For the fortunate who have long been clear-eyed, the only level on which
the enduring symbolism of Chicago merits our attention is the streets and
neighborhoods where real lives play out. One million jobs have left the
city's neighborhoods since the mid-1950s, vanishing under the accommodating
eyes of Democratic and Republican politicians alike. And in the main, those
lost jobs have predominantly affected inner-city blacks. The decimation
of urban manufacturing -- in which blacks have been disproportionately represented
-- through the globalization of production and the internationalization
of competition, has impacted Chicago's black workers to a greater extent
than those of any other American city.
As the voluminous data compiled over the past eight years by Harvard sociologist William Julius Wilson and Loic J.D. Wacquant of the University of Chicago illustrates, the physical and social deterioration of the inner city is a direct consequence of American capitalism's structural transformation.
As a boy Clinton witnessed the South rid itself of much of its black population by encouraging migration to the industrial North. As President, Clinton's Nafta accord has accelerated the corporations' systematic attack on wages, unions and conditions of employment throughout those rustbelt cities. Keeping the applause meter readings high has necessitated his transformation into membership in William Bennett's corps of easy virtue, blaming the inner city's economic plight and the decline of social cohesion on residents' moral deficiencies. That view, fully translated, holds that urban blacks blithely and solely of their own volition created and revel in the conditions in which they now find themselves.
You'll pardon me if I demur from such zeitgeist puke. You know, we might resolve the issue rather quickly by taking the $10 in welfare which corporations receive for every $1 that goes to poor people -- and reverse the ratio. Six months later -- no need to wait four decades -- we could compare respective pathologies.
There may be some minor dissent this time around over delegates' misgivings
about the welfare bill, but, as in 1968, the convention will ignore the
underlying cataclysm and second the administration's policies. Certainly
the parrot Gore will offer a fine mimicry of Hubert Humphrey's beggarly
subservience to the momentum his own boss unleashed.
The White House has hinted that Clinton will present an array of new programs. Expect him to throw out a few sops to placate his left flank. Should Ralph Nader qualify for the ballot in the 30 states he's canvassing, Nader's inclusion in the presidential debates is probably assured. California, Ohio and New York then become quite problematic for Clinton as Nader draws off traditional Democratic sympathies.
As expected, for months Democratic operatives have peppered Naderites with horror stories about how much worse Dole would be. How many years is it now we've heard the warnings to stick with Tweedledum ("because we care") in order to deny Tweedledee?
You probably recall the song from the late 1960s that had the refrain, We won't get fooled again. It's likely that Bill and Al, in their previous incarnations, even hummed it to themselves.
So long, Lyndon. Bye-bye, Hubert.