U.S.– Bigoted pasts return to haunt top Democratic presidential candidates seeking black votes

 — By MOHAMED HAMALUDIN

Corey Booker, Kamala Harris and Deval Patrick’s exiting the race for the Democratic presidential nomination leaves only white candidates, some carrying baggage that diminishes their appeal to African Americans.

Joe Biden claims the African American vote because he was Barack Obama’s vice president. But, as a Delaware senator, he vehemently opposed busing, saying in a 1975 newspaper interview recently unearthed by The Washington Post: “The real problem with busing is that you take [white] people who aren’t racist, people who are good citizens, who believe in equal education and opportunity, and you stunt their children’s intellectual growth by busing them to an inferior school. … I do not buy the concept, popular in the ’60s, which said, ‘We have suppressed the black man for 300 years and…in order to even the score, we must now give the black man a head start or even hold the white man back.’”           

Biden courted Mississippi Senator James Eastland’s support “to bring my anti-busing legislation to a vote.” Eastland frequently referred to African Americans as “an inferior race,” The Nation’s Jonathan Kozol reported. Also, as a senator, Biden supported a Clinton administration crime bill widely blamed for mass incarceration of African Americans.

Michael Bloomberg is saddled with the stop-and-frisk police tactic in New York City while he was mayor and which he justified at a 2015 Aspen Institute conference in Colorado by saying: “Ninety-five percent of your murders and murderers and murder victims fit one M.O. You can take the description and pass it out to all the cops. They are male minorities, 15 to 25. … So one of the unintended consequences is people say, ‘Oh my God, you are arresting kids for marijuana that are all minorities.’ Yes, that’s true. Why? Because we put all the cops in the minority neighborhoods. Yes, that’s true. Why do we do it? Because that is where all the crime is. … And the way you get the guns out of kids’ hands is to throw them up against the wall and frisk them.”

Bloomberg says he inherited the program but it mushroomed in his 11 years in office, to 685,000 cases In 2011, the ACLU reported; 87 percent of those stopped and frisked were African Americans; 90 percent had not committed a crime. He apologized last November 17 at the Christian Cultural Center, a Brooklyn African American megachurch, as he was about to launch his presidential campaign, saying, “I was wrong. And I am sorry.” He did so again last week as he launched his “Mike for Black America” outreach at the Buffalo Soldier National Museum in Houston.

Also, Bloomberg joined two whites-only clubs and he said in a September 2008 address at Georgetown University that ending the racially discriminatory lending practice known as redlining caused the 2008 Great Recession by forcing banks “to make loans to everyone.” And, even though he airs video of Obama praising him, he accused the former president in a November 2016 speech at Oxford University in Britain of failing to deal with racial segregation.

Pete Buttigieg is still trying to justify why, as mayor of South Bend, Indiana, he replaced the African American police chief, Darryl Boykins with a white man, ran a mostly white administration and used the phrase “All Lives Matter” in a 2015 State of the City address while discussing racism. Also, while he has been campaigning, a white South Bend police officer shot and killed an African American, Eric Logan.

Amy Klobuchar, a Minnesota senator, while a prosecutor, led the flawed prosecution of an African American, Myon Burrell, then 16, in the 2002 death of Tyesha Edwards, an 11-year-old African American girl killed by a stray bullet while doing her homework. Myon was convicted and sentenced to life in prison but an Associated Press investigation challenges his conviction: “No gun, fingerprints or DNA were ever recovered and the case against Burrell relied on the testimony of a teen rival who offered conflicting stories when identifying the trigger man, who was standing 120 feet away, mostly behind a wall.” An investigator “offered cash for information and interviewed a prison inmate who said that he was the triggerman and that Burrell was not on the scene when Tyesha Edwards was shot and killed.”

Confronted by Sunny Hostin, co-host of ABC’s “The View,” Klobuchar conceded that “All of the evidence needs to be immediately reviewed in that case.” Meanwhile, Myon has already spent 17 years in prison.

And Bernie Sanders, the Vermont senator, said at a public forum in 1986 that poor people in the state “are equivalent to blacks in South Africa.” He also compared the plight of poor people generally to “a slave-like condition not terribly different from what existed in this country before the Civil War.”

All of this matters greatly. Unlike in the almost 100 percent white Iowa and New Hampshire, the upcoming primaries in Nevada, on Saturday, and South Carolina, on February 29, and others have large numbers of African American voters, who are mostly Democrats. Their dilemma is that they will almost certainly have vote for one of these candidates or stay home.  But their support is so crucial to the Democratic party’s drive to unseat President Donald Trump that staying at home for any reason will be a sure way to re-elect him.

