Blog Credo

The whole aim of practical politics is to keep the populace alarmed (and hence clamorous to be led to safety) by menacing it with an endless series of hobgoblins, all of them imaginary.

H.L. Mencken

Sunday, July 26, 2015

The Netroots Nation Situation

I've wanted to wait good and long before addressing what happened last week at Netroots Nation where #blacklivesmatter activists shut down Marty O'Malley and Bernie Sanders as they were trying to answer questions.  O'Malley got dinged for saying "All lives matter" and Sanders got crotchety.  Activists even created a mocking meme for Sanders called "Bernie So Black."  They also said pointedly, "I don't care if he marched with King."  Clinton - with a few days to prep - handled it much  better.

I guess I don't see the efficacy in hijacking an event like Netroots Nation.  The majority of white Progressives were miffed at having their Q&A interrupted.  The whole thing devolved into layers of recrimination and guilt.

The problem is that ideological cannibalism is about the only thing that can keep Democrats out of the White House.  And there is probably no force on earth - besides a Trump-Palin ticket - for Democrats to win back the House.

So we are back to a Green Lantern theory of politics whereby massive change can only be accomplished with sufficient willpower.  And activists (of all stripes and ideologies) are bound by the Tinkerbell Theorem of Louder Clapping.

Activism - properly executed - creates room to move the acceptable and inevitable compromise in a more acceptable direction.  Revolutions fail.  Movements where you are constantly tested for the purity of your thoughts become exclusionary and hide-bound.  They lead inevitably to losses in any democratic process.

The key for Black Lives Matter is not to discomfit Bernie Sanders, Marty O'Malley and a bunch of white Progressives.  They have to convince the confused and distracted middle that this is a broader issue that effects all Americans.  LGBT activists convinced a majority of Americans that marriage equality was about the freedom to love whom you want and not be judged negatively by the state for doing so.  It was about freedom and equality: American values.

There are elements of criminal justice and police reform that can probably help a lot.  Body cameras, better police training, independent prosecutors for police brutality: all of these would help.  And I'm guessing they are completely inadequate for the people who shut down NN.

The real problem - as shown in the Eric Garner case - is that white jurors will frequently not indict a cop for killing a black man.  And there is nothing Obama, Sanders, Clinton or O'Malley can do about that.  It is changing the minds of "those people" that should be the focus of activists.

As Charlie Pierce said about the Occupy movement in contrast to the Tea Party: At least they are shouting at the right buildings.

So, how can the righteous anger of Black Lives Matter be channeled into ways that will enact true change?  That's not a question I have an answer to, but I wonder if it's a question that they are asking of themselves.

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