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Midnight BasketballRace, Sports, and Neoliberal Social Policy$
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Douglas Hartmann

Print publication date: 2016

Print ISBN-13: 9780226374840

Published to Chicago Scholarship Online: May 2017

DOI: 10.7208/chicago/9780226375038.001.0001

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Breakdown and Fallout: The Symbolic Politics of the 1994 Crime Bill

Breakdown and Fallout: The Symbolic Politics of the 1994 Crime Bill

(p.96) Five Breakdown and Fallout: The Symbolic Politics of the 1994 Crime Bill
Midnight Basketball

Douglas Hartmann

University of Chicago Press

Chapter 5 explains the breakdown of the popularity and bipartisan consensus that had originally surrounded midnight basketball in the context of the 1994 crime bill debates. It details the political and cultural roots of this collapse as well as its broader political and public policy consequences. Essentially it portrays midnight basketball as getting caught up in the tensions between conservative and liberal approaches to crime and violence in the neoliberal era--represented mainly by the more punitive visions of Rush Limbaugh and Bob Dole, on the one hand, and Bill Clinton's more prevention-oriented approach on the other. The broader point is the debates over midnight basketball functioned as a racially-coded symbolic proxy for these larger policy divisions and, moreover, that conservatives successfully utilized the racial threat along with the ability to trivialize prevention through its association with sport and play to force changes in the criminal justice policy that eventually was ratified.

Keywords:   1994 crime bill, Rush Limbaugh, President Bill Clinton, racial politics, criminal justice policy, racial coding

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