15 February 2016

How Bill and Hillary "out-niggered" the Republicans, Lee Atwater-style #BlackLivesMatter

(The title is a reference to statements by former Alabama governor George Wallace and Republican strategist Lee Atwater)

In a 1996 interview with PBS’s Frontline, Paul Greenberg, a progressive who at the time was an editor of the Arkansas Democrat Gazette and a longtime Clinton-watcher, compared Bill and Hillary to Tom and Daisy Buchanan of Scott Fitzgerald’s best-known novel, The Great Gatsby.  Of course, that was a couple of decades before Frank and Claire Underwood of House of Cards, whom I think are a better parallel.

Contrary to what Hillary recently claimed in one of the primary debates, she is not and never has been progressive, at least not since the late 1960’s.  Neither, for that matter, has Bill, and she strongly and outspokenly supported every single one of his policies and major legislative goals, from the Defense of Marriage Act, to the Personal Responsibility Act, to the Violent Crimes Act, to the North American Free Trade Agreement, and the list goes on. 

Though Bill’s ability to mimick empathy made and still makes a sizable portion of the Afro-American community believe he really cares about their welfare, the social policies and racial politics of Bill and Hillary Clinton come straight from dog-whistle politics from the playbook of notorious Republican strategist Lee Atwater.

Lee Atwater

A Republican consultant from South Carolina and strategist to Presidents Reagan and Bush, Altwater perfected the dog-whistle politics that have come to characterize a broad section of the Democratic Party since its Right Turn under the leadership of Bill and Hillary Clinton (while the Republican Party, in the thrall of the Tea Party and the Freedom Caucus, has nearly gone full-blown George Wallace).

In the 1980 campaign, Atwater was the consultant for a successful U.S. Senate campaign in his home state of South Carolina.  After the presidential inauguration of Ronald Reagan in 1981, Atwater went to work for the man who opened his 1980 presidential bid with a speech promoting “states’ rights” at the at the Neshoba County Fair in Philadelphia, Mississippi, the same area in which voting rights activists James Chaney, Michael Schwerner, and Andrew Goodman were murdered in 1964.

Atwater’s 1981 interview

In 1981, Atwater sat down for an anonymous interview with Alexander P. Lamis, professor of political science at Case Western Reserve University, about his political views and tactics, particularly his own adaptation of the “Southern Strategy”.  Lamis first published the interview in his 1990 book, The Two Party South, with Atwater’s name withheld, but after Atwater’s death in 1995 reproduced the transcript in the book Southern Politics in the 1990’s (1999) with Atwater's name included.  Here is the core part of that interview relevant to that topic and the one at hand.

Atwater: “As to the whole Southern strategy that Harry S. Dent, Sr., and others put together in 1968, opposition to the Voting Rights Act would have been a central part of keeping the South. Now [the new Southern Strategy of Ronald Reagan] doesn’t have to do that.  All you have to do to keep the South is for Reagan to run in place on the issues he’s campaigned on since 1964 and that’s fiscal conservatism, balancing the budget, cut taxes, you know, the whole cluster.”

Lamis: “But the fact is, isn’t it, that Reagan does get to the Wallace voter and to the racist side of the Wallace voter by doing away with legal services, by cutting down on food stamps?”

Atwater: “You start out in 1954 [the year SCOTUS decided Brown v. Board of Education] by saying, ‘Nigger, nigger, nigger’.  By 1968 you can’t say ‘nigger’—that hurts you.  Backfires.  So you say stuff like forced busing, states’ rights and all that stuff.  You’re getting so abstract now [that] you’re talking about cutting taxes, and all these things you’re talking about are totally economic things and a byproduct of them is [that] blacks get hurt worse than whites.  And subconsciously maybe that is part of it.  I’m not saying that.  But I’m saying that if it is getting that abstract, and that coded, that we are doing away with the racial problem one way or the other.  You follow me—because obviously sitting around saying, ‘We want to cut this,’ is much more abstract than even the busing thing, and a hell of a lot more abstract than ‘Nigger, nigger’.”

