My sudden decision to support Hillary Clinton (albeit with nose held)
I disliked Bill Clinton until the Republicans hit him with a thousand smears, culminating in Whitewater. In 2007-8, my attitude was ABC -- Anyone But Clinton -- until the Obots started to game the blogs, emulating the same GOP attack-attack-attack strategy. The "darkened video" smear transformed this unenthusiastic Obama voter into a Hillary supporter.
As long-time readers know, Hillary has done nothing but piss me off throughout the past seven years. Sweartagod, when I woke up this morning, I was mapping out in my head a piece titled "The case for Martin O'Malley."
(Although the former Baltimore mayor has many problems -- I hold him largely responsible for what went wrong with the Baltimore police department -- his Middle East stances have pleased me more than anything I've heard from either Hillary or Sanders.)
But then -- today -- one article changed everything.
Okay, it was more than one article. We've been pummeled with nonsense about the "emailgate" pseudoscandal, as detailed in the preceding post. The steady stream of planted stories about Bill Clinton's former libido issues only made me recall how much more prosperous this country was in the 1990s. And nothing has pissed me off more than the innumerable hit pieces which pretend that the Clinton Foundation -- a charity -- is really some sort of political slush fund. (The foundation has a rep for being clean. If you have evidence -- as in evidence -- to the contrary, why not write it up and win the Pulitzer?)
But the proverbial straw-with-the-power-to-shatter-a-dromedary's-vertebrae came this morning. I'm talking about this piece by Corey Robin, published in Salon.
It may be a generational thing—I was born in 1967—but this is what Hillary and Bill Clinton will always mean to me: Sister Souljah, Ricky Ray Rector, welfare reform, and the crime bill. And beyond—really, behind—all that, the desperate desire to win over white voters by declaring to the American electorate: We are not the Party of Jesse Jackson, we are not the Rainbow Coalition.
Many of the liberal journalists who are supporting Hillary Clinton’s candidacy are too young to remember what the Clintons did to American politics and the Democratic Party in the 1990s. But even journalists who are old enough seem to have forgotten just how much the Clintons’ national ascendancy was premised on the repudiation of black voters and black interests.
I'm older than Robin, and I know revisionism when I see it. I know lying when I see it.
Robin has resurrected the Big Lie of 2008 -- "The Clintons hate black people" -- and I suspect that the effects will be even more toxic this time, because so many ill-educated young voters can't recall the Clinton era.
Here's the truth: There's a reason why Bill Clinton was called the "first black president" -- and there is a reason why Bill Clinton received overwhelming support from African Americans in 1992 and 1996.
And there is a reason why more black people approved of Bill Clinton at the end of his presidency than approved of Barack Obama in 2014 (the last year for which I can find numbers from Gallup).
Did the words in boldface startle you? Find them hard to believe? Look it up: At the end of his presidency, in 2000, black Americans gave Bill Clinton an 89 percent approval rating, down from 90 the year before. In 2014, only 84% of black Americans approved of Obama.
And I suspect that quite a few of those 84-percenters would be stumped if you asked them: "What has Barack Obama done for you?"
What Bill Clinton did for the black community is a matter of record -- a record which the smear merchants don't want young people to learn. He preserved Affirmative Action at a time when it was very unpopular. He took on the issue of racial profiling by police. He helped minority and woman-owned businesses via the Disadvantaged Business Enterprise Act. He helped minority-owned businesses compete for government contracts.
As I have recounted at length in previous posts, Bill Clinton expended one hell of a lot of political capital when he ended redlining and made it much easier for members of minority groups to get home loans. If you're young and you don't know the meaning of the term "redlining," ask your elders. Or go to my earlier posts (here and here) and read about the battles over the Community Reinvestment Act.
Helping many black Americans get home loans was no token gesture. Enabling minority-owned businesses to get government contracts was not an exercise in symbolism. These things were and are real. Do not use the word "mere": There's nothing "mere" about any of this.
Redlining was a genuine obscenity. Any propagandist who attempts to minimize the profound changes wrought by Bill Clinton is either a blinkered fool or a paid liar.
That's one reason why Jesse Jackson Sr. came to Bill Clinton's defense when Clinton was "racist-baited" in 2008. (Sadly, one of the people who opportunistically attacked Clinton at that time was Jesse Jackson Jr.; we later learned that the younger Jackson hoped to be appointed to Obama's Senate seat -- which he coveted so dearly that he was willing to pay for it.)
