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Kamau Franklin says the Clintons have played a major role in destabilizing black communities through the welfare reform act, crime legislation, and economic policy

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SHARMINI PERIES, EXEC. PRODUCER, TRNN: It’s the Real News Network. I’m Sharmini Peries in Baltimore. The Democratic party’s Nevada caucuses are on February 20, and the South Carolina Democratic primaries are coming up on February 27, and on March 1 is Super Tuesday. Well, ahead of all of this, on Thursday, February 11, the Congressional Black Caucus PAC endorsed Hillary Clinton as their candidate for president in the Democratic leadership race. Let’s have a look at the announcement. SPEAKER: She’s a person full of ideas and commitment and results. So you judge a person by their results. And there is no question that the person that has obtained the most results and benefits for communities of color, and everyone in America, in my opinion, but especially getting Democrats elected, it’s not even close. It’s not even close. It’s Hillary Clinton. And that’s why we support Hillary Clinton. PERIES: To discuss this endorsement I’m joined by Kamau Franklin. Kamau is an attorney and activist focused on youth police misconduct and creating sustainable communities. Kamau, good to have you with us. FRANKLIN: Thank you for having me. PERIES: So, Kamau, let’s get your reaction to CBC PAC’s announcement. FRANKLIN: Well, I’m not surprised by what they just did in terms of supporting Hillary Clinton. I think it’s a further sort of illustration of the uselessness of the CBC in the black community for them to come out this strong behind a candidate whose history is one of helping to destabilize black communities through their support of the Welfare Reform Act and the crime bill that was done under her husband’s administration. And her economic policies, which have favored wall Street over larger community interest. I think it just shows that they are willing to take the expedient force and side with someone who they may think that they can cut deals with, as opposed to thinking about the larger issues and having the voice that they used to have, back in the late ’60s and early ’70s, where it was a progressive if not radical body that stood for not only civil rights and human rights, and stood on the right side of international issues like supporting Palestine and being opposed to apartheid. I think it’s really a shadow of what it used to be. And so–although I’m not surprised, again, I just think it further whittles away any kind of legitimacy that the CBC has in the black community. PERIES: And how much weight does an endorsement like this have in the deeper black community as we head South? FRANKLIN: I think it depends, but I actually do think that it does matter, in some ways. Because you have your elected officials who are now willing to go to South Carolina through their PAC activities, spend money for this particular candidate, stand as a surrogate for this particular candidate and say things that in some ways are preposterous, like what John Lewis alluded to when they made the endorsement, that he actually met the Clintons during the civil rights movement and didn’t know Bernie Sanders at all, or seemed to suggest that he never participated in it. So I think as people are undecided, or as they’re making up their minds, these elected officials, as they dig in deep into South Carolina, may have an effect in sort of holding that firewall together for Hillary Clinton, as opposed to people being able to sort of take a second look or a first look at Sanders, and seeing whether or not he, himself sort of fits what folks’ needs are. PERIES: Now, the, some members of the Black Caucus PAC were struggling to establish their street creds because the Bernie Sanders campaign fired back, saying this is really a reinforcement of the establishment in the black community. What did you make of that? FRANKLIN: Well, I think it’s completely true. I think that the CBC, again, has sort of long given up its role as sort of a leading, organizing voice or an activist voice for the black community. I think it’s busy cutting deals, it’s busy worrying about reelection campaigns for its members. And I think, unfortunately, it’s busy sort of trying to climb a corporate ladder themselves once they get out of office. So I think they represent an establishment voice, but yet a voice that has some weight in the larger community. I think, against Obama, like you know, in 2008, it stayed neutral. Although maybe members initially endorsed Hillary Clinton. I think at this particular stage, in terms of endorsing Clinton over Sanders, it could lead to some, some boost for Clinton, because unlike Obama, who himself obviously is a black candidate, this kind of thing can look like it’s sort of a, sort of a large, racial group. Supporting one white candidate over another, which again may give some credence to Hillary Clinton no matter what