You have got to give Hillary Clinton credit. She really has mastered the Democratic playbook on how to relate to black audiences: don’t offer solutions, tell them what they want to hear, mention a few black friends, and accuse the GOP of restricting voting rights and you are home free.
As I sat in the audience at the National Urban League Conference in Fort Lauderdale last week, I witnessed that playbook in action.
The presidential forum included Dr. Ben Carson and Jeb Bush on the Republican side and Hillary Clinton, former Maryland Gov. and Baltimore Mayor Martin O’Malley and Socialist Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., representing Democrats. The theme of the conference was “Save Our Cities.”
Carson, O’Malley, Sanders, and Bush showed respect for the audience and the Save Our Cities theme by relating their experiences and setting forth their ideas on confronting some of the problems facing our cities and black America:
- Carson related how he grew up in poverty; was raised by a single mother who worked three jobs who encouraged him to read; how nurses had confused him as an orderly when he was a neurosurgeon in scrubs; and, said that he would give a six-month tax holiday for corporations to allow them to return trillions of overseas dollars back to the United States as long as they committed to spending 10 percent of the funds on creating jobs.
- O’Malley outlined his record reducing violent crime, recidivism rates and new prison admissions as governor and his agenda for criminal justice reform including repeal of the death penalty, ending sentencing disparities and enhancing rehabilitation in the justice system.
- Sanders proposed that every public college and university provide free tuition; urged universal healthcare; a $15 minimum wage and criminal justice and police reforms.
- Bush pointed to his record as governor of Florida in significantly increasing black judges and assistance to minority owned businesses; expanding charter schools for poor students; bringing accountability to the education system; and, instituting programs to make fathers pay child support. Among his goals as president to save our cities — an annual economic growth of 4 percent to end the cycle of joblessness, revive the private sector, provide 19 million new jobs, create more enterprise in urban areas to stimulate a higher tax base and higher revenues.
As to Clinton, on efforts to save our cities and assisting blacks, all she could point to was her brief stint with the Children’s Defense Fund after leaving law school, working with the Children’s Health Foundation as first lady and fighting to raise the minimum wage and assist minority and female owned business as a U.S. senator.
Unlike Carson, O’Malley, Sanders and Bush, she offered no programs or solutions in the body of her speech and took the same tired old Democratic tactic that seems to work so well with black audiences: give them patronizing, platitudes of political pablum and watch them cheer.
And cheer they did.
She threw out a flurry of crowd pleasing applause invoking revelations designed to let the audience know that she felt their pain including:
- The opportunity gap is not just economic, it’s racial.
- Black kids are 500 percent more likely to die from Asthma than white kids.
- Race plays a significant role in who gets ahead and who is left behind.
- Blacks are three times as likely as whites to be denied a mortgage.
- Blacks are sentenced to longer prison terms that whites for the same crimes.
- Schools are more segregated today than in 1968.
Of course, all of these problems have existed throughout the two Obama administrations.
She went on to give what has become an almost obligatory mention by Democrats of the names of Trayvon Martin, Sandra Bland, Eric Garner, Walter Scott, Freddie Gray, and the latest victim of an encounter with law enforcement Sam Dubose. She even praised President Obama’s “Amazing Grace” eulogy in Charleston as sounding like it came “straight from angels.”
So what has she done and will she do to save our cities? It was only after about 23 minutes into her nearly 26 minute appearance that she discussed any substantive solutions — and then only after being asked about small business by Urban League CEO Marc Morial.
In response, she said she wanted to be the “small business president,” attack the problem of student loan debt; create strong, fair and long term economic growth; and, address the problem of the lack of credit. She devoted a little over two minutes to that issue—none to addressing solutions to the education, health and criminal justice issues she had mentioned earlier.
While Carson and Bush pointed to the trillions spent on failed social programs, neither Clinton, O’Malley nor Sanders defended those failed Democratic policies which have caused the need to “save our cities” most of which are controlled by Democrats.
Although most of the audience swallowed Clinton’s pablum and threw palms of applause at her feet, there is still some hope. The GOP nominee only needs to get at least 12 percent of the black vote. In 2004, George W. Bush got 13 percent of that vote in Florida and carried the state. Can the GOP repeat that in 2016? It’s in their hands!
Clarence V. McKee is president of McKee Communications, Inc., a government, political, and media relations consulting firm in Florida. He held several positions in the Reagan administration as well as in the Reagan presidential campaigns and has appeared on many national and local media outlets. Read more reports from Clarence V. McKee — Click Here Now.
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