By Lynette Holloway
But is the steady drumbeat of support and endorsements from African-American celebrities, activists, lawmakers, and the parents of fallen unarmed Black men is beginning to look, well, like political pandering?
For months, she has marched out supporters, including Star Jones, former co-host of The View; Ben Crump, president of the National Bar Association and the civil rights attorney who represented the families of slain Black teens Trayvon Martin and Michael Brown; Gwen Carr, the mother of Eric Garner, and Trayvon Martin’s mother, Sybrina Fulton.
The drone has reached a pitch as the 2016 presidential election season kicks into high gear and after rival Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders won the New Hampshire primaries, where Clinton has enjoyed political support in the past.
Even Sanders is looking to shore up his support among Black voters as the race moves to South Carolina next week, and where African-Americans play a big role in the primaries. Fresh off his Tuesday victory in New Hampshire, Sanders rolled into Harlem, which was one-time considered the Black mecca, to meet with the Rev. Al Sharpton.
God knows both of them need the votes, especially if they’re trying to borrow a page from President Barack Obama’s playbook in both elections. In 2012, Black women voted at a higher rate than any other group—across gender, race, and ethnicity–and played a large part, along with other women of color, in Obama’s re-election.
In 2008, when Clinton was widely expected to win the Black vote because of her husband’s political legacy, women-of-color showed up at the polls in historically high numbers and voted Democratic, electing Obama to the White House for the first time.
This time, Clinton’s campaign is working hard to ensure that those votes do not slip away again. But scholars like Michelle Alexander question whether she deserves the Black vote in the first place.
In a scorching piece in The Nation Tuesday, Alexander denounced Clinton for supporting policies enacted by President Bill Clinton, including the crime bill and welfare reform, which have “decimated Black America.”
From The Nation:
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.
When Clinton left office in 2001, the United States had the highest rate of incarceration in the world. Human Rights Watch reported that in seven states, African Americans constituted 80 to 90 percent of all drug offenders sent to prison, even though they were no more likely than whites to use or sell illegal drugs. Prison admissions for drug offenses reached a level in 2000 for African Americans more than 26 times the level in 1983. All of the presidents since 1980 have contributed to mass incarceration, but as Equal Justice Initiative founder Bryan Stevenson recently observed, “President Clinton’s tenure was the worst.”
To make matters worse, the federal safety net for poor families was torn to shreds by the Clinton administration in its effort to “end welfare as we know it.” In his 1996 State of the Union address, given during his re-election campaign, Clinton declared that “the era of big government is over” and immediately sought to prove it by dismantling the federal welfare system known as Aid to Families With Dependent Children (AFDC). The welfare-reform legislation that he signed—which Hillary Clinton ardently supported then and characterized as a success as recently as 2008—replaced the federal safety net with a block grant to the states, imposed a five-year lifetime limit on welfare assistance, added work requirements, barred undocumented immigrants from licensed professions, and slashed overall public welfare funding by $54 billion (some was later restored).
Aside from serious policy issues associated with President Clinton that Alexander highlights in The Nation, Clinton’s campaign has stumbled as it tries to help the candidate relate to people of color and millennial voters. Below are some examples:
The candidate got dragged on social media over the holiday when staff changed her Twitter logo into what appeared to be kinara, the candle holder used by Kwanzaa celebrators. The reaction was like, um, nope!