Monday, December 28, 2015

Moar Clinton

Hillary Clinton and Marian Wright Edelman at a Children's Defense Fund event, 2013. Photo by Alex Brandon/AP.
That Amy Chozick story about young Hillary Rodham as an undercover agent of change in Alabama in the summer of 1972, infiltrating the system of "segregation academies" set up in the South to evade civil rights law, contains an amusing example of rhetorical electric slide:
D. Taylor Flowers, the chairman of the board of Houston Academy, whose father was a founding board member, was in the ninth grade at the school (which locals call “H.A.,” jokingly saying it stands for “holy Anglo”) when Mrs. Clinton visited. “I've heard the story, and I don’t think Hillary Clinton made it up,” he said over lunch in Dothan.
The school was founded to prepare students for college, not as a segregation academy, Mr. Flowers said. But, he added, “I would be disingenuous if I said integration didn’t have anything to do with” parents’ enrolling their children in Houston Academy. “Integration was a huge social change for us.”
No, you're being disingenuous when you say it wasn't founded as a segregation academy, as if that public explanation couldn't be questioned (public schools are somehow inherently incapable of carrying on college prep?). If you said integration had nothing to do with it you'd simply be outright lying.

It's a pretty nice story, reminding us that Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders come from pretty similar places, even if Clinton really was a Goldwater Girl in 1964, and president of the Wellesley Young Republicans in her freshman year, before the civil rights movement and the Vietnam war began pushing her in a different direction.

(As I've had occasion to note before, she also has something in common with Sarah Palin, having worked or at least attempted to work one summer as a salmon cannery slimer in Alaska; only unlike Palin she wasn't a compliant tool of capitalism:
She questioned the owner about how long the fish had been dead, and he warned her to stop asking questions. But she continued asking questions, and was fired within a week.)
It also seems that this was when Clinton got to know the activist Marian Wright Edelman, who was her boss in the project, a research team exposing persistent segregation (and tax cheating) at the Southern private schools, which was to evolve into the Children's Defense Fund. You may remember—I certainly did—how Edelman was a figure in one of the most distressing moments of the Bill Clinton presidency, when her husband Peter Edelman resigned from his job as chief advisor to the HHS secretary in protest against the 1996 welfare "reform".

Chozick doesn't advert to that episode at all, but the article includes a photograph of Marian Wright Edelman and Hillary Clinton looking pretty comfortably chummy in 2013, and I wondered how the Edelmans feel about this year's Clinton candidacy?

Other people hated the Clinton welfare bill, of course, even Daniel Patrick Moynihan, who thundered:
I estimate a five-year time limit [on welfare benefits] might put half a million children on the streets of New York in 10 years' time," he said. "We will wonder where they came from. We will say, 'Why are these children sleeping on grates? Why are they being picked up in the morning frozen? Why are they scrambling? Why are they horrible to each other, a menace to all, most importantly to themselves?
And Moynihan made his peace with Hillary pretty early, making her virtually his heir apparent in the 2000 campaign to replace him as senator in New York. The Edelmans seem to have taken a good deal longer, still angry in 2007 (along with those of us who couldn't consider voting for her in 2008 because of her failure to apologize for the Iraq war authorization), but this year they are, in fact, signed on, and these people are not naive. A President Clinton isn't going to go back to the 1996 "reform", in fact, or use the word "welfare" if she can avoid it, but her strong language on inequality suggests she's locked into approaching poverty issues in general (rural and urban) in a way the Obama administration has been awfully hesitant to do, and if she finally manages to say something about fair housing to match proposals toward universal childcare, she may well get there.

I'm still expecting to vote for Sanders in the primary (a cheap promise, since the New York primary is always too late in the calendar to mean anything anyway) but I'm determined if I'm going to vote for Hillary in November that I'll do it with a smile.

Cross-posted at The Rectification of Names.


Victor said...

I'll probably be doing the same thing, in the NY Primary and then the general.

I think Hillary is keeping her social agenda change powder dry. Why give the rabid loons on the other side more ammo than they have -or, think they have?

She's waaaaaay smarter than most people, and waaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaay smarter than any Republican!

Unknown said...

Ah, yes... the "dry powder" fantasy.

"Establishment Democratic Candidate X is actually progressive at heart. How could they not, being such a Fundamentally Decent person? They're only pretending to have centrist views to sucker those fools in the flyover states into voting for them. Which doesn't count against their Fundamental Decency because they're only doing it so that they can deliver the progressive policies they support in their heart."

Do yourself a favor and just stick with "Better than Republican Candidate X".

Tom Hilton said...

A lot of Sanderistas see her as having been "pushed" to the left by Sanders (and if so, so what?), but as you point out she has some deep roots there already. I think Clinton, like any decent politician, will go as far as she thinks the political climate will allow--and the climate right now allows for a much more progressive agenda than she thought possible (rightly or wrongly) in the 1990s or early 2000s.

Bigfish said...

I'm assuming Marian Wright Edelman & Hillary have patched things up (if they ever got to the point that things needed patching). Edelman was sitting in the congregation at Foundry Church in DC recently when the Clintons paid a visit to help us celebrate our bicentennial (The Clintons were active members of the church while they were in the White House). Hillary gave a shout-out to Edelman from the pulpit.

Victor said...

I don't know about a fantasy...

But, a boy can dream, can't he? (Even an old boy?)

In any case, good point.
I don't now what happened to me there. Must have had a momentary second of weakness, and some very rare optimism snuck through my well-reinforced Slavic pessimism shields.

Ten Bears said...

Like lying for Jesus.