Friday, February 12, 2016

Last Call For More And More

The cottage industry of black intellectuals scolding President Obama for "not doing enough for the black community" will continue as long as they can make money off selling books, and the most recent entry in the genre is Michael Eric Dyson's "The Black Presidency" and this Salon interview with David Daley is indicative of the game.

You’re saying, for example, he hadn’t been pulled over in Ferguson time and again and given tickets that got him jailed and unable to get to work
That’s right. Some of that, but not a bunch of it. Enough to be sensitive to it, but not enough to be angered by it. 
Would he have been able to be angered by it, though? If he was the kind of person who was angered by it, would that have threatened the same kind of multiracial coalition that put him in office? 
You’re absolutely right. If Obama had been a different kind of black man, he never would have been a different kind of president, because he couldn’t have been president. In many ways, the things that he felt, saw and believed, permitted him a kind of racial innocence and racial optimism that many white Americans were able to tap into. This is somebody we know, this man is familiar with our mores and folkways, our intuitions, our rhythms, our timbre, our tone, the echo of our voice. This is a man who intuits it. As a result of that, Obama was put into office because he didn’t bring precisely, when we see him, this baggage. Obama did not guilt white America, and as a result of that, they repaid him with the benefit of becoming the president of the United States of America. And that’s an understandable exchange, but in that exchange there have been some costly negotiations, one of which is the assault upon black identity and being. Another of which is that Obama did not champion those people as citizens of the state that he ran. It’s not simply that because you’re black and they’re black you’ve got to hook them up. No, it’s because they are citizens of the state that you preside over. 
When Obama said repeatedly, “I am not the president of black America.” True, but you are president of black Americans, and they are citizens as well. So caught in the troubled nexus of political idealism and racial innocence, or at least racial optimism, was the progress of black people. And that was sacrificed on the altar of Obama’s elevation. 
And here we are in year eight of this administration and something as elemental as Black Lives Matter is a flashpoint of controversy and debate. 
So true. The irony, of course, is that Black Lives Matter emerges under Obama. The first black presidency has elicited all of these horrible, racist sentiments and, equally powerful, a movement of black peoples, of a younger generation in particular, who are not only combating the structural flaws of a state that disallows or discourages the flourishing of black people, but [are] attacking as well the aesthetics and the representation of blackness. The animus toward blackness as an ideal, they’re fighting on both levels. On a cultural level and a political level. This is a peculiar mark of a black presidency, because of its deep and profound symbolism. They therefore are fighting symbol with symbol, as well as substance against substance. It’s a remarkable movement in that way.

And if this sounds familiar, it's the same damn argument that Cornel West and Tavis Smiley keep making: Obama wasn't black enough to scare white people until after he decided to actually try to change things for the better. Once that happened, he was too black for Fox News and not black enough for people like West, Dyson, and the rest.

Nobody sets up black America for failure like black America, I'm telling you.

This Is Spartanburg!

The battle for South Carolina's primary votes are heating up for both parties, but for Hillary Clinton the state is something of a must win (the way New Hampshire was for Bernie).  Matthew Yglesias actually nails it here when he says Clinton needs to get moving if she wants to win.

In the states ahead, Clinton needs exactly what she didn't have in Iowa and New Hampshire: a clear winning argument against Sanders. Right now, though, she has four arguments, many of which are in tension with each other:
  1. Clinton and Sanders largely agree on goals, but Clinton has a more realistic plan for achieving those goals.
  2. Sanders's left-wing policies on taxes, health care, and higher education are in facttoo left-wing and should be rejected in favor of more moderate ones.
  3. Sanders is not in fact as left-wing as he seems, as you can see from his stance on gun control and his votes on the 2007 immigration reform bill.
  4. Whether or not you prefer Sanders on the merits, you should vote Clinton, because Sanders is easier for the Republicans to beat.
All four of these arguments have some merit, but there's no particular reason to think that any of them are naturally more appealing in the big March states or to minority voters than they were to white voters in the early states. If she's able to get more persuasive on point 4, and do a better job of clarifying which of 1 through 3 she actually wants to argue, then there's every reason to believe she'll win the nomination. But if she continues to muddle through buoyed by a vague sense of inevitable minority support, then she's in trouble.

