Voting FOR Clinton in 2016

Voting FOR Clinton in 2016
Ann Withorn

I understand why anyone who identifies as “progressive” is unhappy about voting for Hillary Clinton, or having her as President. I will be too. The day after her election I will wake up trying to argue against her oh- so-predictably unsatisfactory positions. BUT I won’t wake up more afraid of the United States of America than I have been in my adult life — as I will if Trump wins, which some polls still suggest he can.

We are a complex nation dedicated to making the capitalist economic and social order seem to work, no matter how much it unnecessarily and cruelly hurts most people in this country. Globally, the U.S. sometimes seems to support justice only when it also helps us, while setting hypocritical standards in other places that we neither meet nor seriously address at home.

But a Trump Presidency would be of a different order of magnitude and import.

Of course, his election would continue to endorse the capitalistic system everywhere. Worse, a Trump Presidency would promote a meaner, more unapologetically cruel capitalism than we have officially defended for more than a century. A Trump administration would try to institute even more xenophobic immigration policies. It would mean tolerating and giving “equal voice” to racist and misogynist words that have been publicly indefensible for 40 years. It would give Presidential power to make our already compromised federal judiciary and “justice system” more dangerous than since FDR.

If Trumps wins the majority of American votes for President, his election will give new legitimacy to the ugliest parts of this society, and tell those already at most risk here never to trust anyone not in their shoes. It will surely make it even scarier to be an immigrant of any status.

Of course, such a scenario will not be caused by one person’s vote for anyone else, nor by anyone not voting. Hillary will probably still win. But no matter how we vote, or where we live, either Clinton or Trump will be next President after November.

So we just have to vote, and to vote for Hillary. And then let the struggle continue.

Maybe Trump won’t do all I fear. I assume he can’t. But electoral approval of what he so openly stands for means taking a very wrong turn, not just more of the same.

We can’t risk it. We must use the one piece of individual civil power we still have to say “No” to Trump. Let us not be so precious and focused on our own correct criticisms, that we forget those people whom we know will be most hurt if Trump somehow rises to legitimacy. For one day, let’s just get over ourselves and our current political failure to create better options.

Let’s vote FOR Hillary. At the least, we will know that — within all the unsatisfactory choices of our own making — we did the one thing we could do to stand against what a Trump victory means.

Then let’s learn from it all and do way better sooner than the next time. Too many people will be hurt if Trump wins. It will be wrong. We know it, and we have to do what we can to stop it. Please.

PS A big reason why I urge this course is because one of the people I most respect, Rev William Barber of North Carolina, was willing to speak at the Democratic Convention. His “endorsement” of Clinton seemed similarly unenthusiastic. But I assume he did so as part of his mission to stress the implications of our choice in the midst of profoundly inadequate circumstances. I’m trying to do so too.

I recently sent an earlier version of this: “to friends who I know aren’t planning to vote for Clinton… because I want to make my case to you first, not really to change your minds but because I want you to understand why I must, for almost the first time, really disagree with you about something really serious. Please comment if I might seem to mischaracterize or denigrate a decision not to vote for Hillary. Please give me fairer words, because you are my comrades and I expect to go back to agreeing with you about almost everything the day after the election. So give me the editorial advice that will keep us together. But still need to speak to whomever might listen. ” I have tried to include their wise counsel in this version September 28

“The South, My South”

“The South, My South”
Thoughts generated by Charlotte events, by Black Lives Matter, and by Reverend William Barber
Fall 2016.

I learned early and have never really stopped believing that white people who grow up in the South are less different from black people who grew up there than they are from both white and black people who grow up in the rest of the US.

Maybe I’m wrong in terms of how it works nationally for Black people. And surely, especially in the age of Trump, how this plays out is changing. But, in my experience, white and black southern people can never not notice race, never deny that their racial identity matters, for worse and for better.

