I really had no formal opinion about Bill Clinton until this campaign started. Or Hillary Clinton for that matter.
I knew she was a former First Lady who became a senator from New York. Beyond that, I hadn’t heard a peep from her since her election in 2000. I had not really paid attention to the former president either, though I had spent ten years in his military. Not that I made time for politics or politicians. Throughout the 1990s I was strictly of the partying class and little else mattered. OK. I wrote as well, but not about politics.
Then came the fiascoes in 2000 and 2004. No thinking American could remain willfully ignorant after that. Once the Internet really hit its stride, blind ignorance became even less forgivable, despite our broken education system.
Which leads me, in a round-about way, back to Bill Clinton. Once his wife started to run on all the things she claimed they did in the 1990s, I was forced to go back and look into all the stuff I had ignored when I lived through it.
I had to look at the totality of Bill – from his Perot-enabled election in 1992 to his finger-wagging truculence on national TV. We all know the quote. No sense in repeating it. It reminded about the things I forgot that I didn’t like about Bill Clinton. The lying is perhaps the most important, but the centrist, republican-light policy positions his administration pursued continued an unbroken chain of corporate rule in this country that stretches back to Ronald Reagan.
The initiatives he ushered into law have had lasting and detrimental affects to our society that are still playing themselves out. Perhaps most devastating to our poorest communities was the escalation of the War on Drugs. This out-right assault on the most vulnerable in our society is a shame the no democratic president should have been able to erase. That our incarceration rates are higher than our graduation rates in many inner cities is a legacy of Clinton as well. No Child Left Behind simply made worse an education problem that began under Bill.
Bill Clinton also pushed for a comprehensive Crime Bill in 1994 that completely neglected the massive trends away from crime and actually created more crime than it prevented. Again, this bill of Bill’s had a decidedly republican way of “solving” crime – assume that everyone is a criminal and act accordingly. This is the basis of his ridiculous 400,000 new cops on the street.
Why not spend that money on inner city development and education, thus negating the need for more police? Why not seek to make the injustice system more just, thus ensuring that a brush with the law doesn’t become a life sentence of recidivism? Why not approach these questions as Progressive Democrat instead of a DLC Centrist?
It was during this investigation into the Clinton legacy that I began to see a pattern emerge:
- Welfare Reform
- Media Consolidation
- Banking Deregulation
- Trade Policy
- First Anti-Terror Legislation
- War on Domestic “Terrorism”
- War on Terror
Bill Clinton is really a neocon! Or, at the very least, the agenda of the Democratic Leadership Council has been to push corporate and repressive legislation that are good for the few at the expense of the many. So, Bill Clinton is a neolib, the other side of the neocon coin. Based on some very specific votes on corporate agenda items, Hillary Clinton is a neolib as well. In fact, the whole founding cadre of DLC members are in fact a neocon attempt to subvert to democratic party toward supporting a corporate-governed government. An attempt that has been brilliantly successful.
Then came Campaign 2008.
That’s when millions of progressive voters just like me were forced to look back at what was a pretty good time in most of our lives and peel off the rose-colored layers of sugar plum memories to see how the 1990s was a continuation of the 1980s and prepared the country for what was to follow this decade. A republican Congress made it easier for him to push such regressive legislation, but that hardly makes the democrats innocents in all this. That’s not to say they were all in on it, but they were mostly all in on it. Just look at the bulk of the votes over the last 28 years.
Congress is a wholly owned subsidiary of Corporate America. In fact, all three branches are now firmly in the hands of corporate-friendly politicians and judges.
Then came Barack Obama – a true progressive democrat who came out of no where to challenge the neolib coup that has been guiding the democratic party since 1992. A man who has only been in the senate three years, but has ushered 15 bills into law and has offered an entirely new vision of transparent government for all. Amazing. A government that truly works for everyone and not just the top 1 percent. A United States where the American People are the only Special Interest that matters. The last democrat to offer that vision (and then actually try to follow-through on it) was Jimmy Carter.
We have another choice this year. We can elect Barack Obama and allow him to lead us in an American Renaissance that couldn’t have come a second too soon. We can stay involved and force our representatives to actually represent us. If they fail in their duties, we can force them out of office and elect someone better. We can stay active in our communities and strengthen the bonds that unite us while at the same time confront the demons that keep us divided.
Barack has very rightly laid this challenge at our feet, because no one man can do it alone.
Are you up to the challenge?