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Black Politics And Bernie Sanders – OpEd

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Bernie Sanders looked a bit uncomfortable in Al Sharpton’s strong embrace. He ought to. After all, no one wants to be hugged by King Rat.

The sad state of black politics has been on full display for the past week. Bernie Sanders was relegated to afterthought status until he split the Iowa caucus vote with Hillary Clinton and then won the New Hampshire primary. His victory there now makes him a serious challenger to Clinton. As his fortunes shifted, so did black politics, but not in a good way.

The Congressional Black Caucus’s Political Action Committee hurriedly endorsed Clinton but of course the casual observer thinks that CBC congressional members did the endorsing. Instead it was the lobbying arm that represents Big Pharma and cigarette manufacturers. All of the CBC corruptions were revealed in one fell swoop.

While Sharpton invited Sanders to Harlem for lunch, another argument brewed over whether Bernie Sanders was or wasn’t in photos from the 1960s and what they did or didn’t say about his civil rights activism. CBC members then outdid one another dismissing Sanders, that is to say, staying in the Clinton camp. Charles Rangel proclaimed that he didn’t know any black people who knew Bernie Sanders. John Lewis said he never saw Sanders at any pivotal moment in the 1960s but he did know Bill and Hillary Clinton. Although he later had to admit that he didn’t really know them at the time either and conceded that Bernie went to a march or two. Sanders supporter Keith Ellison strayed off the ranch altogether and said he wasn’t consulted about the CBC PAC endorsement at all.

Meanwhile, Ta-Nehisi Coates was asked who he planned to vote for and he said Bernie Sanders. This is the same Ta-Nehisi Coates who made a big deal about Sanders’ opposition to reparations. The statement was rather an awkward one for the anointed black spokesperson who very recently took Sanders to task. He did seem to be a bit embarrassed and then added it wasn’t really an endorsement, and he certainly wasn’t telling anyone else what to do and he was sorry he answered the question at all. The MacArthur “genius” award fellow was not looking very smart at all.

The endless nonsense was further proof that black politics are on life support. The election of Barack Obama, the imperatives to live in fear of Republicans and/or to wait for the Democrat who is believed to have the best chance of winning are all the perpetrators. There is nothing left but to jockey for position like the CBC and keep the gravy train running or to stick a finger in the wind like Sharpton and discover that Sanders may be the one to make deals with.

While black people fall all over themselves displaying their political impotence, Sanders has learned a thing or two about black voters. Sandra Bland’s mother and Eric Garner’s daughter have endorsed him. It is indeed powerful for the families of police murder victims to have been approached and to have signed on with the challenger. But feelings for the families shouldn’t keep anyone else from asking tough questions.

Has Sanders said how he would end police murder? He hasn’t. Did he present a plan for a strong Department of Justice civil rights division that would take the lead in prosecuting cops? He didn’t. Did he propose any legislative remedies to end police murder impunity? He didn’t do that either. The families of police murder victims want to hope that something will change, but so do we all. Then again, grieving relatives are no worse than members of the CBC and have better, more ethical rationales in making their decisions.

It is a good thing to question the dubious allegiance to Hillary Clinton. She and her husband were persona non grata in 2008 because of their racist appeals to white people during the campaign against Obama. Now some of the same people who proclaimed unending hatred of both Clintons are now supportive in order to keep Donald Trump/Marco Rubio/Ted Cruz out of the White House. Clinton has changed her tune too. She mentioned the president’s name 21 times in her most recent debate with Sanders. She is clinging to her former rival as if he were a life jacket. Actually he is just that for her.

This election should be one for hard questions and the rejection of standard operating procedures. Obama’s departure presents an opportunity for black people to critically examine the entire premise of the quadrennial circus. Bernie Sanders may not brag about being buddies with Henry Kissinger but any such praise is faint. He dismissed the thrice elected Hugo Chavez as “a dead communist dictator.” The supposed leftist may not have cackled about killing Gaddafi like Hillary Clinton did, but he didn’t oppose the intervention either. He doesn’t want to expand NATO any further but he speaks of Russian “aggression” as if it really existed. It is in fact just a phony propaganda talking point from the Obama administration and the corporate media.

There is no leftist among the Democrats. Neither one is in sync with the true political leanings of black America. When all is said and done, whether Sanders was at a particular march with King or didn’t meet John Lewis or is or isn’t liked by Ta-Nehisi Coates is immaterial. The whole effort is immaterial and it is time for black people to do serious soul searching and reject the entire phony project. Or we can sit and wait for Al Sharpton to make his move when he thinks he sees the next president.

Margaret Kimberley

Margaret Kimberley's Freedom Rider column appears weekly in BAR (http://www.blackagendareport.com), and is widely reprinted elsewhere. She maintains a frequently updated blog as well as at http://freedomrider.blogspot.com. Ms. Kimberley lives in New York City, and can be reached via e-Mail at Margaret.Kimberley(at)BlackAgandaReport.com.

One thought on “Black Politics And Bernie Sanders – OpEd

  • February 18, 2016 at 5:34 pm
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    Establishment blacks are against Bernie. Intelligentsia blacks support Bernie. Young blacks support Bernie. Protester blacks supporter. Bernie’s campaign is not establishment. We’ll see who succeeds.

    Reply

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