Bamboozled: On African Americans and Feminists Casting Their Votes for Hillary Clinton

Cherise Charleswell I Women's Issues I Analysis I May 20th, 2016

Though the decision should have been an easy one to make, a "no brainer", one that could be made while walking and chewing gum at the same time, African Americans seem to be grappling with the decision of whom they should be casting their vote for during the 2016 Democratic primaries. And, in Southern states such as North Carolina, Virginia, Texas, and Florida, which have large African American populations , they have voted in favor of Hillary Clinton . Clinton's campaign relies heavily on this support from African Americans, and she was able to obtain this support because she carries a name that has a great deal of recognition from voters who jokingly called her husband "the First Black President" during the 1990s, before Hillary ironically ran against the man who would go on to actually become the first elected Black president of the United States.

Name recognition and a variety of other factors, including the following, helped to garner Clinton the Black vote:

• The fact that Clinton's campaign had more money and thus more resources to influence voters.

• Bernie Sanders, although having a long and illustrious career in Washington DC, was an independent Senator from Vermont, a state that does not have a sizable, or notable African American population; and thus he seemed to be an unknown to the community.

• The explicit media bias, that seems to provide Clinton's campaign with far more coverage than Sanders. More about thathere and here.

• Clinton secured the endorsement of visible and prominent African Americans including: Congresswoman Maxine Waters - a super delegate, Kerry Washington, and even Shondra Rhimes.

• Americans, including Black Americans simply have a short-term memory when it comes to historical events and their contemporary consequences; and this includes Clinton's stance (including flip-flopping) and previously advocacy on issues such as the XL pipeline, fracking, the Trans Pacific Trade Agreement (TPP), the Iraq War; as well as the Defense of Marriage Act, Don't Ask Don't Tell, as well as welfare reform, which has contributed to many Americans plummeting into extreme poverty. More on thathere and here .

What makes this extremely disheartening is the fact that Clinton is running against a democratic socialist who speaks about bringing about a political revolution that includes universal healthcare, a living wage, environmental protections, ending rampant Wall Street greed, removing moneyed interest from the political process, and dismantling the prison-industrial complex; some of the very issues that Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. championed at the end of his life when he professed to Harry Belafonte during their last conversation that he had come upon something that disturbed him deeply:

"We have fought hard and long for integration, as I believe we should have, and I know that we will win. But I've come to believe we're integrating into a burning house."

He continued, "I'm afraid that America may be losing what moral vision she may have had," he answered. ….And I'm afraid that even as we integrate, we are walking into a place that does not understand that this nation needs to be deeply concerned with the plight of the poor and disenfranchised. Until we commit ourselves to ensuring that the underclass is given justice and opportunity, we will continue to perpetuate the anger and violence that tears at the soul of this nation."

So, why should have the decision been easy to make?

The first response would be the images of Bernie Sanders marching alongside Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. during the 1965 march in Selma, Alabama. The other would be the image of Sanders handcuffed alongside a Black woman, as they were both taking part in protests for civil and human rights. Despite this history, civil rights activist and longtime Congressman, John Lewis, was quick to comment that he didn't know Bernie Sanders and had never met him, initially diminishing Sanders' credibility. However, Lewis would have to later recant his statement due to that photo at the 1965 March, where a young Bernie Sanders is seen standing just a few feet behind John Lewis.

The contrast between Sanders' activism and Clinton's conservative background as a Young Republican and Goldwater Girl is worth noting. When doing so, we realize that Sanders is the candidate who has a long history of protesting, calling out, and actively fighting against social-racial-injustice and economic inequality. And his political record, including his condemnation of the aggressive actions of Israel against the Palestinian in Gaza, despite himself being Jewish, demonstrates a moral compass that is often missing among mainstream political candidates. Speaking out against issues is not new to him, so it's reasonable to assume that such statements are much more than a form of pandering. There is actually numerous videos and footage of Sanders speaking about these exact same issues and points that he has been raising in the current presidential race many years prior. His principles have not changed over the past 30 years.

