On April 9, 2016 The Black Is Back Coalition held its National Conference on the theme of The 2016 Election and The Struggle for Self-Determination at St. Mary’s Episcopal Church – Harlem, NY. BIB coalition member and senior commentator with Black Agenda Report Margaret Kimberley gave this address on the question of the elections, Bernie Sanders and the Black vote
MARGARET KIMBERLEY: Good morning, and power to the people, and [inaud.] and praise God. Cover it all.
KIMBERLEY: A few days ago Bill Clinton made headlines by helping his wife look worse than she had already done on her own. They are a tag team, and every day one of them volunteers to put a foot firmly in their mouth and remind everyone how awful they are. On this particular occasion, Bill Clinton was interrupted by protesters who rightly pointed out that his 1994 crime bill vastly increased the numbers of Black people behind bars. But Bill Clinton, being Bill Clinton, reacted angrily and accused the protesters of defending gang members and killers and drug dealers. And before this I had already written that if he wants to help his wife he should stay off the campaign trail altogether, but he won’t, and keeps proving me right. but there’s a bigger point to be made about the Clintons and Bernie Sanders and how black people respond to them and to the Democratic Party. And I have to confess, I guess I’m in a church, I should, but I and other people still voted for Bill Clinton. And this was after the crime bill, after the welfare reform bill, after all of the horrible politics that he inflicted on the country and the world. I was that typical, fearful Black voter, and I voted for Democrats no matter what, and I was not alone. Now, having awakened from that slumber, I’m proud to say that now I don’t feel the Bern, and I’m not with Hillary, and I won’t be voting for either one of them in November,
KIMBERLEY: But I also argue that voting for Clinton isn’t any worse than voting for Barack Obama, and I’m here to say that we must stop this losing proposition altogether. We have to stop voting for the Democrats.
KIMBERLEY: And that will be the first step towards liberation and self-determination for Black people. When Bernie Sanders began the election season with a draw in Iowa and a victory in New Hampshire, the foolishness that substitutes for Black politics today came out into the open in all of its awful glory. It was just ridiculous. First, there was a photo from 50 years ago showing a white man at a protest, and there was this whole thing, was it Bernie Sanders? Was it not Bernie Sanders? He wasn’t the one in that particular photo, but there was a photo of him at another rally. It really was him, and yes, he was active with CORE in Chicago, and Hillary’s family were republicans and she was a Goldwater girl. And this information may be interesting to some people, but frankly there’s nothing there. It’s not unusual for people of their age to have been in marches or to have been raised by Republicans and become a Democrat. The real issue is, what does any of this have to do with black people? And at this moment the Congressional Black Caucus was true to form, and for the reasons that Glen just stated, they stuck with Hillary Clinton and they got their political action committee to endorse her. Now, that is their arm which lobbies with Big Pharma and cigarette makers, but it’s a distinction without a difference. The endorsement gave the appearance of CBC members endorsing Clinton, and they didn’t disappoint. Charles Rangel, whose district we’re now in, said that he didn’t know any Black people who knew Bernie Sanders. John Lewis, who gets a lot of mileage out of being called a civil rights icon, said he didn’t know Bernie Sanders from back in the day, but he did know Bill and Hillary, except not really at that moment, but he did meet them later on. Then, of course, Al Sharpton, when he senses somebody else might be president he rears his ugly [head]. He had lunch with Sanders at Sylvia’s, but he looked, Sanders looked a little uncomfortable being in Al’s embrace, and he ought to. But all of this is part of the hoax that we go through every four years, the hoax of the presidential election, and I call it a hoax because it gives an illusion that the Us is a democracy and that the people have a voice. But we know that it is no such thing, because we never get what we want from the political system. And the second part of that hoax concerns Black people in particular. We live in fear of many things that are not issues for other people. We’re afraid of the police, afraid of losing our jobs, and we’ll hear later today, we’re afraid of getting kicked out of our homes by gentrification, but when election years come around we are most afraid of Republicans, as Glen Ford just described them, the white people’s party. And we have reason to be fearful, but feeling as if we have no recourse other than to continue in allegiance to the Democrats, when they do us no good and certainly no answer to our problems. This year we have an interesting situation with the rise of Bernie Sanders. One candidate was declared the frontrunner because of fundraising powers and name recognition and a seeming certainty of victory, and of course I mean Hillary Clinton, and that perceived frontrunner status made her a favorite among the always anxious Black voter, but, Hillary being