A Clinton Presidency has been/would be a disaster for Black and Brown Communities. Here’s Why.

Linwood F Tauheed
February 23, 2016

Bill and Hillary Clinton used a pragmatic, practical, realistic, racist ‘southern strategy’ to win the White House in 1992.  Hillary Clinton tried unsuccessfully to use the same strategy in 2008 against Barack Obama.  This is history, what’s changed?

Hillary Clinton’s pragmatic, practical, ‘realistic’ mantra about how she would operate as president can be boiled down to: ‘Take what you can get’.  In today’s political climate this means the same thing it meant in the political climate of Bill Clinton’s presidency, it means: ‘Take what Republicans give’.

The Clinton’s have made a religion of being ‘pragmatic’, a virtue of taking what Republicans give; of embracing Republican positions and making them their own.

This is not about how a Hillary Clinton presidency would be a disaster for Black and Brown communities because of what her husband has already done to destroy those communities.  That past is prologue. No, it goes far beyond that. This is about how Hillary Clinton would operate on her own as president; with the same pragmatic, ‘take what you can get’ devotion as Bill Clinton.

Since those who ignore history are destined to repeat it, and we have history as a record; let’s see what we’ve got! From the Clintons. From the record.  On just two issues; welfare reform and mass incarceration.

Welfare Reform

Hillary Clinton often refers to her work with the Children’s Defense Fund saying how she has long worked for children’s welfare.  But, in 1996 President Bill Clinton, with wholehearted support from the First Lady, signed the Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Act (PRWORA), also known as ‘welfare reform’ [i].

The problem with Clinton’s claims, however, is that she betrayed children as First Lady. Under the guise of welfare reform, the Clinton administration worked with Republicans to gut social services, ignoring their own senior officials’ warnings that, by doing so, they would be plunging over a million children into poverty.[ii]

Bill Clinton’s signing welfare reform wasn’t just an unfortunate mistake.  The Clinton’s ‘southern strategy’, promising to “end welfare as we know it”, echoed racist ‘welfare queen’ ‘dog whistles’ put into play by Richard Nixon and Ronald Reagan.

Bill Clinton ran in 1992 on the campaign promise to “end welfare as we know it.” In 1996, he — with the wholehearted support of Hillary — succeeded, passing the Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Act (PRWORA). PRWORA was based on legislation first proposed by Republican Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich. [iii]

Marion Wright Edelman, President and founder of the Children’s Defense Fund had these things to say in 2007 during Clinton’s presidential campaign against Barack Obama, about her former employee’s support for welfare reform.

Hillary Clinton is an old friend, but they are not friends in politics [and]

[President Clinton’s] signature on this pernicious bill makes a mockery of his pledge not to hurt children. [iv]

Welfare reform is what Republicans gave in 1996, and the pragmatic Clinton’s ‘took what they could get’.  In fact, the very name – Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Act – partly comes from House Speaker Newt Gingrich’s “Contract With America”, often referred to as the ‘Contract ON Black America’.

It was made clear in 2007 that Hillary Clinton’s boast about helping children was only a cynical campaign tactic.  What’s changed … the Republicans have become even more committed to destroying Black and Brown families!

Twenty years later, the current Republican Speaker of the House, Paul Ryan, a sponsor of the ‘Contract With America II[v]‘, makes Newt Gingrich look like a ‘compassionate conservative’.  Among other conservative policies ‘The Contract With America II’ would repeal Obamacare.

Ryan also wants to privatize social security and Medicare, two of George W Bush’s pet projects, and to eliminate what’s left of the ‘social safety net’, meaning eliminating any and all support for poor families in general, and poor Black and Brown families in particular; that is, whatever Brown families are allowed to remain in this country. This includes eliminating the food stamp program and turning the safety net over to local charities, charities that in hard times would be hard pressed to give life-saving support to families in need.  And as the 2000 recession and 2008 Great Recession demonstrates, hard times hit Black and Brown communities especially hard[vi].  Black and Brown communities should expect to again be hit the hardest when it happens again.