Every white southern person still knows that she or he is white and that that makes a big difference. Some even consciously admit that they directly benefit from that whiteness; others feel that that their whiteness matters less than before, while still others imagine that they now suffer more from it due to political correctness, and Affirmative Action. But every southern white person recognizes that their white identity is a key “social fact” that determines much of who they are. That’s just how it is.

White people don’t talk about it among ourselves so much, for good reasons. For many of us, whether in all-white settings and in mixed race environments, our whiteness is not “brought up”, but it is always there. For white people who are immigrants, and/or new to the South, it is different. And of course, southern black people are always aware, for basic, life-protecting reasons.

Black Southerners know even more intensely that being black is critical for them. And that exploring what it means in their individual case, and for their family and community, is essential, even if they, as a friend once declared, are “…sometimes tired of being Black. Of course I’m proud now, and aware now of all the complexities. But still it gets tiring. Not just the “two-ness” Dubois talked about, but just the day-to-day awareness of it all.”

Sometimes I think that this has changed a lot since I left the South almost fifty years ago, but then I look at voting patterns, and social/surveys of political attitudes and I don’t see it. I speak with my sister, now in North Carolina, and it still seems that race matters there in different ways than it does here. A white friend’s daughter who lived in Atlanta for two years before moving back to Massachusetts, feels it.

So when I read news from Charlotte, Charleston, New Orleans and Florida, I know exactly why “Black Lives Matter” is still a more radical statement in the South than it is elsewhere. Just maybe not as different as I once would have thought.

Here when white people object to the phrase it is mostly because they want to assert that “ALL lives Matter.” In the South I fear that it is still true that for many white people, the underlying objection stems from an almost-conscious understanding that somehow

“White Lives Matter, and so do Black Lives.” But the voice is a white voice. The first perspective is White. The legitimate speaker about whose lives matter is, first and foremost, a white voice, not a black voice.

It all makes me listen with awe to Reverend William Barber, whose North Carolina based “Moral Mondays Movement” is so inspiring. He and the work he is doing around the US gives me hope. And his September 23 NYTimes Op-Ed statement about the Charlotte situation was so on target. See what you think:

” Why We Are Protesting in Charlotte
By WILLIAM BARBER ISEPT. 23, 2016 Charlotte, N.C.

Since a police officer shot and killed Keith Lamont Scott in Charlotte, N.C., on Tuesday afternoon, the ensuing protests have dominated national news. Provocateurs who attacked police officers and looted stores made headlines. Gov. Pat McCrory declared a state of emergency, and the National Guard joined police officers in riot gear, making the Queen City look like a war zone.

Speaking on the campaign trail in Pittsburgh on Thursday, Donald J. Trump offered a grave assessment: “Our country looks bad to the world, especially when we are supposed to be the world’s leader. How can we lead when we can’t even control our own cities?” Mr. Trump seems to want Americans to believe, as Representative Robert Pittenger, a Republican whose district includes areas in Charlotte, told the BBC, that black protesters in the city “hate white people because white people are successful and they’re not.”

But Charlotte’s protests are not black people versus white people. They are not black people versus the police. The protesters are black, white and brown people, crying out against police brutality and systemic violence. If we can see them through the tear gas, they show us a way forward to peace with justice.

On Thursday, I joined 50 Charlotte-area clergy members who were on the streets this week. Yes, a few dozen provocateurs did damage property and throw objects at the police, after being provoked by the officers’ tear gas, rubber bullets and military-style maneuvers. But as we saw, thousands more have peacefully demonstrated against the institutional violence in their communities.

That systemic violence, which rarely makes headlines, creates the daily traumatic stress that puts our communities on edge, affecting both those of us who live

there and outside observers who often denounce “black-on-black” crime. We cannot have a grown-up conversation about race in America until we acknowledge the violent conditions engendered by government policy and police practice.

