Memo to white voters: No-one has a right to your support exclusively. Your vote is a precious thing not to be toyed with by politicians who play to your prejudices and make phony appeals to notions of patriotism that belie this country’s proud traditions.

When Senator Clinton made her jaw-dropping remarks about how Senator Obama was losing those “hard-working white Americans” who trend heavily for her it was a sad, unsettling development. It isn’t that her campaign had been entirely circumspect regarding matters of race. It’s just that, until desperation set in, the references were more subtle albeit pointed enough for Hillary to lose her black base and make many white supporters squirm in discomfort.

It is a strange moment in time when candidate Clinton suggests, on the one hand, that she has been badly used by the media because of her gender yet deals so cynically with an opponent on the basis of race. Originally it was her experience, she said, that set her apart, that assured us she would be ready to be Commander in Chief on “day one”. With tears in her eyes before the New Hampshire primary she professed her great love for this country – – her mission, to serve it well.

Now she grasps at the straws of race and gender to make the case for her candidacy where once it was issues that framed the basis of her run for the White House. Will women loyalists continue to provide unconditional love simply because she’s a woman, ignoring unsavory aspects of her campaign and a blatant disregard for the ethnic and social mix that defines this country?

Will her supporters really vote for McCain in the fall if she is not the Democratic nominee? Is there nothing underlying their commitment other than her womanhood and the fact that she has, rather oddly, made a point of saying that she and Senator McCain share similar abilities and experience, the implication being that Senator Obama lacks such presidential bona fides? She has said she and Obama have more in common than either has with McCain, but one has to wonder just exactly what she’s up to.

As the campaign runs its course McCain has been off in a kind of political wilderness attended by his media team but not exactly a hot news item. Curiously, Huckabee and Ron Paul continue to ring up votes in Republican primaries indicating a luke-warm acceptance of McCain’s candidacy and driving him perhaps into the right-wing arm of his party. He maintains his tough stance regarding the war in Iraq and belligerence toward Iran, positions more or less embraced by Hillary as she attempts to confirm her toughness credentials – – dabbing at the subject of withdrawal or ‘redeployment’ from Iraq but refusing to admit having made a mistake by voting for war in the first place.

Are her supporters content to embrace her candidacy no matter where she stands on such matters or petty enough to swing over to McCain who vows to appoint Supreme Court judges intent on overturning Roe v. Wade and who protect corporations from those pesky little folk who appeal to the court for redress after years of unfair employment practices? “Market forces” are always the best barometer for business decisions, not the courts or government according to McCain. Do those views serve the interests of ordinary Americans or an elite corporate network? It is worth noting that McCain benefits from the enormous beer fortune his wife inherited from her family, the enormity of which remains secret because Cindy refuses to make her tax returns public, and that his campaign is being managed by a large contingent of corporate lobbyists

When the decisions Joe and Jane Six-pack make are influenced by politicians who choose to divide them over tax cuts, religion and ethnicity and who try to co-opt patriotism as their special province, the fact that people of all races and genders have made sacrifices for this country is sometimes overlooked. When Hillary emphasizes the importance of less-educated white supporters she disrespects that constituency’s ability to be something more than a statistic and denigrates a diverse population at the same time.

College graduates aren’t the only people capable of thinking intelligently about issues; appealing to baser instincts and divisive inclinations does no favors for anyone. In fact claiming the allegiance of voters for such unsavory reasons does a terrible disservice to them and the country’s political process.