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Bill Clinton’s Black Magic

POSTED: April 08, 2016, 10:30 am

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Presidential Candidate Bill Clinton earning cool points on the Arsenio Hall Show

Just when I thought former president Bill Clinton could not surpass his most racially offensive moment, he outdoes himself with his performance in Philadelphia yesterday. The ‘most interesting spouse in America’ was confronted by a Black protester at an event for his wife, Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton, and did not take kind for the intrusion of a concern for Black life in his undoubtedly brilliant recitation of the brilliance of Clintonian politics. It was the type of performance that has many of us cringing over the prospects of Clinton II in the White House.

In typical Bill Clinton fashion, he proceeded to lecture the young woman on how the Black Lives Matter movement is defending murderers; his behavior in keeping with the condescending attitude he has displayed throughout his career toward any Black critique of his politics. A true child of the Jim Crow south, the former President comfortably slips into a patronizing suit of white privilege and reminds us of our ‘place’ when we dare raise questions about our treatment and status in this nation. In his world, just being allowed in his midst should satisfy our need for standing.

This is the former President who was bailed out by Blacks when his presidency was about to crumble over his affair with a young, female White House intern. It was members of the Congressional Black Caucus who were his most vocal defenders who marched lock-step with their Democratic colleagues to the White House to defend their President from the ridiculous overreach of the Republican Party. When many white Democrats expressed disgust with Bill Clinton, it was the Black community that held him up, applied balm to his wounds, and literally resuscitated a presidential corpse.

None of that mattered to Bill Clinton; his thirst for power only made Blacks a convenient foil or stepstool, depending on the circumstances of the moment. When he was candidate Clinton he made a young Black activist, Sister Souljah, his target to gain the support of Reagan Democrats and whites who generally think that Blacks have gotten a bit too uppity in their claims for equal treatment. Clinton donned shades and played the saxophone on the Arsenio Hall Show (and for the record I’m an Arsenio fan) to claim kinship with Black coolness, and for no other reason than he displayed a public civility toward us, he was deemed the “first Black President.” When our dear elder, Congressman Charlie Rangel ushered him into Harlem to open his post-presidency office, Bill Clinton was greeted like Jesus coming into Jerusalem. Bill Clinton is the master Black puppet master, pulling whatever string is necessary to cajole Black people and signal to white folks that he is the blackest and whitest man in the room.

What does any of this have to do with Hillary Clinton? A lot. Prior to their taking Washington by storm, the Clintons were a policy duet. She was his yin, he her yang. Their political partnership was unmistakable; they climbed, plotted and politicked as a unit. There was no mistaking that to accept one, you had to accept the other. Beyond their marital status, they were ideological twins who were driven in their quest for the brass ring. In her role as First Lady, now presidential candidate Hillary Clinton, was a policy maven who supported, promoted and defended the center-right, Democratic Leadership Council politics of her husband. Now, in this presidential election, there can be no surgery to separate these Siamese twins. They are one and the same.

This partnership produced a crime bill that was draconian in its application and resulted in the mass incarceration of Blacks and Latinos, destroying families in the process. The Clintons ‘tough on crime’ approach also encouraged the militarization of local law enforcement that is the root of the epidemic of excessive force we encounter today. The criminal justice policy of the Clinton era cannot be excused due to the climate of that period either. Just look at how the heroin epidemic is being confronted and it’s clear that how we deal with populations are a matter of choice. The welfare reform agenda of the Clinton White House made Black women, young, poor Black women, scapegoats for the failure of this nation in providing educational and job training opportunities, and lack of family supports. The disappearance of independent Black-owned radio stations can be traced back to the Clinton supported Telecommunications Act of 1996. That legislation also opened the door for the corporate consolidation of media properties, across mediums, and the emergence of a company like Rupert Murdoch’s News Corporation to become a right-wing political platform. Clintonian politics is defined by the degree Blacks can be ‘managed,’ whites can be convinced Blacks will be kept in check, and corporate interests can be confident that the structures of profit-making and labor exploitation that breeds inequality will be undisturbed.

In this presidential election, Blacks are being told that we really only have one choice. The lunatics running under the Republican banner are being peddled as the second coming of Hitler and Democratic-Socialist Bernie Sanders is being painted as an ideologue who wants to turn the nation into a socialist state. Sanders, even more so than Trump or Cruz, is being skewered by mainstream news outlets. His candidacy is being reported as a threat that could cause the election of Republican extremists; the very people these outlets provided legitimacy by fawning over them like obsessed fans in their coverage. Meanwhile, Blacks are again being told to be pragmatic. We are again essentially being told to choose between the lesser of two evils. Most often during this election year the composition of the Supreme Court is held up as what should be the critical determinant of our vote, the issue that should compel us to swallow our anger, ignore the truth and again trust that the ‘real choice’ will act with some degree of humanity when seated in the Oval Office. It is a choice of diminishing return as the reciprocity of presidential politics never applies to African-Americans, and the predictability of our Supreme Court is non-existent.

We are well past the time when we should be compelled to act against our own interests or being driven by fear to make a choice that is likely no choice at all. This election should serve as a wake-up call that both political parties are in need of transformation. The Republican Party needs to get over its racism and obvious attraction to the vilest elements of our electorate. The Democratic Party needs to cease its patronizing and acting as if they are doing us a favor by inviting us to the table to watch others eat. And African-Americans need to stop acting so desperate and fearful, and demanding more than a selfie with a seemingly ‘down’ candidate or former President for that matter. Loyalty has its limits and we have far exceeded that barrier for both parties.

Walter Fields is Executive Editor of

Clintonian politics is defined by the degree Blacks can be ‘managed,’ whites can be convinced Blacks will be kept in check, and corporate interests can be confident that the structures of profit-making and labor exploitation that breeds inequality will be undisturbed.

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