Former President Bill Clinton’s “spirited defense” of his 1994 Crime Bill and his record on civil rights during an event for his wife’s Presidential campaign was inspired by either his ego or as a calculated effort at appealing to white voters that Hillary’s campaign is currently not attracting. In either case, it was a misstep–one that the Clinton’s are already walking back.
We can have a spirited debate about the overreaction to the high crime rates in the 80’s and 90’s–and there is a very good argument to be made about the limited effects that Clinton’s federal crime policy had on mass incarceration–given the small percentage of inmates in federal prisons v. the vast number of state and local inmates. However, the pernicious effects on people of color and low income communities because of our nation’s policy of mass incarceration is undeniable and needs to be seriously addressed. Policy needs to be crafted and decisions made–and they must involve cooperation by state governments too.
But if this whole kerfluffle was the result of a deliberate tactic in a Presidential political campaign, it points to a grievous misunderstanding on the part of the Clintons about the basic demographic shift in voting patterns since Bill’s races in the 90’s. Democrats have nothing to gain by getting into a pissing match with #BlackLivesMatter in 2016, thinking it will be as effective as calling out Sister Souljah in the 90’s.
Bill successfully courted the white working class in his ’92 campaign by publicly distancing himself from the more liberal parts of the Democratic coalition. Those “Reagan Democrats” are now both a smaller part of the electorate and no longer as crucial to putting together electoral college victories.
The Obama coalition of voters: college educated, young people, Latinos, African Americans, Asians, women, LGBT is now large enough to have swung states like CA, NY, IL into solid Dem strongholds–and put formerly solid GOP states like NC, VA, CO, FL into tossup status.
Obama won big in two consecutive elections while getting trounced in the white, male working class vote. The Democrats will win in 2016 by energizing and mobilizing their coalition. They should put their efforts into overturning voter ID laws and voter suppression gerrymandering of House districts.
Any effort at recruiting the “Trump Republicans” should be an honest attempt to point out the common economic exploitation of ALL low income groups–while refusing to cede any ground to those who would marginalize and stereotype those groups already under the Democratic Party’s umbrella.
The Clintons’ need to embrace #BlackLivesMatter, acknowledge the pain of racist policing and mass incarceration and state that they look forward to a Hillary administration that works with people all across the country to deal with the problems that face our nation–but more specifically, people of color. It is not only the right thing to do, it’s smart politics.