Hillary, she wore out her welcome as soon as the campaign season began. Her high-handedness, her tone-deafness and the history of her own and her husband’s corruption made discerning voters think twice and take a look at Bernie Sanders. Now, Sanders has called himself a socialist. Now he refers to himself as a social democrat, but he stated for the record that he’s not in favor of public ownership of the means of production, so he isn’t a socialist at all. He’s just a Democrat. But the party has moved so far to the right over the years that anyone sounding like most Democrats sounded 40 or 50 years ago gets, is able to call themselves a leftist, even when they’re no such thing. Now, Hillary Clinton is leading in the delegate count, mostly because of overwhelming victory in the Southern states. There are few, if any, white Democrats in the South, so that means Black voters stuck with the status quo. Sanders supporters then proceeded to ask what was wrong with those crazy Black people, don’t they love Bernie like they do, but it’s the wrong question to ask if we’re interested in self-determination. The bigger issue is why we’re still allowing ourselves to be herded like sheep into the arms of the Democrats again. We have so little to show for being the most constituency that they have. And that question should be our emphasis, not trying to figure out if Bernie is better than Hillary. In any case, saying that he is is damning with faint praise and weeding down the path of the impossible, which is to try to find a better Democratic politician. But the Sanders phenomenon is useful in that it lays bare the hollowness of what [passes] for the left in the United States. Even people who had supposedly staked out a position on the left are showing their true, fair weather colors. The New York primary is going to be held in a couple of weeks, and I noticed something interesting happening. New York has closed primary, and that means only registered Democrats can vote for Hillary or Bernie, and as that deadline approached I began to see that people who were registered as Green Party members were publicly stating they were going to change their affiliation to the Democrats in order to vote for Bernie. Now, if you’re registered as a Green, why do you want to vote for a Democrat at all? And you do that because you aren’t really a Green, you’re just a disaffected Democrat who lives in hope that somewhere, somehow someone more likable is going to show up. So Bernie Sanders is their dream guy. So, Sanders supporters are people who have, for a long time, been disaffected for the Democrats, and now there is a crisis because many of them say they won’t support Hillary if she gets the nomination, and some of them say we need a third party. But if they believed in that, there are already third and fourth and fifth and sixth parties in the country that people in most states can vote for. You can vote for the Greens, and Communist and the social worker party, or you can help build one of those parties. You can talk about the National Black Independent Party that existed some 30 years ago, but it just shows you that people aren’t really interested in change at all. It’s interesting to see how even people who are worthy of respect show that they, too, are afraid. They’re afraid of change, or they don’t want to put themselves on the line, or they’re in denial about the nature of the Democrats, or they were just phonies and hypocrites all along. And I don’t know which of these categories people like Angela Davis belong in, but she and other people have been, ever since the rise of Obama, making bizarre, foolish statements about him, and her descent began when she ruined her good name by endorsing him in 2008. But she didn’t just say she supported him. In 2010, for example, she made a strange claim that he hadn’t raised a lot of money. She said he was elected despite the power of money. Now, she’s a smart woman, so she must know that he raised four times as much as John McCain did in 2008, but having had that embarrassing experience she and others now claim they’re not in the endorsing business anymore, and this is what she said a couple weeks ago, quote, endorsing? I don’t endorse. But let me say, to be frank, I never voted for one of the major parties until Barack Obama. I believe in independent politics. I think we need a new party, a party that is grounded in labor, a party that can speak to all of the issues around racism, sexism, homophobia, transphobia and what is happening in the world. We don’t have that party yet, end quote. Well, as I said, we do have such parties. What are Davis and other people waiting for? Do they think someone’s going to bestow a party on them? Or do they really not believe anything they say? And the truth is, they’ll never leave the Democrats because they don’t want to. They dope to see some kind of change somewhere, but nothing outside of the bounds of what they think is acceptable, and they don’t want to put themselves on the line. Davis may have declined to endorse Sanders, but that silly doublespeak is emblematic of the Sanders phenomenon, and why so many people are attracted to him. Sanders is the Obama of 2016. He has pulled off quite a marketing coup. He isn’t a socialist, but markets himself as a socialist to people who also are not socialists, but they feel better thinking of themselves that way.
