- The Washington Times - Wednesday, March 19, 2008

If the Democratic Party’s presidential primary gets any more divisive, will “Gone Fishin’ ” become more than just the title of Walter Mosley’s mystery novel?

“Going fishing” is the growing threat I’ve heard repeated among disgruntled Democrats this weekend, starting publicly on PBS’ “Charlie Rose” show. Heated comments from call-in viewers — as well as those on Internet blogs — raise the specter of a disillusioned black electorate sitting out the November general election.

In a typical exchange, one D.C. businessman and former city bureaucrat who considers himself a “political junkie” warned that if Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton of New York “gets the nomination, black folks are going fishing in November.”

Whether they are willing to admit it publicly, as this man would not, black voters who support Sen. Barack Obama of Illinois are beginning to express concerns about his prospects. Some see old sinister hands at work to undermine the front-runner’s unexpectedly successful campaign.

Proposed changes in the Democratic National Committee’s primary rules that would allow Florida and Michigan voters a second shot, a suspicion about the unpledged superdelegates and the increasing use of race-baiting in the political discourse are not helping to alter the perception among black voters that the party’s leadership is at work in some backroom to discount the popular vote.

And in politics, perception can morph into fact.

D.C. activist Lawrence Guyot, an Obama supporter, recalls when he was a member of the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party and how its actions changed Democratic National Convention rules in 1964. President Lyndon B. Johnson settled the dispute over recgonizing the Mississippi delegation before the convention to avoid a floor fight that the president assumed would divide the party permanently.

This year, Mr. Guyot is concerned about a repeat performance in August at national convention in Denver. He sees the unfortunate race-baiting in the campaign as costing Democrats the general election and says it “has the potential of retreating to the racial dialogue of 1958.”

So he sent out a three-page letter this weekend to hundreds of party leaders, the press and activists across the country at his own expense to offer a cautionary history lesson.

Mr. Guyot is calling on local and national Democratic Party leaders to stop the primary process immediately and declare the presidential nominee as the one who has won the most primaries and delegates at this point, i.e. Mr. Obama.

Such a move, he says, would prevent a destructive floor fight at the Democrats’ nominating convention, a fight that could discourage the party’s most loyal voting bloc — blacks — from participating in November’s general election.

“Blacks and whites of good will want to send the message to Hillary to get out, that it’s over. Mathematically, the nomination can’t be won by either camp; therefore, the only purpose of continuing this [primary process] is the destruction and disqualification of Barack Obama,” Mr. Guyot said.

“The destruction of [Mr. Obama] to maintain a dynasty will have black people going fishing in November,” he added.

The aforementioned D.C. political junkie said simply, “If this [campaign] becomes a fight about race, then a black man can’t win.” He noted that Mr. Obama cannot win without white voters and Mrs. Clinton cannot win without black voters. A split Democratic Party favors the presumptive Republican nominee, Sen. John McCain of Arizona.

The political junkie sounded like conspiracy theorists on black talk radio. He said all of the talk about race last week — from former vice-presidential candidate Geraldine Ferraro’s suspect comments to the fire-and-brimstone rantings of the Rev. Jeremiah Wright, Mr. Obama’s pastor — is part of a strategy to diminish Mr. Obama, but the outcome will diminish the Democratic Party in the long run.

Read Frank Schaeffer’s March 16 blog at HuffingtonPost.com. He writes about the “thousands of right-wing white preachers (following in my father’s footsteps) [who] rail against America’s sins from tens of thousands of pulpits” across this country every Sunday.

“When Senator Obama’s preacher thundered about racism and injustice, Obama suffered smear-by-association,” said Mr. Schaeffer, who is white. “But when my late father — Religious Right leader Francis Schaeffer — denounced America and even called for the violent overthrow of the U.S. government, he was invited to lunch by Presidents Ford, Reagan and Bush Sr.”

“Today we have a marriage of convenience between the right-wing fundamentalists who hate Obama and the ‘progressive’ Clintons who are playing the race card through their own smear machine,” Mr. Schaeffer says.

By the way, how many people are aware that the 40th anniversary of the Kerner Commission, which concluded that the U.S. was “moving toward two societies, one black, one white — separate and unequal ” — passed Feb. 29 virtually unreported and unnoticed?

Some folks may have gone fishing already.

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