The background factors/conditions that led up to the 1996 Welfare Reform.President Clinton wanted to establish that he is more conservative in the area of crime, to bypass the image of democrats being “soft on crime”.
Critically discuss President Clinton’s crime bill and its effect on people of color. Also discuss the failure of the Congressional Black Caucus (CBC) and other Black organizations to oppose the crime bill.
President Clinton wanted to establish that he is more conservative in the area of crime, to bypass the image of democrats being “soft on crime”. This required Clinton to change both the Democrats take on crime and exploit the politics of race. A Gallup poll in 1988 should that only 24% felt that Democrats could better handle crime. Because Clinton needed this tougher image, he “elevated the crime issue, and it rose on the governmental agenda (Williams 238)”.
Clinton began to endorse “three strikes you’re out” in January 1994. More people cared about crime in 1994 than they did in 1982. Clinton, while still wanting to seem more conservative, he wanted to be in the center of both sides. He had to change the Democrats view on crime but he couldn’t lose the support of his African American constituents. Then in 1992 Clinton proposed the crime bill to Congress, which included both prevention and punishment. Clinton had two strategies, he had to redefine the crime issue as a gun control issue and challenge the liberals’ support for civil liberties and their opposition to the death penalty. By redefining the crime issue as a gun control issue, Clinton called for more police funding. He also realized that throughout society there was a rising support for gun control.
Clinton believed that the congressional black caucus would oppose this bill. There was nothing in the bill that addressed the racial biases that existed in the criminal justice system. The crime bill ended up making problems in the system even worse for blacks. Also, very little attention was given towards certain issues in the black community like youth violence and murders that were the result of police misconduct, racial profiling, or the prison industrial complex.
The Congressional Black Caucus and other black organizations didn’t successfully oppose the bill because they weren’t unified. However, the Congressional Black Caucus did openly express that they were opposed to the crime bill. The NAACP and the Congressional Black Caucus were able to come together and form a coalition that proposed a bill called the Racial Justice Act of 1994. This bill said that inmates subject to the death penalty would now be able to use statistical information in their appeal to determine whether or not race was a determining factor in them being sentenced to death row. They didn’t have enough support for the bill so the coalition decided to negotiate with Clinton. Clinton decided to attach the Racial Justice Act to the Crime Bill. This then allowed Clinton to divide black leaders and conquer the black community. He even went as far as to speak at many black churches and invite the ministers back to the white house and convince them to drop their opposition to the bill.
Black organizations weren’t able to mobilize against the bill. They held no protests or campaigns in opposition. These interest groups also failed to produce enough research to prove that the death penalty was biased. There was also no use of mass media to spread their ideas. This was just a working class issue and it didn’t matter to the general constituency of these organizations. Middle class blacks didn’t see that the issue of crime was even their problem.
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