Eyes on the Prize

Written as a response to the prospect of the White House becoming a Clinton Family outpost, this article uncovers the blueprint Clinton loyalists hope will propel the Diva into the White House. For openers, let’s take a peek at the loyal opposition. As an antidote to the Clinton brand of overweening ambition, phony claims, and a neo-liberal agenda masquerading as a peoples’ crusade, Bernie Sanders’ entry into the presidential sweepstakes, regardless of how you view his policies, looks to be the best thing that’s happened to American democracy since 1776. Win or lose, his candidacy has changed the Clinton game plan by dislodging her from the traditional Clinton centrist, neo-liberal perch and pushing her a hair closer to the progressive end of the spectrum. Is it enough? Does “making tuition affordable” have the same resonance to a beleagured electorate as “free tuition?” Does “making Obamacare better” play in the same ballpark as “universal medical care?” On the economy, Bernie pledges to break up the big banks and throw the worst of the scam artists into the slammer. Hillary is going to improve on the Obama disaster relief operation which made the big banks bigger, gave a get out of jail free card to crooked bankers, pumped over $10 trillion into the banking system to keep its house of cards afloat, scrounged up a measly $700 billion for the public domain (much of it tax relief to, you guessed it, corporate execs). To say nothing of a move that pummeled labor at the same time as it extended corporate welfare to car industry execs. Obama and his plutocracy-beholden treasury secretary Tim Geithner designed a bankruptcy bail out for auto industry investors and shareholders that had the intended effect of making half the industry’s workforce into wage slaves via a two-tier wage system that also outlawed their collective bargaining rights.  

In contrast to her self-identification as a “progressive,” is the little matter of the $675,000 Hillary collected from Goldman-Sachs for three speeches. When asked how that happened, she didn’t bat an eye — “Well, I don’t know, that’s what they offered.” When asked if she would make the transcripts of those speeches public, she flipped and flopped: Initially, she laughed uproariously and turned away from the reporter who asked. During the debate on February 4, 2016, no doubt advised by campaign staff to kick it up a notch, she attempted an obvious feint — she would “look into it.” Agreed it wasn’t her most progressive moment, but bet the ranch on it folks, she’s a progressive. In Hillary-land what’s the difference between her progressive credentials and Bernie’s? She’s a “realistic” progressive, which is a like being a socialist who supports neo-liberalism. At a time of record corporate profits, when millions of Americans are working part time, benefit-free contingency jobs, when at least 10 million Americans have lost their homes and childhood poverty rates in America trump every other developed nation, Hillary Clinton proposes more of the same, slightly higher octane, but business as usual in the empire.

Can she beat Bernie with this posturing? Only if she nails down the black vote. Young Dems, even young women, in a rewrite of the Eugene McCarthy moment will support Bernie. Independents may split down the middle. Union execs will support Hillary all the way. The rank and file not so much. There is only one sure bet. If the center holds — and in the democratic nomination race that is the black vote — Hillary can still beat the Bern and possibly her Republican challenger. Here’s the primer on how she plans to do it.

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The Clinton coronation train is rolling down the tracks once again and the mainstream media have already jumped on board. One big hurdle remains. As far back as 2013, in a front page article, “With Eyes on 16, Clintons Rebuild Bond with Blacks,” The New York Times made clear what the smart money had known for years. The Clintons have some “family business” to take care of. The results of the 2012 election illustrate how important that repair job is to Hillary’s presidential aspirations.

According to the Associated Press, in 2012, Obama’s margin in the popular vote was mainly due to Black voter turnout. More important, in the battleground states, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Virginia, Florida, and Colorado, Obama’s victory was a combination of an increase in overall Black voter turnout coupled with a decrease in overall white voter turnout.  Meaning that a higher percentage of eligible African Americans voters than eligible white voters went to the polls. 93% of the Black vote went to Obama.

Bear in mind that from 1992 to 2014, black voters have almost doubled their share of the Democratic party from 13% to 23%, But the horizon is far from worry-free These days the “automatic” black vote the democrats have always counted on is more mythic than real. Despite their overwhelming support for democratic candidates (averaging 88% since 1980), disillusioned black voters may decide to stay home. As the late Ed Brown, long time black activist and director of the Voter Education Project, pointed out during Bill Clinton’s first run for the presidency: “The view is that blacks have nowhere else to go but blacks always have somewhere to go — they can go fishing.” And the “Black problem” is even more serious among independents. In 2012, for the first time since 1980, a decrease in registered black independents resulted in an increase in blacks identifying as republicans.

How about those young black voters who were an important constituency in Obama’s 2008 run? Both as campaign workers (unpaid) and voters, they were a crucial part of the strategy. Their disillusionment with his failed and broken promises was manifest in 2012. After several years of increased participation, the turnout rate for young black voters declined nearly 7%.

Moral? Hillary with the help of an aging but still crafty sidekick has lots of fence-mending to do. Let’s look at her long-range game plan. Exhibit A: When ex-congressman Bill Gray, first African American minority whip, died in August, 2013, Guess Who were front and center at the funeral? While the former Prez delivered a “stirring eulogy,” Secretary I-Never-Saw-A-Country-I-Didn’t-Want-to-Invade (including most of Africa), was busy pouring sweet nothings into former Governor Rendell’s (we all know his contribution to Black empowerment) ear trying to get the skinny on the assemblage of black leaders. Like who’s worth bothering about and who can safely be cut dead.

