It’s a good sign to see Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama providing leadership on race and gender equality. The candidates decided to dial down the volume on what was becoming a brew of racism and political wrangling that would only leave voters with a bad taste in their mouths.

Charges by the Clinton camp that Obama had “injected” race into the campaign were seen as a politically cynical move to protect the senator from New York against charges of chauvinism over remarks that she, her husband and her supporters made recently. According to journalist Carl Bernstein’s biography of Hillary Clinton, “A Woman in Charge,” the Clintons have a history of running such “demonizing” campaigns.

Clinton supporters should try hard not to feed into division while still supporting their candidate. The effort by the Nevada State Education Association to move caucus sites outside of casinos, because they fear a heavy turnout of casino workers whose union backs Obama, will only help to sow division in the labor movement. Similar maneuvers were reported in Iowa, like trying to keep college students from voting. These ploys only serve to decrease the vote turnout and weaken the coalition necessary to win in November.

Such campaigns run contrary to the wishes and aspirations of the public, which is hungry for a new direction for the country. After seven years of Bush rule — and 30 years of ultra-right leadership — people have had enough of the fear, hopelessness, hate and discrimination that have dominated the political scene. Obama and Clinton have vowed to keep their focus on the Bush administration — where it ought to be.

Unity, on issues of racism and sexism and among the many anti-Bush constituencies, has to be consciously built. It’s not a given that people who have overlapping economic, political and social interests — like good jobs, equality, peace and health care for all — will realize what they have in common. Unity across race, gender and generations — unity of every kind — is a necessary force to defeat the ultra-right corporate agenda and make progress for the people.

Let’s keep our eyes on the prize.