Monday, October 10, 2016

Race Politics in America, 1992 and 2016

Interesting essay by Jamelle Bouie at Slate explaining how race politics have changed for the Democratic Party since 1992. When Bill Clinton ran for president he needed the votes of many working class whites in states like Missouri and Arkansas. This made him very sensitive in matters of race. So he honed his "tough on crime" credentials by flying back to Arkansas for the execution of a mentally retarded man in the middle of the campaign, and reassured his white supporters by attacking Sister Souljah and distancing himself from Jessie Jackson.

But Hillary has inherited from Obama a very different Democratic coalition, with many more minorities and many more college-educated whites. She doesn't need nearly as many white working class votes as Bill did. So she can campaign in a very different way, embracing Black Lives Matter, criticizing police violence, and dissing racists every chance she gets:
A Democratic Party that doesn’t need to win more than a modest minority of working-class white men is one that can lean further toward racial liberalism, to mobilize its black and Latino supporters and to win over those culturally liberal whites. It can embrace comprehensive immigration reform, champion LGBTQ rights, and assail implicit bias without threatening its ability to win national elections. National Democrats can even dance a different kind of two-step, baiting prejudiced opponents into expressing that prejudice and condemning them for all the world to see. Not just to slam their opponents, but to mobilize their supporters. To show which side they’re on, and that they aren’t pandering to the wrong voters.

It’s what Clinton did with “deplorables,” and it’s what she did a week ago, demonstrating for nonwhite voters her distance from the racist corners of the electorate just as surely as her husband, in 1992, used Sister Souljah to demonstrate his independence from black interests. And it’s only possible because the Democratic Party of President Clinton is gone, replaced by the one built by President Obama and his allies. It’s a more liberal and more cosmopolitan Democratic Party, one that doesn’t see a national future in winning white workers from the GOP.
But as Bouie points out this strategy seems to work better at the presidential level than in the battles for Congress and most of the states. So while it may help Hillary win the White House, it may help Republicans keep control of the House and most state legislatures.

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