The Hasselbeck Syndrome

When Hillary Clinton made reference the movie “Rocky” comparing herself with the Italian Stallion, a lot of bloggers laughed and mocked her, knowing that at the end of the movie, Rocky loses the big fight to Apollo Creed, the black heavyweight champion. If Clinton was supposed to be Rocky, then that made Obama — Creed. Following Clintons analogy to its conclusion ends with her opponent, Barack Obama, beating her. So, the joke was on Clinton, right? But what a lot of bloggers didn’t take into account is that Hillary used the analogy for a different reason. Most of the voters she was appealing to at the time were the “white working class” voters. How many of these voters were going to take the analogy to its final conclusion? The memory of Rocky, a white person, fighting Creed, a black person, was probably the length of which the people Clinton was speaking to would take the metaphor. They wouldn’t follow through to its conclusion. White against black. Black against white. Whose side are you on? That was the message Clinton was delivering.

McCain is now using the same strategy, and he’s using it for the same reason that Clinton used it. He’s losing the race.

Little Man John McCain says Obama campaign is playing the race card.
By: John Amato on Thursday, July 31st, 2008 at 6:13 PM – PD

King:… is it a fair criticism for Rick Davis to say—the Obama campaign is playing the race card?

McCain: It is, I’m sorry to say that it is. It’s legitimate and we don’t, there’s no place in this campaign for that. There’s no place for it and we shouldn’t be doing it.

King: They say that’s not the case.

McCain: OK John, I’ll let the American people judge.

This is where it was always going to go, and it will be interesting to see how Obama responds. If he gets angry about it, then he’s the “angry black man”. If he doesn’t respond at all then “he’s soft”. Because, even though the charge is bullshit, there are plenty of white voters who feel that they really are the victims of racism. These days when a black person raises the issue of racism, they are countered with the theory of a racial double standard. Let’s call it the “Hasselbeck Syndrome”. Elizabeth Hasselbeck on “The View” was frustrated with the “N” word. How come when black people use it, it’s not racist – but when white people use it, it is? Whoopi tried to explain it to her, but it was too complicated for Elizabeth to wrap her mind around.

Hasselback: In the pop culture when that word is in use, when there, when there…

Hasselbeck realized she stepped in the shit, and starts to choke up.

Hasselbeck: …this is upsetting to me… because… [cross talk] this is a conversation that is hard, and we’re going to have it here, and we’re going to have it here well… because we love each other… when we live in a world where pop culture then uses that term and we’re trying to get to a place where we feel like we’re in the same place and we feel like we’re in the same world, how are we supposed to then move forward if we keep using terms that bring back that pain?

Part of her argument is aimed towards “pop culture”, Hasselbeck’s code phrase for rap music, or the “hip-hop culture” or black people. A lot of white suburban kids listen to rap. But the hip-hop movement is one of the few black artistic movements that white America hasn’t been able to tame or assimilate. When we think of Rock N’ Roll we think of Elvis or the Beatles, we don’t think of the true pioneers of the genre. Dave Brubeck was the first Jazz musician to grace the cover of TIME magazine, even though Louis Armstrong and Duke Ellington had already paved the way. When we think of rap or hip-hop stars, it’s a mish-mash of people, black and white, but there is no “Elvis” of hip-hop. No one thinks of Kid Rock or Eminem as the King of hip-hop. Rap has been around for thirty years now. I doubt there ever will be an “Elvis” of rap, and that’s a good thing.

I remember back in my community college days, a fellow student brought up the “Hasselbeck Syndrome”. They wondered: How come black people can have black organizations like “The Black Ms. America Pageant”, but if there’s a “White Ms. America Pageant” it’s racist? They actually asked that question. Before that, as an adolescent, my scout master complained about making Martin Luther King’s Jr. birthday into a national holiday: How come I have to pay because my great granddaddy owned slaves? These complaints aren’t new, they’ve been going on since I can remember. They’re bullshit, but the mentality is real, and Obama is going to have to deal with it. McCain, like Clinton before him, is going to try and take full advantage of the “Hasselbeck Syndrome” before this whole thing is over.

McCain has no message that can compete with Obama’s message of “Change”. McCain’s a part of that old guard of politicians that America has been dealing with for the past forty fucking years. Yeah. We know who John McCain is. We know all about him. We know he’s old and we know he’s tired, just like his politics. The only thing he’s got to battle Obama with is racial division. White vs. Black. Black vs. white.

Obama is trying to bring people together, McCain is going to try and keep them apart.


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