Would African-Americans Have Been Better Off If Hillary Were Elected?
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Did Clinton Lose Her Pass?
During their 60 Minutes appearance, Obama and Clinton intimated that part of what made their presidential primary fight so bitter is that they actually had few policy differences. When it comes to policies directly affecting African Americans, for instance, both support affirmative action.
The secretary of state and her husband enjoyed immense support and trust among the black community -- so much so that former President Clinton was once dubbed "the first black president." But their image within the black community was somewhat tarnished by controversial comments the former president made about his wife's then foe. Among them, Bill Clinton seemed to dismiss the viability of Obama's campaign for the presidency by saying of his South Carolina primary win, "Jesse Jackson won South Carolina in '84 and '88. Jackson ran a good campaign. And Obama ran a good campaign here."
Former President Clinton also faced criticism that by shepherding policies like welfare reform, he ultimately did more harm than good for low-income people of color, who were hit disproportionately by such measures.
But the reason the question lingers as to whether black Americans would have done better under Hillary Clinton can perhaps best be summarized by a baseball analogy. In a previous interview with The Root, when asked to give President Obama a grade for handling the economy, civil rights activist the Rev. Jesse Jackson gave the president a solid B. But he went on to draw parallels between the president and Jackie Robinson.
"When Jackie got drafted, everyone who was black was a Jackie fan and a Dodgers fan," Jackson said. But he continued that after a few years, as more players of color joined the league, "we could be fans based on productivity." His point? That's where black Americans can be now with the president: judging him on results.
Unprompted, Mark Thompson mentioned the Jackie Robinson analogy, too, but for a slightly different reason. "The phenomenon in our relationship [between the black community and the president] is we are following the version of the Branch Rickey and Jackie Robinson 'Don't fight back' mantra." Thompson was referring to the white baseball executive who famously coached Jackie Robinson to be a pioneer for his people by integrating the major leagues, but warned him that doing so would require that Robinson turn the other cheek -- at least in the beginning. "But that ban," Thompson noted, "was lifted after two years, and no one messed with Jackie after that."
"Enough time has elapsed that the rule has been lifted for both of us [African Americans and Obama] -- but we are both still acting on that rule," he continued. "The African-American community has been silenced out of fear of hurting the first African-American president. If it had been Hillary, we would not have been afraid [to criticize]."