Anyone who is concerned about violence in Charlotte should note that no one declared a state of emergency when the city’s schools were resegregated, creating a school-to-prison pipeline for thousands of poor African-American children. Few voiced outrage over the damage caused when half a million North Carolinians were denied health insurance because the Legislature refused to expand Medicaid. When Charlotte’s poor black neighborhoods were afflicted with disproportionate law enforcement during the war on drugs, condemning a whole generation to bad credit and a lack of job opportunities, our elected representatives didn’t call it violence. When immigration officers raid homes and snatch undocumented children from bus stops, they don’t call it violence. But all of these policies and practices do violence to the lives of thousands of Charlotte residents.
As a pastor and an organizer, I do not condone violent protest. But I must join the Charlotte demonstrators in condemning the systemic violence that threatened Mr. Scott’s body long before an officer decided to use lethal force against him. And I must condemn the militarization of Charlotte by the authorities who do not want to address the fundamental concerns of protesters. For black lives to matter in encounters with the police, they must also matter in public policy.

The North Carolina N.A.A.C.P. has called for full transparency in the Scott case, including a Justice Department investigation. There are still many unanswered questions, which is why we demand that the governor release video from body cameras recording the shooting. And we want accountability for officers who did not have their body cameras on when they confronted Mr. Scott while he was waiting for his son to get off the school bus.

Our protests are about more than the Scott case. Every child on that bus — every person in Mr. Scott’s neighborhood — is subject to systemic violence every day, violence that will only increase if Mr. Trump and others continue to exploit the specter of violent protests for political gain.

We have seen this before. After the civil rights movement pushed this nation to face its institutionalized racism, we made significant efforts to address inequality through the war on poverty. We did not lose that war because we lacked resources or met insurmountable obstacles. We lost it because Richard M. Nixon’s “Southern strategy” played on white fears about black power by promising to “restore order” without addressing the root causes of unrest.

In the Scriptures, the prophet Jeremiah denounces false prophets for crying “peace, peace when there is no peace.” We cannot condemn the violence of a small minority of protesters without also condemning the overwhelming violence that millions suffer every day.

Instead, let’s look again at the vast, diverse majority of the protesters. This is what democracy looks like. We cannot let politicians use the protests as an excuse to back reactionary “law and order” measures. Instead, we must march and vote together for policies that will lift up the whole and ensure the justice that makes true peace possible.”


William Barber II, president of the North Carolina N.A.A.C.P., is a founder of the “Moral Monday” movement and the author of “The Third Reconstruction.”

The Harvest is Past

“The harvest is past, the summer is ended, and we are not saved”
So lamented Jeremiah.

I understand. And it is now Fall, here.
This blog has come into being slowly, because I remain unsure of what I want to do with it, much less how to present it with ease. I still know that I want to communicate and share ideas with others beyond my known circle. Facebook does not work for me as a means for this, although
that is supposed to be its purpose. But no matter how hard I try, its form does not satisfy. It seems random, without form or direction. Somehow I want more control in creating a context for what I say, and what sayings I pass on, where conversations lead.
But time is passing, and my website and my blog have not saved me. Both are, in today’s parlance, “underutilized.”
These days, before rising I read e-mails and forward content to people in my contact list–often with a short subject line about what I value, or what’s wrong, or absurd, about them. The resulting e-conversations way stay in my mailboxes for a long time.
Of course I miss teaching, with its scheduled topics and soon-familiar community of learners. My office provided this in a even less structured, but satisfying way. But now CPCS is gone.
That harvest is also past.
So I’m starting again. Below I post something I recently wrote for the twentieth anniversary of Welfare Reform (remember its name is “The Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Act”? ) for Boston’s Poor People United Fund, alongside pieces by James Jennings and Georgia Mattison. Next I am posting excerpts from some of the emails relating to the election and poverty that I’ve been sharing,
I hope the this will bring me back into the conversations and actions that matter most today.

Please comment

Keeping on Keeping On Twenty Years after Welfare Reform

Ann Withorn
Throughout the 1990’s, most anti-poverty and welfare rights activists fought “welfare

reform,” hard. Professional advocates wrote position papers. Clergy, poverty lawyers, Head Start parents and labor leaders spoke out. We held forums, meetings, speak-outs and rallies. We testified at legislative hearings in Massachusetts and in Congress.