I still recall Clinton's passionate response to the attacks in 2008 (the actual audio is embedded below)...
"I respect Jesse Jackson. He's a friend of mine, even though he endorsed Senator Obama. One of his sons and his wife endorsed Hillary. Their whole family's divided. But his campaign in 1988 was a seminal campaign in American history. It was the first campaign to ever to openly involve gays. Hillary's chief delegate counter, Harold Ickes, worked his heart out for Jesse Jackson. I frankly thought the way Obama campaign reacted was disrespectful to Jesse Jackson. And I called him and asked him if he found anything offensive, and he just laughed and he said, 'Of course I don't. We all know what's going on.'"
"I mean this is just, you know… You gotta go something to play the race card on me -- my office is in Harlem. And Harlem voted for Hillary, by the way. And I have 1.4 million people around the world, mostly people of color in Africa, the Caribbean, Asia and elsewhere, on the world's least expensive AIDS drugs. I appointed more African American, Hispanic and women judges and U.S. Attorneys than all previous presidents put together and had nine African American Cabinet members.
The Obot response to these words was pure Catch-22: The Obama forces said that Clinton had no right to defend himself, because only a racist would ever defend himself against charges of racism.
There's a certain beauty to this tactic: The target can neither return fire nor shield himself. He must passively accept the arrows, like St. Sebastian.
We all recall the smears of 2008. Absolutely everything Hillary or Bill said was interpreted as Racism Most Foul. They couldn't even cite a favorite recipe for bean soup without someone screeching: "That recipe is racist!"
Imagine how you would feel if you knew that thousands of people were parsing your every statement to find some way to make your words fit that preconceived narrative. Would you be able to say anything?
It's a trick. A scurrilous trick. And it works.
"We all know what's going on."
That was the assessment of Jesse Jackson Sr. (who never challenged the quote). Mr. Robin, you are the one who cited Jackson (for whom I proudly voted in 1988): What do you think he would say about your anti-Clinton hit piece? I can't be sure, but my strong suspicion is that he might say the exact same words: "We all know what's going on."
Yes, there are a lot of articles on the web which try to convince readers that Bill Clinton was more racist that George Lincoln Rockwell and Nathan Bedford Forrest put together. Fire up Google and look at the dates: These hit pieces all came out during the 2008 cycle.
We're getting another flurry right now. We all know what's going on.
What makes Clinton special is that he found a way to connect with us that was personal and up close. He convinced us in words and in deeds that this relationship was at least partly in his heart, as well as in his head. This guy grew up in the back of his grandfather’s store in Hope, Ark., hanging out with black kids.
Do you think that his background, being from the South and from a working-class family, made him different in the eyes of African-Americans?
Very much so. He had great opportunity to be in close proximity to black folk. And he hung out with black folk, he understood our music, he understood our culture and he understood how to connect. So by the time he entered the political world, here was a white man who could say, not just “I have some black friends,” but say it and mean it.
A Clinton-hater might say that he just knew how to play the game. But there was something else that many of the people you interviewed touched on, something about his ease, that they could really sense? What was it?
It’s what we perceive. Black folk have a built-in radar for B.S., particularly when it’s racial B.S. It started with slavery, when the master would turn to the slave and say, “We need to clean this yard.” The slave knew that “we” weren’t going to clean this yard. That meant, “You better clean this yard.” We understood that there was a kind of a false sense of familiarity that many white folks have with black folks. And the key to Clinton was not so much what he sought to do, but how what he did was perceived by African-Americans. For most African-Americans, he was real, and he connected in a way that others didn’t.
Let’s go back to this whole pandering suggestion that comes from a lot of folk: “He was just playing to the black community.” OK, let’s say that that’s the case: Then he’s better at it than anyone else in the history of the presidency. If that’s all that there was — and I would argue that that’s not the case — but if that’s all that there was, then come on, whatever happened to the Gipper, the Great Communicator? Why couldn’t he pull that off?
Let me respond to the specific points made by Corey Robin:
People these days speak of the "Sister Souljah" moment as though it were pure political strategy. Few recall what was actually said. Political sharpies like Corey Robin refuse to talk specifics, because they hope to fool those who are too young to remember.
