Article-Do Blacks Owe Clinton Anything?

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 Article by:Roland S. Martin-Editor-Chicago Defender.Com

Blacks don’t owe the Clintons a thing

One of my all-time favorite TV shows is “The West Wing.” On one particular episode, the Bartlet White House was pretty miffed that one of its past supporters, an influential Hispanic labor leader in California, was being courted by a potential rival.

When they see the man sitting courtside at a basketball game with their nemesis, they summon him to the White House. The White House aide (played by Rob Lowe) then begins to go after the guy, giving him menacing looks, and demanding to know why he was flirting with the other side when Bartlet’s folks had done so much for him in the past.

“That was last time,” he said. “What do I get this time?”

The storyline came to mind as I listened to many African-American political leaders, as well as everyday voters, go on about what African Americans owe the Clintons, believing that what took place during the administration of Bill Clinton is enough to warrant their full support for Sen. Hillary Clinton in her run for the White House.

What a bunch of hogwash.

Anyone knows that in politics, what you did last year is nice, but today is a different day.

And seven years after Clinton left the White House is a long time.

There is no doubt that African-Americans felt strongly about Bill Clinton. His poll numbers among blacks was sky high, and there was no group that he could count on more. He played the saxophone on Arsenio Hall’s show, was as comfortable as an old-school preacher in black churches and relished when folks like Toni Morrison (foolishly) referred to him as America’s first black president.

Now his wife is running, and the expectation is that the goodwill created by her husband should automatically go to Sen. Clinton.

You see, that’s the kind of stuff that played well with the civil rights movement crowd. A (white) politician paid attention to a few black causes, and we provided them with lifelong support. Drop by a few black churches on your way to the ballot box, take a few pictures, and all is well. When that got old, a few political appointments here and there were enough to satisfy African Americans.

Some candidates have even run on the “my dad was good to African Americans” platform, leading ministers and civil rights leaders to toss their support their way, without demanding anything in return.

Today this generation is tired of the old games. “What have you done for me lately?” is the mantra, and it is one that various political constituencies demand of candidates.

Republicans spent a lot of time in the last election heavily courting Hispanics. But with so many in the GOP taking a strong anti-immigration stance, they are going to pay a dear price if they don’t make amends before November 2008.

Mostly white evangelicals have held sway in politics the last 20 years, namely in the Republican Party. If a candidate doesn’t speak aggressively to their issues — pretty much limited to gays and abortion — you can bet there will be political hell to pay.

Gays are a major force in the Democratic Party. Any presidential candidate who doesn’t support gay rights — including civil unions, gay adoption or inclusion of sexual orientation in hate crimes legislation — can expect to feel the heat.

The point is everyone demands accountability, and if they don’t get what they want, they make them pay at the ballot box.

Not African American political leaders, who have always talked loudly, but who run and hide when a few crumbs have been thrown their way.

That shouldn’t be the case with Sen. Clinton. The love blacks have for her husband should be earned — by her. If some want to ask Sen. Barack Obama, D-Ill., if he’s “black enough,” then they should have the courage to ask of Clinton, “What are you prepared to do for us?”

If she gives the same boilerplate speech, then they should go look for another candidate to support. She recently dropped $10,000 a month for the services of a prominent South Carolina state senator and pastor (Obama and others also tried to recruit him), hoping he will seal the deal for her with blacks in South Carolina.

Sen. Clinton, that’s old school. And trust me, this generation doesn’t play by the same rules as their mommas and daddies. They play for keeps. And as they say on the basketball courts in the ‘hood, “You better bring it if you want to keep playing.”

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