Imagine what the repeal of Obamacare, or even modification of subsidies for the poor would mean; with privatized Medicare.  Think about mom and dad, or grandma or grandpa, or yourself, living on what Goldman Sachs, sees fit to leave them you in their privatized social security investment funds, after fees; without food stamps.

Goldman Sachs is delighted to “take what it can get”, and for them and other “too big to fail” financial institutions, ‘the gettin’ is good’. Black and Brown families can’t afford to ‘take what we can get’; that is, be ‘got’ again.

Mass Incarceration

The “wars” on crime and drugs were campaign tactics, later enacted into laws starting with the Omnibus Crime Control Act of 1970, as part of Richard Nixon’s and later Ronald Reagan’s ‘southern strategy’.  Nixon’s ‘southern strategy’ was developed by Nixon political analyst Kevin Phillips who said in 1970:

The more Negroes who register as Democrats in the South, the sooner the Negrophobe whites will quit the Democrats and become Republican.[vii]

Phillips’ southern strategy was a success. Replace “Negrophobe” by “racist” and the reason for the mass movement of former Democratic southern white voters to the Republican party becomes clear.

And, Bill Clinton wanted those “Negrophobe whites” back in the Democratic party.  This meant out-doing Republicans in playing on racist fears; promising to ‘end welfare as we know it’, and being ‘tough on crime’.  And so Bill Clinton began ‘dog-whistling’ to racist whites that he was a “New Democrat” who would no longer take a back seat to any Republican when it came to standing up to Black and Brown people.

In 1992, Bill Clinton campaigned on a platform of being “tough on crime”, stealing Richard Nixon’s tag-line.  Fulfilling his promise in 1994, Bill Clinton signed the Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act; not incidentally the major Senate sponsor was then Senator Joe Biden.

The bill was a disaster for the Black and Brown community.  Michelle Alexander, the author of “The New Jim Crow” writes that:

Bill Clinton presided over the largest increase in federal and state prison inmates of any president in American history. Clinton did not declare the War on Crime or the War on Drugs—those wars were declared before Reagan was elected and long before crack hit the streets—but he escalated it beyond what many conservatives had imagined possible. He supported the 100-to-1 sentencing disparity for crack versus powder cocaine, which produced staggering racial injustice in sentencing and boosted funding for drug-law enforcement. [viii]

Bill Clinton has since apologized for his part in escalating the rate of incarceration of Black and Brown men and women.  Before an NAACP meeting in Philadelphia, in July 2015; just in time for Hillary’s presidential campaign.  He confessed:

I signed a bill that made the problem worse, and I want to admit it.[ix]

Bill Clinton did not start the mass incarceration bandwagon rolling,[x] no that was Richard Nixon. But, he “made it worst” by jumping on-board, playing racial politics and taking advantage of the fears of racist whites to win the presidency. And, he did not simply ‘sign a bill’, language that attempts to avoid responsibility for the “tough on crime” bill he had campaigned on, lobbied for as president, which had been sponsored by a Senator of the party he was the head of, and which continued the Nixon appeal to racist white voters.

What Bill Clinton should really be apologizing for is his pragmatic political calculation of riding the wave of his own racist ‘southern strategy’ to win back racist whites, while throwing Blacks and Brown communities under the bus; all the while pretending to ‘feel the pain’ of Black and Brown communities. Black Lives didn’t Matter [xi]

But, we are not judging Hillary Clinton by the disastrous pragmatic calculations of her husband, she has her own history. It’s no secret that Hillary Clinton as First Lady strongly supported President Clinton’s embrace of the “wars” on crime and drugs.  She herself raised the use of subtle racist code-words to new heights by embracing the “super-predator” dog-whistle.

In support of the Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act, she said this in 1996.

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 and the President has asked the FBI to launch a very concerted effort against gangs everywhere.” [xii]

Notice that Hillary Clinton dismissed any ‘action’ directed to preventing the problem or rehabilitation, saying we could ‘talk’ about it.  Bill Clinton in apology at least says:

And we wound up … putting so many people in prison that there wasn’t enough money left to educate them, train them for new jobs and increase the chances when they came out so they could live productive lives[xiii]

But, the fact is the 1994 crime bill eliminated funding for prison education programs.

