Friday, February 15, 2008

Ready or Not?

The Governor, PA's First Lady and Me at the Governor's Mansion last year.

Last week Pennsylvania Governor Ed Rendell told the Editorial Board of the Pittsburgh-Post Gazette while discussing the Presidential race that, "You've got conservative whites here (in Pennsylvania), and I think there are some whites who are probably not ready to vote for an African-American candidate." He went on to add, "I believe, looking at the returns in my election, that had Lynn Swann [2006 Republican gubernatorial candidate] been the identical candidate that he was --well-spoken, charismatic, good-looking -- but white instead of black, instead of winning by 22 points, I would have won by 17 or so."

See the remarks for yourself here:

The comment sent shockwaves throughout the national political establishment. Ed Rendell, the popular Governor, former District Attorney, Mayor of Philadelphia and DNC Chairman, is well respected in the African-American community. Some have accused Rendell of race baiting and are blaming "a desperate" Clinton camp for sending out surrogates to do their "dirty work". "This is a pattern," complained one poster on the Web site DailyKos. "The Clintons tried to split the race along racial lines as soon as they looked vulnerable."

Mr. Swann, Pennsylvania's 2006 Republican gubernatorial nominee, yesterday issued a scathing critique of Rendell's remarks, calling them "unnecessary, certainly insensitive. I think it's obvious that Ed Rendell is looking for a place to support Mrs. Clinton and took an opportunity to make a statement that would be negative toward her opponent," Mr. Swann said. "There's no need for Ed Rendell to make that comment whatsoever, and I think it's arrogant on his part to make the statement that he still would have won by 17 percent."

As of late the Governor has somewhat peddled from his statement, "I regret saying it because of the way it was interpreted," the governor said recently. "Remember -- I always tell the truth. Maybe I'm wrong, but I tell what my experience has taught me. What's so frustrating about this is that in this business, if you give an honest answer, you get skewered for it," Mr. Rendell said. "If you give the politically correct answer, the press says, 'Aw, that guy, he's just a shucker and jiver and never gives a straight answer.' I get in trouble for telling the truth." Governor Rendell then went to MSNBC to give his side of the story:

We can debate whether the comments were racist, insensitive or misinterpreted. I say that while I have always admired the Governor as the most savvy politician in the Keystone State, he really stepped in a minefield on this one. The bigger question is: Are white Pennsylvanian's ready to vote for Barack Obama, or not? And will Pennsylvania become another South Carolina?


Nish said...

I actually got this 'Pennsylvania is not ready for a black President crap from my dad (who at the time was a Hillary supporter). What I know:
1. There are a number of ways that Rendell could have approached the race issue without being insensitive. I find it hard to believe that one of the most astute political minds in the state and possibly in the country would make such an egregious error. His awe shucks rhetoric is fooling no one.
2. His remark is not in line with the new 'solutions not speeches' talking points of HRC and Co of late. I think he made this on his own. He may have been forced into a HRC endorsement because of their previous support of him but maybe they can't keep him on a leash.
3. Rendell had a 5 county strategy in PA in 2002 and largely ignored the most of the other parts of the state and won close victory partially by being a super-regionally focused. This will likely be at least part of Barack's strategy (for us Westerners, its unfortunately where most of the progressive votes are).

I write all this to say that a smart politician knows how to make remarks and gaffs strategically and
Rendell is one of the better politicians who can do it.

Khari Mosley said...

Good analysis

Khari Mosley said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Schultz said...

Here is my take. The majority of those racists whites are in the "Alabama" section of PA, and those voters are your Republicans residents who vote for the conservatives like Rick Santorum's and Pat Toomey's. I'm not denying that there are racist Democrats in places like Allegheny Co. and the Phill burbs, but these individuals will not play nearly as big of a role in the PA primary than the age of the voters here. It would have made more sense for Rendell to say "well, we have one of the oldest states in the US, and since Hillary's support is strongest among older voters, I think it would be tough for him to win here."

I wrote some posts on this issue over at my daily kos page. I also did a region by region analysis of our state and came away with Clinton 52%, Obama 48%. I think it is close because I think Obama wins Philly and the Philly burbs big time, despite Clinton having Nutter behind her.

Bram Reichbaum said...

In reading your post, it occurred to me that we can't get into the habit of totally castigating whites every time they open their mouths about race. Sometimes they will be clumsy, but dialogue is dialogue and there' no sense in making the subject out to be a "mine-field" to be avoided.

Then again, I agree -- "there are a number of ways that Rendell could have approached the race issue without being insensitive." Did he really say something about 'shucking and jiving', or was that somebody else? I don't know where I heard that, but that strikes me as pretty ew.

rocki said...

thanks for posting that video.

Bram Reichbaum said...

Totally interesting link:

Khari Mosley said...

Bram you're right,

At the same time, White Folks have to be comfortable with Black Folks freaking out when race comes up.

Likewise, Black Folks have to allow White People the space to make akward comments without fear of being ostracized for life.

Bram Reichbaum said...

Which brings us back to Joe Biden. Let us let the two of them Show Us The Way to redemption. ;-)

Rocki934 said...

^^i agree with this analysis^^

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