Monday, May 30, 2016
Thursday, May 26, 2016
In the last few months I've felt compelled to defend Hillary Clinton. I didn't sign up for this. I didn't support her last year when this election cycle began, and I didn't support her during the 2008 primaries. It's not personal, and I'll do everything I can to help her beat Donald Trump in November. With that said, I've watched Hillary Clinton pander to African American voters in every imaginable way over the course of her political career. She, like every Democratic candidate in my lifetime, has done the necessary toe tapping and sermonizing to "prove" their commitment to social justice. Every four years Democratic candidates show up at historically black churches to connect with "their" people. Many of these interactions are awkward at best; I've never believed she's as comfortable in theses situations as she lets on, but to be fair I never thought Al Gore or John Kerry were that comfortable either. I've organized campaign events for white politicians who were noticeably shaken in the presence of predominantly African American audiences. A majority of politicians, irrespective of party affiliation, pander to their perspective constituencies, so when Hillary does it why is she treated so much differently?
Hillary faces authenticity questions that her political rivals seem immunized from. Donald Trump is authentic because he's "brash"; his almost daily contradictions of his own stated beliefs are glossed over by a fawning media because he connects to his supporters in such an "authentic" way. He's ratings gold for the networks, so they turn their head when he holds multiple positions on the same issue on the same day. ABC, CBS, NBC, and Fox appear to be the only people more gullible than his most die hard sycophants. Donald Trump's authenticity is built on a pattern of doubling down when you're wrong and changing positions when you're dead wrong. If someone ranked Donald Trump's twenty-five most inflammatory statements and outright lies there would be at least three that didn't make the list that would have ended anyone else's political career, yet many on the left and the right have acquiesced to this authentic narrative that's been sold to us.
Bernie Sanders' was the most authentic candidate left in the race; his campaign rhetoric reflected his legislative career, but he's damaged his brand over the last few weeks. His Kamikaze slash and burn approach has caused many to see him in a less favorable light. He survived his pro gun votes and escaped the backlash Hillary received for the 94 crime bill, but couldn't garner the kind of support from his generation of voters and people of color to claim the Democratic nomination. Among his most loyal supporters Bernie Sanders is seen as the rightful heir to Dr. King's legacy. For some, the actions he took as a student in Chicago during the 1960's eclipse the fact that he moved to Vermont where he was all but isolated from the plight of African Americans. To put it in perspective Bernie Sanders has lived in Vermont longer than Dr. King lived. By the standards set by some of the progressives I talk to there are at least a dozen members of my church who qualify for the Democratic nomination. Again, I think Bernie is stand up guy, but let's turn the dial down on the messianic talk.
Hillary said young black males should be, "brought to heel". I've had to accept the fact that blackness represents a threat to some of our white allies. This doesn't mean she wasn't wrong for equating troubled kids with wild animals, but I won't hold her to a higher standard than I hold her predecessors to. I don't begrudge Bernie Sanders for moving to Vermont, but I don't equate living in a state with less than 2% African Americans with being on the cutting edge of civil rights. Hillary has apologized for her statements; I don't know if her apologies are sincere, but she's on the record and seems like she's trying to amend her past mistakes. There's a level of intellectual honesty needed to further discussions about topics this sensitive. Northern progressives view Hillary Clinton in a way they don't view themselves. Bashing the caricature of Hillary Clinton doesn't solve any of the problems progressives are talking about. There are progressives who've moved so far to the left that they identify more closely with conservative reactionaries than the centrist in their party. I'm tired of defending Hillary from personal attacks. She's the candidate we have. We can brood over the fact that a particular candidate didn't win, but ultimately the people have spoken. If voting for Trump seems like a reasonable alternative to Hillary then the odds are you were never a progressive. If not voting is your answer then do so in a way that doesn't do more harm than good. The Supreme Court is more important to the long-term health of our country than the overly righteous sense of political purity that passes for progressivism. Donald Trump's list of perspective jurists prove this. We need to get a grip. November is less than six months away.