by BAR executive editor Glen Ford
If Hillary Clinton can make the general election into a crusade against “bigotry” and “intolerance” as embodied by Donald Trump, she can win with an otherwise issue-less campaign, thus shielding the 1% from harm. Black folks will be happy, imagining the election is all about them. “The great task of independent Black politics is to pry Black folks loose from the Democratic Party’s lethal embrace.” For that, we need a movement in the streets.
Hillary Wants a Crusade to Defeat Trump’s “Bigotry” – and Leave Her Bankers Alone
by BAR executive editor Glen Ford
“It took the emergence of a grassroots movement against police terror, to wake a critical mass of Black folks to the reality of their condition.”
Tuesday’s primary victories will allow Hillary Clinton to get busy planning her “big tent” general election crusade against racism and incivility, in the person of Donald Trump. It will be a corporate Democrat’s dream campaign, with the prospect of the party garnering majority white support for the first time since 1964. Clinton will allow Bernie Sanders’ delegates to craft much of the language of the party platform, in Philadelphia – a meaningless exercise designed to convince the Sandernistas that there is still hope to transform the Democratic Party “from below.” Clinton – who is permanently primed to lie on any subject, at any time, in the interests of the Lords of Capital – may give forked-tongue service to a Sanders-inspired platform, especially if Trump continues his hype on jobs losses to “China” because of “bad deals.” But, Wall Street will have little to worry about. Clinton’s central project will be to build an historic Democratic super-majority by appealing to all “decent” Americans to reject “bigotry” and embrace “fairness” and “tolerance” – by which she will mean nothing more than that they reject Trump.
Such civil rights-sounding rhetoric will signify to Black voters that their faith in the party, and the Clintons, has been bounteously rewarded; that the campaign is really all about them. They will be reassured of the continuity of Barack Obama’s policies under Hillary – as if that were a good thing, and as if Obama and the Clintons were not political triplets all along, rooted in the same right-wing of the party.
When Hillary Clinton is sworn in, there will be no Great Black Hajj of millions to the Washington Mall, as in 2009 – no dizzying euphoria. But, the effect of a huge Democratic triumph over the Trump Monster could reproduce much the same disastrous Black political passivity as in the early Obama years, when folks thought they were on track to the Promised Land. Despite having been set back as much as 30 years by the Great Recession, in terms of their relative position to whites, African Americans clung to the delusion that things had never been so good, simply because there was a Black family in the White House.
“The effect of a huge Democratic triumph over the Trump Monster could reproduce much the same disastrous Black political passivity as in the early Obama years.”
It took the emergence of a grassroots movement against police terror, under the general heading of Black Lives Matter, to wake a critical mass of Black folks to the reality of their condition. For two generations, the dead, hegemonic weight of the Democratic Party had subverted and suffocated the Black Radical Tradition, diverting all Black political energies into a corporate dominated electoral enclosure. However, no sooner had the “Ferguson movement” (as many initially called it) gained traction, than it was partially co-opted by young opportunists with corporate ambitions. Campaign Zero immediately set out to become a player in the Democratic Party. (Its twittering star, DeRay McKesson, is currently running for mayor of Baltimore.) #Black Lives Matter was endorsed by the Democratic National Committee, with its founders mentioned by name. However, Alicia Garza, Patrisse Cullors and Opal Tometi, rejected the endorsement. “The Democratic Party, like the Republican and all political parties, have historically attempted to control or contain Black people's efforts to liberate ourselves," they said. "True change requires real struggle, and that struggle will be in the streets and led by the people, not by a political party."
In a caricature of confrontation with power, activists held two cozy “chats” with Hillary Clinton, in which they made no substantive demands. Clinton easily dominated the discussions, and succeeded in projecting herself as a stern but sincere supporter of the movement – an undeserved reputation that would benefit her presidential campaign.
The brazenly opportunist Campaign Zero group and the Garza-Cullors-Tometi network dickered with the Democratic National Committee over campaign events. Campaign Zero agreed to collaborate with the Democrats on a televized town hall-type event on racial justice issues. The #Black Lives Matter network preferred a televised debate. Either way, participation in such projects relegates the collaborators to the status of annexes of the party, like MoveOn.org.
“Being controlled by the two-party system is hugely problematic and is disempowering and oppressive to black people.”
It was refreshing, and heartening, therefore, to hear another founding member of #Black Lives Matter explain why the network will not endorse any presidential candidate. Prof. Melina Abdullah, chair of the Department of Pan-African Studies at California State University, Los Angeles, told Democracy Now! viewers that “neither Bernie Sanders or Hillary Clinton have a strong command of the particular issues related to race in the specificity of black oppression.” (Actually, a more knowledgeable Democratic Party leader would be, if anything, even more dangerous.) More definitively, Prof. Abdullah said “being controlled by the two-party system is hugely problematic and is disempowering and oppressive to black people.” The movement needs to “think about what democracy is,” and “we need to really kind of redefine what that means and break away from this notion that the only way of being democratic is engaging in electoral politics.” The #Black Lives Matter Network “is pushing the real revolution,” she said.
Revolutionary movements – movements of any kind – require the formulation of demands. “We need to develop a plan that really deals with the specifics of blackness – black jobs, black employability, moving toward black wealth,” said Abdullah, the political scientist.
Hillary Clinton hopes to build a super-party this election season, packed to overflowing with “moderate” Republicans fleeing the taint of Donald Trump, who will bring their otherwise conservative politics with them into the Democratic “big tent” – an ideal infusion to reinforce Hillary Clinton’s (and Barack Obama’s) corporate wing of the party. Black folks will emerge from this electoral process even more marginal to party policy than before. But, most will not realize it.
The great task of independent Black politics is to pry Black folks loose from the Democratic Party’s lethal embrace. For that, you need a movement that is armed with proper demands. The #Black Lives Matter network is not there, yet, but at least some members are aware of the general path that must be taken.
BAR executive editor Glen Ford can be contacted at [email protected].