Nearly two decades earlier, Barry Goldwater had pioneered this Southern Strategy during the 1964 presidential campaign by promoting “states’ rights” (a cover for segregation and white supremacy), opposing the Civil Rights Act, and using the wink-wink, nudge-nudge slogan aimed at white people, “You Know You Agree With Him”.

Atwater’s later career

Initially working for President Reagan, Atwater served as deputy chairman of his re-election campaign in 1984, then moved over to the offices of Vice President Bush, whose successful election campaign he ran in 1988.  During that campaign, it was he who developed the tactic of associating Democratic candidate Michael Dukakis, then Governor of Massachusetts, with black felon Willie Horton who kidnapped a young white couple, tortured the man, viciously raped the woman.  At the time, Horton was out on furlough from prison, to which he had been sent after his conviction for first-degree murder.

Atwater later went on to become chairman of the Republican National Committee, and to inspire, at least indirectly, the political agenda and politics of a future Democratic president and his wife who was later a Senator and Secretary of State.

Few politicians and no U.S. President have exemplified these tactics and this strategy, referred to by many political scientists and pundits as “dog-whistle politics”, better and no with more finesse, than Bill Clinton (with the full support of, and later continuation by, Hillary), who took the efforts of his political forebearers Goldwater, Nixon, Reagan, and Bush to new heights, and did the long con so well that a prominent Afro-American poet even called him the nation’s “first black president”.  Atwater could never have dreamed of a better disciple.

Governor Bill Clinton

First elected as Governor of Arkansas in 1978 after serving two years as the state’s attorney general, Bill at 32 was the nation’s youngest governor.  He came into office at least posing as a reforming New Deal Democrat, aiming to reform the educational system and improve Arkansas’ roads, while Hillary headed an effort to reform urban healthcare, successfully unlike later.  He also opposed the death penalty, and freed 70 people from jail, some convicted of homicide.

Partly due to anger over the wheel tax levied to raise funds for road improvement, partly over dissatisfaction with his mishandling of a prison riot by Cuban internees, and partly due to the coattails of Ronald Reagan that year, Bill lost the 1980 gubernatorial election.  It was his George Wallace moment.

Alabama politician George Wallace ran for the governorship of the state in 1958 as a New Deal Democrat supporting the civil rights of Afro-Americans.  After losing badly to his opponent in the Democratic primary, he famously declared to his close aide, Seymore Trammel, “I was out-niggered by John Patterson, and I’ll tell you here and now, no other son-of-a-bitch will ever out-nigger me again.”  In 1962, he successfully ran under the slogan  “Segregation now!  Segregation tomorrow!  Segregation forever!”.

Bill’s turnaround was not nearly so dramatic, at least not on the surface, but when he successfully campaigned to regain the governorship in 1982, and for the next ten years as governor, it was as a much different Bill Clinton. 

Following Reagan’s landslide re-election in 1984, which actually had more to do with the then prosperous state of the economy, the popularity of the incumbent, and the lack of charisma of the Democratic candidate more than his politics, Bill joined the Democratic Leadership Council of politicians around the country who wanted to enact “welfare reform” (i.e., dismantle the New Deal), get “tough on crime”, and abandon the party’s “racial politics” (defense of minorities) to recoup the support of “mainstream” (for them, white, moderate, affluent, professional) voters, all of these positions being long-term talking points of dog-whistle politics.

Atwater translation: “Nigger, nigger, nigger” 

Paul Greenberg, who dubbed Bill with the moniker “Slick Willy” in 1980 while the Pine Bluff Commercial, said of Bill in 1996 that “his guiding principal would seem to be preserving his political viability within the system”.  Besides Bill’s pretended progressive values always taking a back seat in the bus to his political ambitions, Greenberg labelled thus because of what he and fellow Arkansas newspeople called “Clinton Clauses”, the escape clauses which “Slick Willy” has built into every position he has taken throughout his political career.

