Sunday, February 21, 2016

The Case of John Lewis: Clinton Camp’s Dirty Racial Card at Play

Christine Chaplik / Dipto Islam, Feb 20, 2016

Controversy arose when, all of a sudden, civil rights legend Rep. John Lewis (D., Ga.) claimed that Bernie Sanders had no role in the civil rights movement saying (video), “I never saw him. I never met him. ….. But, I met Hillary Clinton. I met President Clinton.”   

Did Mr Lewis never see Mr Sanders during the civil right movement? Picture below suggests otherwise where Sanders is seen in a civil rights protest rally not far away from Lewis.

After Mr Lewis’ controversial remarks, questions arose. Is it true that Mr Sanders had no involvement in the civil rights movement? Is it true that Mr Lewis saw the Clintons participating in the civil rights movement?  

Answer to the first question undoubtedly is it is not true. Mr Sanders did have involvement in the civil rights movement. He was out there for a noble cause serving humanity.  

As a student at the University of Chicago, Sanders was active in both the Congress on Racial Equality (CORE) and the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC). In 1962, he was arrested for protesting segregation in public schools in Chicago; the police came to call him an outside agitator, as he went around putting up flyers around the city detailing police brutality.
Arrest of Bernie Sanders, then a 21-year-old University of Chicago student, for protesting segregation in the school system. Picture - Chicago Tribune Archive

Recently a video surfaced showing Mr Sanders getting arrested for trying to desegregate school system. This video was recorded by Jerry Temaner, a co-founder of Kartemquin Films, which confirms information from a press clipping that shows one Bernard Sanders, then the chapter president of the Congress for Racial Equality at the University of Chicago, charged with resisting arrest. The video is a proof that Sanders’ passion for racial issues extends as far back as his passion for socioeconomic issues – which is natural for a true progressive who understands that both of those crises are closely linked together.

This is what Mr Sanders says about his arrest (video):
“Injustice bugged me very, very much. …. We got involved trying to desegregate housing owned by the University of Chicago… And we also got involved in efforts to desegregate the school system. There I got arrested….. Injustice is something that I have always fought throughout my life.”  

Moreover, after Mr Lewis’ remarks, another civil right legend, Mr Harry Belafonte defended Sanders and confirmed his involvement in the movement. He said (video), “A close friend of mine (John Lewis) talked about the fact that Bernie Sanders were not to be seen anywhere in the civil rights movement. …. He (Lewis) never saw most of the people in the civil rights movement that were engaged. And in particular, Bernie Sanders had no platform back in nineteen….. He didn’t become mayor until 1981….. Bernie Sanders didn’t have a platform. Why would you know him among faces of thousands of millions of people out there?.... I met with him (Sanders) and talked with him…. He’s not misleading. He didn’t claim to be a leader of the civil rights movement. He said he was deeply touched by it and involved in it……”  

Now, it’s time to address the second question- Is it true that Mr Lewis saw the Clintons participating in the civil rights movement? 

Mr John Lewis  contributed a section to a 2001 book called,  "Conversations: William Jefferson Clinton, from Hope to Harlem" where he gave details on how he came to know the Clintons: 

“The first time I heard of Bill Clinton was in the early 70s.  I was living in Georgia, working for the Southern Poverty Law organization, when someone told me about this young, emerging leader in Arkansas who served as attorney general, then later became governor.”

Now, this was the first time that Lewis HEARD of Bill Clinton.  When did he first “meet” him?  Well…

“I think I paid more attention to him at the 1988 Democratic Convention, when he was asked to introduce the presidential candidate and took up far more time than was allotted to him. After he became involved with the Democratic Leadership Council, I would run into him from time to time. But it was one of his aides, Rodney Slater, who actually introduced us in 1991 and asked me if I would support his presidency.”

So, according to the above statement made by John Lewis himself, he FIRST MET Bill Clinton in 1991. Taking this statement to be true the answer to the second question is- no, it is not true that Mr Lewis saw the Clintons participating in the civil rights movement

So, it is clear from the facts presented above that both the claims made by Mr John Lewis are not true. But, it is not clear whether Mr Lewis made those controversial remarks/claims out of self-motivation or he was made to do it. Most probably, it was the latter option, i.e. he was made to do it. Because it is hard to believe that a legendary civil rights hero such as Mr Lewis would try to cast doubt on Mr Sanders’ involvement in the civil rights movement even after knowing that Mr Sanders has a proven record of involvement in the civil rights movement. Lately, Mr Lewis has softened his stance on Sanders’ involvement in the civil rights movement seemingly under huge criticism even from his fellow civil right movement mates. He said he had not meant to express doubt “that Senator Sanders participated in the civil rights movement, neither was I attempting to disparage his activism”. 
A close analysis would reveal that the attack on Sanders by Lewis was not his self-motivated action, rather he was made to do it, of course, by the Clinton camp. The Clinton camp just played a dirty racial card. The behind-the-scene real goal of Mr Lewis’ bashing of Sanders was to take away black voters from Sanders. Three objectives perhaps would have been set for such attack.

Firstly, the attack was meant to play down Sanders’ involvement in the civil rights movement for which he is admired by the black voters and prove him as a liar. If he could be proved a liar or even doubt of his involvement could be aroused, it would cause Mr Sanders to lose currently existing and  prospective favorability among black voters.

Secondly, the attack was meant to provoke Mr Sanders and his camp to counter attack John Lewis. The Clinton camp knew countering John Lewis’ claims, be they even fabricated, would be bad enough for Sanders as attacks on John Lewis would not be taken positively by black voters and such attacks would cost Sanders black votes.   

Thirdly, the attack was meant to create racially charged atmosphere in where to paint Mr Sanders as a ‘white guy’ with ‘white agenda’ only and Clinton is the best option the African Americans have to protect their interests. Divide and rule policy has been applied here.

Now that the presidential race is rolling into states with huge African American voters, the Clinton camp has come down to such low as to play dirty racial cards. After John Lewis’s controversial remarks, the first primary was in Nevada where Clinton won by a thin margin (52.7% vs. 47.2%). A telltale sign that the Clinton’s racial card is working and they expect it to work even better in southern states.    

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