Criticizing the Bush administration in a Black church on Martin Luther King Day is an easy way to get applause. The crowd is in the palm of the speaker's hand, eager to be inspired and filled with righteous indignation. New York's junior senator, Hillary Rodham Clinton, found herself in just such a situation. She had an audience full of ardent supporters who feel a genuine affection for her and her husband.
At Canaan Baptist Church in Harlem she described Republican one-party rule as being akin to a plantation. Of course, the right wing went into outrage overdrive. If they could just get over their Hillary hatred she would have little appeal, if any.
Of course, she is right about the Republicans. They love being the masters of this country and, they hope, of the entire world. For decades they have nursed fantasies of re-conquest, waiting for the day when they could bring the nation back to the good old days when everyone knew their place.
Democrats behave the way oppressed people usually do — they cow and begin believing that their masters are not only powerful but deserving of the position they hold. Too few dream of waging war against the plantation system. Most just want a seat at the table in the big house and are satisfied when the master doesn't beat them too badly.
Hillary's speech was not very impressive — and neither is she, right-wing blood lust notwithstanding. When she supports legislation to ban flag burning, legislation that she knows is unconstitutional, she insults the people who always rush to her defense.
In the days after Hurricane Katrina destroyed New Orleans, Bill Clinton sucked up to the Bush family and declared that we shouldn't be too critical of them. Hillary now criticizes her yes vote on the Iraq War, sort of. Now she says she "takes responsibility" for her vote and complains that troops who are in Iraq because of her support don't have enough armor.
The week before King Day, Hillary showed her true colors. She and Harry Belafonte were both guests at a Children's Defense Fund luncheon. It is a gross understatement to say that she avoided Belafonte. If he were infected with leprosy and the avian flu, she could not have stayed further away from him.
Belafonte had committed the unpardonable sin of speaking ill of the White and powerful when he quite correctly referred to Bush as a tyrant and a terrorist. The senator went nowhere near his table, stayed at the event for only 15 minutes and refused to comment on his presence or her failure to acknowledge it. She saw nothing wrong with the plantation system on that occasion.
Bill and Hillary are the masters of their own plantation. It is called the Democratic Leadership Council. The DLC exists to make sure that anyone who dares to break free realizes their error and runs back to Tara before sundown. The Democratic Leadership Council has already turned the bright, charismatic Barack Obama into an apologist for the Bush administration:
"Let me say this — I don't think that George Bush is a bad man," Obama said recently. "I think he loves his country. I don't think this administration is full of stupid people ... . The problem isn't that their philosophy isn't working the way it's supposed to — it's that it is. It's that it's doing exactly what it's supposed to do."
Yes, that is what life on the plantation will do to an otherwise intelligent mind. Democratic Leadership Council talking points may make Obama sound like an idiot, but he isn't one. He knows the rules — stick with the leadership council or give up any hope of political aspirations. The Democratic Leadership Council plantation has already chosen the Democratic presidential nominee for 2008, and it is none other than Hillary Clinton.
Just a few short weeks after hurricane Katrina destroyed the Gulf Coast, Belafonte had this to say at the Congressional Black Caucus annual conference. Both Hillary Clinton and Obama were present:
"The most important wreckage to look at is the wreckage of the Democratic party. We must look through the ravages of the Democratic party to see if there is anything worth salvaging."
Margaret Kimberley's Freedom Rider column appears weekly on www.blackcommentator.com.