Memo to William Jelani Cobb.
Re: Your proposal that "if Hillary Clinton receives the Democratic Party nomination, African Americans should consider voting for John McCain."
Your column on The Root ranks as the most ridiculous political idea any Negro has put forth my since my brother-in-law decided to support Clarence Thomas on the grounds that, after all, he's a brother. So ridiculous, Dr. Cobb, that at first, I thought you were kidding … And I still hope that you were. But on the odd chance that you were serious—or that some people let themselves be swayed by your cockamamie idea—I thought I'd better inject some common sense back into the discussion.
The last thing black people need is to take your advice to emulate right-wing extremists like Anne Coulter, who claims she hates McCain so much she'd rather vote for Clinton. Even thinking about following that course is a self-destructive diversion. We've already wasted enough time this year on a Negrofied version of the medieval debate over how many angels can dance on the head of a pin: How many of us can buck-and-wing on the bi-racial chromosomes of Barack Obama? Now that we've finally got that settled and have thrown in behind the brother, there is absolutely no rationale for unearthing the age-old questions about our relationship with the Democratic Party. Way too much is at stake.
I agree with you that white Democrats, including the Clintons, take our votes for granted and need to do more to earn our support. And I am as offended as you are by Bill Clinton's cynical attempts to defeat Obama by playing the race card.
But there's a more straightforward way to express our disapproval of Clinton's tactics than by committing political suicide, which is what voting for McCain would surely amount to. You surely underestimate the damage that would be done by a third consecutive Republican presidency. It's no joke that McCain has said he wouldn't mind keeping American troops in Iraq for 100 years and that he is going to have to spend the rest of his political life mending fences with the conservatives he has alienated over the years.
It makes more sense to throw our support to Obama, do our best to make sure that he, not Clinton, gets the nomination, and do all we can to defeat the Republicans in November.
And even if Clinton prevails over our champion, we should hold our proverbial noses and support her, just as all those right-wingers who profess such dislike for McCain will do for him in the fall. Remember that at her worst, Clinton would serve our interests better than McCain at his best. Sending "a clear message to the Democrats that our days of being a cheap date are over," as you suggest, is an important objective. But we shouldn't slit our political throats just to make a point.
is a former columnist for TIME magazine and a regular contributor to The Root.