KIMBERLEY: So, everyone is in on the big lie. The Sanders campaign website asks the question, are you ready to start a political revolution? Sanders is marketing the word revolution the same way he’s marketing the word socialist. Revolution has different meanings, but voting for Democrats doesn’t meet that definition by any standard anywhere. We know what Revolutions look like. America had a revolution. It was a counterinsurgency to make sure that slavery would be safe, should the British choose to end it. It was a reactionary revolution, but it was certainly a fundamental, systemic change. Russia had a revolution. China had a revolution. Cuba had a revolution. Grenada attempted one. Ukraine had a right-wing revolution a couple of years ago. You get the idea. There’s nothing about voting for a liberal-ish Democrat that fits anyone’s definition of a revolution, but you need not be involved in a struggle of those dimensions in order to be a revolutionary. It would be revolutionary to campaign against the Democratic Party, or to work for a social movement that is not aligned with a political campaign. It would be revolutionary to keep campaigning against the current president, even though he has only nine months left in office. Now, Barack Obama raises another problem with the Bernie-loving Hillary haters group. They rightly revile the Clintons about mass incarceration, welfare reform, killing Muammar Gaddafi and any number of crimes, but none of them will raise their voice against Barack Obama, who is just as culpable as Hillary and Bill. Obama could have freed thousands of Black people imprisoned by the Clinton-era, draconian drug sentencing laws, but he chose not to. The fair sentencing act reduced the crack/powder cocaine disparity, which put so many Black people away for sometimes decades in prison, but it did nothing for those sentenced before its passage. Those people have no right to even request re-sentencing, in part because the Obama Justice Department filed court briefs against doing just that. Estimates vary, but Obama could have freed anywhere between five thousand and eight thousand Black people in one fell swoop, and having said that, I’m not going to wait for Black Lives Matter to take him on, publicly or privately, either. Why doesn’t anyone protest when Obama speaks? He has contributed to the Clinton Era criminality, and he has done so without facing any of the hostility directed at the Clintons. It is true that, as Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton made war against Libya, killed its president and then laughed about it on camera, but she worked for Barack Obama when the crime was carried out. She had his approval every step of the way. She pressured the Haitian government to lower the minimum wage from 62 cents to 30 cents an hour, but again, her boss gave the go-ahead. She and Obama claim the right to carry out extrajudicial killings, even of Americans, and they killed Anwar Al-Awlaki and his teenage son. And if that doesn’t merit protest, I don’t know what does. So now Sanders is the flavor of the month for liberals, and he has become so with little assist from Black voters. So, the blame game has begun in earnest by all those feeling the Bern. What’s wrong with Black people? Don’t they see he’s wonderful? So Black people shouldn’t be voting for Hillary Clinton, but they shouldn’t vote for Bernie either. He also makes appeals to the Black community, as Glen says, appearing as the more inclusive party when they’re not. He knows how to seize on Black people’s concerns. We now have this phenomenon of the families of Black lynching victims endorsing this one or that one. His campaign produced a video featuring Erica Garner, the daughter of the man whose murder we witnessed on television as he pleaded that he could not breathe. Now, Miss Garner is free to endorse him if she wants, but I don’t see any evidence that killer police have any reason to fear a Sanders presidency. On his website he says, you know, nonsense. Communities don’t trust the police, law enforcement is disconnected, this is unacceptable, and then he says, we need a societal transformation to make it clear that Black lives matter and racism will not be accepted. We don’t need a societal transformation to end police brutality. We need a president who will use the power of the office to prosecute killer cops. But all he does is repeat trite phrases when he should be saying that he will empower the Civil Rights Division of the Justice Department to bring justice. There’s this laundry list of trivialities, demilitarize the police, invest in community policing, increase civilian oversight, whatever that means, create a culture where the good cop can report on the bad cop. Police forces should be diverse, a model training program, count how many people the police kill every year, but this can best be summed up as blah, blah and blah. And this is the person that people are trying to see as some sort of a savior. So, in effect, Sanders is Clinton and Obama all over again. Yes, Hillary Clinton made a groveling and bloodthirsty speech before the pro-Israel lobby at the AIPAC convention while Sanders is