Sister Souljah advocated the killing of white people -- no ifs, ands, or buts: That is what she said. Bill Clinton -- speaking to Jesse Jackson's Rainbow Coalition -- quoted her words and said: "If you took the words ‘white’ and ‘black,’ and you reversed them, you might think David Duke was giving that speech."
That is precisely what he ought to have said.
Please note: Clinton said those words while addressing the Rainbow Coalition, founded by his friend Jesse Jackson. The ever-deceptive Corey Robin would have you believe that Clinton won white votes by distancing himself from both Jackson and the Coalition. Not true.
In the mid-1990s, nearly everyone advocated some type of welfare reform. For Clinton and other politicians, endorsing reform was a sure-fire applause line even when addressing predominantly black audiences.
But Bill Clinton did not want the bill that passed in 1996. Today, many people forget that the 1996 legislation was enormously popular. A draconian reform measure was definitely going to pass, with or without Bill Clinton.
He vetoed it twice. On the third round, he got important concessions, including the preservation of food stamps.
If you happen to have used that little orange card to weather the recent economic storms, you have Bill Clinton to thank.
Clinton also preserved Medicaid. The Republican version of the act would have allowed states to use Medicaid funds for other purposes.
If you know of a poor child who received help from Medicaid during the last twenty years, you have Bill Clinton to thank.
If he had not signed the third version of that bill, one of two things would have happened: A purely Republican version of the bill would have passed with a veto-proof majority, or a third veto would have cost Clinton the 1996 election. Either of those outcomes would have resulted in the disappearance of that little orange card and the gutting of Medicaid.
Corey Robin may scoff at such concerns. Perhaps he doesn't need that little orange card. Other people aren't so lucky.
This is an important point: Many black Americans, including black leaders, welcomed "tough-on-crime" policies as a way to protect their communities. A majority of the Congressional Black Caucus voted for the 1986 law that created the sentencing disparity between crack and powder cocaine. And in 1994, it was the CBC that saved President Clinton's crime bill after an unexpected loss on a procedural vote.
This is a history that's been largely forgotten, partly because many of these leaders regret their positions now or—like former Rep. Kweisi Mfume—deny that they supported the bill at all.
"I signed a bill that made the problem worse," Clinton told an audience at the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People's annual meeting in Philadelphia. "And I want to admit it."
The omnibus crime bill that Clinton signed included the federal "three strikes" provision, mandating life sentences for criminals convicted of a violent felony after two or more prior convictions, including drug crimes.
Clinton said Wednesday that he signed the law because "we had had a roaring decade of rising crime" when he entered the White House.
"We had gang warfare on the streets. We had little children being shot dead on the streets who were just innocent bystanders standing in the wrong place," he said.
In response, Clinton said, the bill increased the number of police on the streets and enacted gun control legislation. But decades later, Clinton believes the results of the law were mixed, at best.
"In that bill, there were longer sentences. And most of these people are in prison under state law, but the federal law set a trend," Clinton said. "And that was overdone. We were wrong about that. That percentage of it, we were wrong about. "
He added: "The good news is we had the biggest drop in crime in history. The bad news is we had a lot people who were locked up, who were minor actors, for way too long."
Hillary Clinton is on record as saying that she wants to reverse what the 1994 bill got wrong -- in fact, this was the topic of her first major speech of the campaign.
An empty promise? I don't know. But I do know two things:
1. Barack Obama has not advocated criminal justice reform in any politically risky way.
2. You will get neither the right actions nor the right words from any of the Republicans whom Corey Robin seems so eager to place in the White House. Their messages are clear: Support the cops no matter what. Get tough on crime. The Black Lives Matter movement is evil.
Bottom line: It has happened to me again. 1992, 1994, 2008 and now 2016. The media's inchoate Clinton-hate has turned a Clinton-disliker into a reluctant Clinton supporter.
Don't tell me that the Clintons pose no threat to the Establishment, that they are the Establishment. If such were the case, then why target the Clintons with so many smears and lies? If such were the case, why Whitewater? Why Ken Starr? Why the ceaseless cries of "BenGAAHHHHHHzi!!!"?
I remain infuriated by Hillary's neocon foreign policy, but the Republicans offer nothing better, and Sanders hasn't exactly been inspiring on that score. (Before you say it: Trump's foreign policy adviser is John Bolton, and Rand Paul simply ain't gonna win.) If an anti-neocon had a clear shot at the presidency, my feelings might be different. But as things stand, my sad and grudging support must go to Hillary.
