Bernie Sanders’ big test: Can he learn from his Netroots Nation conflict with Black Lives Matter activists?

The 73-year-old socialist got where he is by sticking to his guns. But his righteousness stunts his political reach

Bernie Sanders’ big test: Can he learn from his Netroots Nation conflict with Black Lives Matter activists?

Desiree Griffiths demonstrates at a Miami protest, Dec. 5, 2014; Bernie Sanders (Credit: AP/Lynne Sladky/Carolyn Kaster)

Sen. Bernie Sanders is who he is: a 73-year-old socialist inured to being told he’s wrong, politically, who’s developed an ironclad hold on the conviction that he’s right. So it’s not surprising that he’s resisting learning lessons from his early campaign stumbles at winning support from African Americans and Latinos.

If you’re a Sanders fan, part of what you like about him is that he sticks to his guns. In fact, Sanders fans are a lot like him: used to being on the political margins, they’ve learned to take refuge in the knowledge of their righteousness, which eases the sting of being perpetually in the political minority.

Unfortunately, the mutually reinforcing self-righteousness of Sanders and his supporters is a liability for his promising presidential campaign. Sanders has a genuine problem with the Democratic Party’s African American and Latino base, and no amount of insisting that class supersedes race will change that. I wrote about it last month, and got a ton of pushback from Sanders backers. Then came the conflict at Netroots Nation on Saturday, where Sanders was heckled by Black Lives Matter protesters.

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#BlackLivesMatter co-founder warns presidential candidates: ‘We will shut down every single debate

[This is another in series on electoral politics. In the US, every four years, presidential elections are theatrically staged, designed to confuse and disrupt popular movements against class exploitation and racial oppression, and other democratic movements. The elections claim to be the way democracy works, and people must vote for politicians to represent their interests. Whoever wins, the people’s interests have been lost in the shuffle, and their independence and political initiative and action has been suffocated or destroyed. As the 2016 election candidacies begin to control the political imaginations of millions, a fight-back begins to grow.  In this report of a Black Lives Matter protest at a Bernie Sanders campaign event, a BLM leader says no politician deserves automatic support (but leaves open the option for later). — Frontlines ed.]

Black Lives Matter protesters in New York City (Shuttershock)

Black Lives Matter protesters in New York City (Shuttershock)

“He couldn’t take 15 more minutes of the heat,” Cullors said of Sanders in an interview on This Week in Blackness, making reference to the senator ending his appearance as demonstrators at the event walked out en masse.

Democrats Hope to Bury Black Lives Matter Under Election Blitz

by BAR executive editor Glen Ford

Black Agenda Report, June 10, 2015

The Democrats hope the Black Lives Matter movement, like the Occupy Wall Street movement, will disappear amid the hype of the coming election season. “The Democrats have mounted a systematic cooption-repression response that will intensify as the election season – and Black cities – heat up.” The Democrats understand that, for the movement to succeed, their party’s power over Black America must be broken.

“The movement is inevitably on a collision course with the Democratic Party, although this may not yet be clear to many activists.”

The movement that is emerging under the banner Black Lives Matter is not yet one year old, but it will be dead before it reaches the age of two if the Democratic Party has anything to say about it. The movement’s greatest challenge will be to survive the impending mass mobilization of Black Democratic officeholders and operatives in a $5 billion presidential election season.The current Black-led grassroots campaign is, in very important ways, even more vulnerable to Democratic cooptation and dismantlement than was the white-led Occupy Wall Street movement, which succumbed to a combination of Democratic infiltration and repression – on top of its own contradictions – in the early months of 2012.

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For Palestinians, there is no Obama-Netanyahu rift

 by Ali Abunimah, in Huffington Post,  02/28/2015

Palestinians do not see any substantive Obama-Netanyahu rift on life and death matters for them. But there urgently needs to be one. (Chuck Kennedy / White House Photo)

Benjamin Netanyahu’s planned speech to the United States Congress next week has led to much talk of a rift between the Israeli prime minister and the US president, and even between their two countries.

Tuesday, national security adviser Susan E. Rice said the growing partisanship regarding Israel is “destructive of the fabric of the relationship.”

Citing protocol of not meeting foreign leaders too close to an election, President Barack Obama will shun his Israeli counterpart in Washington, and Vice President Joe Biden will stay away from the joint session of Congress when Netanyahu appears.

The dispute has taken on rancorous partisan tones with more than two dozen Democratic lawmakers vowing to boycott the speech. They charge that Netanyahu’s goal is to undermine the president’s diplomacy with Iran, and that Republican House Speaker John Boehner invited the Israeli leader to defy and humiliate the White House.

