The biggest obstacle to Bernie Sanders winning the Democratic nomination in 2020 is Kamala Harris, the corporate, anti-Black prosecutor. But Black voters are now in Bernie’s camp.
“Having provided the first Black presidential success story, the Democratic Party now serves up an excess of anti-Black Black presidential aspirants.”
If Bernie Sanders can remain vigorous until the opening of the Democratic primary season in September or so of 2019, when he turns 78, the self-styled “socialist” with the FDR domestic program and the Harry Truman foreign policy will fare much better with Black voters than he did last time around.
Two factors spelled doom for the 2016 Bernie Sanders presidential campaign: super-delegates, mainly Democratic Party elected officials, many of whom had announced their support for deep-pockets Hillary Clinton long before the primary process had begun; and Black voters, who were still trying to figure out who Bernie Sanders was when the February and March primaries rolled into their states. By the end of the March primaries, the conventional corporate media wisdom was that Black voters were a bulwark of the “moderate” or “centrist” forces within the Democratic Party, while young whites composed the vanguard of the left(ish) Sanders insurgency.
“The duopoly system compels Black Democratic primary voters to suppress their own progressive instincts for the sake of defeating the GOP.”
The corporate media pundits got it both right and wrong, regarding Black voting behavior. It is true that Blacks tend to back the Democratic presidential primary candidate that they believe has the best chance of beating the White Man’s (Republican) Party standard bearer in the general election.However, that does not mean Black voters share these “moderate” or “centrist” candidates’ positions on the issues. Blacks are substantially to the left of whites, including white Democrats, on most issues, but believe that keeping the White Man’s Party out of the White House is more important than nominating the most progressive Democratic standard bearer. Thus, the duopoly system compels Black Democratic primary voters to suppress their own progressive instincts for the sake of defeating the GOP.
The overarching necessity to keep the White Man’s Party at bay requires that Blacks resist even the fundamental urge to vote for one of their own. In 2008, Hillary Clinton retained majority Black voter support and the backing of most Black elected officials right up until Barack Obama won the Iowa caucuses -- at which point Clinton’s Black voter base evaporated. If a “brother” could win in an overwhelmingly white state, it was considered safe for Blacks to support him for president.
In terms of their respective politics, there has never been the slightest difference between Obama and the Clintons. Obama became the second corporatist Democratic Leadership Council drone to enter the White House. If Hillary had won in 2016, hers would have been the third DLC presidency.
“Blacks tend to back the Democratic presidential primary candidate that they believe has the best chance of beating the White Man’s (Republican) Party standard bearer in the general election.”
But, Obama was Black, and that was an historic first. It was also a disaster for mass Black progressive politics, which was at times warped beyond recognition by the deformative influence of the Great Black Hole on Pennsylvania Avenue, which consistently pulled towards war and austerity. Cory Booker had hoped to be the “first” Obama -- that is, if Booker had not lost his first race for mayor of Newark, New Jersey, in 2002, he might have beaten Obama in the race to become corporate America’s Great Black Hope -- a new, Black face for the U.S. empire, to replace the disgraced Bush-face of defeat in Iraq and, just before the 2008 election, global capitalist collapse. But, guided by the cover story of the first issue of The Black Commentator (“Fruit of the Poisoned Tree,” an exposé.of Cory Booker’s profoundly rightwing political roots), progressive Democrats and union activists beat back the rightwing tide that had poured into Newark from all points on the reactionary map in support of young “Cory,” whose national political debut was launched at a power luncheon of the far-right Manhattan Institute. Obama became The One. Booker had to wait until 2006 to win Newark’s City Hall, a step towards his current Senate seat and (already active) presidential campaign.
“If Booker had not lost his first race for mayor of Newark, New Jersey, in 2002, he might have beaten Obama in the race to become corporate America’s Great Black Hope.”
Booker cannot escape his deep-right roots, and neither can fellow Senator Kamala Harris escape her anti-criminal justice reformhistory as a California prosecutor. Having provided the first Black presidential success story, the Democratic Party now serves up an excess of anti-Black Black presidential aspirants. My guess is that Harris will have the Black lane to herself by the 2020 primaries, and will stake an even more urgent claim to become the first corporatist woman in the White House that was not married to the resident criminal.
