The Democratic Party’s establishment is in denial about the ways in which concentrated riches are warping society and contributing to the disunity it seeks to heal.
” . . . Just as the 2008 recession ushered in the election of the first black president, a subsequent white backlash, and a rebirth of left-wing populism led by figures such as Warren and Sanders, the economic hardships of the late 1870s inspired both worker activism and racist retrenchment. In times of economic hardship, it was not a difficult matter to discredit Reconstruction as an attempt to raise ignorant black laborers above white men who were entrepreneurial, responsible, and refined. Nor was it difficult to justify government intervention on behalf of Big Business while condemning such intervention on behalf of workers. The rich, after all, had earned it, or they wouldn’t be rich.
Foner documents how former antislavery figures such as Horace White of the Chicago Tribune “condemned agrarian and labor organizations for initiating ‘a communistic war upon vested rights and property,’ and insisted that universal suffrage had ‘cheapened the ballot’ by throwing political power into the hands of those influenced by the ‘harangues of demagogues.’” Antislavery publications such as The Nation “linked the Northern poor and Southern freedmen as members of a dangerous new ‘proletariat’ as different ‘from the population by which the Republic was founded, as if they belonged to a foreign nation.’” With Reconstruction ended, capital took advantage of the stability of its aftermath to expand convict leasing, a new regime of forced labor that white southerners would impose to replace slavery and keep the region’s black labor force captive and subordinate. Big industries—lumber, railroads, mining, and others—would take eager advantage of this system of neo-slavery to boost their profit margins.
The end of Reconstruction coincided with the Republican retreat from civil rights. But that retreat was precipitated by deep-seated fears over workers in the North and South seeking labor reform, income redistribution, and regulation of industry. “The South sensed the willingness of Big Business, threatened by liberal revolt, labor upheaval and state interference, to make new alliance with organized Southern capital if assured that the tariff, banks and national debt, and above all, the new freedom of corporations, would not be subjected to mass attack,” wrote W. E. B. Du Bois in Black Reconstruction in America. “Such a double bargain was more than agreeable to Southern leaders.” Racism not only threatens democracy and prosperity; it accrues tremendous benefits for those already leading lives of plenty.
America’s political parties are now as polarized as they were at the end of Reconstruction. And just as at the end of Reconstruction, a multiracial party whose ranks include both frustrated workers and wealthy capitalists finds itself at a crossroads, with no certain options for healing the nation’s divides or its own. As ever, America’s gilded class regards the possibility of higher taxes and redistribution as a greater threat than a resurgent racist authoritarianism that imperils America’s still-young experiment in multiracial democracy. The latter, after all, does not jeopardize its profits.Into this divide steps Patrick, a man who went from poverty on Chicago’s South Side to the heights of both business and politics, practically an avatar of the old free-labor ideal that animated the 19th-century Republican Party, an ideal whose blindness to how concentrations of wealth warp politics and society leaves it ill-equipped to deal with the threats to democracy and prosperity America currently faces. The paradox for Democrats is that the candidates who understand this appear less likely to prevail in the general election, and those who have yet to grasp it may be better positioned to unseat the president.
In Polarized America, Nolan McCarty, Keith Poole, and Howard Rosenthal argue that economic inequality and polarization reinforce each other. Economic suffering and ideology foment anger toward minorities, who are blamed for that economic suffering. The very wealthy exploit those divisions to sustain their streams of income, which in turn makes it less likely that redistributive legislation addressing that economic suffering can be passed . . .”
“Getting the Whole Village to the Movement: #BlackLivesMatter, Please Call Home”
Saturday, September 19, 2015 10 pm EDT
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The cry of #Black Lives Matter rings throughout the nation. It stands in the wake of a new movement and awakens our national consciousness to the persistent system of white supremacy and structural racism that penetrates each of our institutions. By placing violence against black bodies at the center of the movement, BLM has demanded dignity and respect for those who are often disregarded as disposal.
The Black Lives Matter movement was born out of the pain and injustice of Trayvon Martin’s death in 2012 and gathered momentum in the wake of the killings of Michael Brown, Eric Garner, Freddie Gray, Walter Scott, Tamir Rice and far too many others. The significance of this emergence was not so much the movement as it was the cry of our people declaring that “Black Lives Matter”. A cry for a need for a new liberation uprising for Black people in America. #BlackLivesMatter as a slogan met the need of Black people to declare its pain, loudly and precisely. Moving that slogan as the undergird of a movement is the hard part. Figuring how we ignite political and social transformation — not just marches, Twitter feeds and shouting matches on- and offline is the real challenge.
More teaching, training and strategic action is needed. More poor people, experienced organizers and on-the ground development is required to create a movement. Too often, meetings and community conversations are held in order to delay progress and to give the illusion of progress, all while the community remains broken. The Black Lives Matter Movement has the potential to turn this very moment into a movement, but must expand in depth and breadth to accomplish the task of justice and reconciliation. #BlackLivesMatter has to be the talk on the “block” across America.
There is no doubt that the “#BlackLivesMatter” movement is a critical opportunity to engage community interest groups in conversations about race and privilege. The movement issued a call to action for people everywhere to recognize the reality of institutionalized racism. But to whom is it engaged?
We must get as excited about policy shaping as we do about protesting. Systemic terrorism needs also requires Black redemption; and that work is little, slow and fueled political bickering on the left, long meetings and little relationship building. Who is teaching the history that brings us to the street proclaiming #BlackLivesMatter ? A slogan is cry for a need for a new liberation for Black people in America, but within the village, is there a depth of understanding beyond the pain – understanding of the Empire which presses us? “#BlackLivesMatter” as a slogan meets only a small need. Moving that slogan as the undergird of a movement igniting political and social transformation — not just marches, Twitter feeds and shouting matches on- and offline.
But here is the rub. No movement can be sustained or make significant change if it falls to co-opting by the same systems which rule the Empire that designs, control and maintains the structures of institutionalized racism and system of white supremacy. It cannot be vulnerable to take-down and huge vacuums of community disengagement. If #BlackLivesMatters is to be a true moment, the whole community is required to build the walls and fortify a strategy that moves forward on objectives targeting goals for all Black people.
The whole village must understand where and when they enter. If not, it is merely another group attempting to advance a narrow agenda, important, but narrow just the same. How do we infuse the slogan with a movement?
You are invited to bring your thoughts about the pressing issues facing our community. Come listen and learn. SHARE please.
OUR COMMON GROUND where friends come to confer with allies.
Listen & Call In Line: 347-838-9852
Saturday, September 19, 2015 10 pm ET
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“Speaking Truth to Power and OURselves”