While lambasting and scolding Republican House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) and Republican Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) for not traveling to Selma over the weekend to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the “Bloody Sunday” march, the mainstream press gave Democrat Hillary Clinton a complete pass for skipping the monumental event.
Clinton was in Florida at a Clinton Foundation event and simply Tweeted that she watched the festivities on television.
— Hillary Clinton (@HillaryClinton) March 7, 2015
The only reason Clinton is the clear frontrunner for her party’s presidential nomination is because there is no credible challenger who can win a significant number of black voters, particularly black women voters, over her. Given the importance of black voters for Clinton’s imminent candidacy and the racial controversies her husband ginned up during her 2008 campaign, it may have been even more important for Hillary Clinton to honor one of the most significant events in the black civil rights movement.
But the mainstream press did not run story after story asking whether the Clintons were taking the black vote for granted like the Republican establishment takes conservatives for granted. They did not pressure her to put the “Bloody Sunday” commemoration ahead of her foundation’s event. Democrats need the black vote to win national elections, but the legacy press did not run thought pieces on the significance of the party’s presumptive presidential nominee skipping such a historic commemoration.
Instead, the mainstream media relentlessly focused on the absence of McConnell and Boehner to try to further their preferred narrative that Republicans are out of touch with minorities.
House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy eventually attended the event. Republican Senator Tim Scott (R-SC) co-sponsored it. Former President George W. Bush was there. So was Alabama Senator Jeff Sessions (R-AL).
But the press started to set the narrative against Republicans–while ignoring Clinton’s potential absence–even before the event and potential Republican attendees had finalized their plans.
“It’s hard to overstate what a dumb decision this is for a party desperate to show that it is comprised of and open to far more people than just old white men,” the Washington Post’s Chris Cillizza wrote. “Politics is in part — and I would argue, in large part — about symbolism. Not sending a top Republican leader to Selma on Saturday suggests Republicans don’t get that.”
Nothing on Hillary’s absence.
He noted that Joe Scarborough, always the first in line to bash Republicans to get the affirmation of mainstream media reporters, declared, “Hey Republican leadership, get your ass down there. Get down there. This is not hard. Don’t golf. Don’t raise money.”
No mention of Hillary.
CNN opined after the event that “the absence of key GOP lawmakers at such a significant anniversary is notable for a party that is seeking to expand its base.” That theme was parroted on its news programs. Left-wing MSNBC also highlighted the “noticeable absences” of Republican leaders at Selma.
Politico, which reported Congressional GOP leaders would not attend the event before McCarthy decided to go, tried its best to amplify the story. It quoted Congressional Black Caucus Chairman G.K. Butterfield as saying that, “It is very disappointing that not a single Republican leader sees the value in participating in this 50th commemoration of the signing of the Voting Rights Act. I had hoped that some of the leadership would attend, but apparently none of them will.”
“The Republicans always talk about trying to change their brand and be more appealing to minority folks and be in touch with the interests of African-Americans. This is very disappointing,” Butterfield reportedly said.
The Congressional Black Caucus said nothing of Hillary Clinton’s absence. And presumably they were not even asked.
In 2007, Obama and Clinton visited Selma together for the “Bloody Sunday” festivities. And it was there that Obama’s ascendancy to the White House arguably began in earnest.
In a powerful speech at the Brown Chapel AME Church in which Obama, who was born in 1965, also falsely credited the 1965 March on Selma with his parents deciding to get married and give birth to him, Obama nevertheless addressed concerns among black voters that he was not “one of them” since he grew up in Hawaii and Indonesia instead of the continental United States.
Months before Obama went to Selma in 2007, Stanley Crouch wrote in the New York Daily News, “Other than color, Obama did not – does not – share a heritage with the majority of black Americans, who are descendants of plantation slaves. Of course, the idea that one would be a better or a worse representative of black Americans depending upon his or her culture or ethnic group is clearly absurd.”
Crouch said then that if Obama decides to run for president, “he will have to run as the son of a white woman and an African immigrant. If we then end up with him as our first black President, he will have come into the White House through a side door–which might, at this point, be the only one that’s open.”
At Selma in 2007, Obama addressed critics like Crouch, declaring that he, too, was coming home to Selma.
“Don’t tell me I’m not coming home to Selma, Alabama,” Obama declared, while engaging in some myth-making, saying he stood on the shoulders of giants who had sacrificed for him and calling for the “Joshua generation” to step up:
This young man named Barack Obama got one of those tickets and came over to this country. He met this woman whose great great-great-great-grandfather had owned slaves; but she had a good idea there was some craziness going on because they looked at each other and they decided that we know that the world as it has been it might not be possible for us to get together and have a child. There was something stirring across the country because of what happened in Selma, Alabama, because some folks are willing to march across a bridge. So they got together and Barack Obama Jr. was born. So don’t tell me I don’t have a claim on Selma, Alabama. Don’t tell me I’m not coming home to Selma, Alabama.
I’m here because somebody marched. I’m here because you all sacrificed for me. I stand on the shoulders of giants. I thank the Moses generation; but we’ve got to remember, now, that Joshua still had a job to do. As great as Moses was, despite all that he did, leading a people out of bondage, he didn’t cross over the river to see the Promised Land. God told him your job is done. You’ll see it. You’ll be at the mountain top and you can see what I’ve promised. What I’ve promised to Abraham and Isaac and Jacob. You will see that I’ve fulfilled that promise but you won’t go there.
Compared to Obama’s stirring address, Hillary’s came off like a politician’s uttering platitudes, and the contrast on that day a year before the 2008 primaries could not have been clearer.
As Clinton started losing caucuses and primaries to Obama a year later and even more ground in polls as it became clear that the wife of the man once dubbed “America’s first black president” was losing the hearts of black voters, who have been the most loyal Democrats and arguably saved Clinton from being removed from office, Bill Clinton became unleashed.
Blacks made up 55% of the party’s primary electorate in the 2008 South Carolina Primary, and they supported Obama over Clinton 79% to 19%, powering him to much-needed win after Obama’s loss to Clinton in New Hampshire. Bill Clinton tried to diminish the victory, though, by comparing Obama to Jesse Jackson.
“Jesse Jackson won South Carolina in ’84 and ’88. Jackson ran a good campaign,” Bill Clinton said then. “And Obama ran a good campaign here.”
The Clinton campaign even admitted that they were trying to marginalize Obama as “the black candidate.” And Bill Clinton had previously angered black voters when he said of Obama’s opposition to the Iraq War, “Give me a break. This whole thing is the biggest fairy tale I’ve ever seen.”
The Clintons left a bad taste in the mouths of many black voters after their ’08 campaign against Obama, and they could surely build more bridges to the black community ahead of Clinton’s run. But the mainstream media decided it would focus on trying to amplify its preferred narrative that Republicans are intolerant instead of asking questions about Clinton’s absence that could potentially damage the often unchallenged one that black voters will enthusiastically embrace a Hillary Clinton candidacy.