Kamala Harris will be Bernie Sanders’ biggest obstacle in 2020. But no one should assume that she will have a lock on the Black vote. In 2015 and early 2016, Black voters told pollsters they did not know who Bernie Sanders was. Many thought of Sanders as someone whose attacks on frontrunner Clinton could harm the prospects of beating back Trump. They later learned that polls showed Sanders would have defeated Trump by a far bigger margin than Hillary was projected to win the White House -- and, of course, she did not win. That means Sanders is seen as a winner, a man who can remove the Orange Terror from the Oval Office, which is all that matters to most Black Democrats.
“By next September, Black folks may well see Kamala Harris as the spoiler who could screw up the chance to be rid of Trump.”
The next presidential go-round holds real promise for Sanders, the more left(ish) candidate, despite the double-trap that the duopoly system usually presents for Black voters. Recent polls show Sanders gets his highest ratings from Blacks: 73 percent favorable, while only about half of whites and 68 percent of Hispanics are favorable to Sanders.
While most U.S. voters believe they are effectively restricted to choosing between two corporate parties, Black voters perceive only one choice within the duopoly: to oppose the White Man’s Party by voting for the Democrat most likely to win. That double-bind almost always means Black support for the candidate with the deepest pockets -- the most corporate Democrat. This, despite the fact that, according to political scientist Michael Dawson, the largest group of Black voters most closely resembles “Swedish Social Democrats” -- the “socialist” bloc Bernie Sanders claims to most admire. (Dawson adds, “and many [Blacks] are more radical than that.”) This time around, however, the “left” candidate is also the one with the winner’s glow, who would have beaten Trump in 2016. By next September, Black folks may well see Kamala Harris as the spoiler who could screw up the chance to be rid of Trump.
“Sanders is seen as a winner, a man who can remove the Orange Terror from the Oval Office.”
Of course, the only way out of the duopoly is to leave it, by building a real “socialist” party -- or one close enough to encompass a minimal program against endless austerity and war, the only items on the capitalists’ menu in the twilight of U.S. empire. Sanders remains “an imperialist pig,” like Truman and all the Democratic presidents that came after him -- and also plays the “sheep dog” that gathers in the wayward lefties of the flock. But that struggle for a new party occurs in an environment in which most of its prospective members are ensnared in the Democratic Party, which holds captive the 40 percent or so of the U.S. population that are actually social democrats, or “more radical than that.” This cohort includes the vast majority of Black people, and is larger than the second-biggest ideological bloc in the country: Trump’s White Man’s Party GOP. The corporate Democrats will never relinquish their control of half the duopoly, and would rather repeat their loss to Trump than open the door -- even if only rhetorically -- to “socialism.” They will either crush Sanders in the cruel light of day or, should he get the nomination, abandon and sabotage his candidacy -- as they did George McGovern (non-socialist, but anti-Vietnam War) in 1972.
“The Democratic Party holds captive the 40 percent or so of the U.S. population that are actually social democrats, or ‘more radical than that.’”
From such a heady, nasty mix, one can never know the outcome. But it could be the opening that breaks the duopoly -- a process that began with Donald Trump’s primary victories, in 2016, prompting most of the ruling class and their national security spooks to crowd into Hillary Clinton’s “big, nasty tent” -- from which they launched “Russiagate” on election night.
It could also be the historical point when Black voters split dramatically with the Black Misleadership Class, as exemplified by the Congressional Black Caucus, which tried unsuccessfully, last week, to retain the rules that empowered “super-delegates”to thwart the will of Democratic primary voters on the first ballot of the presidential nominating convention. The Black Caucus can always be counted on to go with “the money.” Black voters may perceive that, in 2020, they have a chance to go with “a winner” whose politics -- except for the imperialist pig part -- is also closer to their own. And once the duopoly is fractured, a whole world of politics and parties becomes possible.
BAR executive editor Glen Ford can be contacted at [email protected]
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