by BAR managing editor Bruce A. Dixon
Black lives don't matter to elected Democrats because the Democratic party is not a membership organization of Democratic “base voters,” it's a vehicle that uses those voters to legitimize the candidates of corporate donors, to whom black lives emphatically do NOT matter.
Cleveland OH and McKinney TX Show Electing Democrats Will Never Restrain or Control the Police
by BAR managing editor Bruce A. Dixon
It's half past the seventh year of the Obama era, and the nation's policies of police terror toward black and brown communities and black mass incarceration are pretty much unchanged. More than 80,000 US prisoners remain in long-term solitary confinement, many with untreated mental illnesses, for taking part in work stoppages or hunger strikes, because they've been branded as “gang members” or so that authorities can coerce them into implicating other prisoners or themselves, The budget of the federal Bureal of Prisons has grown every year of the Obama administration, and the Department of Justice refuses to allow UN human rights inspectors to visit its supermax prisons.
After a six month victory lap, the first black attorney general has been succeeded by the first black woman in that post, to the praises of the Congressional Black Caucus and the rest of the black political class. But cops in the first black president's home town still run their own “black site” where disappearance and torture are routine. Federal officials steadfastly refuse to tally incidents of police violence. The brutalizing and killing of black people is the normal, peaceful state of business as usual, and the only disruptions to public peace occur when citizens protest. How is this possible?
It's possible because elected Democrats and their operatives call black and brown communities their “base vote,” by which they mean the support Democratic candidates can count on getting no matter what. It's possible because Republicans ecampaign on fear and contempt of the black, the brown, the foreign, the queer and poor, and because restrictive ballot access laws protect elected Democrats from competition of Greens and other parties to their left.
Even though the Democratic “base voters” are overwhelmingly against the death penalty, favor decriminalizing of petty drug use, and to the extent they've been asked, want to roll back the mass incarceration state, despite the fact they want to see debt relief, the police restrained, early voting expanded, same day registration made universal, the Pentagon budget cut, privatizations ended, and something else besides stadiums and gentrification on the table as “economic development,” no Democrat in a November election ever stands for these things. As Green 2014 NY gubernatorial candidate Howie Hawkins explains:
“There's no place Democrats in your neighborhood or town can gather for questions and answers to see how they feel about things. That's how membership organizations work, and the Democratic party is not a membership organization at all, it's a front for those who write the big checks. Instead of going to a local Democratic party meeting to decide these things, all Democrats get to do is turn on the TV to find out what their party's position on the issues is, and to hear how much worse the Republicans are, after which they get to choose somebody who's already been chosen for them.”
Activists in my native Chicago and many other cities struggled in the sixties, seventies and eighties to find and run good Democrats and hold them accountable. We were thwarted by constitutional amendments, rules changes and obstinate local officials who refused to enforce progressive laws like Motor Voter until these could be undermined and overturned. We were hobbled by the selfish laziness of the black political class, which even though its numbers grew sevenfold in a generation with enforcement of the Voting Rights Act, were too timid to use their temporary strategic advantage to push for a constitutional amendment guaranteeing the right to vote, which would at one blow overturn felony disenfranchisement and make national standards for voter registration, voting machines and how votes are counted.
When local activists threatened to take over Democratic parties in cities and run anti-corporate candidates in primary elections, those local contests where made “non-partisan” so big money could choose the candidates instead of the Democrats' “base vote.” So it was that in the early eighties we elected Harold Washington mayor, but by the end of the decade another Rich Daley was mayor for another twenty plus years. In every state legislature and the US House and Senate the speakers of the house, as well as majority and minority leaders are never chosen because of the depth of their vision. These posts go to the legislators who can reliably pass corporate donations through to compliant colleagues and who will withhold those funds from those who don't go along with the program. In 2005-2006 current Chicago mayor Rahm Emanuel headed up the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, and channeled corporate donations to pro-war Democrats running against antiwar ones, as direct a defiance of Democrat “base voters” as one could imagine.
Ten years later Democrat Rahm Emanuel is mayor of Chicago, presiding over black sites run by the Chicago Police Department, the perfect example of Democrats in office ignoring, making invisible and normalizing violence against communities of the Democrat “base voters” which elected them. It should be no surprise that Attorney General Loretta Lynch can't find room to comment, let alone act on the kind of uncontrolled and entitled violence exhibited by police in McKinney, Texas or a hundred places like it. As Brooklyn's federal district attorney the only time she prosecuted a case against NYPD was in the sodomizing of Abner Louima, when tens of thousands of New Yorkers hit the streets in protest. Her first priority in office, she declared, was be to restore the self-image of the nation's police. For her as much as any of her predecessors, civil unrest only occurs when citizens object to police violence, immunity and impunity. For her and Democratic office holders like her, black lives emphatically do not matter.
Political parties are the organizations people use to project their political will. Democrats (and Republicans too) are political parties of their donors, not their voters. Those donors have no interest in rolling back the prison state, or restraining the police. All of these are issues that will have to be taken up by some other party, if one can be formed or found.
Bruce A. Dixon is managing editor at Black Agenda Report, and a state committee member of the Georgia Green Party. He lives and works near Marietta GA and can be reached via email at bruce.dixon(at)blackagendareport.com.