Bill Clinton, Hillary Clinton & the Arkansas Two Step
A Black Agenda Radio Commentary by BAR managing editor Bruce A. Dixon
Back in September, Bill Clinton speaking at a dinner for corporate “philanthropists” seemed to publicly question the effectiveness of charter schools. What should we make of this?
The evidence is long in that the push for charter schools, driven by market fundamentalists has failed to improve the quality of education for most students. Still, the push to privatize is universally embraced by corporate media and the elected politicians of both parties, pretty much like imperial wars, gentrification and bailing out Wall Street banksters. Elite agreement on privatizing public education is so well established that Mitt Romney expressed agreement with President Obama's policies in that regard in their first 2012 presidential debate.
So does Bill Clinton's second thoughts on charter schools offer hope to emabattled communities and teachers in Chicago, Philly and hundreds of other cities? I wouldn't bet on it.
Remember back in 1992 when Arkansas governor Slick Willie Clinton ran for president? His surrogates and spokespeople told everybody who'd listen this was the chance for something they called the Peace Dividend. The recent fall of the Soviet Union, they said meant that a Democrat in the White House would be able to divert some of the vast sums that had gone to the Pentagon into housing, education, mass transit, jobs for youth, getting off fossil fuels, high speed intercity rail. After 12 years of Reagan and Bush it was a message people were more than ready to hear. They didn't call Bill Clinton “The Man From Hope” for nothing.
Of course once elected, the Clintons immediately “discovered” that “all the money was gone” because Reagan and Bush supposedly spent it all plus a lot more so there wouldn't be any peace divided, any extra to spend on those things at all. It was a deliberate transparent bait and switch, a classic Arkansas Two Step.
“There's a lot of Wall Street campaign cash, behind the push for charter schools, and presidential candidate Hillary Clinton is not about to see all of it go Republican”
The Clintons and Democratic party leaders knew perfectly well they were never going to spend that money on mass transit, housing, education, jobs for youth, getting off fossil fuels and high speed intercity rail, but they also knew exactly what the Democratic faithful, that party's base vote and the activists who move that base vote needed to hear to get the job done.
It was a lesson the Obama campaign learned from the Clintons. Candidate Barack Obama's surrogates explicitly promised he would tackle mass incarceration and a host of other ills, if only we would shut up, line up and vote. And here we are.
There's a lot of Wall Street campaign cash, behind the push for charter schools, and presidential candidate Hillary Clinton is not about to see all of it go Republican. Hillary, Bill and now Chelsea are a package, as Doug Henwood puts it, a dynasty in the making. No matter which one you choose you get all three. They used to call Bill Clinton the “I feel your pain” president, because of his real political talent for convincing people of just that.
The music for 2016 is already playing. Democrats need ground troops, motivated union members and others to staff their voter registration drives and door to door campaigns. Democrats need to pretend to be a party of the people for at least a few paragraphs every couple years. That's the dance. And chances are that Bill Clinton's misgivings on charter schools, or whatever else are just another chorus of the old Arkansas Two Step.
For Black Agenda Radio I'm Bruce Dixon. Find us on the web at www.blackagendareport.com, and subscribe to our free weekly email updates at www.blackagendareport.com/subscribe. That's www.blackagendareport.com/subscribe.
Bruce A. Dixon is managing editor at Black Agenda Report. He lives and works in Marietta GA and can be reached via this site's contact page, or at bruce.dixon(at)blackagendareport.com.