I'll throw in a fifth reason: turnout compared to 2008.  It's down big time for the Democrats in both Iowa and New Hampshire so far.  The argument that Bernie and Hillary have to work to earn votes makes much more sense when you realize that turnout is worse than 8 years ago, and significantly so.

Let's hope that happens.

The Master Debaters, Democratic Edition Con't

Last night's Democratic presidential debate before Nevada showed Hillary Clinton finally taking Bernie Sanders supporters seriously, something Sanders still has yet to do with Clinton's backers.

Clinton got in some good jabs on Bernie, opening up and saying that Sanders was basically right about the economy and the country being rigged in favor of the 1%, but Sanders hit back on the issue of huge corporate donations from Wall Street.

Both candidates had excellent answers on criminal justice reform and police reform, outstanding stuff.

But where Bernie lost me was on race relations.  Clinton gave a great answer to moderator Judy Woodruff's question:

WOODRUFF: Secretary Clinton, I was talking recently with a 23 year old black woman who voted for President Obama because she said she thought relations between the races would get better under his leadership, and his example. Hardly anyone believes that they have. Why do you think race relations would be better under a Clinton presidency? What would you do that the nation's first African American has not been able to?

CLINTON: Well, I'm just not sure I agree completely with that assessment. I think under President Obama we have seen a lot of advances, the Affordable Care Act has helped more African Americans than any other group to get insurance, to be taken care of, but we also know a lot more than we did. We have a lot more social media, we have everybody with a cellphone.

So, we are seeing the dark side of the remaining systemic racism that we have to root out in our society. I think President Obama has set a great example. I think he has addressed a lot of these issues that have been quite difficult, but he has gone forward. Now, what we have to do is to build on an honest conversation about where we go next.

That's the correct answer here, Clinton immediately rejecting the notion that race relations getting "worse" under Obama is somehow Obama's fault for being black.

Sanders's response was okay for the first half...

SANDERS: Well, I think, Judy, what has to be appreciated is that, as a result of the disastrous and illegal behavior on Wall Street, millions of lives were hurt. People lost their jobs, their homes, their life savings. Turns out that the African-American community and the Latino community were hit especially hard. As I understand it, the African-American community lost half of their wealth as a result of the Wall Street collapse.

So when you have childhood African-American poverty rates of 35 percent, when you have youth unemployment at 51 percent, when you have unbelievable rates of incarceration -- which, by the way, leaves the children back home without a dad or even a mother -- clearly, we are looking at institutional racism. We are looking at an economy in which the rich get richer and the poor get poorer. And sadly, in America today, in our economy, a whole lot of those poor people are African-American.

True.  It is institutional, he's absolutely correct.  But then...

WOODRUFF: So race relation was be better under a Sanders presidency than they've been?

SANDERS: Absolutely, because what we will do is say, instead of giving tax breaks to billionaires, we are going to create millions of jobs for low-income kids so they're not hanging out on street corners. We're going to make sure that those kids stay in school or are able to get a college education.

And I think when you give low-income kids -- African-American, white, Latino kids -- the opportunities to get their lives together, they are not going to end up in jail. They're going to end up in the productive economy, which is where we want them.

The problem with racism in this country will be solved by ending Wall Street tax breaks?   Race relations will absolutely be better under Sanders?

This is exactly the kind of conflation of class and race that really pisses me off about Sanders. He. Does. Not. Get. It.  I'm not saying he's as bad as Rand Paul, who was clearly running a hustle, but Sanders keeps thinking the problem is class warfare and not racism.  He sees the problem, but his solutions are "all lives matter".

Which is a shame, because both candidates were stellar on mass incarceration issues.


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