Mohamed Hamaludin is a Guyana-born journalist who  worked for several years at The Chronicle in the 1970s and on publications in the Cayman Islands and Turks and Caicos Islands before emigrating to the United States in 1984 where he worked at The Miami Times, the Miami Herald and the South Florida Times.  Though now retired, he writes a commentary every week or two for The South Florida Times (sfltimes.com) in which the above column first appeared. He may be reached at hamal1942@gmail.com.

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  • Clyde Duncan  On February 21, 2020 at 6:38 am

    Sanders vs. Bloomberg Scenario Is Like a Jewish Joke Turned Ominously Real

    Two Jewish finalists in the Democratic race is a source of pride for U.S. Jews – as well as a reason for grave concern

    Analysis: Chemi Shalev | Haaretz

    The late and great Leo Rosten recounted in his book “HOORAY FOR YIDDISH” that whenever his father would marvel at the wonders of the United States, instead of using the staple quip “ONLY IN AMERICA”, he would exclaim “AMERICA GONEF!”

    The saying literally means “AMERICA THE THIEF”, but in the mouths of Jewish immigrants to the United States, IT EVOLVED TO SIGNIFY THEIR UNENDING GRATITUDE AND ADMIRATION FOR THE COUNTRY THAT TOOK THEM IN AND MADE THEM PROSPER.

    Rosten recounts that his father, Sam Rosenberg of Lodz, would exclaim “America gonef” at least five times a day. If he were alive today to witness the Democratic primary race, Mr. Rosenberg would have surely doubled or tripled his daily output.

    As if it weren’t amazing enough that one Jew is leading the Democratic pack, his main challenger could very well turn out to be yet another Jew.

    IF MAD MAGAZINE WERE STILL BREATHING, IT MIGHT HAVE REPLACED ITS LEGENDARY STRIP “SPY VS. SPY” WITH “JEW VS. JEW”. AMERICA GONEF!

    THE FACT THAT BERNIE SANDERS IS NOW THE FRONTRUNNER IN THE RACE FOR THE DEMOCRATIC PRESIDENTIAL NOMINATION IS A MILESTONE IN AMERICAN JEWISH HISTORY IN AND OF ITSELF.

    The possibility, if NOT yet probability, that in the final showdown Sanders could face Michael Bloomberg is AMERICAN JEWISH HISTORY GONE BERSERK.

    As the Eagles noted in “Hotel California,” “This could be heaven or this could be hell” – but the odds are in favor of the latter.

    THE FACT THAT TWO JEWISH AMERICANS ARE SERIOUS CONTENDERS TO BE NOMINATED AS PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE BY A MAJOR U.S. PARTY IS TESTAMENT TO THE PROMINENCE AND ACCEPTANCE OF WHAT IS UNDOUBTEDLY THE GREATEST JEWISH DIASPORA, PARDON THE EXPRESSION, OF THE MODERN ERA.

    It comes at a time, however, when the same Jewish community is feeling exceptionally vulnerable and anti-Semitism is on the rise – particularly in the rival political camp.

    IF EITHER SANDERS OR BLOOMBERG FACE OFF AGAINST DONALD TRUMP, AN ANTI-SEMITIC SURGE ON THE WHITE RIGHT – FROM THE WHITE HOUSE DOWN – IS ALMOST INEVITABLE.

    Besides their shared Jewishness, which both Bloomberg and Sanders have miraculously rediscovered on the campaign trail, the two candidates have other things in common.

    They were born within four months of each other: A President Sanders would celebrate his 80th in his first year in office, and Bloomberg at the start of his second.

    Both are quick-witted and sharp-tongued, with long memories and short tempers: Acerbic Jews might describe them as alter kakers, for which the genteel Rosten used the initials A.K.

    But as Jewish mazel would have it, Sanders and Bloomberg aren’t merely two random contestants in a field of many: THEY ARE ANTAGONISTS ON A SURE-FIRE COLLISION COURSE.

    POLITICALLY, UPSTART BLOOMBERG IS ALREADY RAINING ON WHAT IS EXPECTED TO BE SANDERS’ VICTORY PARADE AFTER THE NEVADA CAUCUSES ON SATURDAY.

    The former New York mayor’s qualification for the Wednesday night debate in Las Vegas stole some of the limelight from Sanders in advance; their expected clashes generated more anticipation and excitement than any of the previous seven Democratic debates.

    If Bloomberg outlasts Joe Biden, Pete Buttigieg and Amy Klobuchar to emerge as the last man standing among the party’s centrist candidates, he could become Sanders’ potential spoiler.

