Clinton remains the only white man in America who’s just as at home in the pulpit of a black church as Jesse Jackson. He offered practical pastoral advice to particular members of the flock, looking over at plump, 62-year-old Attorney General Bill Lockyer clutching his newborn son, Diego, and telling him, “You’d better take care of yourself, Bill; that boy has got to go to college.” Clinton couched hardball politics in scriptural citation; he kidded and toyed with the congregants. The legendary black diva Ethel Waters once called composer Harold Arlen “the Negro-est white man in America.” That title now is held by Clinton, just as Gray Davis remains the whitest — or, at minimum, the stiffest — white man in America.
But Davis’ whiteness is behavioral only. He does not pine, as do the state’s Republicans, for the lost white California. The governor, who has signed landmark progressive legislation and indentured himself to every moneyed interest on the planet, has come to personify the state’s squalid but — despite himself — hopeful present. The Republicans, simply, are borne back ceaselessly into the past.
Portions of this article appeared in theWashington Post.