Ah, campaign season. A time when truth takes a back seat to political expediency, when there seems to be a competition in the establishment to create the biggest, most ridiculous lies and make them stick through repetition and selective reporting.
Folks, if there’s a way of measuring it, we may have a new world record.
Today, in response to the 22.4 point blowout in New Hampshire, establishment Democrats went for the nuclear option. J. Todd Rutherford, South Carolina House Democratic leader, accused Sanders of having a “thin” record on African American social justice, claiming that “he only really started talking about issues concerning African Americans in the last 40 days.”
Perhaps Mr. Rutherford has amnesia, or perhaps he’s just in a bit of a panic after Cezar McKnight today became the sixth legislator in South Carolina to endorse Senator Sanders, all men of color. Regardless, it is impossible to accuse a man arrested for protesting segregation over fifty years ago, before the Civil Rights Act, of being a newcomer to issues of racial injustice.
A former New York NAACP president, Hazel Dukes, even went as far as to downplay the senator’s participation in the March on Washington, saying “there were many people participating in that march, so what does that mean?” For one, it means that Sanders was actively participating in civil rights protests at a time when Hillary Clinton was working with Republican Barry Goldwater, a man who fought to protect segregation in Brown v. Board of Education by stating the importance of “the essential differences between men.”
Oddly, her time working for a Goldwater didn’t affect the statement of Democratic Rep. Hakeem Jeffries, who said today that “Hillary Clinton has been a true friend to the African American community for the last 40 years.” Jeffries posited that while Clinton fought for them, Sanders had “been missing in action on issues important to African Americans” and had “no credibility” on these issues.
Interesting, then, that Clinton has so much credibility on the issue. The Clintons worked very hard to pass the omnibus crime bill in 1994 — signed into law by Bill — that included the three-strikes provision which has contributed so much to the increase in mass incarceration, yet today the Clinton camp is attacking Sanders for voting affirmative on that same bill. There’s one problem: Sanders voted yes in order to pass the included provisions on violence against women. Clinton did it because she was scared of “superpredators.”
The Clinton record regarding workfare reforms and NAFTA is often cited as disproportionately affecting the African American community, but many have forgotten the various smaller attacks: denying financial aid, Pell Grants, public housing and more to those who had felony records, locking communities into a cycle of poverty that has only gotten worse. The Clintons may want to separate Bill’s record from Hillary’s platform, but Hillary is known for being a particularly active campaigner for Bill’s legislative initiatives.
Sanders, meanwhile, has been speaking directly to Black men and women for much longer than the aforementioned forty days. In fact, he is the top candidate in terms of meeting the Campaign Zero demands of the Black Lives Matter movement. He has spoken strongly in opposition to private prisons (from whom Clinton received funding), the drug war, and the militarization of police while promoting better wages and healthcare and educational opportunities that will be a boon to low income communities. Sanders was the first candidate to say “Black Lives Matter,” and the first one to demonstrate it… half a century ago.
This coordinated messaging reeks of old establishment propaganda. It is brazen, but it is disgraceful. For these surrogates to stand in front of their constituents and blather on with no regard for the truth is an insult to African American voters, and these voters have every right to be outraged at the attempted manipulation. Until the Clinton campaign can be honest about the records of Hillary and Bernie, it is everyone’s duty to call them out and share the truth. That is how we demand respect and integrity from our politicians. And that is why Bernie Sanders is the candidate for all of us.
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