Author and entrepreneur Seth Godin says he credits his many successes to his abundance of failures.
This concept helps me understand Bill Clinton — who talks more and has accomplished more than most any other human being alive.
But despite leading us through eight years of general peace and prosperity where 22 million jobs were created, his record is defined by many on the left not by his tax increases on the rich, the Motor Voter law, the Family and Medical Leave Act or the Children’s Health Insurance Program.
For them, his legacy is defined by welfare reform and the 1994 Crime Bill.
The Crime Bill didn’t create the crisis of mass incarceration. But the spirit in which it was written definitely played a key role in over-policing and over-incarceration that has decimated generations of black men and families.
It’s difficult now to conjure the angst of the early 1990s — thank the universe. And there’s no excuse that’s going to annul Clinton’s appropriation of tough-on-crime rhetoric of the period that veered toward racial dog whistling. But there are clear reasons why black voters tend to support the Clintons and have for more than twenty years — with the exception of about eight months from 2007-2008.
In this speech from 1993, you can see the president make the case that fighting crime was a natural extension of the civil rights movement from the pulpit where Martin Luther King Jr. gave his last sermon.
You can see the crowd almost fully in sync with the president and note that Jesse Jackson echoed Clinton at the time calling the effort to confront violence in the black community the “new frontier of the civil rights movement.”
Now, when someone talks as much as President Bill Clinton does, you’re bound to say some pretty bad things, which leads me to as his oblique comparison of Bernie Sanders’ supporters to the Tea Party this week.
Just as I wince when I hear Democrats recycle Fox Nation comments to smear Hillary Clinton or dismiss Bill Clinton’s legacy in its entirety, I’m very protective of the Sanders movement, which I see as the most logical — if a bit delayed — response to the financial crisis.
The notions that we need a better safety net, more regulation and a serious effort to stop to massive accumulation of wealth and power by the richest Americans are consistent in both the Sanders and Clinton campaigns.
But the righteous indignation of the Sanders campaign strikes me as necessary and important. He gives voice to unnecessary agony that exists in an economy maimed by three decades of conservative economics and battered by the financial crisis — agony that has only been hinted at before by the Occupy movement. While that movement helped reshape the argument heading into the 2012 election, it was purposely aimed to style out of electoral politics.
The Tea Party was the result of decades of a well financed effort to seed conservative framing in hopes of launching a populist movement around the idea that we are obligated by God to make life easier for billionaires and corporations. In the midst of the financial crisis, the conservative media and party’s Southern Strategy had matured enough that a backlash to our first black president was almost inevitable — with the help of millions of dollars of organizational support.
The Sanders campaign is holistic, self-funding and has emerged from almost nothing but a sense that richest nation in the world shouldn’t only work for those born rich.
Whether America is ready to embrace social democratic policies without the decades of re-framing likely necessary to combat conservative domination of our political discourse is another question. And when I see people who are disappointed with the massive successes of Barack Obama put their hopes on accomplishing Medicare-for-All and free college without a massive redistricting of the House and the end of the Senate filibuster, I get a little shaky imagining the inevitable disillusionment.
Sanders supporters argue that Bernie is eminently electable and label Democrats screeching about the danger of losing the chance to appoint up to four Supreme Court justices as “blackmail.”
I’m not so sure.
If you spend a lot of time online, you may think the party is divided intractably — but most Democrats really like both candidates and see themselves supporting the winner regardless. For me, and I imagine many of you, this campaign is forcing me to question my own beliefs as much as I’m questioning the candidates.
If you want to hear a great example of the internal debate many Democrats are experiencing, check out this great podcast from the New Republic‘s Brian Beutler featuring a debate between Sanders’ supporter historian Rick Perlstein and Clinton backer Michelle Goldberg.
It’s much better than an argument about who would be better at building a wall on top of Muslims.
[Photo by Chris Savage | Eclectablog]