more of a mealy-mouthed Zionist, but he also says, when asked, drones are okay, just don’t use them so much. But he also said Hugo Chávez was a dead communist dictator. The only true thing in that statement is Chávez is dead, but he wasn’t a communist. He wasn’t a dictator. He says Vladimir Putin has to be contained when it’s the United States that has to be contained. But a lot of this love for Sanders is an attempt to assuage guilt from supporting Clinton and Obama. After having destroyed, Obama was interviewed in the Atlantic magazine, the Obama Doctrine. It has his face on the cover looking, you know, like a model or something. And he said, after destroying Libya with the help of jihadists like ISIS, who we’re now told are the enemy, he blames Britain and France for the whole mess. There certainly is no honor among thieves. And in this interview it said that he privately refers to Libya as the shit storm, like it had nothing to do with him. Somebody just messed up somewhere. But where is the outrage? Why nickname Hillary as Killary but not find a pithy name for the killer Barack Obama? Bill and Hillary are so easy to hate, but it isn’t easy to explain why he was elected and re-elected with so much enthusiasm from Black people. His racist statements and hers are no worse than Obama’s. Obama used dog whistle politics and talked over Black people’s heads straight to white people. There’s no reason to hate her for the same behavior exhibited by him, but Clinton’s ability to get away with putting Black people in jail or ending what was once a 60-year right to public assistance has to be examined. How did most of us say nothing, or even applaud these actions? The truth is that Black people led by the misleaders also revel in respectability politics, and we’re eager to join white people in beating up the poor, and with disastrous consequences. It’s easy to point figures, but it’s much easier to call names at the Clintons [than] to ask why they succeeded with so little opposition from the people. It’s easier to say Feel the Bern than to ask why accommodation and self-hatred were the order of the day and Black people in jail or on public assistance were so readily despised by so many of us. But we’re propagandized about a lot of things, and we’re propagandized into voting and dissuaded from doing anything else. Black people, in particular, are taught to worship the act of voting and not to respect the movement politics which accomplished so much. What are we told every four years? We’re reminded that people died so we might have the right to vote. Yes, people died in the struggle against America’s apartheid, which included the right to the franchise, but I don’t think they died so that we could die for the same foolishness every four years. They died for our freedom and for our citizenship rights.
KIMBERLEY: So, as Glen pointed out, there’s nothing wrong with watching the two parties fall apart. In fact, there’s a lot of reason to be happy. Trump’s campaign may lead to an end of the Republicans as we know them. Hillary could provide more of the same unless the Sanders people make good on their pledge to bolt the party if she wins the nomination, but I’m doubtful about their willingness to fight. Their opposition to her has taken on cartoonish overtones. In Arizona recently, Arizona cut 70 percent of its polling places, and, as intended, the result was chaos on primary day. But Arizona was one of those states that had to get permission from the Justice Department to make any election changes, but the Supreme Court gutted the Voting Rights Act which ended that requirement. Did the Sanders people talk about the Supreme Court, and how their guy would change it? No. Did they talk about making voting a constitutional right? No. They said somehow Hillary Clinton was behind it all, even though Arizona’s a red state. But that’s about as much as they amount to. So, in closing, I’m getting a sign. So, early in the campaign season, our Black Agenda Report editor, Bruce Dixon, called Bernie Sanders a sheep dog, and he predicted that he would play the role of other liberals in presidential campaign. They create an excitement for the purpose of keeping progressives in the party, but in the end they always endorse the nominee. And Bruce and the rest of BAR took some heat for that, and people were offended, and how dare we say such a thing? But just two days ago Sanders was asked if he will endorse Clinton if she wins the nomination and he said, sure I will. Look, as I said a million times, I think the idea of a Trump or a Cruz presidency will be a disaster. I’ll do everything in my power and work as hard as I can to make sure that doesn’t happen, and if she’s the nominee I’ll support her. So, there you have it. Democrat after Democrat demeaning, insulting, imprisoning Black people, none of them willing to fight on our behalf, and we pay the price of continuing down the same old rabbit hole time and time again. So, in closing, I’ll just say this. There is no self-determination with Bernie Sanders or anyone else in the quadrennial duopoly sham. Thank you very much.
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