Working together towards a common goal

The latest dustup in the progressive blogosphere has exposed a rift in the progressive movement.

It is something that should not be a rift and maybe it does not reach the level of rift but is still a pretty strong disagreement that is generating more heat than light.

The goals of the #BlackLivesMatter movement are fundamental to our core Democratic Party principles and should not just be picked from a grab bag of progressive issues to focus on in the coming election. Racial justice issues need to be addressed because they are a matter of life and death. It can be argued that economic issues are a matter of life and death and that is certainly true. But a rising economic tide that raises all boats does nothing but drown those who have no boats, who can’t swim, or who are being held down.

Maybe the rift turned into a flame war because we, as Democrats, haven’t had to deal with a primary process for 7 years and we forget the bitter battles of 2007 and 2008. Maybe it is because we remember the bitter battles of 2007 and 2008 and don’t want to give an inch lest our ideal of Perfect Progressivism will not match up to the eventual nominee selected to carry our banner into the general election in 2016.

This Voxplainer helps describe what is going on:

Sanders’s Netroots Nation appearance at a town hall Saturday afternoon turned into a confrontation with #BlackLivesMatter activists — and brought a conflict between Sanders-loving economic progressives on one side, and organizers for racial justice on the other, out into the open. But while Sanders is the catalyst, the conflict — at least as Sanders’s critics see it — isn’t really about whether to support Sanders or Hillary Clinton for the 2016 nomination. It’s about who gets to call himself a progressive champion, and when politicians should heed activists’ demands to pay more explicit attention to certain issues.

The author describes the NN15 confrontation and then continues:

There is a legitimate disconnect between the way Sanders (and many of the economic progressives who support him) see the world, and the way many racial justice progressives see the world. To Bernie Sanders, as I’ve written, racial inequality is a symptom — but economic inequality is the disease. That’s why his responses to unrest in Ferguson and Baltimore have included specific calls for police accountability, but have focused on improving economic opportunity for young African Americans. Sanders presents fixing unemployment as the systemic solution to the problem.

Many racial justice advocates don’t see it that way. They see racism as its own systemic problem that has to be addressed on its own terms. They feel that it’s important to acknowledge the effects of economic inequality on people of color, but that racial inequality isn’t merely a symptom of economic inequality. And, most importantly, they feel that “pivoting” to economic issues can be a way for white progressives to present their agenda as the progressive agenda and shove black progressives, and the issues that matter most to them, to the sidelines. […]

It’s worth noting that #BlackLivesMatter organizers haven’t been primarily focused on the presidential primary, even as other progressives have turned in that direction. To them, this is about the progressive movement. Bernie Sanders — and, more importantly, the pressure they feel to embrace Bernie Sanders as a progressive champion — is just the latest illustration that some white progressives aren’t listening to black progressives when deciding what the “progressive agenda” really is, and who its champions are.

The author concludes with a quote from Roderick Morrow, the comedian from Charlotte, North Carolina who started the #BernieSoBlack hashtag.

This is a demand on white progressives that goes far beyond Bernie: that they treat racial inequality with the same seriousness that they treat economic inequality. That’s not a demand that Bernie Sanders, himself, could fulfill even if he tried. It’s a demand on his supporters. And as Morrow points out, it’s up against “hundreds of years of history” of people ignoring “a lot of voices, if they don’t like what folks are saying. There will always be a struggle, even in progressive spaces. How can you support each other without turning on each other?

There is no reason for our coalition to have a rift because the end goal for everyone in the progressive movement is the same: to promote policies that make peoples lives better and to elect politicians who will do their best to advance those policies.

Listen to the expert on building coalitions, Dr. William Barber II:

The Transformative Fusion Coalition:

The HKonJ, which stands for Historic Thousands on Jones Street (where the state capital’s legislative buildings are located), [laid] the groundwork for Moral Mondays and the Forward Together movement. In December 2006, sixteen organizations—representing clergy, labor, women’s rights, LGBTQ rights and racial justice—came together to form what the Rev. William Barber II, the head of the state NAACP and the movement’s most visible leader, called a “transformative fusion coalition.” Transformative fusion means that each organization came to the coalition with a deep commitment not just to advance their own political priorities, Barber explains, but to advance the various causes of the other coalition members as well. Together, the coalition members would review state policy from an anti-racist and anti-poverty perspective and come up with a fourteen-point agenda, as well as an action plan for achieving those goals. Asked how the organizations make decisions and set priorities collaboratively, Barber replies that the key is sharing a broader vision for the state’s future. “It’s about fundamental change, not incremental change,” he tells me. “Victory on one issue does not mean you leave the coalition.”

William Barber II:

Transformative fusion: The coalition has welded together a broad array of groups committed to a far-reaching set of principles rather than a safe, tepid lowest-common-denominator program. “We are committed to voter rights, worker rights, public education, women’s rights (meaning abortion rights in particular), and health care.”

Essentially, the Forward Together partners adopted the core elements of each other’s programs and fully committed their organizations to them, realizing that no group could make progress without all advancing together.

