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Gordon Campbell on the Clintons' support among black voters

Gordon Campbell on the support for the Clintons among black voters

Nevada has been conducting its politics via caucuses only since 2004, and the state’s tepid interest in this method of democratic expression still shows. Historically, the turnout in both the Republican and Democratic caucuses in Nevada has been incredibly low – and only 1.9% of eligible Republican voters (or 33,000 in all) bothered to turn up at all in 2012 for the caucus process!

Among Democrats the figures aren’t much better, with a turnout of 120,000 on the Democratic Party side in 2012. This weekend, even Democratic Party bosses were saying that the Democratic Party turnout was only 80,000 voters – against over 2 million people in Nevada’s voting age population. So Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders were scrapping amid a microscopic number of engaged voters in Nevada. Crucially, the state’s trade union organization delivered most of the votes by casino workers on the Strip in Las Vegas to Clinton.

So Clinton won, and – as this column has been predicting for weeks – her campaign has picked up what looks like an unstoppable momentum now that the contests in Iowa and New Hampshire are behind her, and with the schedule moving into territory that far more friendly to her. A crucial failing of the Sanders campaign has been his lack of traction within the black community. To many, the widespread and enduring affection of a vast majority of black voters for the Clinton dynasty is a mystery. Obviously, most of the victims of their policies don’t vote at all.

None of the ‘explanations’ for why black voters support the Clintons don’t sound sufficient; yes, the Clintons are from the South, yes, the author Toni Morrison did once call Bill Clinton “America’s first black President.’ Yes, Bill Clinton did often and eloquently express his gratitude to black voters, notably here, and here as well, in which he even said I would not be here tonight; I would never have been re-elected Governor of Arkansas in 1982; I would not have been elected President of the United States through all those tough primaries if it hadn't been for African-American and Hispanic voters and Asian voters, people who were different from me, voting for me. I wouldn't be here….

But the flipside – the reasons why blacks should NOT support Hillary this year – look a whole lot more substantive. As this report says, it was President Bill Clinton who:

signed into law the 1994 crime bill, which has greatly increased mass incarceration, and impacted disproportionately on black communities and families.
signed the draconian welfare reform bill into law, again with disproportionate impact on black families
signed the law that unravelled the Glass-Steagall banking regulatory legislation, thus opening the way for the mortgage crisis, which greatly impacted black home ownership. Hillary still opposes Sanders over his proposals to re-instate Glass-Steagall.
Bill Clinton had until early in his Presidential campaign been a member of a whites-only golf club in Arkansaw.
During his campaign, he repudiated the comments (about race and the causes of violence in the black community) made by the rapper Sister Souljah.

On drug policy, the Clintons are just as bad/lukewarm. Reportedly, Hillary wants to move marijuana to schedule II on the US federal controlled substances list, with cocaine. She claims that this will enable research into the drug and its effects, and thereby eventually enable an informed policy to be developed. Critics call this tokenism. As yet, Clinton has not called for any change to federal laws on marijuana:

Tom Angell, chairman of the pro-legalization group Marijuana Majority, said Clinton is moving in the right direction, but he called for her to do more. “The rescheduling of marijuana is a step in the right direction, but only going down to Schedule 2 is mostly a symbolic move,” he said. “It may make research slightly easier, but on its own wouldn’t do anything to protect seriously ill people who are using marijuana in accordance with state laws from being harassed by the DEA. Only changing the federal criminal statutes can effectively do that. Clinton’s rivals for the Democratic nomination have gone further.

Bernie Sanders has called for ending the federal prohibition on marijuana, letting states legalize the drug if they chose.

In sum, the Clintons’ policy record towards minorities is dismal even before one gets onto economic policy and to Hillary Clinton’s strong links to Wall Street, and long collusion with an economic status quo – Robert Rubin, Larry Summers et al - that has been fuelling income inequality for decades. For all that, the political reality is that Hillary does enjoy massive and disproportionate support over Sanders (by lopsided 50 point margins in many Southern states) among black voters, and she also enjoys a (less decisive) edge over him among Hispanic voters, nationwide. Go figure.

The crowning of Trump

And on the Republican side, the South Carolina result on the weekend showed this will remain a one horse race unless and until the anti-Trump forces ( ie, Ted Cruz, Marco Rubio) can agree to coalesce around a single candidate.

On paper, the candidate better placed to ultimately prevail against Trump – and also later, against Clinton – is Rubio. (I’m not saying that a Rubio presidency would be a good thing.) Ted Cruz is unlikely to do well in the upcoming contests (apart from in his home state of Texas) but he will probably continue to battle all the way to the Republican convention, regardless. Reportedly, he has the cash to do so, and going into a brokered convention as a deal maker probably seems more attractive to him than quitting for the good of a party that he has always treated as a tool for his personal advantage. All this may be moot. The Republican convention may already be destined to become simply a Trump coronation.

So yes, there is a political logic for the anti-Trump forces to coalesce behind Rubio, who has (somehow) survived his New Hampshire debate meltdown. But chances are this won’t happen. Daily, that makes the previously unimaginable now seem all but inevitable: Donald Trump as the candidate of the Republican Party that he has run solidly against for the past year or more.

Animal Collective, Return (of sorts)

For well over a decade, Animal Collective have alternated between their more accessible albums ( Feels, Merriweather Post Pavilion) and the more experimental ones (Strawberry Jam, Centipede Hz) and true to form, the new Painting With album is on the more accessible cusp. It offers a sleek 41 minutes of short, melodically rich tracks that barely nudge far past the four minute mark.

This return to accessibility is only relative, mind you. For a band that seemed in the mid 2000s like the mega-influential indie equivalent of Radiohead, they’ve always polarized their potential audience. The exultant vocals of Avey Tare and the band’s electro-folk digressions are either intriguing and exhilarating – my reaction – or annoying, with not much room in between. Nothing on Painting With matches the past classics like “Banshee Beat” “What Would I Want/Sky” “Water Curses” “Peacebone” “The Purple Bottle” “My Girls” “People” etc etc. But that said, this is still a worthwhile return to form after the piled-on excesses of Centipede Hz, which has been their only real dud to date. Here’s “Golden Gal” from the new album. It's a restrained B level performance, and that’s indicative of the album as a whole.

And any excuse for replaying this track from the 2009 Animal Collective EP Fall Be Kind ; it breaks into a transcendent phase about half way through….

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