Contrast this to Hillary's various changing positions and claims that she has "evolved on a number of social issues," and is indeed a Progressive. In response to this, political pundits have argued that the campaign direction and message of the Sanders campaign simply has forced Clinton to shift her politics to the left, and that she is essentially "parroting" many of Sanders' arguments to gain support from the progressive Left. Saturday Night Live actually aired a skit that depicted actress Kate McKinnon, as Hillary Clinton, showing her morph into Bernie Sanders. Of course the transformation would only be temporary, because the elected candidate Clinton would readily regress back into a Moderate-Conservative politician. One who would expect us to continue to wait for urgently needed social-economic reforms, such as the introduction of Universal HealthCare. While she refers to Sanders' support of single-payer universal healthcare as being "too ambitious," he and other Progressives, activists, public health leaders, and organizations such as Physician for a National Health Program remind us of the following realities:

• Those living in the United States of America pay vastly more in health care expenditures than other countries, particularly post-industrial nations, and receive the poorest or most limited care; or return on their investment. Essentially, Americans are paying more in premiums, copays, direct fees, etc. and getting less.

• This high cost of access to health care services continues to causes Americans to go into bankruptcy, something that is unheard of in other post-industrial nations.

• The barriers to quality health care (as well as nutritious food and other factors) also play a factor in the United States having unusually high infant mortality rates, particularly among African American women.

• Although a step in the right direction, the Affordable Care Act, which Hillary always alludes to, in its current state simply has not gone far enough to ameliorate health care access and quality of care problems in the United States.

When considering all of this, and the fact that marginalized populations (especially African Americans) disproportionately suffer the highest rates of infant mortality and chronic diseases, the position that the country needs to continue to wait, postpone, or not even consider a more economically-sound universal healthcare system should have seemed preposterous to African American voters, as well as feminists who claim to be concerned about reproductive justice, women's health, and so on. Those advocating for social change should not be supporting the candidate who simply says WAIT; and when it comes to that $15 hour national minimum wage, do not forget that Hillary also would like us to WAIT. Consider that and then ponder Malcolm X's statements made during his 1964 "The Ballot or the Bullet" speech:

"So it's the ballot or the bullet. Today our people can see that we're faced with a government conspiracy. This government has failed us. The senators who are filibustering concerning your and my rights, that's the government. Don't say it's Southern senators. This is the government; this is a government filibuster. It's not a segregationist filibuster. It's a government filibuster. Any kind of activity that takes place on the floor of the Congress or the Senate, it's the government. Any kind of dilly-dallying, that's the government. Any kind of pussy-footing, that's the government. Any kind of act that's designed to delay or deprive you and me right now of getting full rights, that's the government that's responsible. And any time you find the government involved in a conspiracy to violate the citizenship or the civil rights of a people, then you are wasting your time going to that government expecting redress."

Thus, those who casted their votes for Clinton during the 2016 Primaries were again bamboozled by these performances and antics, including pandering comments abouthot sauce and trying out Boba ice tea, or "bubble tea." The truth of the matter is that Hillary has had an extensive career in politics, and during this time her record has been consistent with that of a Conservative or Moderate-Conservative. Ultimately, her voting record provides the "receipts" needed to determine whether one should support her candidacy.

While looking up a candidate's voting record, or even given it some thought, does require a small commitment of time, it truly is a responsibility that voters have to bare. Relying on investigative journalists to do this is no longer viable or credible, as they no longer exist to provide information. While candidates like to speak about transparency, most do not provide a complete timeline of their voting record on their official candidacy pages. This is the equivalent of going to a job interview and refusing to provide a resume. Clinton takes this lack of transparency a step further with her unwillingness to release any video or transcripts of the speeches that various corporations paid her millions of dollars to deliver. (More on that here). She claims that these large sums of payment did not influence her vote, advocacy, and decisions in any way. If that is the case, there should be no hesitation in making them public.

Where Hillary Clinton Stands On Pressing Social Issues

During the 1990s, the Clintons made a concerted effort to prove that they were just as tough on crime as Republicans, and in doing so, supported policy changes that drastically increased the rates of incarceration for people of color and the poor. Such attitudes and policies also contributed to the militarization of the police. These issues have been the focus of protest groups such as Black Lives Matters, which was started by three Black, queer feminists. And although mainstream (white, middle class) feminists like to make the claim that Hillary Clinton champions women's rights and feminist's issues, history shows that has actually not been the case. At best, her record has been a mixed bag. For instance, while she advocated for the 1994 Violence Against Women Act, she was unwilling to openly discuss and address the state-sanctioned violence that disproportionately affects women of color and their children. In fact, when Black Lives Matter activists showed up at a Clinton campaign event, they were ignored by the candidate and heckled by a mostly White crowd. Clinton handled their presence notably different than Sanders. Where Sanders stepped back and allowed the activists to speak and openly share their grievances, Clinton waited for the protestors to be removed and then stated that it was time to "get back to the important issues" - because, apparently, the lives of Black people and other people of color are not that important.

