and
Asian-American people would indeed vote for a black man. A new
generation has learned the tools of campaigning, community
organizing, and political discourse and debate. Now their experience
can be put to use mobilizing those same people to insist on the
changes they imagined. Within the context of cultivating the tacit
myth of being a post-racial society, the Obama campaign inspired and
mined a deeper longing for humanizing racial unityeven racial unity
based on justice. There is change in the airevidence that the
population has travelled some distanceas well as the familiar stench
of a racist history.
Our favorite moment came in the heat of the primary battle when now
President Obama was asked who he thought Martin Luther King Jr. would
support, Clinton or himself. Without hesitation, he responded that
Reverend King would be unlikely to support or endorse either of them,
because he'd be in the streets building a movement for justice. That
seems exactly right.