Super Tuesday stunned progressives, but sustained grassroots organizing in Southern Black communities might have produced better results. Progressive outreach has made the mistakes of avoiding people of faith and ignoring race for years.
Story TranscriptThis is a rush transcript and may contain errors. It will be updated. Jacqueline Luqman: This is Jacqueline Luqman with Real News Network. Progressives are understandably stunned after the recent Super Tuesday results. What makes it worse is that we now have to deal with the insufferable moderate democratic operatives, surrogates talking heads and supporters gloating about the improbable comeback of Joe Biden, but I think we also have to have an honest conversation about the things Progressive’s need to do better and the things they need to stop doing. Progressives, you cannot discount black voters in the South who are people of faith. Listen, I’m not making up a problem here. I’ve been very active in progressive organizing online and in real life, and I am here to tell you the disdain for religion in left circles is palpable and it is a turnoff. It is also just bad politics and it is something that the GOP has been running rings around the Democrats in for decades. For 50 years, the GOP has been doing on-the ground grassroots organizing of the worst kind in churches, the very places that Democrats don’t want to show up in until they want black voters to check a box next to their name on Election Day. People, and I mean Progressives and Leftists, don’t even understand how badly they’ve been outmaneuvered by the GOP in grassroots organizing. Before the 1970s, white evangelical Christians were pretty apolitical. They weren’t involved in politics much at all. They weren’t preaching about saving the soul of America from most of their pulpits. They weren’t even preaching about abortion, gay marriage or anything else remotely political. Then along came Jerry Falwell and his moral majority that tied Christianity, at least white fundamentalist Christianity, to the Republican Party. Falwell’s moral majority opposed Jimmy Carter, who himself was an open Baptist, but his faith drove his views to be more liberal, pushing more for racial equality, well, to some degree. We know that Carter wasn’t into forcing black and white people to live in the same neighborhoods, he did say that. But Carter was interested in fighting economic inequality and he was focusing on the advancement of human rights. Jimmy Carter: No member can avoid, this responsibility is to review and to speak when torture or unwarranted deep privation occurs in any part of the world. The basic thrust of human affairs points toward a more universal demand for fundamental human rights. The United States has a historical birthright to be associated with this process. We in the United States accept this responsibility in the fullest and the most constructive sense. Ours is a commitment and not just a political posture. Jacqueline Luqman: The socially conservative opposition to Carter’s presidency manifested itself through Falwell’s moral majority and their opposition to Carter’s policies, and they threw their full support behind the fiscally and socially conservative presidency of Ronald Reagan even though Reagan’s moral failings were directly counter to what any Christian teachings would indicate a man of good character should be. Reagan had been divorced. He had terrible relationships with his children, they really did not like him and he didn’t really attend church much himself. But the moral majority championed his presidency and his policies, and he championed them. Driven largely by the fear that an America that really never existed was slipping away, Falwell’s moral majority pushed an ideology among white evangelicals that they were the last line of defense in stopping the gays, the blacks, the abortionists, the feminists, the communists, and the Leftists from turning America into something that they would not recognize. Their argument was never really about Christian values, not real ones. Because again, Jimmy Carter, a professed born-again Christian who taught Sunday school, and he still does by the way, espoused more of those Christian values when he would often quote the late theologian Reinhold Neibuhr in saying that, “The sad duty of politics is to establish justice in a sinful world.” No, the moral majority’s argument was really about power and dominance. Morality had nothing to do with it. In fact, the moral majority movement really arose out of opposition to the IRS ruling against Christian fundamentalist Bob Jones University for their policy against interracial dating on campus. Politically conservative operatives like Paul Weyrich, who are already mobilizing voter suppression and disenfranchisement efforts to sway elections for the GOP, seized on the ruling and framed the IRS revocation of the Christian schools tax-exempt status in 1971 as an attack on “religious liberty”. That’s where that phrase came from. Paul Weyrich: … have what I call Goo-goo Syndrome, good government. They want everybody to vote. I don’t want everybody to vote. Elections are not won by a majority of people. They never have been from the beginning of our country and they are not now. As a matter of fact, on the leverage in the election quite candidly goes up as the voting populace goes down. Jacqueline Luqman: And politically conservative, so-called religious leaders like Jerry Falwell pick that ball up and ran with it in their churches making protecting religious liberty the rallying cry for mobilizing the silent majority of white evangelical Christians to vote for conservative Republicans in every election for the next 50 years, and not just national elections but local and state elections too. Almost all of that organizing was done in churches and a lot of it was done in the South. So the GOP has been consistently out organizing the Democratic Party using the best tactics for the worst reasons. But largely ambivalent to people of faith, Democrats have notoriously stayed away from faith communities, especially black faith communities, until campaign season when they show up to sit in someone’s pulpit and ask the congregation to vote for them, sitting there clapping out a sink to gospel songs they don’t even know the words to. We see you all. You don’t know those words. But even worse, Progressives don’t seem to even bother, too often being openly hostile to people of faith, writing them all off as ignorant believers of an invisible sky God, so they don’t take those people seriously and they don’t reach out to them at all. I’ve experienced some of this hostility personally in talking with my Progressive and Leftist comrades. And I got to tell you all, if you want black people to vote for Progressive politicians, you have to stop disparaging and disregarding black people of faith. But the other thing that I see as a serious problem that the Progressive Left has to stop doing if it wants to win black support is that you have to let go of this, “It’s class, not race” argument. You cannot get black people to vote for your candidates if you keep telling them that the issues that they live in their everyday lives, that make their everyday lives harder do not matter. This is especially true with our elders who have lived through the open brutality of Jim Crow and the decades of grudging integration and the hostile resentment of white people that followed. You cannot tell older black people that the racism they faced all their lives does not matter and that they have to be satisfied with policies that do not address the harm they’ve experienced because of it. Every time you tell those it’s class, not race, you’re telling them to get over their experiences with racism but in a nice progressive way. Honestly, this is no better than what the GOP says and does. And that’s not to say that Biden or any other centrist Democrat is actually going to have any real policies to address those issues, but at the very least, they acknowledge that race is an issue. They acknowledge that racism is an issue. Progressives, you have to at least do that. And actually, you have to do more. And young folks, if you’re excited about your candidate, you’ve got to leave the rallies and online discussions, and stand in those long lines and put up with the chicanery of the Democratic Party and the shenanigans of the media, and put your enthusiasm and excitement on the ground. You got to do more than argue with people on Twitter about ideology. You’ve got to make your case to people in real life. That is what organizing is, Progressives and Leftists, and that is how a real revolution is built.
Production: Jacqueline Luqman
Post-Production: Oscar León, Taylor Hebden