her past history is around issues concerning black people. PERIES: Now, Kamau, black intellectuals such as Cornel West has come out in full support of Bernie Sanders, and he’s out campaigning for him. And also, Danny Glover has come out in support of him. And most recently Michelle Alexander has come out in support of Bernie Sanders as well. In fact, in her Facebook page, she recently wrote: “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, and 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.” So Kamau, what do you make of that? FRANKLIN: I think it’s obviously very true what she lays out. The, the Clintons have been people who believe in expediency. So when it serves their purpose to come out and, as when Bill Clinton ran for presidency in ’92, and go on Arsenio Hall and play the saxophone, thinking it’s going to endear him to a larger black community, they’ll do that. And when they sort of believe that it’s more important for them to shift right and to embrace what they feel is a working class, white working class view of black people as being on welfare and being criminals, that they will embrace that. And they will come out slugging to make sure that their place is center-right in order to gain a larger electorate. So these are folks that have shown themselves not to have sort of true values, a true course that leads them along their sort of political life and their political leanings. But instead they take the expedient road to victory. And I think that’s what’s shown through Hillary Clinton’s career, whether it’s foreign policy, whether it’s domestic policy, whether it involves black people, whether it involves economics or how the economy runs, and who should benefit. I think their views switch depending on who they think they’re courting, which is why it’s so easy for her to speak in front of Wall Street groups and get paid over $625,000, and then a year or so later come out and suggest that it would have no influence on who she is and her campaign. I think the problem for Bernie Sanders’ campaign is that he’s not well known in the black community. And it’s not an issue of being a senator from an overwhelmingly white state that, you know, within a capacity of being a senator, that he’s necessarily been advocating for the strongest ways [have been] at the sort of top of his agenda. So he may have in the ’60s and ’70s done work around civil rights and human rights issues, but I think because he’s an unknown quantity from that time period on in the black community that he has to sort of make his face known and have people sort of take a look at him and see who he is as a candidate, and what potentially he brings to the fore that Hillary Clinton doesn’t. PERIES: Now, Kamau, you work with a large number of black youth. And in various organizing efforts. And so in light of that, and also in terms of the Black Lives Matter movement, where are the sentiments in terms of support for Hillary Clinton? FRANKLIN: I think as people look at the candidacy, including myself, of Bernie Sanders, there is sort of, like, a, a thinking of, you know, it’s hard to believe that someone who is a, a devout socialist, or social democrat, is doing this well in mainstream politics. Despite, again, all the issues and concerns that people may have about his foreign policy, about the reparations issue, and some other things. But I think everyone is sort of taking a look back. And I think it was similar around Obama in 2008, that whatever his policies were, they were sort of moderate to liberal, but it [inaud.] a black person, a black man, being able to win the Iowa caucuses and therefore put himself in the position where black people who before that were not necessarily going to support him, or put himself in a position where he was looked upon as a legitimate candidate who had an opportunity to win. I think that same thing is sort of happening with Bernie Sanders right now. I think as far as Hillary Clinton and sort of the organizer activist world, there’s no one who I know who is supporting her. There’s no one I know who’s contemplating supporting her. I think for the most part people understand the history of the Clintons and their, sort of their history around, again, the crime bill, welfare reform, their views on Wall Street, and the way in which they viewed sort of foreign policy and leading with U.S. power. I think that’s sort of well known, and there’s no one who’s really taking a hard look at her, because they already know who that person is. And they know that that person will say anything that they think is necessary to win an election. PERIES: Kamau, we’re going to continue onto another segment with you, where we’re going to be talking about a very special endorsement. So stay tuned.


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Kamau Franklin is an attorney. He is the founder of the grassroots organizing group Community Movement Builders, Inc., and is co-host of the Renegade Culture podcast that covers news and culture in the Black community.