Consider this an open letter to the African American community south of the Mason-Dixie line. This is particularly addressed to those in Maryland who might be considering voting for Clinton in the April 26, 2016 Democratic primary. I ask, “Why in the heck are you voting for Hillary?”
Clinton is winning many southern primaries on the backs of black voters, who can’t seem to get enough of Hillary. “Maybe she is just a more familiar name,” is the explanation I often get from my own Afro-American friends, as they scratch their heads. If you go to Hillary Clinton’s website, her platform reads, “End the era of mass incarceration, reform mandatory minimum sentences, and end private prisons.” That’s what she says today, as she courts your black vote.
Here is what she actually did. Hillary Clinton, along with her husband, were part of “the New Democrats,” so-called “moderate Democrats” that were the brainchild of the Democratic Leadership Council who thought Democrats were getting too progressive. Two of their central platforms to attract middle class white Americans were welfare reform and a “crackdown on crime.”
It is a matter of historical record that in 1994 Hillary Clinton favored mass incarceration. Hillary Clinton appeared on C-Span in support of “The Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act” of 1994. This act, which was one of Bill Clinton’s centerpiece legislation, spent $9.7 billion on new prisons. Hillary was touting the prison spending and unforgiving sentencing provisions as excellent legislation.
In fairness, Bernie Sanders did vote for the 1994 omnibus crime bill. He states in a February 25th press release that he did so because there was an assault weapons ban, which he supported, earning him the wrath of the NRA. There were also additional provisions for the Violence Against Women Act, as well as provisions for community policing.
But this is what Sanders said while in Congress addressing the bill: “Mr. Speaker, all the jails in the world, and we already imprison more people per capita than any other country, and all of the executions in the world, will not make that situation right. We can either educate or electrocute. We can create meaningful jobs, rebuilding our society, or we can build more jails.” Unlike Hillary, Bernie was always against mass incarceration.
I can understand why you, a black voter might feel that mass incarceration was too big a bargaining chip to give away for an assault weapons ban, provisions for the Violence Against Women’s Act, as well as funding for prevention programs. But Hillary Clinton was openly gun-ho for massive spending on additional prisons and more unforgiving prison sentences. Watch the Youtube “Hillary Clinton v. Bernie Sanders on the 1994 Crime Bill” if you don’t believe me.
Jeff Weaver, Sanders’ campaign manager, made the statement, “Hillary Clinton, on the other hand, resorted to dog whistle politics and dehumanizing language.” In 1996, when Bill Clinton was on the campaign trail, Hillary Clinton referred to young gang members as “not just gangs of kids anymore, they are often the kinds of kids called super-predators, no conscious, no empathy. We can talk about why then ended up that way, but first we need to bring them to heel.”
Recently, Afro-American Ashley Williams paid $500 to attend a Hillary Clinton fundraiser and was thrown out for asking her to apologize for mass incarceration. In Clinton’s defense, Williams did not give Clinton enough of an opportunity to respond. But Clinton could have then addressed the question, maybe after Ashley Williams was just escorted out of the room.
There are definitely bright black scholars who know better than to vote Hillary. One is Michelle Alexander, author of “The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness.” She writes, “I can’t believe Hillary would be coasting into the primaries with her current margin of black support if most people knew how much damage the Clintons have done— the millions of families [that were] destroyed the last time they were in the White House thanks to their boastful embrace of the mass incarceration machine and their total capitulation to the right-wing narrative on race, crime, welfare and taxes.”
Photos are now appearing on Facebook of an August 13, 1963, arrest of a young University of Chicago student by the name of Bernie Sanders, who was arrested for protesting de facto school segregation in Chicago. For heaven’s sake my black brothers, get to know your candidates. Vote for the balding old guy with the arrest record.