Blacks aren’t people to Hillary Clinton – they’re her election “firewall”

Don’t let Hillary Clinton fool you:  She is single-minded in her pursuit of the White House, and if she can utilize people as political tools, she will.  And she is.

Let’s start with the well-publicized fact that the Clinton Camp thinks of blacks as her “firewall.”   That alone signifies that it’s not what she can do for black people, but what black people can do for her:  Help her win the White House.  But there are any number of reasons that the black community should not support Hillary Clinton, and should turn its support to Bernie Sanders, who has, for decades, been working quietly behind the scenes on social justice (civil rights in the 60’s, gay marriage in the 80’s, gays in the military in the 90’s, and so on).

Clinton likes to portray Bernie Sanders as a single-issue candidate, focused solely on economics, while portraying herself as all things to all people.  In a recent speech in Harlem (a place she didn’t hang out in very often, before she needed the black vote to win the nomination, and only then with her entourage and security detail), she mockingly said, “If we broke up the big banks tomorrow, would that end racism?”  There are a couple of things telling about that statement:  First, it’s a brilliant two-fer, both a clear defense for her cozy relationship with Wall Street and the big banks, and something she can use down the pike to support her opposition to breaking up the big banks if elected.  But let’s talk about that statement a little more.

As CommonDreams.org noted,

Never mind that Wall Street investors and bankers play a huge role in discriminatory redlining, predatory lending, and foreclosures. Clinton, who earned an estimated $1.8 million in big-bank speaking fees in 2013 and 2014, shamelessly counts on blacks for support while she is engaged with the system that holds back the aspirations of too many black people. She is hoping that no one remembers how husband Bill put the black poor before the criminal-justice firing squad and how she is in bed with the big banks that stole the American dream from black homeowners . . . It must not be forgotten that amid the relative prosperity of the 1990s, which did benefit more well-off African-Americans, Bill Clinton sacrificed the poor to conservative welfare policies and the black poor to racist crime laws that Hillary now condemns.

In the 1990’s, President Bill Clinton, with full-throated support from First Lady Hillary Clinton, became “The Incarceration President.”  As CommonDreams.org reported,

According to the Justice Policy Institute, the Clinton administration oversaw the largest rise in inmates in American history. In 1995, aided by federal crime-bill funding, states spent more on prisons than on universities. By the end of the Clinton years, more people worked in the criminal justice system than in social services. According to the Sentencing Project, 13 percent of black men could not vote because of criminal records.

This mass incarceration trend continues today – and candidate Bernie Sanders is outspoken in his condemnation of it, and determined to address it.

Some might say that it’s not fair to paint Hillary Clinton with husband Bill’s brush – but First Lady Hillary Clinton wielded her White House power in significant ways, including lobbying for his legislation and backing his agenda.  In fact, the Clinton slogan was “two for the price of one.”  In her support for the 1994 crime bill, she was not shy about using racial dog whistles to describe young blacks:

They are not just gangs of kids anymore.  They are often the kinds of kids that are called ‘super-predators.’ No conscience, no empathy. We can talk about why they ended up that way, but first we have to bring them to heel.

As reported by usuncut.com,

By the end of Clinton’s first term, the U.S. had added an additional 277,000 prisoners — that’s more than twice as many prisoners added during Republican hero Ronald Reagan’s first term (129,000). By January 2001, Clinton oversaw the addition of 673,000 new inmates to state and federal prisons. Reagan had only imprisoned 438,000. Nearly 60 percent of those imprisoned during Clinton’s first four years were behind bars for nonviolent drug offenses. The crime bill had a reverberating effect throughout black communities — as prison spending went up, funding for programs meant to help the disadvantaged declined, according to Ohio State University law professor Michelle Alexander:

Federal funding for public housing fell by $17 billion (a 61 percent reduction) under Bill Clinton’s tenure; federal funding for corrections rose by $19 billion (an increase of 171 percent), according to Michelle Alexander’s seminal work, “The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness.” The federal government’s new priorities redirected nearly $1 billion in state spending for higher education to prison construction. Clinton put a permanent eligibility ban for welfare or food stamps on anyone convicted of a felony drug offense (including marijuana possession).

Bill Clinton’s agenda during his tenure mirrors the agenda of Republicans today – drug-testing welfare recipients, for example – and it’s difficult to believe that someone who defended those positions 20 years ago can today claim a love of the black community; it’s difficult to believe that Hillary Clinton is now sincere in her stated goal to make Black Lives Matter.

Civil rights activist Cornel West, a Bernie Sanders supporter, stated,

. . . when it comes to advancing Dr. King’s legacy, a vote for Clinton not only falls far short of the mark; it prevents us from giving new life to King’s legacy. Instead, it is Sanders who has championed that legacy in word and in deed for 50 years . . . The Clintons’ neoliberal economic policies—principally, the repeal of the Glass-Steagall banking legislation, apparently under the influence of Wall Street’s money—have also hurt King’s cause . . . The Clinton Machine—celebrated by the centrist wing of the Democratic Party, white and black—did produce economic growth. But it came at the expense of poor people (more hopeless and prison-bound) and working people (also decimated by the Clinton-sponsored North American Free Trade Agreement) . . . .

West went on to address the money Hillary Clinton has earned – millions of dollars from Morgan Stanley, Goldman Sachs, Deutsche Bank, UBS and others – and hundreds of thousands of dollars in speaking fees alone from Wall Street banking giant, Goldman Sachs:

These ties are far from being ‘old news’ or an ‘artful smear,’ as Hillary Clinton recently put it . . . Rather, they perfectly underscore how it is Sanders, not Clinton, who is building on King’s legacy. Sanders’ specific policies—in support of a $15 minimum wage, a massive federal jobs program with a living wage, free tuition for public college and universities, and Medicare for all—would undeniably lessen black social misery.

The battle now raging in Black America over the Clinton-Sanders election is principally a battle between a declining neoliberal black political and chattering class still on the decaying Clinton bandwagon (and gravy train!), and an emerging populism among black poor, working and middle class people fed up with the Clinton establishment in the Democratic Party.

 

Cornel West
I really wish that the loyalty the black community has shown the Clintons would end.  Has Hillary Clinton really earned that loyalty?  Has she made sacrifices to fight for the black community, for all people of color?  Has she been a visible presence in Harlem or the south side of Chicago, working to end poverty and joblessness?  That’s a big no.  She’s been hobnobbing with Wall Street and Big Pharma and the like.  In fact, as she so clearly stated, “I mean if we’re honest, for a lot of well-meaning, open-minded white people, the sight of a young black man in a hoodie still evokes a twinge of fear”:

Hillary Clinton: Let’s Be Honest, Black Men In Hoodies Are Scary

Add this one to the “imagine if she were a Republican” files: old white lady expresses fear of young black men, political funeral details to come.

Hillary Clinton has not hobnobbed with the black community – until now, when she needs them as her “firewall.”  And what’s more, Hillary Clinton has been complicit in contributing to the poverty, joblessness, and mass incarceration of the black community, by offering full-throated endorsement of the policies, in the 90’s, that catapulted so very many black people into the prison system.  In addition, Clinton’s Ready for Hillary PAC has taken in more than $133,000 from the private prison lobby (it was only after this fact became news did Clinton decide that accepting donations from such groups was not good optics).

I’ll end with the words of Cornel West in his Politico op ed in support of Bernie Sanders and against the Clinton Machine:

King smiles at Sanders’ deep integrity and genuine conviction, while he weeps at the Clinton machine’s crass opportunism and the inequality and injustice it breeds.