For all the continuing controversy over President Jimmy Carter and Rev. Joseph Lowery’s decision to slander President Bush at Coretta Scott King’s funeral, there was relatively little attention paid to another abhorrent aspect of the event: the continued adulation that President Clinton received from the heavily black audience at the funeral.
Few things are more depressing than the sight of supposedly religious blacks giving a lengthy ovation to a man who conducted himself in such a uniquely immoral fashion during his tenure in the White House. Why, after all that has been revealed about the man’s penchant for perversity and prevarication, do so many black Americans continue to revere Clinton? The answer can be found in the former President’s handling of one of the major political controversies of the mid-1990s.
It’s often overlooked now, but there was a time in which many black Americans regarding Clinton with a wary eye. The black left was mortified by Clinton’s attempts to avoid any appearance of solidarity with extreme liberalism: his criticism of moonbat rapper Sister Souljah, his decision to allow the execution of Rickey Ray Rector, and his pledge to "end welfare as we know it" angered blacks who wanted Democratic Presidential candidates to be as hard-left as possible.
Not until after the historic November 1994 GOP sweep of the House and Senate did the black left’s skeptical view of Clinton change. Soon after officially taking control in January 1995, Congressional and Senate Republicans confronted Clinton on the issue of racial quotas, ultimately proposing the Equal Opportunity Act of 1995, a bill intended to eliminate the use of quotas, set-asides, and racial preferences by the federal government. (The House Judiciary Committee would kill a renamed version of the bill in 1997.) Clinton found himself under tremendous political pressure to renounce quotas, pressure that only intensified after the June 1995 Adarand v. Pena Supreme Court ruling that narrowed the legal parameters governing the use of quotas.
However, on July 19, 1995, Clinton delivered his now-famous "Mend it, don’t end it" speech explicitly defending racial quotas. The speech was clearly designed to appeal exclusively to the black left: by stridently defending quotas, Clinton could lay claim to being the one man willing to "protect" black interests from the "evil whims" of supposedly racist Republicans. In short, Clinton wanted to be perceived as the Great White Savior.
And it worked–magnificently from a political standpoint, shamefully from a moral standpoint. The black left almost immediately dropped its skepticism towards Clinton and embraced him as a hero; their reverence for Clinton helped him secure a second term in November 1996, and their support for his pro-quota administration remained strong throughout his tumultuous second term. As we learned last week, that admiration still endures some five years after he left the White House.
The intense black admiration for Clinton is inextricably linked to his stance on quotas a decade ago. The black left regarded GOP criticism of quotas as nothing more than raw racism, a right-wing attempt to re-establish so-called "white privilege" in America. To the black left, there was no such thing as legitimate or rational objections to racial quotas, set-asides, or preferences: in their worldview, all critics of quotas were racist bigots hellbent on destroying policies that were "necessary tools" to combat antiblack discrimination. By defending quotas, Clinton made himself the hero of the black left’s narrative. It’s not unusual, then, that he received a hero’s welcome last week.