Once more with emphasis: no group can make progress without all advancing together.

p.s. Please don’t burn down the Internets, ABL!! Some of my best friends are there!!



  1. One thing I find disconcerting is how quickly this devolved into Us vs Them with both us and them being Democrats!

    We will need every single one of US working together to make sure that the Republican Party nominee is not sitting in the Oval Office on his inauguration day setting up bombing raids to “take out” Iran.

    We can disagree on who we want our nominee to be and which issues are more important to us personally but we need to be careful to not spit in a well that we will need to drink from. I would prefer that the Bernie Sanders supporters, and the Hillary Clinton supporters and the Martin O’Malley supporter(s?), to discuss the pros and cons of each candidate civilly and not in a way that makes it impossible to come together on November 8, 2016.

  2. As the Voxthor pointed out, it is not really about Bernie.

    Some of those who were disappointed that President Obama did not spend all his political capital on throwing banksters (and torturers!) in jail are pouring all their anger into the #LeaveOurBernieAloooooone movement. He has become the symbol of something else: the ticked off left-of-the-left whose unicorn was never delivered.

  3. The disconnect is being fueled by many of Bernie’s supporters. Constantly telling us that “he marched with Dr King” (um – he was at the March on Washington, which is not the same as marching with King ) is getting wearisome.

    Still waiting for Bernie to hire someone black on his campaign staff – people in our community do notice these things.

    Will have more to say about this in Tuesday’s Chile

    • I am looking forward to it!

      I am lurking on this issue on Twitter because I don’t want to offend anyone – it is too easy to weigh in with words that would come across as tone deaf because I can’t possibly know what it means to be black. I can’t! I’m not black! But I have been discriminated against for other inherent features and for the choices I have made (religion, lifestyle, child rearing) so I “get” the discrimination part, simply at a different level of intensity.

      Bernie is wrong that economic fixes alone can solve racial inequality. Sadly, he comes across as an angry grampus when people try to tell him that he is wrong … and many of his defenders come off as racist aholes (I hope they are neither). He spent his entire political career representing a 99% Caucasian state and developing economic theories that do not account for the exclusion of entire races and ethnicities from the economy. But the proper response is to say “I don’t understand but I am willing to learn”.

  4. Fabulous post, JanF, and thank you for the great comments, Jan and Denise. This particularly struck my eye:

    “It’s about fundamental change, not incremental change,” he tells me. “Victory on one issue does not mean you leave the coalition.”

    Yes! I think I can safely say that black people are tired of waiting for “incremental change.” Our lives are short: change should happen now.

  5. Here is Hillary Clinton’s response to the dustup in a Facebook “townhall” her campaign conducted yesterday. Yes, she had two days to perfect this but, really, this is an issue that has been part of her political DNA since her college days.

  6. I have about 9 minutes before work so I need to keep this first comment at least brief.

    It is interesting that you included Imani’s tweet because that one made my eye twitch. I hate generalizations and words like “acolyte;” I can support a candidate and not be some dewy-eyed worshipper. And, yes, this reminds me of the slinging from 2008 and I am not going to engage; I’ll turn to other things first. The other thing is that I’d guess all those folks saying Bernie marched with MLK didn’t get together to tweet-bomb that but just said it.

    Full disclosure: I have donated to Bernie and am awaiting my bumper sticker if only because I’ll be damned if anyone is going to anoint Hillary or anyone else as the next Dem candidate for president.

    What I also find interesting is that people seem to be missing the point that I can certainly understand BLM’s POV (once I figured out that wasn’t the Bureau of Land Management because I have a friend who works for that agency) but still question their methods and choice of venue. We should be able to have the discussion without giving in to name-calling and stupidity but, as 2008 definitely showed, we can’t. /sigh

    • I thought her Tweet caught the tone of the fracas more than any other. Plus it was linked into the excellent Vox piece and I am lazy that way. :)

      Yes, “acolyte” is incendiary and meant to leave a mark. Twitter is often about scoring points. But I saw some of the people who were in her mentions and, holy moley, they did not do Bernie’s cause any good.

      On BLM: Ha! I kept wondering what the Bureau of Land Management had to do with anything and when I saw it used by one of the Native Americans I follow I thought it was some sort of tribal diss. You know, if progressives want to communicate with people other than themselves (and maybe they don’t!) they need to get smarter about the inside baseball words and phrases.

      Come back and talk about the venue! As someone whose enjoyment of NN12 was disturbed by OWS people protesting during a speech by Eric Schnieiderman, my first reaction was “how rude to disrupt the speakers!” After I found out that it was a candidate’s forum, not a speech as such, I thought about it and that seemed less of an issue. Thinking on your feet is an important qualification and Bernie acting like the protesters were cutting into his naptime was a terrible optic.

      • Oh thank goodness I wasn’t the only one confused over BLM. lol

        Twitter can be funny and dangerous. Cher is hysterical but others make me want to poke an eye out.