I endorse her with a heavy heart. And I expect to oppose her fiercely (at least part of the time) if she wins.
On the other hand: I know that she has been (secretly) reading Max Blumenthal's works -- and I know that this fact horrifies the Israel-firsters. They have not expressed such horror about anyone else running for president. There is, I think, hope in that. I may not feel overly friendly toward the Clintons, but I do think that they have the right enemies.
If you disagree with my decision -- fine. I understand. Hell, I share my household with a Sanders supporter. (We still get along!)
If your disagreement leads you to seek the company of another blog, go with my blessings. Perhaps you would be so kind as to stop by again after the November election? We can compare notes.
If your disagreement makes you want to say something insulting about this blog's humble proprietor -- well, please re-read the rules for comments in the upper left-hand corner.
You seem to have forgotten something. The Clinton who is running for president in 2016 is HILLARY, not Bill.
And one more thing: All those people who tell the pollsters that they are ready to vote for a woman? They will disappear on election day - after months of Republican dog-whistle politics and even head-on gender attacks. The Rs will make sure everybody remembers this election is about National Security, not "villages."
As much as I disagree with your conclusion, this was a very well-argued post. I do, however, think you're deluding yourself about Hillary and foreign policy- the fact that she read Max Blumenthal's book just doesn't come close to outweighing her long record of hawkishness or her truly insane support for a No Fly Zone in Syria, imo.
You make a great case Joe, but, bob568, makes a better one. HRC is not Bill Clinton, and it is 2016. The powers that support HRC are hard not represent if you're taking their $. No more " lesser of two evils", for my vote.
posted by ben : 4:32 PM
We can and should judge Hillary on her *own* merits or lack thereof. She's been out of her husband's shadow for a long time.
For example, Clinton admin opposed a draconian bankruptcy bill. Later, Sen Hillary supported the same horrible bill. Hillary rewarded the banks and literally fucked over the American people. Here's Elizabeth Warren:
Of course, that's nothing compared to what she helped Obama to do to Libya and Syria -- as fully documented on this blog.
posted by Anonymous : 4:41 PM
from The Nation today.
“The truth is, you can’t change a corrupt system by taking its money,” the bold-face statement from Sanders continues. “My campaign is powered by over 2.5 million small contributions from people like you who want to fight back.”
I think Hillary Clinton will do a better job as president than Bill Clinton did. But what Mr. Cannon is pointing out is that there are way too many insane posters blathering on and on about how horrible a Clinton presidency would be based on the first one, which becomes an oxymoronic point of view.
I see the Naderites have made an appearance. Ah well. I voted for Shirley Chisholm and Jesse Jackson, probably for the same reason Bill Clinton got along with blacks. We came from the same place. I grew up poor and white and all around me were other poor whites and mixed among them were a few poor blacks. The poor trumped race every time the turnips ran low. SOS Clinton didn't grow up this way but her husband did and she will not be inclined to forget the poor the way Mr. Silver Spoon Obama did. Thanks for the refresher, Mr. Cannon. I've been supporting SOS Clinton ever since John Edwards' "two Americas" tripped over his penis. I will continue to do so.
The reason Hillary Clinton was thrown under the bus in 2008 was her plan for at least a 90 day moratorium on all home foreclosures until a process could be worked out to save homeowners from foreclosure. Wall Street went with Barack Obama instead and President Obama basically looked the other way while well over a million homeowners were parallel foreclosed upon by the same banks that were allegedly processing their home mortgage modification papers. It may be far the single most egregious anti homeowner act that I am aware of and it was most likely unconstitutional as well. What made the plan such a master stroke was NOBODY was going to impeach a president for allowing parallel foreclosure to occur after just one or two years on the job, and NOBODY was going to impeach our first African American president ever after just a year or two in office, and Republican politicians probably LOVED the way parallel foreclosure let wall street off of the hook for their upfront gambling ways in which they profit on the front end and if things go wrong get bailed out on the back end. This whole Hillary Clinton is in cahoots with Wall Street is absolutely mind bendingly incorrect and absolute opposite of what really went down in 2008.
