Tuesday, April 1, 2008


It's now months into the primary season, but Hillary and Barack have little to say about urban issues. Why? The Clintons never put urban affairs high on their list, because of the DLC fears that any "targeted" programs (read urban, black, Hispanic) would alienate white suburban voters, keeping them forever locked in the embrace of the GOP. And anyhow there are more deer than people of color in Chappaqua, New York, even counting the army of domestics, gardeners, nannies, and day laborers that descends on upper Westchester every day. (According to the US Census, only 89 blacks live in the Clintons' suburb--only 0.9 percent of the population.)

Obama, from Chicago's South Side, trumpets his work as community organizer, but not early and not often. Even yesterday, on the stump in Pennsylvania, appealing to white working-class voters, Obama kept it vague and non-threatening, so Michael Powell tells us in today's Times.

He often mentions his background as a community organizer but in passing, a parenthetical. Not this time. “I got into public service as an organizer,” Mr. Obama told these 1,200 mostly white Pennsylvanians in a local high school gymnasium. “There were a group of churches, mostly Catholic parishes, and they hired me for $12,000 plus car fare.”

But the bouquet to Catholics and low-wage workers aside, it's not likely that we'll get more specifics on Obama's short career in some of Chicago's toughest neighborhoods, lest he start sounding like Jesse Jackson. So for now, even as the campaign buses head into Philadelphia and Pittsburgh, expect more silence. Urban voters matter for the Dems but urban issues are still a third rail for candidates playing to white suburban voters who would rather sing "We Have Overcome" than admit they are part of the problem.


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