Bill Clinton, Triangulation and Race

8 02 2008

During the early 1990’s I was too busy listening to Brand Nubians, Das EFX, KRS-ONE, and Pete Rock and CL Smooth on Video Music Box in New York City to understand any of thing about how President Bill Clinton used race as apart of his triangulation strategy. But in the February 13th edition of The New Republic, Michael Crowley took hard look at Clinton’s uneasy relationship with African-Americans during his 1992 campaign and afterwards:

Back in 1992, the Clintons were decidedly not heroes to black America. Bill ran on a platform of welfare reform. He was tough on crime, and some felt he gratuitously supported the execution of the brain-damaged African American killer Ricky Ray Rector on the eve of the New Hampshire primary. When Clinton scolded the obscure rapper Sister Souljah at a meeting of Jesse Jackson Sr.’s Rainbow Coalition, Jackson called it a “Machiavellian” gambit for white votes. That fall, Clinton carried 82 percent of the black vote–a low sum compared to other Democratic nominees. (In 1988, for instance, Mike Dukakis carried 89 percent of the black electorate.)

Once in the White House, the Clintons continued to irritate African Americans.In 1993, they dumped their friend and Justice Department nominee Lani Guinier because of her ideas about racial reapportionment. By 1995, Jackson was complaining that Clinton had ignored civil rights issues and hinted at a primary challenge or independent presidential run. A major test came in 1995, when a Supreme Court ruling imperiled federal affirmative action programs. Under pressure from ascendant Republicans and his pollster Dick Morris, Clinton wavered, but ultimately he settled on his famous “mend it, don’t end it” formulation.

Read more here (subscription required).

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