It eliminated education funding for incarcerated students, effectively gutting prison education programs. Despite a wealth of research showing education increases post-release employment, reduces recidivism, and improves outcomes for the formerly incarcerated and their families, this change has not been reversed.[xiv]

And so, we didn’t ‘wind up’ with not enough money to educate and train inmates, it happened by design.

During her 2007 presidential campaign against Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton showed it wasn’t practical to switch her ‘tough on crime’ stance as she condemned Barack Obama for being ‘soft on crime’ for advocating the end of mandatory minimum sentences enacted by the 1994 crime bill.[xv]  Certainly, by 2007 Hillary Clinton was well aware of the damage done to Black and Brown communities by the 1994 crime bill.

Now, in 2016, Hillary Clinton wants to distance herself from her 1992 and 2007 record, saying:

Decisions were made in the ’80s and ’90s to deal with what was at that time a very high crime rate that was particularly affecting poor people, people of color in the cities, [and]

I think that a lot was done that went further than it needed to go and so now we are facing problems with mass incarceration. [xvi]

So in 2016 Hillary Clinton makes a pragmatic apology for her previous ‘tough on crime’ stance; well … almost.  Saying “decisions were made” and “a lot was done” places responsibility on no one; certainly not on her, for her ‘dog-whistling’ support of bringing ‘super-predator’ animals to “heel”.  It’s a non-apology apology.

In 1992 and 2007 Hillary Clinton was ‘tough on crime’, but in 2015 she is seemingly apologetic for having been ‘tough on crime’.  This change in position seems reasonable, a change that can come to anyone who looks back at bad ‘decisions made’, but viewed pragmatically Hillary Clinton is simply, doing what [she hopes] will work?

In 1992, employing a ‘southern strategy’ Hillary Clinton is ‘tough on crime’.  In 2007, running to the right of Barack Obama and pragmatically calculating that she could not win the Black and Brown vote, her 2008 target voters were racist whites, a continuation of the 1992 ‘southern strategy’.  Hillary Clinton campaigned on being “tough on crime” by making Barack Obama seem too liberal and “soft on crime”.

But in 2015 the Clinton pragmatic calculation is, as always, that she has to “take what she can get”, and, since the Republicans want their “Negrophobe whites” back, and Trump has them sewn-up, she calculates that she must ‘get’ her “firewall” of Black and Brown voters.  Black and Brown voters are simply ‘flavors of the month’.

The idea that Black and Brown voters serve as a “firewall” for any candidate is racist[xvii] in itself, Black and Brown voters must ask themselves ‘can we afford to be ‘got’ again?’

Hillary Clinton now says; It’s time to end the era of mass incarceration. [xviii]

This is also Bernie Sander’s position.  In fact, there is very little difference between the Clinton and Sanders criminal justice platforms, as written.[xix]  And so, the Clinton campaign, needing to find a difference, insists that Sanders’ promise to ‘end’ mass incarceration is not possible, while also insisting that her promise to ‘end’ mass incarceration is possible.  Maybe it depends on what the meaning of the word “end” is.

Clinton daughter Chelsea, as a surrogate for the campaign, says that the Sanders plan to end mass incarceration is “worrying[xx] and implied that the 35 year US Congressman and Senator doesn’t know ‘how a Bill becomes a Law‘ saying “My mother understands how the government works”.  Condescendingly Chelsea also points out that “We are not electing a king, we are electing a president”, and “We need someone who understands what they have to do in the job [as president] but also in partnership with congress, governors and mayors.”  That is, a president has to understand that they have to “take what they can get”.

Arguing that Senator Sanders doesn’t know that a president must work “in partnership with congress, governors and mayors” is absurd. Since, the Clinton campaign talking points are based on data that clearly shows that among the 2.2 million US inmates, roughly 90 percent are in state prisons and local jails, not federal prison, the argument is that a president can’t do anything substantial about mass incarceration without state and local agreement.

