Ari Berman is a contributing writer for The Nation magazine and an Investigative Journalism Fellow at The Nation Institute. His new book, Give Us the Ballot: The Modern Struggle for Voting Rights in America, will be published in August 2015 by Farrar, Straus and Giroux. He has written extensively about American politics, civil rights, and the intersection of money and politics. His stories have also appeared in The New York Times, Rolling Stone, and The Guardian, and he is a frequent guest and commentator on MSNBC and NPR. His first book, Herding Donkeys: The Fight to Rebuild the Democratic Party and Reshape American Politics, was published in 2010 by Farrar, Straus and Giroux. (Photo by Ports Bishop)
Yet few of the stories on Johnson, the founder of Black Entertainment Television and a top surrogate for Clinton in South Carolina, noted his controversial standing in the African-American political community. Johnson has been one of President Bush's top black allies, lobbying for the repeal of the estate tax and the privatization of Social Security, as Jonathan Chait of The New Republic reported in a 2001 profile of Johnson.
Johnson also has a history of opposing unions that makes Clinton's allies in labor quite uncomfortable. Back in 1993, workers at BET voted to join the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW) and the Writer's Guild. According to an article in the Washington Afro-American, a historically black newspaper, AFL-CIO organizer Ed Feigen alleged that "during and after the election, BET violated the workers rights by offering them raises and promising benefits if they didn't join the union in."
Post-primary update: I was wrong about Hillary. As Bill might say, we all make mistakes.
Salem, NH--Something happened to Hillary Clinton between Iowa and New Hampshire: she lost her message. In the final weeks of Iowa, Clinton focused almost exclusively on her record of experience and time in Washington, cloaking herself in the legacy of the 1990s and the shadow of Bill's presidency.
Experience is still virtually the only rationale for her candidacy, particularly the claim that she is the only Democrat prepared to be president on "day one"--a phrase she repeats over and over on the trail. But, in the wake of Iowa, Clinton seems dazed that voters want a fresh start. "I don't know when experience became some sort of liability in running for the highest office in the land," Clinton said last night in Salem. Maybe it's when your time in Washington is symbolized by a vote for an unpopular war, ties to big corporations and a soap opera presidency. Judging from the results in Iowa and the buzz on the ground in New Hampshire, most Democrats think Bill was a good president and Hillary is an able and astute senator, but they are ready for something different and new.
For weeks the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME), the largest union in the AFL-CIO, has been relentlessly criticizing Barack Obama's healthcare plan on behalf of their favored candidate, Hillary Clinton. AFSCME President Gerald McEntee has long been a controversial figure in the union movement because of his exceptionally close ties to the Clintons. But conventional wisdom said the union would boost Clinton, especially in Iowa.
Following the Iowa caucus, members of AFSCME's executive board had seen enough, taking the unprecedented step of rebuking McEntee's anti-Obama strategy in a letter to the union chief. "We are writing to protest in the strongest terms the negative campaign that AFSCME is conducting against Barack Obama," the letter states. "We do not believe that such a wholesale assault on one of the great friends of our union was ever contemplated when the International Executive Board (IEB) made its decision to endorse Hillary Clinton."
The letter continues: