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Fri Jun 10, 2016, 01:17 PM

Let's try this again. Re: "...the Democrats' Racial Rift" [View all]

Let me start by saying that I think the vast majority of Clinton and Sanders supporters are decent and kind people, who wish to reduce suffering and inequality. That's certainly true of those I know personally. As great a tool as the Internet is, the anonymity does not lend itself to civility.

And let me add that I'm someone who recognizes the need for major systemic reform. But I also recognize the POTUS has limited parameters within which he/she can operate. It's up to the masses to expand those parameters. Too much focus is placed on individual actors in our very individualistic culture, while systemic forces are underestimated. I think the expansion of those parameters begins at the local level. As Julio Huato wrote, "I believe that the greatest promise lies, not in national struggles (where, IMO, one way or another, we'll be operating within the strictures imposed by the system), but in smaller scale local battles. Let's go local. Let's work seriously to take over PTAs, unions, municipal governments -- entities charged with managing resources for specific public purposes, even if those resources are meager and shrinking. Let's go after them. If we think we can change the system within our lifetimes, then this certainly will feel like small change. What I envision is taking over a town and turning it around. To the extent possible, converting that town into a small, democratically managed, proto-socialist island. Let's show the world and ourselves how the left can help people manage (and manage well) their public affairs at a local level. Let's go wherever the fruit hangs lowest. That is the kind of work that, sooner than we think, will ripen things at the national level."

I think, too, we must recognize the need to live our lives differently. For instance, if we crave cheap goods and relatively cheap fossil fuels, we can't very well expect much change in terms of international trade, foreign policy, etc. While understandable (given the pressure to make ends meet), let's face the fact that many who get amped up during an election continue to live day-to-day lives that contradict values they espouse.

With all of that said, I'll get to the point of why I started this thread. Much has been written about how POC are key to winning the Democratic Party nomination. I myself wrote about this here. And here. And also here.

Whenever this issue is brought up, there seems to be a defensive reaction based on the notion that Sanders or his supporters are being labeled racist. Have some made accusations of racism? Yes. And, yes, there is some disturbing evidence that white millennials are more ignorant about racial matters than they think. And, yes, implicit bias tests demonstrate that most people have prejudices against POC (thanks in part to a culture that has long promoted negative images of POC). I think we can all agree that racism, systemic and otherwise, needs to be tackled. It's certainly a passion of mine, which is why I'm deeply involved in 2 local racial justice organizations (I encourage everyone to get involved in local organizations focused on issues about which you are passionate--like Julio Huato, I think that's how we "ripen things at the national level".

***BUT*** the point of articles such as the one that was recently posted by bravenak is ***NOT*** to accuse Sanders or his supporters of being racist. There's no need to get defensive, especially if you haven't actually read the article. I'm going to post some lengthy excerpts (some of which may rub you the wrong way) and the link to the article, because I really think it's worth your thoughtful consideration.


Clinton won every contest with at least a 10 percent black population, except Michigan, and each state where Latinos make up at least 10 percent of eligible voters, except Colorado, according to Harry Enten of FiveThirtyEight.com. On top of that, they have been mocked by some Sanders supporters for supposedly “voting against their self-interest” because they refuse to believe a political revolution is at hand. That has been particularly galling to black voters who had to endure claims from conservatives in 2008 that they were voting for Barack Obama only because of race—even though they had spent their entire adult lives voting mostly for white presidential candidates. Now their preference for Clinton’s brand of pragmatism, something they’ve seen result in real progress time and again, is being questioned as well, this time by fellow Democrats.

Jonathan Chait came closest to recognizing the looming problem in a piece that was published in early April, detailing why black voters are pragmatists:

“That refusal to accept the necessity of compromise in a winner-take-all two-party system (and an electorate in which conservatives still outnumber liberals) is characteristic of a certain idealistic style of left-wing politics. Its conception of voting as an act of performative virtue has largely confined itself to white left-wing politics, because it is at odds with the political tradition of a community that has always viewed political compromise as a practical necessity. The expectation that a politician should agree with you on everything is the ultimate expression of privilege.”

As perceptive as that analysis is, it fails to fully account for the racial divide. The tensions within the party aren’t only about purity vs. pragmatism; they have to do with how life is lived and perceived. And though millennials aren’t stuck in the mud on race the way the generations that came before them can be—in large part because they don’t have scars from the 20th century's contentious civil rights battles—they are not ushering the country into a post-racial age as some have claimed.

People of color, like their white Democratic counterparts, may also want a revolution and more rapid progress than the halting kind that comes with pragmatism, but they’ve time and again seen incremental change improve their lives. That’s why they embrace Martin Luther King Jr. without question while revering Malcolm X from a distance. That’s why they are much more enthusiastic about the Affordable Care Act—which has helped minority Americans the most— than white progressives who have either been lukewarm or, in some cases, even hostile to health reform because they don’t believe it was radical enough.

Minority voters are more likely than white Democratic voters to giddily give Obama credit for an economic recovery that has shaved the unemployment rate in half, produced the lowest level of jobless claims since the ‘70s, and an unprecedented monthly job creation streak that has lasted more than six years, all coming on the heels of the worst economic downturn since the Great Depression. And he got Osama bin Laden, saved the domestic auto industry, ushered through the largest economic stimulus in history—one derisively dismissed as too small by many liberals—and the first significant Wall Street reform in a generation, while advancing gay rights like no president before him despite the initial reluctance by his numerous religious black voters to embrace same sex marriage.

