Bill Clinton talks to Democrats in Sacramento in 1995 (C-SPAN Video Screen Shot)
The Democratic party knows that there is considerable political capital in identity politics, no example is truer than the election of Bill Clinton in 1992. After several scandals surfaced during Clinton’s campaign to include him smoking marijuana and accusations of an affair surfaced, Clinton appeared on the Arsenio Hall show to play the saxophone and later that month appeared on MTV. This was a campaign to make Clinton not only look connected to pop culture, but also it was an appeal to the multicultural audiences of these programs.
Politics was substantially kept to Sunday talk shows that only appealed to political buffs or people who could not reach a remote, but the Democratic Party saw their chance to make their candidate seem one of not just any people, but the commonly overlooked minority of the country. This resounding public appeal in the face of growing controversy was a golden ticket for the Democratic Party and they knew as long as they inserted themselves into the public eye where people weren’t looking for politics they could build this image of John Q. American for their candidate. The advent of social media and the ability of the average American to access information proved to be problematic for the Democrats new found plan, parlor tricks and flashy performances were no longer enough post 2000, but they knew as long as they convinced minority voters that they were one of them, they could keep the narrative of detached, racially insensitive Republicans alive and well.
With the successful election of Barack Obama in 2008 the Democratic Party saw that they could run a minority candidate with little to no substance or political gravitas as long as they kept the subject matter on this person becoming the “first.” Barack Obama had very little experience and Republicans were sure to point that out when he ran against John McCain, an elder statesmen and war hero. The Democratic Party sold Barack Obama as the nation’s absolution for the days of slavery and Jim Crow, and thus were able to elect a candidate on little more than being the first black President.
2012 proved to be a tough election for the Democratic Party. The nation had elected the first black President four years prior and therefore absolved itself of previous sin. There was a supply and demand problem for the Left, there was a large demand for a nation full of racists and a truly short supply, so the Democratic Party and the media had to create not just an unrepentant United States, but one that has in fact gone backwards in race relations thus giving birth to inherent bias, cultural appropriation, and white privilege.
The short gains the Democratic Party and the Left has made under these conditions has “painted them into a corner.” Creating a perception that the nation can never truly heal from bigotry as long as it is run by white, heterosexual men has given them the daunting task of trying to run candidates that can’t resemble the enemy they have built for their base to fight. The Democratic Party has played the hand of ending the age of “-ism” so dramatically that running a candidate who has any similarity to the caricature of the privileged white Republican would be a direct contradiction to the promises made by the Democratic Party of ending the systemic bigotry of white America.
Aaron Bierlein is the host of Wrongthink Radio, a weekly podcast discussing politics and culture. You can visit his website at Wrongthinkradio.com