Sunday, May 01, 2016

To my Bernie-supporting friends ...

While you grieve, please -- please -- take a hard look at what has happened in this primary season and rejoice a little too.

Bernie (who I will vote for in the California primary) has come closer to pulling socialism (or at least social democracy) into the mainstream than any U.S. contender since perhaps Eugene V. Debs.

But Hillary Clinton will be the Democratic nominee because of the choices of the most excluded group in our democracy, African Americans -- especially women -- in the Deep South. If we believe that the Beloved Community -- or the Revolution -- should mean that "the last shall be first," we're seeing it, whether it accords with our druthers or not.

I sometimes think that when the southern states seceded in 1860, the North should have just let that backward region go. In fact, Southern absence from Congress enabled the legislation that laid the foundation for 19th century U.S. prosperity. Never would have happened with the plantation gentry around. Of course letting the South go would have also perpetuated slavery, a grotesquely immoral choice as abolitionists, black and white, noisily insisted at the time.

And I sometimes look at our own time and wish our national politics didn't have to take into account the bitter, biased, and ignorant views too often embodied in southern Republicans. But for Democrats to just back away from the solid white Republican south would be to abandon the most disenfranchised citizens of our country. Southern blacks lose and lose again, out-numbered by white voters who monolithically oppose their interests. (That's if they are allowed to vote at all, not robbed of their ballots by discriminatory laws.)

In this primary, the votes of Democratic Party black people in the South have MATTERED for the first time in a long time. Maybe the first time ever at the national level. If you are a serious progressive or leftist or whatever we're calling ourselves these days, that has to gladden your heart, even as you come to terms with the country's resistance to the nominee you hoped for. Bernie coming up short just means there's more work to do for a more just society. We've been in that hard place for a long time.
***
Part of the background noise of this awful election has been emerging evidence that a lot of white citizens have pretty dismal views of their present condition and prospects -- to the point of rising opiate addiction and suicide rates. (Also enthusiasm for the Donald which seems to me a little suicidal in itself.) Less well advertised is that black citizens are the most optimistic group in society. In specific, blacks even think the economy is doing well.

African-Americans rated the economy as good by a ratio of about four to one, versus about two to one for white Democrats and an even narrower margin for white Democrats without a college degree. A Times/CBS News poll in December found that, relative to two years earlier, roughly three times as many African-Americans said their family’s financial situation was better as said it was worse, while Democrats without a college degree were almost evenly split on this question.

Noam Schieber, New York Times

There are genuine rising expectations going on here.

Yet with those expectations comes a caution based on history. Journalist Farai Chideya commentating at 538 has some suggestions as to why older (and many younger) African Americans think Clinton is a better bet:

... a candidate speaking to the issues that a demographic cares about isn’t enough, no matter your race, and particularly so for black voters. Many black voters could support Sanders’s positions, but if they don’t think he knows how to wrangle Congress, there’s a risk in voting for him. ... one of the roles the president plays is interacting with Congress and pushing (or aiming to block) the passage of legislation. And black and white voters have very different experiences with government when it comes to supporting legislation. [A] University of Chicago study shows how, all other factors aside, black support for legislation means it’s less likely to be passed. If white voters support a bill, it’s much more likely to be passed and adopted. But if black voters support legislation, it’s actually less likely to pass.

That argues that black voters may have a tactical interest in an establishment candidate they think can work behind the scenes in their interest, and there’s a perception that Clinton may be better at insider politics.

Prudential concerns aside, most successful candidates have to prove able to speak to the hearts of at least some fraction of the electorate. We white people may not hear it, but Clinton clearly knows how to signify to many black people that she gets what matters. I was astonished to read this passage in Michael Eric Dyson's The Black Presidency: Barack Obama and the Politics of Race in America. After the Charleston massacre at Emmanuel A.M.E. Church, Obama confined his early comments to putting the murders in the context of other gun slaughters. Dyson thinks Hillary Clinton's response made room for Obama to become "racially unshackled" in his response to Dylann Roof's crime. She

... offered the country a far more comprehensive engagement with the racial politics engulfing Charleston and the nation. Clinton anchored her comments in black history; she acknowledged that African Americans had celebrated, the day before her speech, Juneteenth, "a day of liberation and deliverance" ... Clinton expressed confidence that the black folk in Charleston would draw on their faith and history to see them through: "Just as earlier generations throw off the chains of slavery and then segregation and Jim Crow, this generation will not be shackled by fear and hate."

