Forgetting History: The New Democrat Edition

Not that my perusing of the internet should be in any way considered an unbiased sample, but I’ve noticed that, among Clinton supporters, there is complete amnesia–or perhaps willful ignorance–about the zenith of the New Democrats from the later 1980s to early 2000s. For me, it’s the stunning ignorance regarding welfare reform–which was viciously misogynist and racist in both effect (including the needless death of thousands every year) and the promulgation of stereotypes used to justify the policy (“deadbeats” was one of the less offensive characterizations of poor minority women). Thankfully, I’m not the only one who remembers this (boldface mine):

Maybe this is a generational thing, but this is what the Clintons will always mean to me: Sister Souljah, Ricky Ray Rector, welfare reform, and the crime bill. And beyond—really, behind—all that, the desperate affirmation to win over white voters by declaring: We are not the Party of Jesse Jackson, We are not the Rainbow Coalition.

People don’t seem to remember just how much the Clintons’ national ascendancy was premised upon the repudiation of black voters and black interests—a move that was both inspired and applauded by a small but influential group of Beltway journalists and party strategists, who believed this was the only path to taking back the White House from the Republicans—but for me, it’s vivid as yesterday….

…according to an article by Andrew Hacker, which Paul cites, that “for the first time in almost half a century, the party’s [1992] platform made no mention of redressing racial injustice.” (I re-read the platform: it does mention affirmative action and civil rights in passing, but it’s cursory.) Or the fact that in their 1992 book, Putting People First, Bill Clinton and Al Gore only mentioned race once. And that was to oppose the idea of racial quotas. Or the fact that their chapter on civil rights was mostly about people with disabilities.

..white people got the message: according to polls, white voters were more familiar with Clinton’s attack on Sister Souljah than they were with his economic plan. So did black people: though they voted for Clinton, their share of the total voter turnout fell by 20% from 1988, when they cast their ballots for Michael Dukakis (and accounted for 20% of the vote for him and 10% of total turnout), and 1992, when they cast their ballots for Clinton (and accounted for 15% of the vote for him and 8% of total turnout).

Stanley Greenberg, Clinton’s pollster, celebrated all these changes in an influential book, arguing that this recalibrated attention to black voters “allowed for a Democratic Party that could once again represent people in the broadest sense.” It doesn’t take a close reader to know what that “people in the broadest sense” looked like.

Let’s not forget, Hillary Clinton defended welfare reform for a very long time after President Clinton left office: she believes this bigoted garbage. Meanwhile, one of the people in Congress who steadfastly opposed welfare reform–and thus fought for people who were disproportionately not “in the broadest sense”–is currently being vilified as someone who ‘doesn’t get it’ on issues of race and gender.

But, by all means, let’s reward bad behavior. After all, it’s what Very Serious Democrats want.

Just don’t wonder why, when 2017 rolls around, you end up very disappointed…

Aside: How ignoring the ongoing effects, both unnecessary deaths and misery, of welfare reform, as so many are doing, is not a form of privilege escapes me. Intersectionality doesn’t mean that much I guess…

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