Apparently, the Hillary Clinton campaign doesn’t know what Bill Clinton knows:

In that bill [the 1994 crime bill], there were longer sentences. And most of these people are in prison under state law, but the federal law set a trend.[xxi]

What every US President, and US Congressman and Senator knows is that the federal government sets the trend. By providing or denying funding for state programs the federal government has tremendous leverage on state policy.

In fact,the 1994 federal crime law kept the mass incarceration bandwagon rolling, providing funding for new state prisons.  That these new state prisons were overwhelmingly in poor rural areas made them a favorite and much used economic development tool, serving the double purpose of providing employment for mostly conservative white rural voters and incarcerating mostly Black and Brown men and women from urban areas; all courtesy of “New Democrat” Bill Clinton. Not only was this a win-win for the Clinton ‘southern strategy’, it also promoted the rise of the private prison industry.

That Hillary Clinton is disagreeing with Sanders over the meaning of the word “end”, is a tell.  An observation from Daily Kos writer Th0rn:

Maybe it’s just me, but is seems like someone like Bernie Sanders, who relies on small donors instead of corporate lobbyists for funding, especially not lobbyists for private prison corporations, and who has been speaking out against the abuses of private prison corporations for quite a while, is the person who’s more likely to actually bring about real change on this terribly important issue. [xxii]

Any plan to reduce the prison population and ‘end’ mass incarceration must include plans to support inmates with education and training, before they return to their communities.  To not do so guarantees hopelessness leading to recidivism.  Given that in the current political climate, Republicans are loath to give funding for inmate education and training, to take what Republicans will give would be a continuing disaster for Black and Brown communities.  The pragmatic excuse for not doing so will be, to quote Bill Clinton again, ‘we let so many people out of prison’:

there wasn’t enough money left to educate them, train them for new jobs and increase the chances when they came out so they could live productive lives[xxiii]

What is Needed?.

Black and Brown communities cannot afford to take what the Republicans are willing to give; they are only willing to give us their contempt. We cannot wait to be pragmatic, to go slow, while we are – like frogs in a pot – slowly ‘boiled to death’. Such a disaster can be avoided.  A Democratic president who is willing and able, supported by the Democratic electorate, to stand up for more than ‘take what you can get’; a leader who is willing to ‘struggle for what we want’, can, with our struggle, get what we need.

To those who say we must be practical, and pragmatic and “take what you can get’, Frederick Douglass is known to have said.

If there is no struggle, there is no progress. … Power concedes nothing without a demand. It never did and it never will. Find out just what any people will quietly submit to and you have found out the exact measure of injustice and wrong which will be imposed upon them[xxiv]

And, to those who say – that believing that big change is possible is ‘unrealistic’ dreaming – Langston Hughes is known to have written:


What happens to a dream deferred?

Does it dry up
like a raisin in the sun?
Or fester like a sore—
And then run?
Does it stink like rotten meat?
Or crust and sugar over—
like a syrupy sweet?

Maybe it just sags
like a heavy load.

Or does it explode?[xxv]


[i] The betrayal that should haunt Hillary Clinton: How she sold out working women & then never apologized

[ii] How Bill Clinton’s Welfare “Reform” Created a System Rife With Racial Biases

[iii] Hillary Clinton often boasts about helping children, but she betrayed them as First Lady

[iv] Hillary Clinton often boasts about helping children, but she betrayed them as First Lady

[v] House Republican hard-liners drafting ‘Contract With America II’

[vi] Wealth Gaps Rise to Record Highs Between Whites, Blacks, Hispanics

[vii] Bill Moyers Journal, November 7, 2008

[viii] Why Hillary Clinton Doesn’t Deserve the Black Vote

[ix]  Bill Clinton says he made mass incarceration issue worse

[x] Get Your Memes Right: The 1994 Crime Bill Didn’t Create Mass Incarceration

[xi]  The Clintons’ War on Drugs: When Black Lives Didn’t Matter

[xii] Hillary Clinton on Super Predators

[xiii] Bill Clinton says he made mass incarceration issue worse

[xiv] The Crime Bill’s Legacy, Two Decades Later

[xv] Clinton campaign assails Obama for advocating against federal mandatory minimums