Yet all those objecting to the speech, whether in the United States, or Netanyahu’s rivals at home, where he faces an election next month, protest that their concern is to guarantee US-Israeli relations on whose strength the very future of Israel is said to hang.

But what all this sound and fury misses is that for the Palestinians, there is no meaningful Obama-Netanyahu rift. Indeed US-Israeli relations have never been stronger, nor more damaging to the prospects for peace and justice and for the very survival of the Palestinian people.

Just look at the recent record. Last December, the Palestinian Authority put forward a tepid resolution in the UN Security Council that did little more than repeat long-standing US policy on the outlines of a two-state solution. Obama’s UN ambassador Samantha Power marshaled all her resources to defeat it.

She claimed that the resolution was “deeply imbalanced” and took “no account of Israel’s legitimate security concerns.”

The next day, after disappointed Palestinian Authority leader Mahmoud Abbas signed the treaty acceding to the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court, Obama’s State Department declared itself “deeply troubled,” accusing Palestinians of an “escalatory step” that “badly damages the atmosphere with the very people with whom they ultimately need to make peace.”

Power said the Palestinian move “really poses a profound threat to Israel.”

These words are perverse. Israel’s 51-day long attack on Gaza that left more than 2,200 people dead didn’t “damage the atmosphere” as far as the Obama administration was concerned, but any Palestinian effort to use international bodies in pursuit of justice and accountability is tantamount to an act of war.

I challenge Power to go and repeat her words to any of the 100,000 Palestinians in Gaza still living in the damp and freezing rubble of their homes, to the surviving parents of more than 500 children killed in the Israeli attack, or to the thousands who will live with lifelong injuries.

Neither the ambassador nor her president has commented on the findings of Amnesty International, which said that Israel “brazenly flouted the laws of war by carrying out a series of attacks on civilian homes, displaying callous indifference to the carnage caused.”

Few Palestinians will forget that when Israeli fire was raining down on them, the Obama administration authorized the transfer of grenades and mortar rounds to resupply the Israeli army.

Last summer’s war was something even Hamas leaders tried to avoid. After it began, armed Palestinian groups declared that their goal was a ceasefire accompanied by a lifting of the eight-year siege that has devastated Gaza’s economy and isolated its 1.8 million people from the rest of humanity.

Since the war, promises that the siege would be lifted have been broken. Billions pledged in reconstruction aid have failed to materialize. As a result, cash-strapped UNRWA, the UN agency for Palestine refugees, has suspended repairs on Gaza homes.

Israel’s view tends to be unquestioningly echoed by US officials and media: that Palestinians are at fault for the repeated surges of violence.

Yet even senior Israeli leaders and officers have often acknowledged that Palestinian armed groups, especially Hamas, have meticulously stuck to ceasefire agreements, as they are doing currently.

Despite this, the US put no pressure on Israel to end the years-long blockade.

As a result, the lesson Palestinians have repeatedly learned is that whether they fight or stay quiet, Israel will be allowed to do as it pleases. It can besiege and slaughter them in Gaza, seize and colonize their land in the West Bank, deprive them of their most fundamental rights, and Obama will have Israel’s back.

Just because Obama, Netanyahu and their partisan followers may be peeved at each other does not change the basic dynamic of full US support for Israel’s occupation of millions of Palestinians, the continuation of which guarantees ongoing suffering with regional repercussions.

Sure enough, despite the supposed rift, the US is proceeding with the sale of more of the most advanced F-35 fighter jets to Israel.

That’s why Palestinians do not see any substantive Obama-Netanyahu rift on life and death matters for them. But there urgently needs to be one.

It is long past time for the American people and their representatives to challenge Israel on its seemingly permanent subjugation of the Palestinians.

This post was first published by The Huffington Post.

Neo-Liberals be Damned — Let the Democrats Rot

by ROB URIE, CounterPunch

When considering elections in the U.S. the tendency is for voters to look at the issues placed in front of them rather than at history, political trajectory and who it is that chooses the issues? On their face Republicans, broadly considered, are more direct shills for the worst of the corporate-state— Wall Street, multi-national oil and gas companies, munitions manufacturers and replacement of any and all democratic tendencies with corporate interests. This written, Democrats have been the cleverer proponents of these same interests, the clean-up crew that poses state support as response to ‘natural’ catastrophes that are exactly and precisely the product of self-cannibalizing corporate-state capitalism.

Eleicoes no Brasil

The cartoonist Latuff’s commentary on the elimination of independent and opposition politics, when embracing electoral illiusions and voting. The cartoon was produced in response to the false choices offered the people in Brazil’s elections this year

Political strategy within the mainstream, the choice between slower or faster decay, leaves out of its calculation the possibility of break and rupture that are the most likely ends. Wall Street, which counts ‘both’ political parties in the U.S. as wholly owned subsidiaries, has had three crises of increasing magnitude in as many decades. The oil mafia, the CIA-MI5-BP-Exxon Mobil-military oil and gas establishment, is launching wars at increasing cost with decreasing results except inasmuch as human and environmental catastrophes sustain it. And the ‘political’ establishment that sits metaphorically atop this morass retains public attention only through infinite iterations of manufactured cultural difference.

