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Enough Compromising to Lose

There are numerous iterations of a social media meme of how people present on different social media platforms. This, in a nutshell:

I was reminded of how true this is after a response to my last post. A friend on Facebook questioned my description of Hillary's 2008 campaign as unapologetically white supremacist, which is understandable because that's not commonly how her campaign is depicted especially after her invocation of intersectionality and overt mention of institutional racism in her 2016 campaign. It can also come off as needlessly incendiary and definitely combative, which is where the meme comes in:

this is probably a bit more accurate.

I have spent a fair amount of time discussing electoral politics with centrists I encounter on Twitter. I initially said her campaign had racist undertones, matching the description of Ryan Cooper in The Week, (which I shared with my friend along with this Michelle Alexander piece) that changed over time, admittedly at first just to be shocking, but now intentionally and with forethought. The interaction with my friend reminded me that I might be bringing my Twitter way of shorthanding for brevity here and I thought it might be useful to lay out my reasoning on why I call her 2008 campaign unapologetically white supremacist, and leave my evolving depiction of her 2016 campaign for another time. In laying out my thinking I'm opening myself up to the possibility of depicting it differently if given compelling reasoning.

Prior to the 2016 primary I would have described my feelings towards Hillary as ambivalent. The irony of the primary is that her supporters forced me to fill in the details of that ambivalence. I hadn't thought much about her for years, much like the general public, and her favorability was high as a result. The moment she announced she was the presumed nominee. The voting public considered that, and her favorability dropped immediately. Voters liked her more as an idea than as a potential president. As her supporters continued to sell her to me most of her selling points were PR fluff, which once unpacked left her with little positive substance and a lot of baggage. Despite any mythology that remains of Bill Clinton as the "first Black President" it should be noted that his administration was particularly anti-Black, from his get tough on crime speech on Stone Mountain, through Welfare reform and the crime bill, and the explosion in Black incarceration. She promoted the racist dog whistle concept of 'superpredators' used to justify a prison building boom and that helped to further criminalize Black and Latino communities. The discredited concept posited a coming massive wave of conscienceless young criminals as violent crime was beginning to drop. It's as a part of that history that her 2008 (as well as 2016) campaign should be viewed. I say this because she had to be publicly confronted twice before realizing that she might need to apologize for promoting the concept, which brings into question the sincerity of her apology; her 2008 campaign evoked her 1996 statement, which was in turn evoked by her campaign strategy for 2016. From Kirsten West Savali:
the racism that peeked through the fabric of Clinton's 2008 presidential run against then Sen. Barack Obama was merely an extension of 1996 "superpredators" Clinton-- and it is that Clinton we will see struggling with herself today on issues of race. 
How many times and in how many ways could Donald Trump and Hillary Rodham Clinton scream "racist" and "bigot" at each other with the hope of ultimately terrifying Black people into voting for one or the other?
This transparent cliché of a tactic has been employed since the primaries, when, during Bernie Sanders' political revolution-- remember those days?-- an ugly Clinton campaign strategy re-emerged. The dog-whistling of her 2008 run against then Sen. Obama-- evoking the specter of assassination; touting the support of "hardworking Americans, white Americans"; hinting at Obama's being Muslim, which, for many racist and xenophobic white Americans, was code word for n--ger-- took a different tone against Sanders, the Senator  from the great, white state of Vermont.
It quickly became clear that she was fashioning herself as the Black people's champion. And Sanders, despite his race-conscious economic and health care plans; small, yet important, role in Chicago's civil rights movement; and the support of several highly respected Black surrogates, had a "Whites Only" problem he just couldn't shake
It's important to consider how many compromises to purported values Democrats had to make in naming Hillary the nominee. After lambasting Mitt Romney in 2012 for speaking fees Democrats were forced to defend Hillary taking far more from banks and organizations. They were forced to defend her vote for the disastrous Iraq War. While environmentalist and the left were banging the alarm on climate change she was spreading fracking around the globe. While criminal reform was being pushed by legislators on the right and left, Hillary was taking donations from for profit prison corporations. It's difficult to understand where she actually crosses the rubric into traditional Democratic values, she was resistant to minimum wage increases, wanted means testing to pay for college, and treated the idea of universal healthcare as a fantasy. If the latest compromise her presence on the national stage requires of Democrats isn't a sign that we've compromised too much it's only because people are still trying so hard to locate the reasons for Trump's presidency everywhere but where they belong. Trump is president because the Democrats compromise on everything. The party lacks any central values and any centered constituent aside from their donors. Trump is president because the prior Republican administration waged a criminal war and ended with the collapse of the global economy due to criminal actions. No one responsible for either paid any consequence. We can't afford to keep compromising like this. I refuse to.

As what was once called dog-whistles becomes full throated barking it should be clear that while there's a difference in nuance between Iowa Senator Steven King's statement and this statement from a supporter of the 2008 Clinton campaign:
[Clinton supporter] Buffenbarger launched into a rant in which he compared Obama to Muhammad Ali, the best-known black American convert to Islam after Malcolm X. "But brothers and sisters," he said, "I've seen Ali in action. He could rope-a-dope with Foreman inside the ring. He could go toe-to-toe with Liston inside the ring. He could get his jaw broken by Norton and keep fighting inside the ring. But Barack Obama is no Muhammad Ali." The cunning racism of the attack actually made my heart start to beat fast and my ears start to ring. For the first time on the campaign trail, I felt completely outraged. I kept thinking, "Am I misreading this?" But there was no way, if you were in that room, to think it was anything other than what it was. [GQ]
they exist on a spectrum, a scale like racism. The difference between the latter being just racism and the evocation of white supremacy is intentionality. This was part of a recurring theme of othering Obama throughout the primary. Dog whistling reifies the larger white supremacist structure, it attempts to subconsciously create white racial solidarity. At a time when we have a pathological liar in the White House expressing his love to white nationalists and the press corp is increasingly calling a lie a lie, it's important to call out white supremacy where we see it, especially on the left. I want to make clear that I'm not suggesting this as a general need to go out declaring everything white supremacist, which is counter-productive. I'm calling Hillary's 2008 campaign an unapologetically white supremacists campaign because it intentionally used racist dog whistles in the hopes of gaining votes against a Black man and she never apologized. We can't afford these illusions which force us to compromise our values.

Some hard truths for the Democrats:

  • Bill Clinton is probably also a serial rapist.
  • Hillary Clinton ran a white supremacist campaign against Obama.
  • Barack Obama's presidency was bad for Blacks.
  • The Democrats have no national agenda aside from not being Trump and if they fail Russia did it. 


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