Progressive Calendar 02.12.16 /3
From: David Shove (
Date: Fri, 12 Feb 2016 10:43:51 -0800 (PST)

1. Love Cleopatra free Univ Club  02.12.16   7:30pm

2. Michelle Alexander - Why Hillary Clinton Doesn’t Deserve the Black Vote

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*WHAT*: Haunting Productions Presents “What’s Love Got To Do With It?”

*WHEN*: February 12, 2016, Hospitality Hour, 7:30 p.m., Performance at 8
*WHERE*: University Club of St. Paul, 420 Summit Avenue, St. Paul, MN 55102

Doors open at 7:30 p.m. Cash bar only. FREE ADMISSION (though donations
gratefully accepted)!

 *For more information*: Rich Broderick, 651-295-4521,
richb [at]

Ask Cleopatra. Love can be grand. It can be passionate. And sometimes,
downright deadly. Just when you think the future is bright and you’ve got
the world at your feet – Boom! The bottom drops out and you’re searching
for your robe and your crown for a night spent watching the director’s cut
version of *Snakes on a Plane*. Or just when you’ve given up hope – Boom!
Mr. or Ms. Right comes along and conquers your heart!

On February 12, join the actors, storytellers, singers, poets, and members
of Cassandra’s Jawaahir Dance Company when they gather at the historic
University Club of St. Paul to explore the many faces of love. Special
appearances by Lord Byron and – Cleopatra herself. It’s this year’s edition
of “What’s Love Got To With It?” Pre-Valentine’s Day Revue.

The show begins at 8 p.m., but hospitality hour starts at 7:30 p.m.

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Why Hillary Clinton Doesn’t Deserve the Black Vote
>From the crime bill to welfare reform, policies Bill Clinton enacted—and
Hillary Clinton supported—decimated black America.
By Michelle Alexander
FEBRUARY 10, 2016
The Nation

Hillary Clinton loves black people. And black people love Hillary—or so it
seems. Black politicians have lined up in droves to endorse her, eager to
prove their loyalty to the Clintons in the hopes that their faithfulness
will be remembered and rewarded. Black pastors are opening their church
doors, and the Clintons are making themselves comfortably at home once
again, engaging effortlessly in all the usual rituals associated with
“courting the black vote,” a pursuit that typically begins and ends with
Democratic politicians making black people feel liked and taken seriously.
Doing something concrete to improve the conditions under which most black
people live is generally not required.

Hillary is looking to gain momentum on the campaign trail as the primaries
move out of Iowa and New Hampshire and into states like South Carolina,
where large pockets of black voters can be found. According to some polls,
she leads Bernie Sanders by as much as 60 percent among African Americans.
It seems that we—black people—are her winning card, one that Hillary is
eager to play.

And it seems we’re eager to get played. Again.

The love affair between black folks and the Clintons has been going on for
a long time. It began back in 1992, when Bill Clinton was running for
president. He threw on some shades and played the saxophone on The Arsenio
Hall Show. It seems silly in retrospect, but many of us fell for that. At a
time when a popular slogan was “It’s a black thing, you wouldn’t
understand,” Bill Clinton seemed to get us. When Toni Morrison dubbed him
our first black president, we nodded our heads. We had our boy in the White
House. Or at least we thought we did.

Black voters have been remarkably loyal to the Clintons for more than 25
years. It’s true that we eventually lined up behind Barack Obama in 2008,
but it’s a measure of the Clinton allure that Hillary led Obama among black
voters until he started winning caucuses and primaries. Now Hillary is
running again. This time she’s facing a democratic socialist who promises a
political revolution that will bring universal healthcare, a living wage,
an end to rampant Wall Street greed, and the dismantling of the vast prison
state—many of the same goals that Martin Luther King Jr. championed at the
end of his life. Even so, black folks are sticking with the Clinton brand.

What have the Clintons done to earn such devotion? Did they take extreme
political risks to defend the rights of African Americans? Did they
courageously stand up to right-wing demagoguery about black communities?
Did they help usher in a new era of hope and prosperity for neighborhoods
devastated by deindustrialization, globalization, and the disappearance of

No. Quite the opposite.

* * *
When Bill Clinton ran for president in 1992, urban black communities across
America were suffering from economic collapse. Hundreds of thousands of
manufacturing jobs had vanished as factories moved overseas in search of
cheaper labor, a new plantation. Globalization and deindustrialization
affected workers of all colors but hit African Americans particularly hard.
Unemployment rates among young black men had quadrupled as the rate of
industrial employment plummeted. Crime rates spiked in inner-city
communities that had been dependent on factory jobs, while hopelessness,
despair, and crack addiction swept neighborhoods that had once been solidly
working-class. Millions of black folks—many of whom had fled Jim Crow
segregation in the South with the hope of obtaining decent work in Northern
factories—were suddenly trapped in racially segregated, jobless ghettos.

