by Danny Haiphong
President Obama’s political pit bulls have become attack dogs for Hillary Clinton. MSNBC pundit Joy Reid “has placed her career prospects” in Clinton’s camp, employing identity politics to snipe at Bernie Sanders. Neither wing of the corporate-bought Democratic Party can “change the course of U.S. imperialism. But Sanders hasn't been chosen by Wall Street and the capitalist class to run the Empire, Hillary has.”
The Empire’s Weapon of Identity Politics and the “Ghetto” Comment Controversy
by Danny Haiphong
“Corporate pundits like Joy Ann Reid have made a career out of defaming opposition to corporate war mongers like Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama.”
Bernie Sanders is feeling the backlash of the Hillary Clinton camp. In a question on "white privilege" during the March 6th Democratic Party debate in the Black city of Flint, the Democratic Party candidates were asked to discuss possible "racial blindspots" in their rule. Sanders answered by saying that white people don't know what it is like to live in the ghetto. This unleashed a storm of social media backlash, most notably from MSNBC pundit Joy Ann Reid. The backlash exposed how the Empire uses identity politics to win oppressed people over to the Clinton establishment.
This author has made his share of criticisms of the Sanders campaign (see here, here, and here). However, the superficial criticism currently being leveled on Sanders by the corporate establishment represents a level of danger above that of his campaign. Corporate pundits like Joy Ann Reid have made a career out of defaming opposition to corporate war mongers like Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama. Reid, like Harris-Perry, was hired to protect Obama from any legitimate criticism from the left. Now that Obama is on his way out, Reid has placed her career prospects in the hands of the Clinton regime.
Reid's criticism of Sanders goes something like this. Reid asserts that not all Black Americans live in poverty. White Americans and immigrants experience poverty too. Others tweeted in agreement that being Black does not automatically ascribe poverty. Reid attacked Sanders on a matter of interpretation and the use of careless language, not on political merit. This reduced politics to a game of which corporate candidate can muster up the correct narrative to appease the ears of the Black misleadership class rather than a struggle for the power, self-determination, and material benefit of workers and oppressed people of all nationalities. Of course, the former is the purpose of identity politics and the latter is what the Empire’s use of them is meant to restrain.
“Reid, like Harris-Perry, was hired to protect Obama from any legitimate criticism from the left.”
What is more ironic is that Reid's assessment of Black America's condition is patently false. Black median wealth in the US has fallen from $6,700 to $1,700 since the 2008 capitalist economic crisis. In Boston, Black Americans have a median net worth of zero. Black median wealth for a single Black woman is $100. This indicates that more Black Americans live in real poverty than the official number. The same goes for unemployment. Black Americans are twice as likely to be unemployed than whites. US government measures of unemployment are obscured by the lack of inclusion of people who have given up looking for a job or work in temporary, part-time jobs. This means Black unemployment is also greater than what can be concluded from the annals of Washington.
Yet pundits such as Reid peddle official numbers to discredit Sanders with the inaccurate conclusion that the majority of Black Americans live outside of poverty. Reid 's comments show that she is only interested in how the corporate two party system in the US will serve her class. This is why she employs the Empire's brand of identity politics to take the legs out of Sanders campaign. Identity politics are a convenient neo-liberal weapon to silence concrete discussion over policy. Efforts to make the Empire more diverse replace discussion over war, state repression, and the economic condition of the vast majority of working class people. These are issues that create mass movements, not careers. Mass movements are exactly what Reid is afraid of.
“Efforts to make the Empire more diverse replace discussion over war, state repression, and the economic condition of the vast majority of working class people.”
Bernie Sanders is not the solution to the problems of the oppressed, but he surely isn’t the primary enemy at the moment either. The US imperial state is the enemy and both parties are to blame for the plight of the oppressed. Hillary Clinton is the most dangerous candidate in this year’s race. Clinton has destroyed entire countries with her policy of regime change. She was the architect of the coup in Honduras and played a leading role in the genocidal proxy wars in Libya and Syria. As a servant for Israel, Clinton has consistently pushed for war with Iran on behalf of the Zionist state.
In addition to her imperialist ventures abroad, Hilary Clinton has made a killing from the destruction of Black lives. She supported her husband's crime bill of 1994 and the evisceration of welfare in 1996. As a former Board member of Wal Mart, Hillary Clinton enthusiastically promoted the passage the North Atlantic Free Trade Agreement. In her 2016 campaign, Clinton has the support of weapons manufacturers and prison lobbyists. She has openly announced that she would continue the Obama Administration's effort to destroy public education. A Hillary Clinton regime would undoubtedly bring an intensification of imperialist war, low wage capitalism, and the repression of Black Americans through the mechanisms of the mass incarceration state.
“Clinton has destroyed entire countries with her policy of regime change.”
The truth is that no candidate selected by Wall Street's two-party system can change the course of US imperialism. The Democratic Party and the Republican Party are servants of imperialism and Sanders won’t alter this fact. But Sanders hasn't been chosen by Wall Street and the capitalist class to run the Empire, Hillary has. The Washington Post ran 16 hit pieces on Sanders at the same time that Joy Ann Reid attempted pull the racial rug out from under him. Shortly after, the mothers of Trayvon Martin and Jordan Davis joined in on the attack on Sanders for his "ghetto" comment. The imperialists want Hillary for President and have employed the politics of identity to destroy Sanders.
The Empire has spoken. Even the US Chamber of Commerce published a piece deriding socialism which could easily be read as an attack on Sanders. The social welfare days of imperialism are gone. Sanders is no longer useful and the Empire has united against him. The left shouldn't be thinking about a defense of Sanders, but of principles that are critical to the development of a revolutionary movement. And in this case, Sanders is being attacked in an unprincipled manner that only strengthens the fascist, corporate regime of Hillary Clinton. The destruction of the two-party state and the social revolution necessary to carry this out cannot happen if the masses are led down the path of identity politics. As Amilcar Cabral said, people fight for material benefits, not ideas. We should remember this as the assault on Sanders continues.
Danny Haiphong is an Asian activist and political analyst in the Boston area. He can be reached at [email protected].