While governor, Clinton was a member of and played golf at the Country Club of Little Rock, which barred black people.  He only resigned his membership when he decided to run for president.  He later claimed he was invited by a friend and had no idea the club was for whites only, and that he left (after several years) when he learned that to be the case.  (He also smoked pot but didn’t inhale.  Nor did he have “sexual relations with that woman”).

Atwater translation: “Nigger, nigger, nigger”

(According to a 21 February 2001 article by Joseph Perkins in the Gadsden Times--"Liberal hypocrisy on issue of race"--then-President Bill played golf at Indian Creek Country Club in Miami even after the mayor refused to play there with him because it barred not only blacks but Jews, with one sole exception in the latter case.  He returned multiple times, even after being informed of the racist nature of the club's membership customs, because of the number of wealthy donors there.)

Sister Souljah moment, 1992

The presidential campaign of 1992 was shaken by the Rodney King riots of 29 April-4 May that year, centered in Los Angeles’s South Central but spread out across the country, including cities such as Atlanta.

Based on an interview with rapper and political activist Sister Souljah, David Mills wrote a piece in The Washington Post on 13 May 1992 dripping with paternalistic condencension and white liberal outrage, outrage toward the subject of his interview, called “Sister Souljah’s Call to Arms: The rapper says the riots were payback. Are you paying attention?”.

Question: “When America saw young people rampaging on the streets of Los Angeles, and buildings ablaze, and white men being dragged from their vehicles and beaten, didn't that only reinforce the presumed attitude of the Simi Valley jury -- thank God for the police, the thin blue line that protects us and our property from those violent criminals?”

Souljah: “"Black people from the underclass and the so-called lower class do not respect the institutions of white America, which is why you can cart out as many black people on television as you want to tell {them} that was stupid.  But they don’t care what you say.  You don’t care about their lives, haven’t added anything to the quality of their lives.  And then {you} expect them to respond to your opinions, which mean absolutely nothing?  Why would they?”

Question: “But the people perpetrating that violence, did they think it was wise? Was that wise, reasoned action?”

Souljah: “Yeah, it was wise.  I mean, if black people kill black people every day, why not have a week and kill white people?  You understand what I'm saying?  In other words, white people, this government and that mayor were well aware of the fact that black people were dying every day in Los Angeles under gang violence.  So if you’re a gang member and you would normally be killing somebody, why not kill a white person?  Do you think that somebody thinks that white people are better, are above and beyond dying, when they would kill their own kind?”

At a speech before the Rainbow Coalition on 13 June the same year, candidate Bill remarked “If you took the words ‘white’ and ‘black,’ and you reversed them, you might think David Duke was giving that speech”.  (Sounds a lot like 'All Lives Matter').

Atwater translation: “Nigger, nigger, nigger” 

Comparing the rapper to the former Grand Wizard of the Knights of the Ku Klux Klan who was then president of the National Association for the Advancement of White People (NAAWP) was akin to comparing Jewish singer Leonard Cohen to George Lincoln Rockwell, founder of the American Nazi Party.  The NAAWP, by the way, opposed affirmative action and supported “law and order”, the death penalty, and three-strikes laws, just like Billary and the DLC.

Atwater translation: “Nigger, nigger, nigger” 

Most pundits agree that the main target of Bill’s call-out of Sister Souljah was Jesse Jackson, who at the time had a large following of people from whom Bill wanted to distance himself in the name of “electability”.  It was also his way of “doing a Willie Horton” to undercut a potential rival.  To his credit, Jackson defended the rapper’s rage, and her right to be enraged.

1992 Presidential campaign

Just weeks before the critical New Hampshire primary, Clinton proved his toughness on crime by flying back to Arkansas to oversee the execution of Ricky Ray Rector (24 January 1992), a mentally impaired black man who had so little conception of what was about to happen to him that he asked for the dessert from his last meal to be saved for him for later.  After the execution, Clinton remarked, “I can be nicked a lot, but no one can say I’m soft on crime.”

