At a time when progressives are calling for unity so that we can get on to the business of ending this mad era of the Bush administration, Sen. Hillary Clinton has unfortunately taken a step in the opposite direction.

Her interview with USA Today, in which she presents herself as the candidate with the "broader base" because Sen. Barack Obama was not getting the support of "hard-working Americans, white Americans," came at the worst possible moment. Her comments were inflammatory at a time when both her supporters and Obama’s need her to be healer.

Jack and Jill Politics points out how out of line her comment was:

This kind of comment is less a description than an agitator, it’s meant to give white voters the impression that they would be "disenfranchised" by an Obama win. It’s a not so subtle effort to evoke racial resentment over Obama’s success.

Their post goes on to cite one reason she should know better: Her own husband in 1996 won re-election even though he only won 43 percent of the white vote overall and only 38 percent of the white male vote. The voters that Clinton says she has that she claims Obama can’t get — in her words to USA Today, "whites … who had not completed college" — have never in recent history been essential to Democrats winning the White House. On the other hand, Democrats are guaranteed to lose when the people who have gravitated to Obama — African Americans and young progressives of all colors — decide to stay home on Election Day.

Clinton has already displayed a disturbing propensity for using the racial divide within the Democratic party to her advantage. The win in Pennsylvania that was crucial to keeping her campaign alive was largely due to the 12 percent of white voters (according to a CNN exit poll) who said that race was a factor in their decision. Seventy-six percent of those voters pulled the lever for Clinton.

The African-American community has roundly rejected her piling on to the Rev. Jeremiah Wright controversy, the racist undertone of her infamous "3 a.m. call" ad and her allowing people like Black (or is it Booty-shaking?) Entertainment Television founder Bob Johnson to toss into the fire slanderous innuendos that Clinton’s white surrogates would love to say, but don’t have the, shall we say, "testicular fortitude" to.

The progressive movement and the country cannot afford this. At a time when, as Clinton herself remarked the other night, the division within the Democratic Party needs to be healed, she has torn that wound open again. At the very least, she needs to repudiate the implication of these remarks and apologize to the hard-working African Americans she’s insulted here.

[Pam Spaulding has more.]