Environmental degradation is certainly an important social and public health issue, and those who face the most dire consequences of this degradation are the poor, people of color, and children - all of whom are more likely to live in areas having high toxicity, pollution, and in close proximity to highways. What occurred in Flint, Michigan with the water supply is an example of this, and the polluting of the water supply is tied to unchecked industrial practices including fracking. Although trying to move away from her initial position on fracking, Clinton was previously unwilling to condemn the practice, even as early as last year. (Seehere and here). Furthermore, it was revealed that the Clinton Global Initiative actually has ties to a top executive of the agency facing multiple lawsuits for its role in poisoning the children of Flint - children who, again, were mostly African American.

Hillary Clinton's Positions and their Impact on Marginalized People

Mass Incarceration

Currently, the United States has the highest incarcerated population in the world, and the vast majority of those held in prisons in this country are people of color, low-income people, and people with other marginalized identities. Despite this, many African Americans have chosen to overlook Clinton's role in setting up this system that is now incarcerating women (of color)at an ever-increasing rate. In her article, Why Hillary Clinton Doesn't Deserve the Black Vote, Michelle Alexander goes on to explain the Clintons' role:

"We should have seen it coming. Back then, Clinton was the standard-bearer for the New Democrats, a group that firmly believed the only way to win back the millions of white voters in the South who had defected to the Republican Party was to adopt the right-wing narrative that black communities ought to be disciplined with harsh punishment rather than coddled with welfare. Reagan had won the presidency by dog-whistling to poor and working-class whites with coded racial appeals: railing against 'welfare queens' and criminal 'predators' and condemning 'big government.' Clinton aimed to win them back, vowing that he would never permit any Republican to be perceived as tougher on crime than he.

Clinton championed the idea of a federal 'three strikes' law in his 1994 State of the Union address and, months later, signed a $30 billion crime bill that created dozens of new federal capital crimes, mandated life sentences for some three-time offenders, and authorized more than $16 billion for state prison grants and the expansion of police forces. The legislation was hailed by mainstream-media outlets as a victory for the Democrats, who 'were able to wrest the crime issue from the Republicans and make it their own.'"

Clinton actually surpassed Reagan's use of dog-whistle politics and choose to use blatant, racially-charged rhetoric, the most notable of which was said during a speech in support of the 1994 Crime Bill: "They are not just gangs of kids anymore," she said. "They are often the kinds of kids that are called 'super-predators.' No conscience, no empathy. We can talk about why they ended up that way, but first we have to bring them to heel." This statment was widely understood to be in reference to Black children. This is precisely the same rhetoric that former Ferguson police officer Darren Wilson used in his description to justify murdering Mike Brown, an unarmed African American teenager. In his statements, Wilson called on his inner Hillary to make Mike Brown not only sound like a super predator, but a super human…"

Brown approached again and hit Wilson, who fired another bullet. At that point, Brown ran away, with Wilson following on foot. He fired more shots - striking Brown at least once - and stopped. But Brown wasn't down. Instead - like a villain, or perhaps an evil mutant - he appeared stronger than before. Wilson fired again. "At this point it looked like he was almost bulking up to run through the shots, like it was making him mad that I'm shooting at him," Wilson said. "And that face that he had was looking straight through me, like I wasn't even there, I wasn't even anything in his way."

Wilson describes an almost animalistic Brown, who - like the comic book character, Wolverine - had gone into a kind of berserker rage. He made "a grunting, like aggravated sound," Wilson said. "I've never seen anybody look that, for lack of a better word, crazy," he explained. "I've never seen that. I mean, it was very aggravated … aggressive, hostile … You could tell he was looking through you. There was nothing he was seeing."

In response to this criticism, Clinton likes to point out that Sanders also voted for the Crime Bill. But what she fails to disclose is his multiple attempts to weaken it, including eliminating the death penalty provisions and trying to have a separate vote about creating new mandatory minimums. His vote was one made in reluctance, in order to pass the ban on semi-automatic assault weapons and the Violence Against Women Act provisions.