On the campaign trail, Bill Clinton made the economy his top priority and
argued persuasively that conservatives were using race to divide the nation
and divert attention from the failed economy. In practice, however, he
capitulated entirely to the right-wing backlash against the civil-rights
movement and embraced former president Ronald Reagan’s agenda on race,
crime, welfare, and taxes—ultimately doing more harm to black communities
than Reagan ever did.

We should have seen it coming. Back then, Clinton was the standard-bearer
for the New Democrats, a group that firmly believed the only way to win
back the millions of white voters in the South who had defected to the
Republican Party was to adopt the right-wing narrative that black
communities ought to be disciplined with harsh punishment rather than
coddled with welfare. Reagan had won the presidency by dog-whistling to
poor and working-class whites with coded racial appeals: railing against
“welfare queens” and criminal “predators” and condemning “big government.”
Clinton aimed to win them back, vowing that he would never permit any
Republican to be perceived as tougher on crime than he.

Just weeks before the critical New Hampshire primary, Clinton proved his
toughness by flying back to Arkansas to oversee the execution of Ricky Ray
Rector, a mentally impaired black man who had so little conception of what
was about to happen to him that he asked for the dessert from his last meal
to be saved for him for later. After the execution, Clinton remarked, “I
can be nicked a lot, but no one can say I’m soft on crime.”

As president, Bill Clinton mastered the art of sending mixed cultural

Clinton mastered the art of sending mixed cultural messages, appealing to
African Americans by belting out “Lift Every Voice and Sing” in black
churches, while at the same time signaling to poor and working-class whites
that he was willing to be tougher on black communities than Republicans had

Clinton was praised for his no-nonsense, pragmatic approach to racial
politics. He won the election and appointed a racially diverse cabinet that
“looked like America.” He won re-election four years later, and the
American economy rebounded. Democrats cheered. The Democratic Party had
been saved. The Clintons won. Guess who lost?

* * *
Bill Clinton presided over the largest increase in federal and state prison
inmates of any president in American history. Clinton did not declare the
War on Crime or the War on Drugs—those wars were declared before Reagan was
elected and long before crack hit the streets—but he escalated it beyond
what many conservatives had imagined possible. He supported the 100-to-1
sentencing disparity for crack versus powder cocaine, which produced
staggering racial injustice in sentencing and boosted funding for drug-law

Clinton championed the idea of a federal “three strikes” law in his 1994
State of the Union address and, months later, signed a $30 billion crime
bill that created dozens of new federal capital crimes, mandated life
sentences for some three-time offenders, and authorized more than $16
billion for state prison grants and the expansion of police forces. The
legislation was hailed by mainstream-media outlets as a victory for the
Democrats, who “were able to wrest the crime issue from the Republicans and
make it their own.”

When Clinton left office in 2001, the United States had the highest rate of
incarceration in the world. Human Rights Watch reported that in seven
states, African Americans constituted 80 to 90 percent of all drug
offenders sent to prison, even though they were no more likely than whites
to use or sell illegal drugs. Prison admissions for drug offenses reached a
level in 2000 for African Americans more than 26 times the level in 1983.
All of the presidents since 1980 have contributed to mass incarceration,
but as Equal Justice Initiative founder Bryan Stevenson recently observed,
“President Clinton’s tenure was the worst.”

Some might argue that it’s unfair to judge Hillary Clinton for the policies
her husband championed years ago. But Hillary wasn’t picking out china
while she was first lady. She bravely broke the mold and redefined that job
in ways no woman ever had before. She not only campaigned for Bill; she
also wielded power and significant influence once he was elected, lobbying
for legislation and other measures. That record, and her statements from
that era, should be scrutinized. In her support for the 1994 crime bill,
for example, she used racially coded rhetoric to cast black children as
animals. “They are not just gangs of kids anymore,” she said. “They are
often the kinds of kids that are called ‘super-predators.’ No conscience,
no empathy. We can talk about why they ended up that way, but first we have
to bring them to heel.”

Both Clintons now express regret over the crime bill, and Hillary says she
supports criminal-justice reforms to undo some of the damage that was done
by her husband’s administration. But on the campaign trail, she continues
to invoke the economy and country that Bill Clinton left behind as a legacy
she would continue. So what exactly did the Clinton economy look like for
black Americans? Taking a hard look at this recent past is about more than
just a choice between two candidates. It’s about whether the Democratic
Party can finally reckon with what its policies have done to
African-American communities, and whether it can redeem itself and rightly
earn the loyalty of black voters.