        Someone at Balloon-Juice wrote or linked to a piece that made some sense to me, if we can get past the name-calling, where in the end all this may be worth it if we can get people talking and doing. Would still love to see the same type of action at GOPer events. :)

        • I finally had the context on the venue filled in for me after reading the accounts of the arrest of Sandra Bland, the young woman on her way to a new job at a Texas college. This: “Texas state Sen. Royce West said that the dash cam footage showed that Bland should not have been taken into police custody.” She was and she died in jail.

          One of the “hecklers” at NN15 shouted out when Bernie launched into his stump speech about how jobs and college will help overcome racial injustice. A woman in the audience: “Jobs and college don’t stop the police from killing me!”.

          So some of the heckling was in context. And in light of what happened in Texas, I am not sure I would not have shouted out the same thing in anger and frustration if someone kept telling me that all I needed was an education and a job.

          When is the appropriate time to have your voice heard? Sending a Stern Lettertm to the candidate? Tweeting your anger? Writing a blog post? Or when you have the person you want to convince right in front of you?

  7. The Kochs are probably sitting back and chortling about this. They’ve been funding “divide and conquer” since they were boys at their daddy’s knee. I agree with Voxthor that Berniebots are pissed off about not getting their unicorn from President Obama and somehow think the Old White Guy can deliver it since the Young Black Guy didn’t. But there’s a diary over at teh Orange (that I’m not going into) the very title of which shows just how much “they” don’t get it.

    Dear #BlackLivesMatter, Sometimes Using Your Ears is Better than Using Your Mouths.

    Bernie should have used his ears instead of walking off in a snit. As to Hillary, I’m pleased but not surprised at her response. She has been paying attention – listening – to people in seriously disadvantaged positions for decades. Over a decade in AR where race is a very obvious factor. As much as a middle-class white woman can get it, she does. And if given the chance she will make change – how fundamental will largely depend on how well we manage to get her a functional Congress.

    • I agree with Voxthor that Berniebots are pissed off about not getting their unicorn from President Obama and somehow think the Old White Guy can deliver it since the Young Black Guy didn’t.

      Oh for Pete’s sake, really?!

      • I used the term Berniebots on purpose. I have traded remarks with many Bernie supporters who were polite and did me the courtesy of not implying (or come right out and saying) my chosen candidate is a corporate whore/war monger/fill-in-the-blank Hillary dismissal and I must be one too or I wouldn’t support her. I cannot say the same about the bots. And I believe, and if I read Voxthor’s comment correctly Voxthor believes, that it’s the bots who are the problem here.

        I personally think Bernie is great but I want him where he is – in the Senate.

        • I already know the answer to this but why do we have to use names at all? It is insulting to both sides. And does nothing to advance the conversation. Perhaps these people are just passionate supporters of a particular candidate. I really wish we’d all quit using terms we know are likely to inflame.

          • At one point at the GOS, the namecalling was so disruptive that people were given time outs for calling someone an Obamabot. That then became Obamasuxxers and Obamaroxxers then shortened to suxxers and roxxers (I was a roxxer!). And yes, that was during his reelection campaign, a time when people were supposed to come together to reelect the president of our party. If I had a dollar for every time I saw an “insult” linked to in a comment complaining about someone (eventually linking to insults could result in a timeout), I would be rich. I called myself an Obamabot (I still do) because the way to reduce the power of an insult is to embrace it. Heck, I am an ObamaBot … I think he is the best president in my lifetime.

            Namecalling is not helpful. I use the “bot” to jokingly describe myself (I have said that I will probably not be a HillBot the way that I am an ObamaBot) but I will more carefully choose my own words to make sure that my (brilliant!) commentary is not derailed by my own choice of words.

    • The author of that diary was bojoed and was roundly criticized by both Hillary and Bernie supporters,

      • Good. The BLM people wouldn’t have been there “interrupting” if people had been listening all along. It’s very good that both Hillary and Bernie people joined in that.

        Ben Franklin wasn’t kidding when he said we’d have to hang together or we’d hang separately – the times haven’t changed that much. Wealth and Power are what our Founders fought against, Wealth and Power are still what we need to join together and work against for the sake of our own health and lives. Any fundamental change that makes Life better for POV (and women) will make Life better for white males, too. The reverse is obviously not true and the Dem candidate must know that heart and soul. Or at least learn it damned fast.

        • This nation was founded on stolen land and built by stolen people as someone once said. That’s. IMHO. our national original sin. Millions came later to a so-called land of opportunity but that opportunity was given them by the suffering of others. How we will rectify this will determine our future. Hate to sound pessimistic but that suffering has been going on for a long long time.

          • Very true. And very hard to know what can be done to rectify things even if we ever get the national will to do it. But the first thing IMO is to address this police issue. If we can right this one wrong – people being assaulted and/or killed by supposed law enforcement simply because of the color of their skin – that will go a long, long way toward righting the rest of it. There never will be, never can be equal rights while overtly or covertly it’s “open season” on POV. We must of course work on the rest of the rights – and whatever else we can do to balance that national original sin – but until the right to Life is accepted/guaranteed in so far as mortals can guarantee Life, well Liberty and Happiness are kind of moot.

          • Hate using initials sometimes – that was supposed to be POC people of color, not POV point of view. Hopefully obviously but still…

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