Let’s take #BlackLivesMatter seriously. I see two different sides to the campaign, as it relates to the Left.
One is rejection of the idea that universalist policies take pride of place over anti-racist ones. I couldn’t agree more. On an intellectual level, I don’t see how you can talk about structural or institutional racism without talking about capitalism, and vice versa. So that angle of intervention has brought about an improvement in the presentations of Sanders and, if you care, O’Malley. (Hillary is still “listening.”) The Sanders improvement, by the way, was in the works before the Seattle action.
The extent of historic indifference of white-dominated progressive movements to racism is salient. Progressive policies do not preclude racially-biased outcomes. In fact, they don’t preclude class-biased outcomes either. The initial establishment of Social Security, for instance, excluded minorities in agriculture and other very-low-wage sectors.
The other level is the idea of an emergency that requires putting #BLM front and center, and relegates “weirdo populist economic determinism” (in the words of #BLM activist Alicia Garza) to the background. To me the emergency is political — the ubiquity of cell phone cameras exposes the abuses of police to an unprecedented degree. Who is to say it hasn’t always been this bad? In any case, failure to ‘bow down’ to this attempt to take over the agenda tends to be easily conflated with white racism and to serve as a basis for more general attacks on liberals and on liberal policies.
The latter happens to advantage Hillary Clinton and centrist Democratic types who would like to keep ‘wine track’ liberals with nutty ideas like single payer and reinstating Glass-Steagal in the back of the bus. The advantage is compounded by #BLM’s pussy-footing with Hillary Clinton herself, relative to Sanders. For some reaction, check out this August 13 interview of the very astute R.L. Stephens II by Doug Henwood (second half of show).
I am impressed by the idea that the Seattle action was inspired by the indifference of Seattle’s well-to-do white liberals to minority concerns in the city. I don’t doubt there are real grievances that need airing, in Seattle and elsewhere. The disruption makes sense in that context. You can be honestly pissed off. It’s not a hanging offense.
How it might have been done more effectively is another question. I completely reject anybody’s contention that the issue is the property of any particular group, movement, or race. Nobody is above criticism. I might note that the Seattle disruption was not a Sanders rally. It was staged by my fellow geezers on the issue of Social Security. I can’t imagine anyone thinking SS is of no consequence to African-Americans. After all, most retired people have nothing else to live on. Given racial disparities in wealth, this has to be especially true for minorities. Old and very poor black folks are not being gunned down in the street. Instead they are fading away, out of sight and mind, going without proper nutrition, medical care, or even shelter.
The reality is that no progress will be made on the #BLM front unless there is a coming together of the Sanders constituency and the #BLM movement. Any supposition that the Clintons and the multi-cultural Democratic Party establishment will be more committed to this cause signals profound delusion. Consider that one of Clinton’s most vocal supporters and critics of Sanders, Senator Claire McCaskill, hails from the profoundly fucked up Democratic Party of Missouri. I don’t have to tell you about Missouri. Or consider that the recent carnage in Baltimore has been overseen by a mostly African-American political establishment, and before that, by one Martin O’Malley.
Hillary Clinton will probably be the nominee and ultimately president, though I’ve taken some bets (with odds) that it will be Bernie. Now if you wanted to put heat on Ms Clinton, what better vehicle than the Sanders campaign?