* * *
An oft-repeated myth about the Clinton administration is that although it
was overly tough on crime back in the 1990s, at least its policies were
good for the economy and for black unemployment rates. The truth is more
troubling. As unemployment rates sank to historically low levels for white
Americans in the 1990s, the jobless rate among black men in their 20s who
didn’t have a college degree rose to its highest level ever. This increase
in joblessness was propelled by the skyrocketing incarceration rate.

Why is this not common knowledge? Because government statistics like
poverty and unemployment rates do not include incarcerated people. As
Harvard sociologist Bruce Western explains: “Much of the optimism about
declines in racial inequality and the power of the US model of economic
growth is misplaced once we account for the invisible poor, behind the
walls of America’s prisons and jails.” When Clinton left office in 2001,
the true jobless rate for young, non-college-educated black men (including
those behind bars) was 42 percent. This figure was never reported. Instead,
the media claimed that unemployment rates for African Americans had fallen
to record lows, neglecting to mention that this miracle was possible only
because incarceration rates were now at record highs. Young black men
weren’t looking for work at high rates during the Clinton era because they
were now behind bars—out of sight, out of mind, and no longer counted in
poverty and unemployment statistics.

To make matters worse, the federal safety net for poor families was torn to
shreds by the Clinton administration in its effort to “end welfare as we
know it.” In his 1996 State of the Union address, given during his
re-election campaign, Clinton declared that “the era of big government is
over” and immediately sought to prove it by dismantling the federal welfare
system known as Aid to Families With Dependent Children (AFDC). The
welfare-reform legislation that he signed—which Hillary Clinton ardently
supported then and characterized as a success as recently as 2008—replaced
the federal safety net with a block grant to the states, imposed a
five-year lifetime limit on welfare assistance, added work requirements,
barred undocumented immigrants from licensed professions, and slashed
overall public welfare funding by $54 billion (some was later restored).

They are not just gangs of kids anymore…they are ‘super-predators.’
—Hillary Clinton, speaking in support of the 1994 crime bill

Experts and pundits disagree about the true impact of welfare reform, but
one thing seems clear: Extreme poverty doubled to 1.5 million in the decade
and a half after the law was passed. What is extreme poverty? US households
are considered to be in extreme poverty if they are surviving on cash
incomes of no more than $2 per person per day in any given month. We tend
to think of extreme poverty existing in Third World countries, but here in
the United States, shocking numbers of people are struggling to survive on
less money per month than many families spend in one evening dining out.
Currently, the United States, the richest nation on the planet, has one of
the highest child-poverty rates in the developed world.

Despite claims that radical changes in crime and welfare policy were driven
by a desire to end big government and save taxpayer dollars, the reality is
that the Clinton administration didn’t reduce the amount of money devoted
to the management of the urban poor; it changed what the funds would be
used for. Billions of dollars were slashed from public-housing and
child-welfare budgets and transferred to the mass-incarceration machine. By
1996, the penal budget was twice the amount that had been allocated to food
stamps. During Clinton’s tenure, funding for public housing was slashed by
$17 billion (a reduction of 61 percent), while funding for corrections was
boosted by $19 billion (an increase of 171 percent), according to
sociologist Loïc Wacquant “effectively making the construction of prisons
the nation’s main housing program for the urban poor.”

Bill Clinton championed discriminatory laws against formerly incarcerated
people that have kept millions of Americans locked in a cycle of poverty
and desperation. The Clinton administration eliminated Pell grants for
prisoners seeking higher education to prepare for their release, supported
laws denying federal financial aid to students with drug convictions, and
signed legislation imposing a lifetime ban on welfare and food stamps for
anyone convicted of a felony drug offense—an exceptionally harsh provision
given the racially biased drug war that was raging in inner cities.

Perhaps most alarming, Clinton also made it easier for public-housing
agencies to deny shelter to anyone with any sort of criminal history (even
an arrest without conviction) and championed the “one strike and you’re
out” initiative, which meant that families could be evicted from public
housing because one member (or a guest) had committed even a minor offense.
People released from prison with no money, no job, and nowhere to go could
no longer return home to their loved ones living in federally assisted
housing without placing the entire family at risk of eviction. Purging “the
criminal element” from public housing played well on the evening news, but
no provisions were made for people and families as they were forced out on
the street. By the end of Clinton’s presidency, more than half of
working-age African-American men in many large urban areas were saddled
with criminal records and subject to legalized discrimination in
employment, housing, access to education, and basic public
benefits—relegated to a permanent second-class status eerily reminiscent of
Jim Crow.

It is difficult to overstate the damage that’s been done. Generations have
been lost to the prison system; countless families have been torn apart or
rendered homeless; and a school-to-prison pipeline has been born that
shuttles young people from their decrepit, underfunded schools to brand-new
high-tech prisons.

