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The Clinton Firewall

By David Sirota  Posted by David Sirota (about the submitter)     Permalink
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The New York Senator's last-ditch efforts to win the Democratic nomination could rely on the "Race Chasm" and the trampling of democracy.

Google the phrase "Clinton firewall" and you will come up with an ever-lengthening list of scenarios that Hillary Clinton's presidential campaign has said will stop Barack Obama's candidacy. The New Hampshire primary, said her campaign, would be the firewall to end Obamamania. Then Super Tuesday was supposed to be the firewall. Then Texas. Now Pennsylvania and Indiana.

For four months, the political world has been hypnotized by this string-along game, not bothering to ask what this Clinton tactic really is. The "just wait until the next states" mantra has diverted our attention from the firewall's grounding in race and democracy. But now, with only a few months until the Democratic National Convention in Denver, the firewall's true composition is coming into focus. Whether Obama can overcome this barrier will likely decide who becomes the Democrats' presidential nominee.

The Race Chasm

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Since at least the South Carolina primary, the Clinton campaign's message has been stripped of its poll-tested nuance and become a rather crass drumbeat aimed at reminding voters that Obama is black. Whether it is former President Clinton likening Obama's campaign to Jesse Jackson's; Clinton aides telling the Associated Press that Obama is "the black candidate," or Geraldine Ferraro tapping into anti-affirmative action anger by claiming Obama's success is a product of his skin color, barely a week goes by without a white Clinton surrogate injecting race into the nominating contest.

That is one of the twin pillars of the Clinton firewall—a well-honed strategy aimed at maximizing "the Race Chasm." The Race Chasm may sound like a conventional discussion of the black-white divide, but it is one of the least-discussed geographic, demographic and political dynamics driving the contest between Clinton and Obama. I call it the Race Chasm because of what it looks like on a graph. Here's how it works.

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