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Saturday, April 16, 2016

Sanders War against the 90s

Hillary faces a Right Wing and Activist/muckraker inspired rewrite of the 1990s that the media calls a "liberal war against the 1990s."

"Hillary Clinton has long literally and figuratively stood beside Bill Clinton, fully embracing his policy moves to make the Democratic Party more centrist in the 1990s and defending him after his affair with a White House intern and subsequent impeachment." [NBC]

The distinction between a critique and destructive criticism is that a critique acknowledges the merits and context of what is being criticized. In this case, broken window theory has a legitimate critique. But we aren't seeing that are we?

Context Counts

A "centrist" 1990s Democratic party still embraced the basic principles of the Second Bill of Rights and Four Freedoms, but sought to advance them in the context of the budget constraints, constraints and economic claims of the period in which they were advance. Crime was a major concern of many people at the time, and "tough on crime" bills seemed to be the best way to fight the problem. Indeed they were so popular that the GOP ran the issue to office all over the country. Bill Clinton was the right leader for his times in that he had a robust alternative to far more draconian measures being pushed by Right Wingers. All that is being ignored by the storm of folks who want to rewrite the 90s as her husband's fault [and by proxy her fault]:

"But even as she remains a strong favorite to win the Democratic nomination, the 2016 campaign is forcing the former secretary of state to distance herself from her husband's record." [NBC]

It's probably good that she distance somewhat. But she risks losing credibility either way. This is a perfect box for those trying to fight us Democrats by "coming at us from the left". Muckrakers and Activists rarely seem to care about long term strategy so they are pulling with the Right wing in this tug of war.

If you are an activist your attitude tends to become like that of a cop; a politician is guilty until cleared. And no activist ever lets a politician off the hook until he gets the kind of changes he thinks the country should have. So as a ***critique*** Bernie's comments make sense. We should have been wiser. Maye we should not have fallen for Lee Atwater's strategy of using coded messages to fools us into supporting draconian, short sighted and counterproductive laws. Maybe we should have treated drugs as the health disaster they are. But in the 90s the focus was fighting the crime associated with drugs and poverty. And that has to be done. I've written about "Broken Window Theory" before. It really is an argument for community empowerment and policing. (see Further reading articles)

"Ahead of Tuesday's critical New York primary, Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders is waging in effect a political war on 90s-era policies — a tactic aimed at hitting Hillary Clinton where it hurts: her husband's presidential legacy." [NBC]

In the process he's also setting himself up for a fall in the fall, if he should somehow win huge majorities in the primaries. He was in Congress in the 90s and if he was in the minority on most of these issues, he voted for some of these bills, including the crime bills he was criticizing last week. Which is why I suppose he's now going after Welfare Reform

"Sanders' latest target is the controversial welfare reform law Bill Clinton signed while president, which Sanders opposed as a congressman and said this week was unfairly targeted at the poor." [NBC]

Sander's doesn't admit that the goal of getting the poor off of welfare: getting the able bodied back to work, helping mothers get access to child care and job training, and differentiating between those genuinely needing help and those simply taking advantage of the system, is an approach to welfare that dates back to principles embodied in Queen Elizabeth's first efforts to supplement inadequate Church efforts to help the poor in the 16th century. He unfairly blames a program that still represents a decent approach to welfare reform when funded and resourced.

Even worse his language has become very negative, more designed to undermine her with her friends and core constituents than win friends and influence people:

"And, in a remarkable moment in Thursday's debate in Brooklyn, Sanders accused Hillary Clinton of using "racist" language in referring to some gang members as "super-predators" in 1996." [NBC]

If Gangs were only an African American issue.... But i guess in Vermont....

"Liberal activists, particularly in the African-American community, have also criticized Bill Clinton's presidency, arguing the 1990s, which both Clintons cast as an era of peace and prosperity, was also a time when the Democratic Party embraced a law-and-order vision that unfairly targeted blacks." [NBC]

Of course that accusation is a three fingered thing, since the law and order version of the "Broken Window" argument [See post on subject] was embraced bi-partisan by the entire country -- despite being faulty. It is true you can't make progress without law and order. Law and order has been a first priority of reformers going back to the post-civil war era when gangs were plaguing the far west and former rebel states. You can't have progress without them. What changed was the southern strategy of electing GOP politicians by pretending that law and order was only about minorities. And the GOP governing strategy of deliberately using the law to target those same minorities and put the in no-win boxes.

Activists can be excused for not paying attention to that. Many of them, us, saw the flaws in the laws as they were developing and fought to moderate them. A lot of us would have preferred a more enlightened medical approach to dealing with drugs. Except that wasn't working at the time. Drugs were implicated in a lot of both violent and non-violent crime. And the first priority of any community trying to survive crime is to stop the crimes and make sure that the "broken glass" gets cleaned up promptly when they do occur. Worse the police and many politicians were demagoguing the subject. Our politicians either went along with those policies or were turned out of office unless they were in a "safe seat".

Anyway Hillary has a tough job, but a very possible one, of defending her Husbands very defensible efforts. And this article talks about them. And since Bernie Sanders is very good at hindsight to he point of sounding Anal, I think she can both embrace the critique of those efforts and fend off the unfair criticisms.



Further Reading:

How Broken Window Theory was Corrupted
The Garner decision illustrates need for Community Policing

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