It's time to call out BLM: If you want to change policy, and the racist culture handed down from Washington, you are going to need to win 200 seats in congress, plus the presidency. Would you mind telling us your plan to do that?
Imagine: You are being attacked by a knife-wielding maniac.
"Help me!" you cry.
Suddenly someone hands you a knife.
But instead of being grateful, you look at the person who handed you the knife with withering derision and say, "Really? This little knife? This is pathetic!" And then you hurl the little blade out the window, leaving both of you unarmed and under attack.
This is what transpired at Netroots Nation and again in Seattle, when Black Lives Matter disrupted rallies for Senator Bernie Sanders.
Black Lives Matter needs to understand that Bernie Sanders, and progressives in general, are a minority within a minority.
Regarding Sanders, Black Lives Matter co-founder Patrisse Cullors said in an interview at Netroots, "Your progressive is not progressive enough. We need MORE."
Cullors statement reveals a profound lack of knowledge of the political landscape. In order to understand why this is so incredibly self-defeating, we must first be properly oriented.
This is the American political landscape:
To the far, far right is the Republican Party.
To the center-right is the corporate-mainstream of the Democratic Party, including Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton.
To the center-left is the Congressional Progressive Caucus – with 68 seats out of 535 members of Congress.
And then, to the far, far left, are Michael Moore, Maxine Waters, and Bernie Sanders.
There simply is no left beyond that point. There's just a waterfall to nowhere at the end of the Earth.
Without rehashing Sander's campaign speeches, he is supporting every possible leftist value there is, just short of calling for guillotines for the American royalists who have overthrown our democracy.
And overthrow it, they have.
America is now an oligarchy. The laws that are being enacted are designed to shovel money to the elite and well-connected at the expense of the middle class and the poor. This includes militarization of the police, draconian drug laws, and the profitization of prisons, all of which disproportionately impact people of color.
Bernie Sanders consistently rails against all of this, and more importantly, he votes against it.
But he loses those votes – because there aren't enough progressives in congress to win them.
Many social media activists like to defiantly shout, 'I don't give a damn about the politics – just fix the damned problem!'
But this is not how government works, nor how policy is changed. What is needed
is a Political Reality Consultant.
Here is a concrete example: On BlackLivesMatter.com, the group has posted a list of demands (all of which sound perfectly reasonable, and by the way, perfectly in line with Bernie Sanders goals). One demand is this: "We demand freedom from mass incarceration and an end to the prison industrial complex."
Black Lives Matter needs someone who will say to them, "GREAT! So, in order to achieve your demand and get the laws changed, you're going to need a progressive president and progressive majorities in both houses. Right now you have Bernie Sanders in the Senate and 67 other progressive votes. So you'll need to keep those seats, and progressives need to win an additional 200 seats in congress, plus the presidency. Now what's your plan to do that?"
Does BLM have any idea how difficult this will be to achieve?
Do they understand that this has never been done before in American history – that progressives have never had the votes to change anything? Every bit of change we've ever achieved has come by changing the culture itself – and that is what we must do again. This is a Herculean task. In the age of Citizen's United, we're up against billionaires who already own all of the media.
The ironic tragedy of what happened at these events is that Bernie Sanders does have such a plan. He took to the national stage, and he's putting forth the values we share as progressives and justice activists. He's getting great traction. If things go incredibly well, he may be elected president.
And then will he change the laws?
No. He can't. There aren't enough progressives even running for office, let alone in office, to change the laws. If he's lucky the other 67 in the Progressive Caucus will keep their seats. But that still leaves us 200 votes short of changing anything.
One of the greatest tools available however, if we can get hold of it, is the Bully Pulpit of the White House. Franklin Delano Roosevelt used it relentlessly to expose the "economic royalists" who were eating America alive for the sake of profit, and preventing all progress.
For two solid years following the election of Bernie Sanders, he'll have a hostile congress, and nothing at all to do … except veto bad bills and point out the people and the moneyed interests behind these bad bills. He'll have all the time in the world to make a case for progressivism to the American people, to inspire progressives to run for office, and to ask for Americans to vote for them. And then, in the next election, we may be able to pick up those 200 seats we need to actually change the laws.
The frustration of the organizers of Black Lives Matter is understandable. But it also has to be understood that the conservative/corporate revolution that has now achieved such entrenched power began when Ronald Reagan gave his first campaign speech, on state's rights, in the town made famous in the movie Mississippi Burning. This was the beginning of the Republican strategy to use race to pit American workers against one another. Rush Limbaugh and Fox News and mass incarceration and Citizen's United all flow from that poison spring. Such is the power of speeches.
But we can give powerful speeches, too. Bernie is one of the best -- and he learned from the best, in listening to, and marching with, Dr. Martin Luther King.
Bernie didn't have to do that. He was a white guy living comfortably in New York. What need did he have to get involved with King, or with the struggle of black Americans?
But he chose to listen, to learn -- and then to help.
If Black Lives Matter wants to have an impact as lasting as King's, BLM activists are going to have to extend the same courtesy to people like Bernie Sanders, and to learn how the process works, and how to do the laborious work of gaining access to the levers of power.
Our opposition is incredibly powerful. We can't afford to lose a single hand -- black or white.
Instead of shouting each other down, let us lift one another up. PLEASE.