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US: “The Progressive Movement is a PR Front for Rich Democrats”

Counterpunch, Weekend Edition March 15-17, 2013

Paid to Lose

by JOHN STAUBER

A major concentration of the "Progressive Movement" -- the makeover of imperialism from Bush to Obama

A major concentration of the “Progressive Movement” — the makeover of imperialism from Bush to Obama

There is good news in the Boston Globe today for the managers, development directors, visionaries, political hacks and propaganda flacks who run “the Progressive Movement.”   More easy-to-earn and easy-to-hide soft money, millions of dollars,  will be flowing to them from super rich Democrats and business corporations.  It will come clean, pressed and laundered through Organizing for Action, the latest incarnation of the Obama Money Machine which has recently morphed into a “nonpartisan non-profit corporation” that will  ‘‘strengthen the progressive movement and train our next generation of leaders.’’

Does this information concern you?  If not, you need to get out of the propaganda bubble of your Progressive Movement echo chamber and think.  Think hard.  Think about fundamental, radical, democratic, social and economic change, who might bring it about and how.  Ask yourself if the the rich elite, the 1%, are going to fund that.   Leave The Nation and Mother Jones on the shelf;  turn off Ed Schultz, Rachel Madow and Chris Hayes;  don’t open that barrage of email missives from Alternet, Media Matters, MoveOn, and the other think tanks;  and get your head out of the liberal blogosphere for a couple days.  Clear your mind and consider this:

The self-labeled Progressive Movement that has arisen over the past decade is primarily one big propaganda campaign serving the political interests of the the Democratic Party’s richest one-percent who created it.  The funders and owners of the Progressive Movement get richer and richer off Wall Street and the corporate system.  But they happen to be Democrats, cultural and social liberals who can’t stomach Republican policies, and so after bruising electoral defeats a decade ago they decided to buy a movement, one just like the Republicans, a copy.

The Progressive Movement that exists today is their success story.  The Democratic elite created  a mirror image of the type of astroturf front groups and think tanks long ago invented, funded and promoted by the Reaganites and the Koch brothers.  The liberal elite own the Progressive Movement.  Organizing for Action, the “non-partisan” slush fund to train the new leaders of the Progressive Movement is just the latest big money ploy to consolidate their control and keep the feed flowing into the trough.

The professional Progressive Movement that we see reflected in the pages of The Nation magazine, in the online marketing and campaigning of MoveOn and in the speeches of Van Jones, is primarily a political public relations creation of America’s richest corporate elite, the so-called 1%, who happen to bleed Blue because they have some degree of social and environmental consciousness, and don’t bleed Red.  But they are just as committed as the right to the overall corporate status quo, the maintenance of the American Empire, and the monopoly of the rich over the political process that serves their economic interests. Continue reading

Black Agenda Report on what happens when you believe the hype

Doing Us Proud: Black America Has Lost Its Moral Compass

by BAR managing editor Bruce A. Dixon, Black Agenda Report, 11/07/2012

When a Bush, a McCain, or a Romney condones corporate crimes against the rest of us, lies to us, tortures and imprisons at will and murders civilians at a whim, it’s a moral disaster. When a black Democrat does it, it’s nothing personal, just business. And we are soooo proud. What’s wrong with us?

Black America Has Lost Its Moral Compass

by BAR managing editor Bruce A. Dixon

At our October 12 affair at Harlem’s Riverside Church, Black Agenda Report’s executive editor Glen Ford said that the most damning and lasting result of the Obama presidency might be that black America was losing its moral compass

Those of us, this author included, who reached adulthood in the brief eight or nine year heyday of the modern Freedom Movement got to see our elders shuck the shackles of what was proper and legal and take to the streets in defiance of evil in authority. We learned that going door to door, organizing our friends, our neighbors, our fellow workers on the job, calling meetings and demonstrations, and standing up to unjust authority, at whatever cost was the highest duty of citizenship and the only way things ever changed.

During the eight years Obama will have served in the White House, Ford observed, black youth can expect to see nothing like this. Where we learned to be skeptical of what our government, and often our elders told us, they are learning to believe, or pretend to believe whatever they’re told. Where we learned the highest goal of the struggle was improving the lives of ordinary people, they are learning that the highest goals are the big house, the prestigious career, the large lifestyle of those who serve the power and unlock the mysteries of the Market. Continue reading