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 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.”
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!!