[xvi] Hillary Clinton Continues To Distance Herself From Her Husband’s Crime Policies

[xvii] King: The idea of an African-American firewall for Hillary Clinton is deeply insulting 

[xviii] Why Hillary Clinton Lacks Credibility On Criminal Justice Reform

[xix] Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders Vary Little on Criminal Justice Reform

[xx] Chelsea Clinton: Bernie Sanders’ plan to end mass incarceration is ‘worrying’

[xxi] Bill Clinton says he made mass incarceration issue worse

[xxii] Private Prison Corporations Stand With Hillary Clinton

[xxiii] Bill Clinton says he made mass incarceration issue worse

[xxiv] (1857) Frederick Douglass, “If There Is No Struggle, There Is No Progress”

[xxv] Harlem

12 responses to “A Clinton Presidency has been/would be a disaster for Black and Brown Communities. Here’s Why.

  1. This is what is called a “screed.” You would never know that we had lived through 12 consecutive years of a Republican Presidency during which it became part of the accepted zeitgeist that “government is the problem.” You wouldn’t know anything about the ignominious defeat of the Clinton’s liberal health insurance bill by corporate forces appealing to that zeitgeist, or the disastrous elections of 1994 that put Republicans back in charge of Congress. You wouldn’t know anything about the poverty rate declining to its lowest point ever, and at the fastest rate since the Great Society programs of the 1960s.

    You think Bernie Sanders, even now if he were elected, wouldn’t do a hell of a lot of triangulating if he were actually governing?

    • That’s the state of race relations right now. There are very few conversations about race between different races. There are mostly just screeds. People stay with their comfortable group and don’t interact much. White supremacists have screeds. White Liberals feel guilty while passively listening to black people’s screeds. No one really communicates with people in the other group.

      Bernie might do better than Hillary in office. Neither would get anything progressive done. Bernie would compromise less than Hillary would– which might be good. As with Hillary’s husband, she might veer even more to the Right, in order to “get something done.” But maybe it’s better to get nothing done than to get Far Right things done, just to have something to show.

  2. EschatologisaurusRex

    Agreed. This was a bit of a mess.

    It does reflect, unfortunately, where a lot of African American political activism is right now. I’m convinced that by mid-century, we’re going to end up as political marginalized as Native Americans have become.

  3. Screed? I don’t think any of you read the same piece that I just read. Every statement is documented. The Clintons have been a disaster for people of color and for lower income people of any race. And note that this piece did not even go into all the neocon wars and global unrest they’ve been fomenting.

    • Of course it’s well documented. However, we have a problem with overly zealous Clinton bashing in this country– and it’s been caused partly by successful Right Wing propaganda. Many voters seem to act as if the Clintons haven’t constantly had to struggle, every step of the way, with a super powerful Right Wing, and as if the Clintons have done nothing right and have not even tried to do anything right.

      We’ve been hearing non-stop Clinton bashing for 2 decades now, eventually from both sides of the political aisle. However, it’s probably a certainty that Hillary will get the nomination, not Bernie who, BTW, I myself prefer. Because if Bernie were getting close to getting the nomination, he would be getting bashed just as much as Hillary– and he obviously is not.

      The Clinton bashers will have successfully convinced so many people that the Clintons are all bad with no redeeming characteristics, that many Dems and Independents may stay home on election day, if Hillary gets the nomination. The successful propaganda that has brought us 2 decades of Clinton bashing, may have resulted in making many of my fellow Bernie supporters becoming just as uncompromising as Tea Partiers are. It would be letting the perfect be the enemy of the good.

      If all those folks stay home on election day, then get ready to have President Trump– or someone just as bad– plus an even more Right Wing Congress than we have now.

