Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Eric Dyson's Great Piece on Hillary Clinton

This one is a must read in it's entirety, He argues that Hillary more than her husband or Obama might be able to deliver for African-Americans.

"Yes She Can."

"Why Hillary Clinton will do more for black people than Obama"

As a liberal Democrat, 2008 was a tough time for me in general. To have two such qualified candidates both who were in a different sense historical campaigns seemed sort of unfair for me.

It was a time of dissonance. Joy Reid in an excellent book that covered the history of the Democratic party over the last 50 years analyzed the 2008 primary in great detail.

She related how many black families were divided between Obama and Hillary. Dyson in his piece reveals that while he supported Obama, his wife was one of the relative few prominent African Americans who never left Hillary.

I found myself pretty conflicted as well. For me, however, as big an 'Obamabot'-as the firebaggers used to call us-I was a Hillary man in 2008. The reason for this was simple: I knew who Hillary was and she had a long history that I watched. I remember her coming on the scene with Bill in the early 90s.

From that first Diane Sawyer interview, I was a big supporter of hers. I loved that Tammy Wynette comment despite all the flak she got for that. For me, Obama seemed like a smart, capable guy. But I knew little about him beyond that he gave a great speech at the 2004 Democratic Convention.

 As Dyson says, there were a number of battle scars from that primary between Hillary and some of her longtime black supporters.

"There is good reason to be skeptical about Hillary Clinton and race. It’s never been anything explicit, necessarily, but she has sinned in the realm of signification, the place where innuendo and plausible deniability live. Let us start with her first presidential campaign in 2008, and the infamous “3 a.m. phone call” television ad that so spooked folks in the nation’s white hinterland. “It’s 3 a.m. and your children are safe and asleep,” a concerned narrator intoned. “Who do you want answering the phone?”

"On the surface, there was nothing especially racially troubling about an advertisement that said the nation’s first female commander in chief had the chops and bravura to answer the call. But to seasoned observers of racial coding, myself included, the image of innocent sleeping children and a nervously attentive mother evoked an uglier racial epoch. “I couldn’t help but think of D.W. Griffith’s Birth of a Nation … with its portrayal of black men lurking in the bushes around white society,” Harvard sociologist Orlando Patterson wrote in The New York Times. “The person answering the phone might be a black man, someone who could not be trusted to protect us from this threat.”

"Then there was the time that Clinton, having lost the 2008 primary in North Carolina, pointed out that “Obama’s support among working, hardworking Americans, white Americans”—my emphasis—“is weakening again, and how whites in both states who had not completed college were supporting me.” When pressed about the racial undertones of her comments, Clinton was defiant. “These are the people you have to win if you’re a Democrat. … Everybody knows that.”

"Or the debate dustup with Obama that year over the role of Martin Luther King Jr. in bringing about social change. “We don’t need to be raising the false hopes of our country about what can be delivered,” Clinton said. After the debate, Obama responded that hope inspired John F. Kennedy to put a man on the moon and allowed King to imagine the demise of segregation. “Dr. King’s dream began to be realized when President Johnson passed the Civil Rights Act,” Clinton later said on Fox News. “It took a president to get it done. The power of that dream became real in people’s lives because we had a president who said we are going to do it, and actually got it accomplished.” Never mind the black-led social movement that forced Johnson to act, nor the pregnant political moment that was brought into being because of King’s fierce eloquence. I was angered by her presumption, and I wasn’t the only one."

For me it did kind of seem that Hillary was in a no win situation in 2008. Even if she did a few times arguably say the wrong thing, it was understandably frustrating. 

I  won't try to re-litigate every incident, but regarding the 3 a.m. call I never read this as racial. She wasn't talking about domestic African-Americans but foreign terrorists and assorted threats. 

Her reference here I didn't see as a comment about Obama's race but his inexperience. 

Dyson now feels that Obama largely failed on racial issues until late in his term-he sees him as a great President but no on race issues. 

But I have to say-Obama was never vetted on race. Any criticism Hillary made was sort of put under a magnifying glass to see if there was some nasty undertone. Obama never had to deal with this. No one ever questioned that his African American policies would be great. 

Obama because of the historical nature of his candidacy was more or less given a pass on racial policies that Hillary as a white woman would never get. So it''s understandable why in a sense she was frustrated-it was a battle she could never win. 

It was my particular grievance that there was a lot more sensitivity towards potential racial slights than potential sexist ones. A number of Obama supporters would say shocking things about Hillary and were not called on it. 

But for me, once it was over it was over. For me it's never about personalities but the Democratic party first and foremost. Barrack Obama was while lacking her experience clearly very intelligent and qualified and what mattered to me was getting a Democrat back in the White House after 8 years of W. 

Dyson now thinks that ironically, Hillary might be the one to deliver for the black community. His overall thesis is that a kind of constellation-a dialectical relationship-between Hillary and Black Lives Matter can achieve these real accomplishments. 

"In New York, when I asked Clinton what policies her administration would put forth to help black folk, she effortlessly rattled them off: She spoke of redirecting federal resources to local and state law enforcement. She spoke about black unemployment, a subject Obama has hardly acknowledged, the school-to-prison pipeline, which, she said, “often starts because black kids get suspended and expelled at a much higher rate.” She talked about creating “real alternatives to incarceration” for black people, adding that “we don’t want them being put into the prison system for nonviolent, low-level offenses, but we also don’t want them just thrown out on the street. There’s got to be a much better array of services that is available for people to try to get their own lives on the right track.” She touted community empowerment and “the use of the federal dollar to try to support small businesses, which are still the backbone of most African American communities”; she advocated job-training programs, addiction services, mental health treatment: the meat, the substance."

"When Bill Clinton got into office he was dubbed by Toni Morrison and Chris Rock as our nation’s first black president. It was a symbolic, and somewhat ridiculous, mantle he wore with pride until Barack Obama came along to steal his swag. But Obama’s tentative racial posture opened the door for both BLM and Hillary Clinton, for leaders who might seize the reins of race and guide the country to deeper engagement and broader healing. In the weird, paradoxical politics of American race, Bill Clinton had greater permission to be black in public than Barack Obama, which is another way of saying it cost Obama far more political capital to revel in race the way Clinton did. No matter the cause, the effect of Obama’s limited ability to maneuver inside the perilous parameters of race means that an even more punishing paradox looms: A white woman shattering the barrier of gender may carry the baton of racial engagement further than he ever could, or did, or was willing to fight to do."

The idea is that BLM can apply pressure on Hillary but she can challenge them to make their demands tangible. As Dyson says Hillary-like Martin Luther King, Jr.-is a racial liberal. I'd put myself in that category as well. 

I agree with the overarching goals and agenda of BLM-the concern over a seeming use of excessive force with African-Americans in many cases, as sense that when AA are wrongly killed, those guilty are not held accountable.

But I still often feel some mixed feelings about their tactics and some of their rhetoric. I mean to claim that nothing good for any 'people of color' has happened in '400 years of American captivity' is just grossly false. 

I understand that some tactics that don't seem so palatable can still be productive. But what is the gain from saying things like that?

Al Sharpton-and he may have been thinking of BLM when he noted this-on PoliticsNation last Sunday made the point that MLK formed a coalition of whites and blacks. But to make false claims like that hardly further coalitions. 

Now I say this as a racial liberal. Liberals like me tend to be a little uneasy with methods that seem illiberal. But I'm not the only one.

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