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Race, Public Policy, the Clintons and 2016, Part II

A note for our readers: the views reflected by the authors do not reflect the views of ASPA.

By William Carr

Part II

Bill Clinton and the 1992 presidential Election Campaign

Carr 2 julyHaving secured the hearts and minds of the large majority of the African-American voters in the months leading up to the 1992 presidential, candidate Clinton utilized his winning, personable personality to maintain their support. His iconic revelation that “I feel your pain,” notwithstanding his African-American supporters, was identified and usurped as a reason to support his candidacy. His appearance on the popular Arsenio Hall show also proved to be a plus. 

A crucial moment in his presidential candidacy came when Operation Push founder and president, Jessie Jackson, invited him to speak at the organization’s conference. Clinton utilized the opportunity to execute a political stance that will forever be ensconced in the political lexicon. During the period leading up to the event, the African-American rapper Sista Soulja gave an interview to David Mills of The Washington Post, which was published May 13, 1992. In the article, the artist made the following unfortunate comments, “If black people kill black people every day, why not have a week and kill white people?”       

Bill Clinton used the opportunity of his speech at the Operation Push conference to admonish Sista Soulja’s lyrics. What’s more, Clinton used the opportunity to denounce Jackson and his organization. The action served to signal to the conservative Republican electorate that Bill Clinton, a democratic candidate, would speak out against his base if he believed the issue to be important enough. In orchestrating his political stunt, Clinton accomplished his objective. However, his actions annoyed many astute African-American voters, among them the pre-eminent Black politician of the time and Bill Clinton’s host, Jessie Jackson. 

From that day forward, similarly transparent political gestures perpetrated by a candidate for office have been identified as the candidate’s “Sista Soulja Moment.” In his July 2012 appearance at the NAACP Annual Convention, the Republican presidential Candidate Mitt Romney failed to produce a “Sista Soulja” moment when he had the perfect opportunity, instead of standing up to his base he stood up to Barrack Obama’s Base. 

In response to growing African-American complaints that Clinton had failed to identify how his policy agenda would benefit his black constituents, primarily initiated by individuals such as the New Alliance Party Candidate, Dr. Lenora Fulani, many blacks were satisfied with the statement “He can’t help us if he isn’t elected.” The latter reflected the sentiments and common belief of the day that even if a national candidate spoke about having a policy agenda that may benefit African-American, the candidate would lose or be seriously harmed in his race for office.

Dubious Public Policy Accomplishments of President Clinton?

After his election as the 42nd President of the United States, Clinton’s record was marked by several policy accomplishments that were considered to be counterproductive and against the best interest of the working class, poor and minority Americans. Among Clinton’s most controversial presidential policies were the 1996 Welfare Reform Act, the 1994 North American Free Trade Agreement and the 1999 Repeal of Glastegel Act.

Welfare Reform:

The dismantling of the welfare system represented the first prong in Republicans effort to end all entitlement programs. The term welfare reform is of course a misnomer. The actual result of the legislation was to end the welfare system. For all intense and purposes, the consequences of the legislation was to leave the support of America’s indigent women and children to their own meager resources.

The legislation necessitated the coining of an additional term that was equally deceptive, welfare to work. Without the mandate of federal funding, which was the primary component of the traditional welfare program, the Aid to Dependent Children (ADC) was left to the auspices of individual states. The fact that President Clinton negotiated and signed this legislation was (and remains) an extremely hot button issue among progressives and African-American.

1994 North American Free Trade Agreement: 

The North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) is a bill that President Clinton personally lobbied for and it was supposed to bring more jobs the United States. Many contend that NAFTA had the direct opposite results and started the process of exporting American Jobs. Notwithstanding the latter, the consequences of the passage of the act are obvious. It has been catastrophic to the welfare of America’s working class and the poor, all of which are incorporated by African-American.

1999 Repeal of Glastegel Act:

2008 marked the epicenter of the worst recession since the 1929 Great Depression. The Glastegel Act was reportedly the first act signed by President Roosevelt. Many say that President Clinton’s repeal of this depression era act is directly the cause. Whether its repeal is directly or indirectly responsible for the last recession, allowing savings banks the ability to speculate with saving constituted the ultimate level of irresponsibility and should not have been done. The last recession marked a devastating period in the economic welfare of our country and annihilated the finances of a large percentage of African-American.


The nation’s policies denote the issues that will be accomplished in this country. By omission, it reflects those issues that won’t be addressed. It is the job of the U.S. president to represent all citizens of the country, even those that overwhelmingly voted him in and represented the consummate voting bloc responsible for his election. For President Clinton that bloc is African-American.

Clinton can say that he feels the pain of his constituents. He can even initiate congressional actions apologizing for slavery. Platitudes and other rhetorical gestures have their place and can even be welcomed. However, it is the policies that are of utmost importance as they can establish a better life. President Clinton did not provide those policies for African-Americans. In fact, many of his policies were counterproductive. For African-Americans, their love fest with President Clinton has been one-sided.

The 2008 election of President Barack Hussein Obama disproved all the stereotypes about those who can run for the office as well as those that can win. African-Americans believed the stereotypes but should never be undermined again. If Hillary Rodham Clinton runs for the office in 2016, her platform must detail specifically her plans for her constituents including African-Americans as they will undoubtedly constitute the electoral bloc that will take her over the top. It is hoped that her presidency is not of a repeat of her husband’s and will it not be a Hillary and Bill adventure.


Author:  ASPA member William Carr, DPA, has 40-years of public agency experience, 20 years in a Court Executive position, primarily in the New Jersey Judiciary. He retired in 2008 as assistant chief probation officer of the New Jersey Superior Court, Probation Division, Essex Vicinage. Currently he is an adjunct professor of criminal justice at Essex County Community College and a fellow of the Institute of Court Management (Williamsburg, Virginia). Carr also serves as vice president of the New Jersey Association of Criminal Justice Educators, is a consulting editor for the the journal, Children & Schools, and is on the board of the New Jersey Association on Corrections. He is in private practice as a licensed clinical social worker in the State of New Jersey. Carr can be reached at[email protected] and followed on Twitter at @yllib1234.

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The American Society for Public Administration is the largest and most prominent professional association for public administration. It is dedicated to advancing the art, science, teaching and practice of public and non-profit administration.

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