Why? Because many white Democratic voters missed the sentiment shared among black Obama voters in 2008 that, once again, the “first black” was being handed a seemingly impossible task—two ground wars, a collapsing economy, a record deficit—and if he wasn’t able to perform a miracle, it would not only be his failure, but that of black people in general. To downplay what he has been able to achieve despite the obstacles, which also included an unprecedented level of obstruction from the GOP, confirms a fear shared by many people of color—Democratic or otherwise—that no matter what they achieve, it will never be enough. Sanders and Susan Sarandon may sincerely believe things are so awful only a revolution can heal the country’s ills. But their overwrought rhetoric, and no more than lukewarm support of Obama’s accomplishments, taps into that deeply-held frustration among minorities.

That’s why, despite what looks like intractable problems to white Democrats, minority voters are more optimistic about the future than their white counterparts. That Obama was able to become president and get stuff done is an enormous source of not only pride, but hope. The Kaiser Family Foundation found that more than half of young black and Latinos believe their lives will be better than their parents, compared with less than a third of young white people. On many measures, black people have seen much worse days—the black unemployment rate neared 17 percent at the height of the Great Recession and is less than half that now—even as they continue fighting decades-long struggles. Things aren’t perfect, but the progress that has occurred during the Obama era isn’t something they want ignored or downplayed.

Minority voters have been watching in horror as millions of Republican voters choose Trump either because of, or despite, his open bigotry. The Sanders supporters who toy with the idea of shunning Clinton in November and allowing Trump to become president to force a revolution that Sanders couldn’t deliver are playing with fire. To minority voters, Trump’s candidacy feels like an existential threat. It’s one thing for Republicans to either ignore or embrace his racism; the party already seems unwilling or incapable of making the kinds of adjustments it must to attract more non-white voters. It’s quite another for white Democrats to not appreciate how liberal minorities feel about the possibility of a Trump presidency and what that would say about the state of racial progress in America. It would be a slap in the face, the latest sign that a kind of white privilege—throwing a temper tantrum because they don’t get their way despite how much it hurts people of color—is deeply rooted within liberal, Democratic ranks as well.

Even if Sanders supporters come around to vigorously try to defeat Trump, as most expect to happen come November, the racial reckoning would only have been delayed. The GOP has whiffed on the emerging racial dynamics of the country because it seems stuck in a defensive crouch, borne of having to weather (oftentimes) unfair and exaggerated claims of racism. But the GOP remains willfully blind to the racial angst that animates too many in its party, or the disparate racial impact of some of the party’s signature policies, such as voter ID laws, and the hostility its base has for comprehensive immigration reform.

But Republican vulnerabilities are not automatically Democratic strengths. Democrats may end up whiffing on this issue, too, because the party may succumb to the myth that an increase in diversity is a balm for deep, racial wounds that date back to before this country’s founding. Diversity, they should realize, brings its own set of problems and tensions.

Many Sanders supporters believed his push to regulate Wall Street and solve economic inequality would resonate with minority voters. It didn’t because minority voters know that liberal policies alone won’t reverse decades of racial inequalities. They have been loyal members of liberal unions where white Democrats received plush jobs, even if they were no more qualified than their black colleagues. They’ve seen the same thing in liberal Hollywood and the supposedly liberal world of the media, whose top ranks remain mostly white.

Even though the senator from Vermont began speaking about criminal justice and other types of racial reform, minority voters weren’t convinced he would make those policies a priority. Democrats can waste time debating why minority voters should have connected better with Sanders—and get caught in a condescending discussion about why white Sanders supporters know what’s better for minority voters than minorities do themselves—or they can begin the more difficult work of coming up with strategies to deal with a divide that will show itself in a more pronounced and public way once Trump exits stage left.

And here's a link to a complementary article that was written back in January: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/clinton-sanders-obama_us_56aa378de4b05e4e3703753a?utm_hp_ref=politics

I very much get that there's a valid leftist critique of the Democratic Party and a valid critique of the US political system as a whole (and I suspect most supporters of both Clinton and Sanders feel the same way--really, I don't think there's as much of a divide on that score as some seem to think). But I encourage people to think critically about how best to bring about systemic change. I personally don't get real invested in national politics, as I think local organization is far more worthy of time and effort. And I'm not going to tell anyone else how to vote. I will say, though, that I can hold my nose and vote for the Democratic candidate for POTUS (little time and effort required), because the alternative will only make the local struggles more challenging. Bernard Chazelle wrote years ago that "America has lefties but no left." The groundwork must be laid for systemic change. That becomes a more difficult task if someone such as Trump becomes POTUS. It's a little less difficult if Trump loses by a slim margin. It's still a difficult task but easier to accomplish if Democrats retain the White House (by winning in a landslide) and gain seats in Congress (unity and coalition-building begins by sending a resounding message to the international community and the US populace that most people reject the bigotry of Trump and a Republican Party that gave rise to him through decades of toxic messaging). Yes, there will still be reason to be pissed off about how the US government conducts itself. Yes, a Clinton Admin (like the Obama Admin) will make decisions that disappoint. But that's why laying the groundwork starting at the local level is so vital.


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Reply Let's try this again. Re: "...the Democrats' Racial Rift" [View all]
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