Atwater translation: “Nigger, nigger, nigger” 

Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act, 1994

“Law and order” was a centerpiece of the 1968 campaign of Richard Nixon, who was well aware of its dog-whistle significance of opposition to the civil rights movement.  The phrase was later altered in following years to “tough on crime” once that significance became widely recognized.

Initiated by the administration, written by Sen. Joe Biden (D-DE) at the request of the White House, and sponsored Rep. Joe Brooks (R-TX), the Omnibus Crime Bill, as it was also known, passed Congress and Bill signed it into law.  

The Act built upon Reagan’s Anti-Drug Abuse Act of 1986, which enacted mandatory minimums for drug crimes and prescribed a 100-to-1 sentencing disparity (reduced to 18-to-1 by the Fair Sentencing Act of 2010) between powdered cocaine, whose majority of sellers and users were white, and crack, whose majority of sellers and users were black.  The new law increased opportunities for the death penalty, eliminated higher education for inmates, increased money for new prisons, gave money to states for keeping prisoners inside longer, supported the private prison industry, allowed for states to pass three-strikes laws, and left intact that 100-to-1 ratio.

It is because of this law that the United States has the largest prison population in the world, not per capita, the largest population period, nearly 1 million more than the next ranking country on the list, the People’s Republic of China, a country with a population of 1.4 billion.  That’s 2.4 million incarcerated out of a population of 313 million, not counting those awaiting trial and on probation and parole; go there, and the level rises to over 7 million.  Of these, 39.4% are black males (according to U.S. Bureau of Justice Statistics), who make up just 13.6% of the population, taken out of society and the electorate.  By age 23, 49% of all black males have been arrested.

“Gangs and drugs have taken over our streets and undermined our schools,” Bill said upon signing the omnibus bill into law.  “Every day we read about somebody else who has literally gotten away with murder.”

Atwater translation: “Nigger, nigger, nigger”

1996 State of the Union address

The President’s remarks that evening included the following:

“We know big government does not have all the answers. We know there’s not a program for every problem.  We know, and we have worked to give the American people a smaller, less bureaucratic government in Washington.  And we have to give the American people one that lives within its means.  The era of big government is over.”  Much of the address was meant to foreshadow the coming year’s main domestic legislative agenda, the destruction of “welfare as we know it”.

Railing against “big government” is another one of those dog-whistles, with the line “you know you agree with him” unspoken but meant to be understood.

Atwater translation: “Nigger, nigger, nigger”

1996 Presidential campaign

Giving a campaign speech at Keene State University in New Hampshire on 25 January, just five days after the above State of the Union address, Hillary included the following:

 “We also have to have an organized effort against gangs, just as in the previous generation we had an organized effort against the mob.  We need to take these people on.  They are often connected to drug cartels.   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.”

She was specifically talking about Afro-American kids, whom the authors of the feloniously flawed “study” which launched the “super-predator” myth identified would be the primary source of the fantasy coming tidal wave.

Atwater translation: “Nigger, nigger, nigger” 

(For further info on just how the racist "superpredator" bullshit is, see "The Coming of the Super-predators" in the 27 November 1995 issue of The Weekly Standard, and "My Black Crime Problem, and Ours" in the Spring 1996 issue of City Journal, both written by the pseudo-theory's creator John J. Dilulio, can be found online.)

Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Act, 1996

Though many had always been unsatisfied with various social welfare programs of the United States, not so much with their opposition but their very existence, “welfare reform” had really only come into the national agenda when Reagan introduced the mythic Cadlillac-driving “welfare queen” stereotype at the 1976 Republican National Convention, where he also talked about "young bucks" buying bunches of steaks with foot stamps.

Bill worked with Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich and Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott on the details of the bill which places a lifetime limit on welfare benefits, devolves responsibility for welfare to the states, and institutes a workfare-for-welfare program requirement, which ends the sixty year old New Deal welfare program, the centerpiece of FDR’s terms of office, a legacy which Bill rather hypocritically praised in 1999.

