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 No More Mister Nice Blog.

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