THE BLOG
02/07/2016 03:50 pm ET Updated Feb 07, 2017

The Return of 20th Century 'Political Paternalism'

Political pundits have repeatedly referred to the "Black vote" as the the "fire wall" for a successful election with Hillary Rodham Clinton ascending to the presidency of the United States.

This means to me, and probably to any other person who reads or hears this spoken, that there is a certitude, or high probability, that the black community will vote in the several southern and urban state presidential primaries for Clinton.

So, I ask myself, if this is true, why? And, if not, why?

I have noticed over the past months, aside from the African-American vote, there is a recurring theme occurring in the Clinton campaign for president: On the basis of her years of community activity and her eight years as First Lady, and then, as Senator from New York, candidate Clinton, compared to Bernie Sanders, has more experience and more years of activity on matters affecting African-Americans.

Throughout the Clinton campaign, there is also an additional under-lying theme: "Look how much WE have done for you in the past. Now, YOU owe us." They, of course, will deny this, but plain and simple, this is a thesis of an approach of "arrogant entitlement."

It poignantly indicates, that the Clinton campaign, with respect to TODAY'S African-American community, is like a deer in the headlights. It does not appear to reflect an understanding of the profound changes that have taken place among the mindset of a substantial segment of African-Americans, especially the younger current generation. They are interested, not only or primarily in what you did or claim to have done in the past, but in what do you propose to do TODAY that is generationally relevant and responsive to their needs.

Perhaps not intentionally, the Clinton campaign messages to TODAY's African-American voter, especially voters aged 18-34, appear and sound tone deaf to the major issues confronting African-Americans. Of these, no issue is more paramount than the systemic racism of the criminal justice system, and how that system impacts their black lives 24/7.

In a recent article in the New York Times, John Eligon wrote:

Protesters have called for systemic government overhauls -- from city halls to police departments to courts. They have challenged establishment politicians, even those with strong racial justice résumés. And they have demanded elected officials who not only look more like the communities they serve, but also will fervently push the issues they care about.

They are: "causing intraparty tumult, challenging incumbents who have bona fide liberal, racial justice credentials."

Adding fuel to the fire of push back to the Clinton campaign of "political paternalism" is the voice of acclaimed The New Jim Crow author and Ohio State University professor Michelle Alexander. She was the one who first to draw to the nation's attention the mass prison incarceration problem affecting the African-American community today.

On her Facebook page she recently posted:

If anyone doubts that the mainstream media fails to tell the truth about our political system (and its true winners and losers), the spectacle of large majorities of black folks supporting Hillary Clinton in the primary races ought to be proof enough. I can't believe Hillary would be coasting into the primaries with her current margin of black support if most people knew how much damage the Clintons have done -- the millions of families that were destroyed the last time they were in the White House thanks to their boastful embrace of the mass incarceration machine and their total capitulation to the right-wing narrative on race, crime, welfare and taxes. There's so much more to say on this topic and it's a shame that more people aren't saying it. I think it's time we have that conversation.

Candidate Hillary Clinton often recites her experiences as First Lady at the White House as providing her with a "leg up" on potential experience now needed to become President of the United States.

The downside to this, however, says Professor Alexander is that Bill Clinton --

"More than any other president -- created the current racial under-caste. He signed the Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act, which ended welfare as we know it, and replaced it with a block grant to states called Temporary Assistance to Needy Families (TANF). TANF imposed a five-year lifetime limit on welfare assistance, as well as a permanent, lifetime ban on eligibility for welfare and food stamps for anyone convicted of a felony drug offense--including simple possession of marijuana."

In ethical fairness to Candidate Hillary Clinton, it may be unfair to hold her responsible for her husband's actions in supporting the legislation reference by Professor Alexander. On the other hand, before writing this, we found no instance in which candidate Clinton has disavowed her support for the laws enacted.

Unless candidate Clinton indicates an unequivocal willingness to confront issues and initiate a fundamental change in the actions of police who choose lethal deadly force as their first option in seeking to affect what might otherwise be be a lawful arrest of African-Americans, ANYTHING else she says that she is going to do, affecting the current new generation of African-Americans, is and will be generationally unresponsive to their urgent needs.