Public Comment

Commentary: Barack and Hillary Vs. King Crab

By Winston Burton
Friday March 07, 2008

I agree with J. Douglas Allen-Taylor’s (does he have a shorter name ?) recent column that progressives are left with an embarrassment of riches—two credible, serious candidates, either of whom would be a good choice for president. We are in a win-win position having two Democrats running for office against an opponent, John McCain, who has little or nothing compelling, professionally or personally, that would make someone vote for him besides his service in Vietnam. What might derail a Democratic victory would be unfair and untrue attacks on the part of the candidates and the unspoken competition that exists between different classes and groups in our society.  

A current example of this may be the overwhelming support from the Hispanic/Latino community for Hillary Clinton, which may actually reflect not their love for Hillary, but that the Hispanic community finds it difficult to support an African American for president. On the other side, the African American community, which has come out strongly in support of Barack Obama, were not avid supporters of Antonio Villaraigosa in his mayoral victory in Los Angeles. One would think that so-called minorities and similarly oppressed people would support each other more, but actually and historically this is not the case. It’s not the type of animosity that is exhibited in racial hatred where various groups are depicted as subhuman or unfit to rule. We find it OK to hang with each other, and to marry each other, but not to vote for each other. It’s more of an extension of conflicts where poor people find themselves competing in the same ghettos, over the same crumbs that may fall from the table. We should realize that at this time if we unite and play our cards right, we could have not only the food, but the table and chairs that go with it. But first we have to stop pulling each other back into the bucket.  

My father used to say that you can put a bunch of crabs in a bucket without a lid and none of them will escape because once one gets close to the top another crab will pull him back in while trying to make its own escape. I’m reminded of slaves telling on one other, American Indians recruited to hunt other Indians who otherwise were untrackable, and the early conflicts between the Irish and Italians in America. 

I’m hoping that, even if our favored Democratic candidate doesn’t emerge victorious in the primaries we will still come out to vote against the Republican challenger. I can’t believe that disgruntled African Americans, Independents, or Hispanics would vote for McCain, but they might stay home. Or would they be tempted to vote for Ralph Nader who cost Al Gore the election? The King Crab has emerged from the past to try once again to keep his brothers and sisters in the bucket. Please! If you are someone who thinks that Nader is a viable candidate or that McCain is our future, stay home, or better still, wake up and repeat after me: Si, si puede! — Yes we can! Vote for change! I’m not sure if we’ve turned the corner on gender and race relations in America, but I think I can see the intersection, if we can only boost one another out of the bucket. 


Winston Burton is a Berkeley resident.