* * *
It didn’t have to be like this. As a nation, we had a choice. Rather than
spending billions of dollars constructing a vast new penal system, those
billions could have been spent putting young people to work in inner-city
communities and investing in their schools so they might have some hope of
making the transition from an industrial to a service-based economy.
Constructive interventions would have been good not only for African
Americans trapped in ghettos, but for blue-collar workers of all colors. At
the very least, Democrats could have fought to prevent the further
destruction of black communities rather than ratcheting up the wars
declared on them.

Of course, it can be said that it’s unfair to criticize the Clintons for
punishing black people so harshly, given that many black people were on
board with the “get tough” movement too. It is absolutely true that black
communities back then were in a state of crisis, and that many black
activists and politicians were desperate to get violent offenders off the
streets. What is often missed, however, is that most of those black
activists and politicians weren’t asking only for toughness. They were also
demanding investment in their schools, better housing, jobs programs for
young people, economic-stimulus packages, drug treatment on demand, and
better access to healthcare. In the end, they wound up with police and
prisons. To say that this was what black people wanted is misleading at

By 1996, the penal budget was twice the amount that had been allocated to
food stamps.
To be fair, the Clintons now feel bad about how their politics and policies
have worked out for black people. Bill says that he “overshot the mark”
with his crime policies; and Hillary has put forth a plan to ban racial
profiling, eliminate the sentencing disparities between crack and cocaine,
and abolish private prisons, among other measures.

But what about a larger agenda that would not just reverse some of the
policies adopted during the Clinton era, but would rebuild the communities
decimated by them? If you listen closely here, you’ll notice that Hillary
Clinton is still singing the same old tune in a slightly different key. She
is arguing that we ought not be seduced by Bernie’s rhetoric because we
must be “pragmatic,” “face political realities,” and not get tempted to
believe that we can fight for economic justice and win. When politicians
start telling you that it is “unrealistic” to support candidates who want
to build a movement for greater equality, fair wages, universal healthcare,
and an end to corporate control of our political system, it’s probably best
to leave the room.

This is not an endorsement for Bernie Sanders, who after all voted for the
1994 crime bill. I also tend to agree with Ta-Nehisi Coates that the way
the Sanders campaign handled the question of reparations is one of many
signs that Bernie doesn’t quite get what’s at stake in serious dialogues
about racial justice. He was wrong to dismiss reparations as “divisive,” as
though centuries of slavery, segregation, discrimination, ghettoization,
and stigmatization aren’t worthy of any specific acknowledgement or remedy.

But recognizing that Bernie, like Hillary, has blurred vision when it comes
to race is not the same thing as saying their views are equally
problematic. Sanders opposed the 1996 welfare-reform law. He also opposed
bank deregulation and the Iraq War, both of which Hillary supported, and
both of which have proved disastrous. In short, there is such a thing as a
lesser evil, and Hillary is not it.

The biggest problem with Bernie, in the end, is that he’s running as a
Democrat—as a member of a political party that not only capitulated to
right-wing demagoguery but is now owned and controlled by a relatively
small number of millionaires and billionaires. Yes, Sanders has raised
millions from small donors, but should he become president, he would also
become part of what he has otherwise derided as “the establishment.” Even
if Bernie’s racial-justice views evolve, I hold little hope that a
political revolution will occur within the Democratic Party without a
sustained outside movement forcing truly transformational change. I am
inclined to believe that it would be easier to build a new party than to
save the Democratic Party from itself.

Of course, the idea of building a new political party terrifies most
progressives, who understandably fear that it would open the door for a
right-wing extremist to get elected. So we play the game of lesser evils.
This game has gone on for decades. W.E.B. Du Bois, the eminent scholar and
co-founder of the NAACP, shocked many when he refused to play along with
this game in the 1956 election, defending his refusal to vote on the
grounds that “there is but one evil party with two names, and it will be
elected despite all I do or say.” While the true losers and winners of this
game are highly predictable, the game of lesser evils makes for great
entertainment and can now be viewed 24 hours a day on cable-news networks.
Hillary believes that she can win this game in 2016 because this time she’s
got us, the black vote, in her back pocket—her lucky card.

She may be surprised to discover that the younger generation no longer
wants to play her game. Or maybe not. Maybe we’ll all continue to play
along and pretend that we don’t know how it will turn out in the end.
Hopefully, one day, we’ll muster the courage to join together in a
revolutionary movement with people of all colors who believe that basic
human rights and economic, racial, and gender justice are not unreasonable,
pie-in-the-sky goals. After decades of getting played, the sleeping giant
just might wake up, stretch its limbs, and tell both parties: Game over.
Move aside. It’s time to reshuffle this deck.

MICHELLE ALEXANDER Michelle Alexander is a legal scholar, human rights
advocate, and author of The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of
Colorblindness (The New Press).


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