How You Can Start and Operate a Soup Kitchen

Mission Possible: How You Can Start and Operate a Soup Kitchen

Race, policing the nation and Hillary Clinton's potential candidacy

The deaths of Michael Brown and Eric Garner and the questionable grand jury decisions that declined to indict the officers who shot them could have serious consequences for Hillary Clinton’s presidential aspirations. Minimally, the tragic events and their aftermath may give some life to progressive Democrats who have been reluctant to throw their hat in the ring because of a perceived inevitability of Clinton’s candidacy.

The killings and the subsequent nationwide response could force her to walk a fine line between key constituencies that she will need in order to win the presidency – progressives, minorities and blue-collar whites. Progressives and minorities would like to hear her sound like New York City Mayor Bill De Blasio, who spoke from the heart at a news conference after the grand jury’s decision not to indict officers in the chokehold death of Eric Garner. De Blasio told how he and his wife “literally trained” their 17-year-old biracial son “in how to take special care in any encounter he has with the police officers who are there to protect him.”

De Blasio pulled no punches when he called the case a “national moment of grief, a national moment of pain” and went on to indicate, “We’re not just dealing with a problem in 2014, we’re not dealing with years of racism leading up to it, or decades of racism – we are dealing with centuries of racism that have brought us to this day. That is how profound the crisis is. And that is how fundamental the task at hand is, to turn from that history and to make a change that is profound and lasting.”

De Blasio was subsequently slammed by Patrick Lynch, president of the NYC Patrolman’s Benevolent Association, for his failure to support city cops. Lynch criticized de Blasio, saying, “Unequivocally, police officers feel like they have been thrown under the bus.” De Blasio was also attacked by former Mayor Rudy Giuliani, who accused him of undermining respect for the justice system and characterized his response as “racist.” Mayor Giuliani indicated that de Blasio “perpetuated this untruth” that police officers are to be feared, instead of focusing on the issue of high rates of crime in black neighborhoods. Giuliani remarked on “Liberal guilty whites” who “have to stop refusing to say the bigger part of the problem here is black crime and not police overreaction.”

Mayor Giuliani and others have attempted to shift the focus to escalating black-on-black crime as a means of diverting attention from the central question of whether minorities receive unequal treatment from the police, which, New York Times columnist David Brooks has said, 57 percent of black officers are convinced is the case.

Race could become a third-rail issue for a candidate seeking to secure progressive, minority and white middle-class votes. There is little doubt this is the reason Hillary Clinton, according to Scott Dylan at willhillaryrun.com, “waited over a month before issuing a statement about the shooting” and “when she finally did speak about the unrest cracking Ferguson, she kept her comments subdued and carefully measured.”

When she finally spoke on the issue, she said, “Hearts are breaking over the deaths of Michael Brown and Eric Garner, and Americans are asking themselves, ‘Aren’t these our sons?’ These are our streets, our children, our fellow Americans and our grief.” Subsequently, she added, “I personally hope that these tragedies give us the opportunity to come together as a nation to find our balance again.” Clinton’s words were compassionate but void of any suggestion that race could have played a part in the actions taken by the police. By skirting race, she attempted to avoid alienating those who see any criticism of the police as evidence of a proclivity to coddle criminals.

Clinton’s remarks were very different from those of President Obama, who pointed out in an interview on the BET Network that “if you looked at what happened after Trayvon [Martin], if you looked at the decision after Eric Garner. I’m being pretty explicit about my concern, and being pretty explicit about the fact that this is a systemic problem, that black folks and Latinos and others are not just making this up.” If you’re a young teenage black “simply by virtue of color you’ve got less margin for error.”

Hillary Clinton avoided the intense fallout that erupted in the aftermath of the tragic execution of officers Rafael Ramos and Wenjian Liu in their squad car on a Brooklyn street by a deranged assassin. Unlike Mayor de Blasio, she was not vilified by some for, as a New York Times report has said, “fueling anti-police sentiments by condoning street demonstrations and describing how he has warned his biracial son, Dante, about encounters with the police.”

With the above in mind, Clinton may decide that she has no recourse but to resort to “Clintonian triangulation” (a term used to describe a strategy that positions oneself between the left and the right on the political spectrum) to avoid alienating progressive and minority elements of her party who are suspicious of her increased moderation and to avoid angering moderate Democrats who are reluctant to support any candidate whom they see as wavering on law-and-order issues.