Other memorable moments in 2013. The moveable Clinton feast turned its attention to a black sorority convention and an American Bar Association meeting. It was the same pitch at both. A ringing denunciation of the high court decision striking down part 4 of the Voting Rights Act.  Comfortable middle class audiences, white and black, love to obsess over issues unlikely to force them into the untenable position of standing up to be counted. The Times played along, as they always do, by anointing voting rights as “an explosive issue among African Americans…” Certainly among the sorority sisters, the prosperous denizens of lawyer-land and the black and white bloviator class, it is an issue tailor made for declamations from the podium. The inhabitants of 99% land have more immediate issues to worry about like getting a job that isn’t part time, benefit free and offers a living wage, feeding, housing and educating their kids, and keeping their sons out of jail or worse.

Proving yet again that the media’s prophetic wisdom keeps missing the boat, 2016 is here, voting rights is not. Not on the republican side and more surprisingly not anywhere near center stage on the democratic. Terrorism, yes; banksters and high rollers hollowing out the middle class, escalating health care costs, skyrocketing tuition, climate change, and renewable energy and that eternal American demand — keep us safe at the Super Bowl.

By 2014, the Times joined by the hallelujah chorus at MSNBC and other self-described liberal media outlets, predicted that the Clintons’ first order of business would be to lace up their jogging shoes, abandon the Clinton center and leg it over to the left to those progressive innovations President Obama in 2008 and again in 2011 assured us were only a victory, his victory, away. Let’s see how that worked out. Instituting a federal jobs program with a living minimum wage, ramping down our national security priorities, taking Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid “off the table,” supporting legislation to stop the nationwide militarization of the police? Not exactly. Instead these new “progressive” democrats have joined their republican cohorts squandering buckets of money spying on our personal business, laying waste to 6 and counting Middle East and African nations, passing a law allowing the military to arrest and hold Americans without due process indefinitely, proposing steep cuts to Medicare and Medicaid, cutting the Food Stamp Program (SNAP) by $8 billion  (democrats were patting themselves on the back for successfully resisting republican clamor for a $40 billion cut) and supporting the budget deal that failed to extend unemployment benefits to 1.3 million long term unemployed Americans who were kicked off the rolls at the end of 2013.

A progressive agenda you can believe in.

More problematic are those members of the black political class, pied pipers marching the party faithful into the Clinton pew of the democratic church.

Starting with Toni Morrison’s long ago coronation of Bill Clinton as the “first black president,” (to be fair, she didn’t exactly mean it as a compliment), the extravagant claims and misrepresentations of reality keep on coming. Representative James Clyburn [Mrs. Clinton] is “now in a very good place with the African American community.” Representative Elijah Cummings on Bill “he has made an effort to reach out over and over again through the years.”  In a classic case of group amnesia in the face of wealth and power, no mention was made of Clinton’s successful crusade on behalf of his corporate buddies to pass NAFTA in 1993 ushering in an era of lost jobs, low wages, and corporate profits.  Then there’s the other side of the Man from Hope. The “end welfare as we know it” Clinton who pushed through congress the 1997 Welfare “Reform” bill which repealed the 60 year old safety net for the poor and included among its draconian provisions spending cuts of $60 billion over 6 years for cash grants and food stamps and transformed the federal program of direct aid into block grants to states giving them the power to decide how to spend the money and on whom. Lest our black lawmakers forget, Bill Clinton’s presidency was record breaking — the largest increase in state and federal incarceration rates of any president in our history. Hillary’s approval was the backgound music. Has the Clintons’ dismal record dampened the ardor of black misleaders or kept them from jumping on the Hillary bandwagon? Here’s Representative Hakeem Jeffries: “The deciding moment for me was both when Hillary Clinton became Secretary of State and Bill Clinton’s tremendous speech on behalf of President Obama.”

The truth is that both Clintons have been frantically making nice because of a comment loose-lipped Bill made during the 2008 primary season when he called Obama’s antiwar promises “the biggest fairy tale I’ve ever seen.” It goes without saying that prophetic wisdom like that qualifies Bill for Delphic Oracle status. That wasn’t the way congressional sycophants saw it. Representative Cummings spoke for the chorus: “That [fairy tale comment] was a painful moment for a lot of African Americans because we didn’t see it that way.” This is one time Bill Clinton spoke the truth and got pilloried for it.

The Clintons have been down this street numerous times, mostly shilling for old friends. Mounting an all-out effort to woo black voters to support Clinton fav, the influence-peddling fundraiser and DC gadabout, Terry McAuliffe who in a previous life pulled off a fundraising trifecta – enriching the Clintons, himself and the Democratic party — and went on to win the Virginia’s governor’s race in 2013. Much of the credit for his victory was laid at the door of successful get-out-the African American vote efforts by Bill Clinton and former Governor Doug Wilder. Black turnout was 20% in this election with most of it going to McAuliffe, the same strong showing that boosted Obama into the winner’s circle in Virginia in 2012.

The bottom line: If Hillary plays the election “race card” as effectively as Barack Obama and if the republicans persist in nominating unwinnable presidential candidates as they have for the past two elections, we might well be in for a second Clinton administration presided over by a hawkish neo-liberal who, among other failings, appears willing to go the distance to satisfy the hegemonic dreams of Prime Minister Netanyahu.

The fly in the ointment? The growing realization by black voters that their vote can be leveraged, a realization that has yet to hit other democratic constituencies, labor for one. In a 2015 Atlantic article Theodore R. Johnson laid it out: “Younger, diverse, most politically active black electorate is uninterested in having its voice muted by a blind adherence to a partisan loyalty established before its birth. It realizes that the best thing that can happen for African Americans politically is for politicians to actively court the black vote.”

Hold on to your hats. Chances are when the Clinton express powers through your town in 2016, the new boss will be the same as the old boss.

-SA-

 

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