Hillary whipped up support for the bill among legislators, uplifted the act in newspapers columns after it passed, and still defends it to this day.

Despite the fact that the majority of recipients of AFDC (Aid to Families with Dependent Children) were white, by advocates of the bill they were portrayed, usually indirectly through codewords such as “urban” and “inner-city”, as being mostly black, like Reagan’s “welfare queen” (a fiction based on one single woman, a career criminal involved in swindling, theft, murder, kidnapping, and child-trafficking besides welfare fraud, who was indeed black and did drive a Cadillac, named Linda Taylor). 

To affirm the stereotype when he signed the bill into law, Bill even made sure he was flanked by two black women, one of whom later died due to health complications because under the new system she was unable to afford the medicine she had been paying for with money from welfare.

Atwater translation: “Nigger, nigger, nigger” 

 “Talking It Over”, 1999

In her syndicated column for 25 August that year, Hillary commented, “Too many of those on welfare had known nothing but dependency all their lives, and many would have found it difficult to make the transition to work on their own.”

Atwater translation: “Nigger, nigger, nigger” 

Interview, The Gettysburg Times, 2002

In support of the reauthorization of Bill’s anti-welfare act of 1996, then-Senator Hillary Clinton commented during the interview published in the paper 12 April, “Now that we’ve said these people are no longer deadbeats—they’re actually out there being productive—how do we keep them there?”.

By “deadbeats”, she meant all those eradicated from welfare roles by the afore-mentioned punitive legislation initiated by Bill.

Atwater translation: “Nigger, nigger, nigger” 

Sister Souljah redux

When Daniel D’Addario wrote “Sister Souljah’s New Moment” for TIME magazine (12 November 2015), he said that when asked his subject what she thought of Hillary, Souljah would not answer verbally but instead wrote her reply on a piece of paper she handed him:

“She reminds me too much of the slave plantation white wife of the white ‘Master.’  She talks down to people, is condescending and pandering.  She even talked down to the Commander in Chief, President Barack Obama, while she was under his command!”

Which is similar to Paul Greenberg’s comparison of her to Tom Buchanan’s wife Daisy.

My conclusions

It does not matter whether or not Bill/Tom and Hillary/Daisy Clinton/Buchanan are closet raving bigots of the caliber of Strom Thurmond and George Wallace or not.  I doubt it, because I do not believe they care about anything outside of themselves, their own interests and ambitions, enough to have the level of antipathy necessary for that.  To paraphrase Kanye West’s comment about Bill’s successor, Bill and Hillary Clinton simply do not care about black people.  To them, black lives do not matter.

Their policies and political actions both together and separately have wreaked massive harm to the Afro-American community all across the country.  Michelle Alexander of Ohio State University calls the situation which their policies created the “New Jim Crow”.

Given that both Clintons are too damn intelligent not to have foreseen such easily foreseeable consequences, it does not matter whether either of them gave a damn then or gives a damn now.  Those consequences are profoundly racist, and they both need to be held accountable.  And no mea culpa hand wringing can make up for the damage done and still being done.

Though Bill and Hillary bear the overwhelming majority of the blame, that responsibility extends beyond the boundaries of the Clinton family to all the other so-called “centrist” New Democrats who have done  so much harm to the Afro-American community.  And with all those, white and black, who have never called them out on it.

* * * * *

See also:

Bill Clinton's Apology: Not Accepted!


Bill Clinton, the Jolly Racist

The Coming of the Super-predators

My Black Crime Problem, and Ours

THE 1992 CAMPAIGN: Democrats; Club Where Clinton Has Golfed Retains Way of Old South

Clinton The Racist Plays Golf At "No Blacks Allowed" Country Club

Double Standard

Black Lives Shattered: How the Clintons Built Their Empire on White Supremacy

Bill Clinton Has Always Been This Person

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


1 comment:

Tommy o said...