Economics vs. civil rights (BLM and Sanders)
Last edited Wed Aug 12, 2015, 07:22 AM - Edit history (1)
So, first, this is somewhat about the primaries, but is more about a larger and more long-term difference between two different kinds of progressives - those concerned primarily with economics, and those concerned primarily with social justice. (And that's a false dichotomy which I thoroughly reject, but the article is about that dichotomy regardless.)
Second, I don't like the title of the linked article so I didn't use it, because I think Sanders has heard the people (as he does - that's part of what I like about him) and it's no longer BLM vs. Bernie Sanders. I refuse to accept them as being in conflict with each other. There's been some messy communication, but Sanders listens with open ears and an open heart, and I believe he's doing just that with this issue. The idea that I have to choose whether I care about one or the other is another thing I reject.
I do think the following article explains differences which led to the problems we've seen and I think it's probably useful for people on either side of the issue to read, though I don't think the article is unbiased. I think it's biased toward BLM but I think it's still very worth reading and I hope people follow Bernie's lead and read it with open minds and open hearts.
Over the past 20 years, both within the Democratic Party and outside of politics, the vision of progressivism that's attracted the most energy and organizing strength has been a progressivism of identity: recognizing the different ways that various groups are marginalized, and working to reduce those disparities both in policy and in everyday interactions. But many progressives in the Democratic Party are inheritors of a labor-liberal progressive tradition that is primarily worried about economic inequality, and are most excited by economic populists like Sanders and Elizabeth Warren.
Sanders supporters see it as obvious that their candidate's platform would be better for people of color than any other candidate's, and they don't understand what else supporters would want. But for the activists challenging Bernie Sanders and his supporters, it's not enough for progressives or Democrats to call for policies that they think would help people of color they need to be listening to and incorporating the agendas of people of color themselves.
But the nexus of these two progressive politics within the Democratic Party is something of an exception to these trends. Many progressive voters are deeply worried about economic inequality, and about the domination of both the economy and politics by the superrich. To their minds, this is the existential crisis facing the country. Before the presidential election, the foremost progressive champion in Democratic politics was Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren, whose entire political career has been built on taking on the financial industry. And Sanders is now generating Warren-like levels of excitement for his outspoken socialism. Remember, the rally he was holding in Seattle during the weekend that marked the one-year anniversary of the death of Michael Brown in Ferguson was about defending Social Security. That doesn't mean Sanders or his supporters didn't care about Ferguson, of course, but it is a choice of emphasis.
The Democratic progressives rallying around Warren and Sanders may agree that racial or gender inequality is also a problem, but they may see it (as Sanders long did) as a problem that can best be solved by fixing economic inequality. Or they may see them as issues that politicians should address, but not necessarily ones they need to focus on. To nonwhite progressives, especially activists, this makes it feel like "progressivism" is still something for white people.
We see this quite often. Look at the ads on TV in which advertisers are careful to show a postracial America that in many areas has little existence in reality. Corporate America has gotten the message--inclusion is good business. Black people buy stuff, gay people buy stuff, women buy stuff.
What corporate America does not want is for ordinary people all races to start to demand a larger share of the economic pie--especially if it means taking it from the investor class. Part of their strategy has been to pit different groups against each other--they're really good at it--they have been doing this since the days Frederick Douglass wrote about the tensions between Irish immigrants and free blacks in New York City and likely before.