Clinton and the African-American Vote

While campaigning for Hillary in Philadelphia, Bill Clinton got into a vehement altercation with Black Lives Matter protesters over the 1994 Crime Bill.  Addressing them, he said, “Let’s just tell the whole story…You are defending the people who kill the lives you say matter. Tell the truth.”  He noted that we are currently experiencing a 25-year low crime rate in America, a 33-year low homicide rate, and a 46-year low gun violence death rate.  It is ironic he claimed to “tell the whole story,” and urged protesters to “tell the truth,” when he did just the opposite.

The Crime Bill provided 10,000 new police officers, expanded prisons, banned certain assault weapons and enacted the three-strike rule in which criminals convicted of drug crimes after two prior convictions would be sentenced to life.  What he left out in his remarks: when his presidency ended, the U.S. had the highest incarceration rate in the world and African-Americans made up 80-90% of drug offenders in prison despite being no more likely than whites to commit drug-related felonies.  The number of African-Americans sentenced for drug crimes in 2000 was 26 times higher than in 1983.  Hillary supported the bill, and referred to young African-Americans in gangs as “super-predators” who needed to be “brought to heel.”  Both Clintons have expressed regret over the bill’s effect on blacks, however, it is clear they believe it was ultimately successful.  Not only was Bill’s response to BLM protesters hypocritical and misleading, it was practically political suicide considering how heavily Hillary’s campaign relies on the black vote.  

Another issue the black community has with Clinton’s record is welfare reform.  In 1996, as the torchbearer for the “New Democrats,” Bill passed reforms that added roadblocks to entitlement benefits and slashed the total welfare spending some $54 billion.  As a result, impoverished African-Americans receiving welfare benefits dropped from 68% before the bill to 26% following its enactment. Again, Hillary and Bill believe that while the legislation did have negative effects on African-Americans, it was a success overall.

Despite continually changing her support for Bill’s record on those issues, Hillary praises the fact that the economy was booming in the 1990s.  She leaves out, however, that the economy was not good for the black community.  For example, the 90s saw record high numbers of unemployed black men in their 20s without college degrees.  Also, the gap between black and white median income continued to grow.  

Unfortunately for Hillary, she can’t have it both ways.  She will either have to distance herself from Bill’s administration, in which she played a major role, or take more responsibility for the impact his policies had on African-Americans.  

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