Clinton argued that "it is tempting to dismiss a tragedy like this as an isolated incident ...." Clinton laid out the facts: blacks are nearly three times more likely than whites to be denied a mortgage; the median income of black families is $11,000, while for whites it is $134,000; nearly half of black families have lived in poor neighborhoods for two generations, compared to just 7 percent for whites; black men are more likely to be stopped and searched by police, charged with crimes, and sentenced to longer prison terms than white men, 10 percent longer than white men for federal crimes; black students suffer the vast re-segregation of American schools; and black children are 500 percent more likely to die from asthma than white children. ...

Clinton's remarkable oration was steeped in black culture and and charged with sophisticated analysis, and was a remarkably honest reckoning, by a major American politician, with both intimate and institutional racism -- racism of the heart, and racism in the systems of society. ...

At a moment of horror, that's a national politician calling out white supremacy. Let's the rest of us white folks try to do at least as well as Hillary Clinton.

3 comments:

Rain Trueax said...

We got our ballots in the mail and will mail them in on Monday. We also voted for Bernie but know it's going to be Hillary who we will have to vote for come November. I wish I understood the appeal of Hillary to the blacks. I have to think it's Bill and they are just familiar with the name. I don't see that Hillary will do more for blacks than Bernie would have but evidently they did.

Obama was sure great last night at the correspondents' dinner. Just love that man even when I didn't like what he did all the time. He makes me proud. I don't think I'll have that feeling again for a few years :(.

Hattie said...

Jeez, Rain. I don't want to pick a fight, but how patronizing to indicate that African-Americans don't know what they are doing. May I point out that our current President is African American, that he continues to be very popular with blacks, and that Hillary was his Secretary of State and that he has endorsed her in this election?
I differ from most of my progressive friends in not caring for Sanders at all. He is moralistic,self righteous and has been a useless Senator. As my husband says, shouting and waving your arms around is not a platform. I can think of many progressives I prefer to him.
And he voted for that crime bill that Clinton didn't vote for. She couldn't have,since she was not in office at the time. Her enemies picked up that super predator remark, though.
I was sorry to hear about Berrigan's death. He was the real deal.

Rain Trueax said...

Is it patronizing when I say I don't understand why tea partiers would vote against their own interests when they support someone who benefits the oligarchs and not them? If so, then fine, I am patronizing and can live with that. I get it that there are issues that matter more than economics to some people. The irony here is that where the latest statistics say Americans haven't had a raise in 16 years, the ones who actually didn't get that raise often don't equate it with a political position. I've heard this over and over that blacks massively support Hillary. I just don't see what positions she holds that makes that the case. For those of us who don't like her, it's because we don't trust her and it came from a long time before Bernie's campaign. Yes, she'll try to control guns and I believe she cares about that. But will it stop the carnage among black Americans that isn't all the police shooting one of them? Will it get guns away from those who use them in gang wars, etc.? I guess we'll see. Her positions though on Wall Street seem likely to benefit the stock market before it does working class Americans. Yeah, I like the stock market to do well for my personal benefit but not at the cost of jobs-- and currently it's happening very much at the cost of jobs-- and that impacts the middle more than upper economic levels.

Obama hasn't actually endorsed her but he certainly does a lot of building her up. Why not-- she says she'll continue his policies and Bernie would not. She's going to get it; so we'll see whether we end up with more wars, treaties that don't treat the middle working class all that well, and a health care system that, for those in the middle class, needs more than propping up. I like Obama but he's done a lot of things I didn't like. And, I didn't vote for him because he was black. I don't see the logic of voting for Hillary because she's a woman. And unfortunately with her we get Bill again and unlike many Americans, I don't think he helped us as much as some would like to believe. He undermined a lot of things. Hopefully she won't be letting him control her policies... not that I am sure what her policies actually will be. The only thing I know for sure is no Republican is anyone I want in the White House; so there won't be a choice come November for me. Staying home guarantees a Trump there. Although not everything he says irks me as it does some, that comes from being a moderate, not a leftie, I have no idea what we'd get with him as it could be anything. Very scary.

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