The energy was intense. And the messages stayed clear: “welfare reform would hurt poor women, and their children….It should not be passed: it was wrong.” We argued fiercely against new Reformers’ revised contentions that income benefits should not subsidize “workforce participation;” nor was education and training “cost effective.” Instead, the goal of Welfare Reformers was to make benefits harder and harder to get, to cut the rolls, and simply to impose time limits on any eligibility — 2 years (in Massachusetts) or 5 years federally. They argued that only their approach could end insidious “welfare seeking behaviors.” After all, if there was no meaningful welfare to seek, then the problem would be solved, right? Especially after the Feds turned it into over state block grants, with loose oversight.

Activists insisted instead that “all mothers worked”; that the circumstance facing poor women were complex and individualized. Income maintenance as provided under the Social Security Act, had become a Welfare Right. And, besides, we all knew that available jobs alone were unlikely to provide adequate wages or time to nurture children well.

Talking past each other, we asked what would happen during the next recession, while others asked how quickly we could cut welfare rolls. . We published endless Fact Sheets, proving that the welfare reform proposals were racist in intent, and effect — because poverty was so racialized — even though more white people would actually be hurt. We tried to get folks to see

that at some point in most lives, bad things happen: a worker could lose a job, a father would disappear; life could just become too hard for anyone to manage. Drink and drugs could make it all worse. And it might not be temporary. Children always needed so much. We thought most people would make the connections, if only we warned them often enough. But we were wrong. After 1996, we had to acknowledge how the depth of public fear of “dependence” was reinforced by the real stigma of living on welfare. Or how most working people needed to accept the slogan justifying Reform that “any job is a good job” — because it meant you are a “hardworking person who never asked for a handout or help from anybody.” We also missed the shallowness of the support for welfare among white non- poor liberals. They were tired. Once welfare reform was passed, with bi- partisan support, then “welfare as we knew it,” in Clinton’s infamous words “was ended.” Poof, gone. No more fussing. Conservatives mostly just expressed quiet, not gloating, relief. A lot of liberals, and social workers soon urged making the best of a bad situation, helping everyone find a job as soon as possible, or if that failed, to find ways to get a child, or even a parent, labeled “disabled” and therefore still qualified for something. Some concerned businessmen received incentives to get people “job ready,” and to initiate programs aimed at the now inevitable “transition from welfare to work” –regardless of what that work might mean for already demanding lives.

Too many non-poor activists warned too frightfully of immediate deathly results. Most poor people, especially Black and Latino people, knew instead that hard lives would be even harder, with fewer options, and less hope. And fewer people would notice, much less care.
The hard evidence” is still coming in, but it seems clear that more women simply wrote off public help as a viable option. They took bad jobs with little security, stayed with dangerous men or relied on families which had failed them in the past. More mothers gave up on that college degree or that hope for whatever had seemed possible before.

It didn’t happen overnight, but more and more people started to expect less, to work off the books more, thereby become less visible, less able to make demands.
Obama, sadly, didn’t really help. The 2008 Great Recession, yielded no calls even to rethink welfare reform, much less to reweave the safety net for all. For eight years he didn’t blame or demonize poor people, but chose not to take up poverty as his cause; he soon joined the Clintons in safer concern for the plight of the “middle class.”

So what now? I miss Kip’s indefatigable energy that led me to join her in getting arrested and jailed in protest of Massachusetts’ 1997 imposition of Time Limits. Today, Rev. William Barber’s “Moral Revival” inspires me to join a new Movement beyond electoral limitations. Barber offers the same hope that Kip did: that if we build a movement, not about Left vs. Right, but about Right vs. Wrong,” then we may be able “rediscover poverty as the central moral and political issue facing us all.”

So, “to keep on keeping on” today, twenty years after Welfare Deform, means that our only hope is still “not to mourn, but to organize.” But I also wonder more than I ever did: Can we? Will we? Who is the “we?” And How? For all our sakes, let’s keep talking.

For the Poor People’s United Fund of Boston September 2016