    In the shtetls of their forefathers in Poland, Sanders’ followers would dub Bloomberg a mazik, which, as Michael Wex explains in “Born to Kvetch”, is a kind of mischievous poltergeist who comes along at night to ruin the shoes you’ve been fixing all day.

    In this case, however, it is a Wall Street mega-billionaire swooping down to steal poor Sanders’ crown, just as he is finally donning it after a lifetime of effort. Even the most imaginative Hollywood screenwriter would recoil at casting their two main protagonists as literal stereotypes of class warfare, establishment baron vs. radical activist. Both profiles, of course, are favorite fares of most anti-Semites:

    The bloodsucking Jewish capitalist vs. the revolutionary Jewish anarchist, as if a time machine has transported us back to the early 20th century.

    But the fact that Sanders and Bloomberg come from totally opposite quarters also means that theirs will be a bitter, total war. Their personal rivalry entails what can be described as a clash of civilizations. It is a fight that could tear the Democratic Party apart, between moderates accusing progressives of backing a candidate too far from the mainstream to be elected and the progressives countering with the charge that moderates are selling their souls for Bloomberg’s money and for the yet-to-be proven claim that he stands a better chance of beating Donald Trump. If left unchecked, it is a battle that could sap Democrats’ energies just as the true war begins.

    The discord could be even harsher among Jewish Democrats, who comprise the overwhelming majority of the Jewish community as a whole, and not just because Bloomberg and Sanders are their “landsman” – the term used to greet new Jewish immigrants from the same region. In addition to the expected clashes between younger Sanders supporters and older Bloomberg backers, between left and center, rich and less-rich, champions of status quo vs. agents of change and so forth, there is the specifically Jewish matter of Israel, on which the two candidates are also, at least on the face of it, oceans apart.

    Sanders has never wavered in his fundamental support for Israel’s security and well-being, but he is the most vociferous critic among senior U.S. politicians of Israel’s policies towards Palestinians in general and of its right-wing prime minister in particular.

    Sanders, however, is identified with the growing radical wing of the party, which includes a sizable anti-Zionist contingent. Even Israeli leftists don’t believe that Ilhan Omar, Rashida Tlaib or Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez have their country’s best interests at heart.

    Bloomberg, on the other hand, is more of a classic AIPAC Democrat type, critical of Netanyahu to a degree but generally warm and supportive of Israel on most issues, especially those related to security. Traditional supporters of Israel undoubtedly feel more comfortable with Bloomberg than with Sanders.

    BLOOMBERG’S APPEARANCE ON THE DEMOCRATIC SCENE MAKES NETANYAHU’S LIFE EASIER AND MORE COMPLICATED AT THE SAME TIME.

    Sanders’ surge had placed both Netanyahu and AIPAC in the historically shameful position of plotting to undermine the first potential Jewish candidate of a major party. With Bloomberg in play, AIPAC, at least, can now legitimately claim that it simply prefers one Jewish candidate over the other; Netanyahu could do the same, were it not for the danger that he might incur Trump’s wrath by daring to even gaze at any other potential suitor.

    THIS IS A VERITABLE MINEFIELD FOR ISRAEL, FOR DEMOCRATS AND FOR THE AMERICAN JEWISH COMMUNITY.

    “TWO JEWS ENTER A PRESIDENTIAL RACE ….” may sound like the start of a good Jewish joke, but it has morphed into a surreal and potentially hazardous reality.

    On the other hand, two Jews is the basis of any solid dialogue in Yiddish literature and to paraphrase Tevye the Milkman’s familiar remedy to bad news in his talks with his creator Shalom Aleichem:

    “ENOUGH WITH THE TZURES (TROUBLES). LET’S TALK ABOUT HAPPIER NEWS. HAVE YOU HEARD THE ONE ABOUT THE CORONAVIRUS?”

  • Emanuel  On February 21, 2020 at 4:09 pm

    The racist can try to run from his ugly past, but that ugly past will follow him or her like a shadow. No apology can ever erase the truth.

    Emanuel

  • Clyde Duncan  On February 21, 2020 at 9:34 pm

    Emanuel: You may have to suck it up and vote for one of those guys ….

    There ain’t no black people left to vote fo’ ….

    As the author / Political science professor noted:

    “IF EITHER SANDERS OR BLOOMBERG FACE OFF AGAINST DONALD TRUMP, AN ANTI-SEMITIC SURGE ON THE WHITE RIGHT IS ALMOST INEVITABLE.”

    They may as well be BLACK …. it is going to be ugly!!

    • Emanuel  On February 21, 2020 at 11:12 pm

      Clyde, as a citizen of Guyana I don’t think I qualify to vote long distance for either:)🇬🇾

  • Clyde Duncan  On February 22, 2020 at 2:56 am

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