Welfare Reform

In 1996, Bill Clinton, former president and husband of current candidate Hillary Clinton, uttered the words, "The era of big government is over". What he was referring to was his signing of The Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act of 1996 (PRWORA), which dismantled the federal welfare system known as Aid to Families With Dependent Children (AFDC). This is a bill that Hillary Clinton ardently supported, and later in 2008 continued to laud as a great success. Was it successful in reducing the number of people on welfare? Yes. Did it end the need for social safety nets? No. In fact, the legislation resulted in doubling extreme poverty in the decade and a half after it passed.

Corporate Interests and Global Imperialism

Clinton's decades of service on corporate boards and in major policy roles as first lady, senator, and secretary of state give a clear indication of where she stands. She has reaffirmed through her actions, statements, and support of use of military force that the protection of US economic interests (not its citizens, of course) justifies military interventions in other countries. A 2013 Bloomberg Businessweek article entitled "Hillary Clinton's Business Legacy at the State Department: How Hillary Clinton turned the State Department into a machine for promoting U.S. business" underlines this position, noting that she sought "to install herself as the government's highest-ranking business lobbyist," directly negotiating lucrative overseas contracts for US corporations like Boeing, Lockheed, and General Electric. Not surprisingly, "Clinton's corporate cheerleading has won praise from business groups." In 2011, she actually penned an essay on America's Pacific Century for Foreign Policy, where she went on to speak at length about objectives that involved "opening new markets for American business," and with this attitude, she of course initially supported the Trans Pacific Trade Agreement (TPP). Her support of the controversial and damaging TPP again exemplifies that she aligns herself with corporate interests, not the needs and concerns of women, the working class, and other marginalized groups. (More on that here, here, and here).

Clinton actually served on the board of Walmart, an organization that has US taxpayers spending billions to subsidize their low-wage workers , who for the most part go without benefits. While Clinton now wants to cast herself as a champion of the American worker, she served on the Board of this corporation which waged major campaigns against labor unions. And, to make matters worse, she has not cut her ties with the corporation and its executives. In fact, in 2013, Alice Walton donated the maximum amount ($25,000) to her "Ready for Hillary" Super PAC.

Clinton's policies and supported actions have been just as detrimental to marginalized people globally - from Africa, Asia, the Middle East, and Latin America and the Caribbean. In Haiti, Clinton led the State Department in its collaboration with subcontractors for Hanes, Levi's, and Fruit of the Loom who aggressively moved to block mandated minimum wage increase for Haitian assembly zone workers, the lowest paid in the hemisphere. Essentially, the factory owners refused to pay 62 cents per hour, or $5 per day, despite a measure unanimously passed by the Haitian Parliament in June 2009.

The recent and brutal murder of Honduran indigenous environmental activist, Berta Cáceres, provides another example of Clinton's commitment to imperialism and corporate interest over the rights of women, working class people, and disenfranchised groups. In fact, prior to her murder, Berta singled out Clinton for her role in supporting a 2009 coup and illegal ouster of Honduran left-of-center President Manuel Zelaya. Under this new government indigenous leaders have been murdered and tortured, and Honduras is noted for being the most violent country in theworld. Further, indigenous and Garifuna people are being increasingly marginalized and displaced - being pushed away from fishing off the coasts to make way for tourism, and losing access to their farmland and rainforests for the sake of transnational corporate resource-extraction projects.

In the Middle East and Central Asia, Clinton continued to defend the US's right to violate international law and human rights. One needs to look no further than her AIPAC speech to learn more about her promotion of war and violence against women and their communities in the Middle East. In the article " Why these two feminists aren't voting for Hillary", Juliana Britto Schwartz elaborates on this:

"She pledged to 'provide Israel with the most sophisticated defense technology' and invited Israeli Prime Minister [Benjamin Netanyahu] to visit the White House - tying herself in ways even Obama didn't to an Israeli government committed to race-mongering, apartheid policies, and continuing the Occupation of Palestine. She pledged to fight the bedrock of progressive community organizing: boycotts. She expressed pride in 'imposing crippling sanctions' against civilians in Iran - sanctions which have denied access to women's health services and life-saving treatment for hundreds of thousands of Iranians."