  4. Howard Switzer

    Right about that and the TTP, TTAP and TISA will make sure that happens. We are not ruled by anyone we elect, we are ruled by the oligarchy that controls the debt-money system. They get the legislation they want, we do not and its been that way a long time. The media’s job, as well as the “education” system, is to make us all think this is the best we can get. Many polls and the recent Princeton study have shown this to be true. So, we need to elect people who will pursue a real monetary system, based on care instead of usury, and put an end to this destructive debt system. Considering the current and unprecedented rate of extinction going on right now, which is literally the web of life coming apart, we have little choice. Its like Lyndon Johnson said in his famous atomic bomb campaign ad, “we either begin to love one another or we die.”

    • Well, it seems like a whole lot of people would rather die then. But the rest of us need to keep doing the best we can at this.

  5. Good analysis Linwood.

    Does anyone know of a definitive study that shows by how much the Bill Clinton/Robert Rubin “economic” policies enriched the rich and impoverished the poor?

    • Bill delivered the Democratic party to Wall Street (and cemented the neocon’s hold on the party’s central administration). Bill and Bob then rammed through the “reforms” that would complete Reagan’s dream of moving income and wealth to the top. Pavlina Tcherneva’s work on rising inequality documents the results. Jill dreams of the good old days of the Clintons in the Whitehouse–the fluffing by young interns, the ending of “entitlements” (that is, meager protection for the poor), the move to incarcerate millions, and the dog whistling about super predators. And of course, the Clintons used their Whitehouse’s relation with Wall Street to enrich themselves as they (and their daughter) built a fortune that they hope will help power Hillary, now,– and later their daughter– back into the Whitehouse. There is a reason why both liberals and conservatives criticize the Clintons as well as all the arguments that Hillary now somehow deserves to be handed the Presidency without examination of her past deeds. And all this fear mongering about Trump is baseless–many recent analyses have shown that Bernie Sanders is a more formidable foe. And, again, I have not even touched on Hillary’s Council on Foreign Relations connections and her disastrous role in promoting war.

      • Latest CNN Poll results:
        “Clinton tops Trump 52% to 44% among registered voters. That result has tilted in Clinton’s favor since the last CNN/ORC Poll on the match-up in January. But when the former secretary of state faces off with either of the other two top Republicans, things are much tighter and roughly the same as they were in January. Clinton trails against Rubio, with 50% choosing the Florida senator compared to 47% for Clinton, identical to the results in January. Against Cruz, Clinton holds 48% to his 49%, a slight tightening from a 3-point race in January to a 1-point match-up now.

        Sanders — who enjoys the most positive favorable rating of any presidential candidate in the field, according to the poll — tops all three Republicans by wide margins: 57% to 40% against Cruz, 55% to 43% against Trump, and 53% to 45% against Rubio. Sanders fares better than Clinton in each match-up among men, younger voters and independents.”

        Hillary’s early leads were due largely to the “inevitability” and “entitlement” bias of the mainstream media. As voters learn more about Clinton, they like her less. Her narrow leads will disappear. The criticism and distrust of the Clintons is well-deserved. As voters learn more about Sanders, they like him more. His leads will widen. Those like Jill who are risk-averse and who really fear a Trump or especially a Rubio should be pushing Bernie. He will beat any of the likely Republicans in a landslide.

      • I don’t dream of the good old days of the Clintons. I know they are Right Wingers. I prefer Bernie, and I hope he gets the Dem nomination. But if Bernie doesn’t get the nomination, I don’t have the delusions that you have, LRWray, that Hillary would be as bad as the Republican nominee. She wouldn’t. She is Right of Center. But the Republicans are to the Right of Attila the Hun.

        If Hillary gets the nominatioin, progressives who decide to stay home, and to let a Republican win the presidency, and to let Congress get even more Right Wing than it is now, are severely deluded.

  6. BTW, whether we like it or not, Hillary will be the Dem nominee. The person who is destined to be the Dem nominee is the one who gets bashed 24/7/365. Does that sound like it describes Bernie to you?