Unfortunately, Hillary's donor rolls make it pretty obvious who she'll be working for. I have issues with Sanders on foreign policy, since he doesn't seem to like to talk about that much (he follows the status quo, basically). Hillary? Well, I think it's safe to say she is neo-con through and through when it comes to foreign policy. I really don't think she's ever been all that bad on domestic policy, but I don't think she'll buck the status quo on that score either, considering where her funding is coming from. All that said, if she wins the nomination, she'll have my grudging support (nose firmly held), because she can't possibly be worse than ANY of the Republicans running. I still support Sanders, but Joseph, your argument is well reasoned. I think it's helpful though to remember that Bill isn't running, Hillary is. And she's no Bill Clinton, that's for sure (not that he was by any means perfect, but he was head and shoulders above the last two we've had).
posted by Gus : 11:32 AM
Sister Souljah said something stupid, but Ricky Ray Rector isn't code for "The Clintons hate blacks." His death was proof that the Clintons will do whatever's necessary to get elected, including having a brain-damaged man executed to look tough on crime. Bill Clinton is comfortable among black Americans, which they appreciate. He also came up with lame excuses to avoid intervening in the Rwandan genocide despite intervention being the US's legal obligation. Hillary in the 2008 race on how she should win because she's got a broader coalition: "...Senator Obama’s support among working, hard-working Americans, white Americans, is weakening again, and how whites in both states who had not completed college were supporting me.” Hillary fought gay marriage as well. She went out of her way to support Bushco's invasion of Iraq. Etc etc.
posted by Anonymous : 11:55 AM
To call Hillary a neocon is giving her too much credit.
She takes poll-tested positions calculated to win her NET votes. She realizes that in this national-security era she is at a disadvantage because of her gender. She wants to convince the electorate that she is just as tough as the guys - that she has the balls to do the job.
All you Clintoncucks... of all gender persuasions....the ones who assume Trump's get tough with ISIS aura will neutralize your heroine.....she voted for the Iraq War which ushered in ISIS. She's to blame for her own dilemma in that regard.
I would, honestly, prefer to leave it at that, but Clinton is of such low character she also approved of the CIA mi complex's chicanery to utilize takfiris and others to overthrow Arab nationalist regimes, of course largely because they were viewed as more dangerous to Israel.
As for Bolton, let us hope Trump has placed him there as window-dressing, because his broad non-interventionism is certainly at odds with Bolton's agenda.
I personally would not vote for any of the current mainstreamers, but can understand a desperation vote for Sanders. Kudos to the homage payed Nader above.
Oh dear! Looks as though I'll be seeing you in November then, Joseph! I'll support Hillary Clinton only if she becomes the Dem. nominee - she's way better than any Republican running, of course. I have to support Bernie Sanders - he's the left the USA hasn't had, but sorely needed for (far as I can tell) many decades. Bernie's the one I've been waiting for since I arrived on these shores in 2004. He's the herald of things to come - maybe not in 2016, but maybe so. If not our nominee this time, he'll stand as the legendary bird flying over a ship in stormy seas indicating land ahead. ;-)
Joseph, I will vote for Hillary if she is the Dem nominee. I don't hate Hillary, but I don't love her either. Truthfully, I dislike her. It isn't because she is a Clinton or a woman or because of all the dirty political propaganda. I dislikes her because she remind me of a robot. She is smart, disciplined, pragmatic and qualified. She says what she thinks you want to hear. She would make an okay president. I would not go out to vote in November to make sure she gets elected. I will go to vote to make sure someone else does not become president. That is a sorry state of affairs. And furthermore, the more I see her and hear her, the less I like her. She is going to be the lesser of the two evils and that is all the good I can say about her. M
posted by Anonymous : 11:40 PM
Quite an impressive rout by the corporate candidate, Hillary. It's amazing that the near non-stop corporate media support, the millions of dollars in Wall Street money, and the decades of coddling from the political establishment managed to get her that extra 0.02% of delegates in Iowa. Obviously Bernie Sanders has no chance with a deficit like this.
How much non-white innocent blood does a "progressive" need to have on her-his hands for a fashionable progressive voter to hate him-her? Libya-Syria-Iraq....you people are truly white supremacists in spite of yourselves.
posted by amspirnational : 1:28 PM
James: you forgot the six "lucky" coin tosses in a row that netted Hillary six delegates. You can't beat experience.