To continue on the topic of war, particularly drone warfare, Britto Schwartz's article provides additional insight:

"Her repeating typically pro-war talking points about 'Iranian aggression' being the biggest threat to Middle Eastern stability were also especially rich given that she herself, as US senator and as Secretary of State, advocated for aggression and the invasion of other countries illegally. She fought for the Iraq War when many others, including Bernie Sanders and even current President Obama, opposed it. Clinton's State Department devised the legal reasoning that justified the expansion of American drone attacks which have killed hundreds of civilians, and she pushed to maintain US ties with dictators in Egypt , Tunisia and, and Bahrain. As others have written, Clinton's famous call for women's rights as human rights, or some donation for the Malala Fund, holds little credibility when it is a US-manufactured and Clinton-supported ordinance that is blowing up women in Gaza, Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan.

LGBTQ Rights

Clinton comes from the era of Second Wave feminism - a time when feminists excluded and at times participated in discriminating against people who identified as LGBTQ. Essentially, if something didn't relate to or impact the lives of heterosexual, middle class, white women, it was not truly a matter of concern. Thus, Hillary Clinton sat in silent agreement (like she did during her time on the Walmart board) as policies such as 'Don't ask, Don't tell' (DADT) and legislation like The 1996 Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) were signed into law by her husband. DADT was the official US policy regarding the service of gays and lesbians in the military, which remained in effect until September 20, 2011. DOMA defined marriage as the union of one man and one woman, allowed states to refuse to recognize same-sex marriages, and allowed for other forms of discrimination.

Ironically, Clinton receives praise, and is deemed as being a highly capable candidate, due to her political record and years of experience. This is in spite of the fact that, as a policymaker, she has consistently favored policies devastating to women, people of color, LGBT persons, and working class people. The very record and experience that she flaunts proves that she is not a progressive, doesn't uphold feminist values, and certainly does not deserve the African American vote.

On Hillary, "the Feminist"

Those who are most adamant that Hillary Clinton is indeed a feminist are mostly women who have a few things in common with Clinton - white, older, baby boomers, heterosexual, upper-middle class. They are perhaps correct, in that Clinton is a Second Wave feminists, and this is reflected in the focus on what has been seen as traditional women's rights issues - access to abortion and contraception, and eliminating the gender pay gap (all while ignoring the fact that there is a gender-racial gap as well). With her pant suits and muted femininity, Clinton represents the group of White women who began to work outside the home, and entered male-dominated fields, while largely excluding issues prevelant to women of color who have always had to work outside the home. In short, her form of feminism is not inclusive. The feminists that she identifies with are those who have never experienced forms of oppression, such as war, police profiling and brutality, and thus find it easy to ignore their impact, and do not deem them important enough to prioritize as a voting issue. Instead, they have social justice activists dragged away while declaring that it is "time to get back to the important issues."

As pointed out by Juliana Britto Schwartz in her article "Why these two feminists aren't voting for Hillary", it's been confusing for us to hear feminists insist that Clinton cares deeply about women's rights when her policies have had such a devastating effect on Black and Brown women abroad and in the US.

Ultimately, Hillary is a moderate-conservative centrist who, along with her husband, has managed to become a multimillionaire while working strictly as a "public servant." Her political views, positions, and actions are not that of an intersectional feminist, and ultimately have negatively impacted marginalized people in the United States and globally. Her candidacy and platform do not incorporate needed reforms and radical changes to the status quo. Despite this, she has been able to bamboozle these people into voting for her during the 2016 Primaries. Through speeches where she adopted "progressive" talking points, media bias in her favor that led to "blacking out" her opponent, and opportunities to appeal to those who still get their news solely from American corporate-sponsored media, she was able to convince these voters that she is not a member of the oligarchy, that she does not represent corporate interests, and that she was the only Democratic candidate that could actually beat Donald Trump, and I suppose save America. Polls have shown that this is not the case. Instead, they show that a general election between the two former friends and colleagues (with Trump being a former donor to Clinton's campaigns) would be a close one. Further, Clinton's political career and campaign, and disregard for intersectional issues of race, class, sexuality, and foreigners exemplify the problem with mainstream feminism - in that it continues to be focused on advocating for access for wealthy white women to "lean in" and share in the spoils of capitalism and US imperial power.