Democrats rule Blacks by fear
Donald Trump, the real estate developer who plays a billionaire on television and in real life, has added new levels of sleaze and maniacal white Know-Nothingism to the U.S. electoral farce—which makes him a very useful man, indeed. Republicans can blame Trump for pulling the bar of their party’s racial discourse down to sewer levels. “Some party leaders worry that the favorable response Mr. Trump has received from the Republican electorate is luring other candidates to adopt or echo his remarks,” wrote Jonathan Martin, in Monday’s New York Times. “It is a pattern, they say, that could tarnish the party’s image among minority voters.”
To the unaided eye and ear, this election cycle’s GOP lineup is not demonstrably more, or less, racist than the 2012 crowd, but this time they can blame it on The Donald. The devil (Trump) made them do it (behave like the white supremacists they are, including Ted Cruz, Marco Rubio and Ben Carson).
Trump is even more useful to liberals and Democrats of all kinds. He is the Trumpocalypse, the guy who makes the other evils appear lesser. In this week’s New Yorker, Evan Osnos’ article “Trump and the White Nationalists” informs us: “Ever since the Tea Party’s peak, in 2010, and its fade, citizens on the American far right—Patriot militias, border vigilantes, white supremacists—have searched for a standard-bearer, and now they’ve found him.”
That may or may not be true, but the Democrats have surely found their “trump” card in The Donald, whose singular rhetorical non-flourishes make them look MLK-like in comparison. Electoral politics in the United States is comparison-shopping at its most vulgar and pointless, with Wall Street vetting the choices offered by both parties.
One of them must be The White Man’s Party. This function had been performed by the Democratic Party and its predecessors since the days of Thomas Jefferson. When the Republican Party emerged in the decade before the Civil War, the Democrats made sure to label it the “Black” party, for the sake of racial-political continuity, even though Abraham Lincoln and many, if not most, of his colleagues would have preferred that free Blacks be deported from the country, rather than elevated to full citizenship. The Democrats retained their status as the White Man’s Party in the South through the Franklin Roosevelt New Deal years until 1948, when South Carolina’s Strom Thurmond briefly bolted the party to protest the dilution of their brand by northern members pushing a civil rights plank in the platform. The Dixiecrats rebelled again in 1964, opting for Goldwater Republicanism. Richard Nixon sealed the deal in the 1968 election with his “southern strategy,” effectively transferring the White Man’s Party brand to the Republicans.
There is no Black people’s party. There have been some brief efforts at independent Black electoral politics, but they have all become imprisoned in the bifurcated muck of the Democratic Party vs. The White Man’s (Republican) Party, with Wall Street reigning over both.
If Black people in significant numbers were so foolish as to invade the Republican Party—as they did the Democratic Party in the South, following the Voting Rights Act—the GOP would repel them like foreign organisms, or create a new organization (Tea, anyone?) to reclaim the coveted White Man’s Party brand. The White Man’s Party will be a permanent contender for national electoral dominion as long as white supremacy remains the dominant ideology among white people in the U.S. (White majorities have not voted for the Not-Entirely-White Man’s Party [Democrats] in national elections since the burning baton was handed to the GOP, in 1968.)
The racial bifurcation of what is actually a Rich Man’s electoral duopoly makes the Democratic Party a trap for Black people. The subtext of the Black electoral conversation, since the founding of the Republic, has always been about protection: which party is more willing to protect Black people from the worst excesses of the most aggressive white supremacists? Certainly for the last half-century, the Democrats have won that argument largely by default, since race hate is the Republicans’ barely-muffled sales pitch.
It is fear of Republicans that holds Black people captive to the Democratic Party, not high ideals or a shared worldview or a Democratic track record of service to the group that makes up about a quarter of its members—and a lot more in the South. In the end, it all boils down to fear of the “crackers” that gather under the Republican brand.
Of course, a small Black elite actually derives some benefits from ties to the Democratic Party, in the form of patronage jobs, contracts, discretionary grants, entrée to corporate boardrooms, etc. They are the most fearful of all—afraid of losing their precarious privileges, and terrified of the instability that might result if the masses of poor Black people, especially the youth, lost their fear. The Black elite—and those that aspire for membership—cling to the Democratic Party like a lifeboat, and curse those who might abandon the vessel. They want all of us trapped in the hold.
But, that ship—like the ones that brought us to these shores—is not, and cannot possibly be, bound for freedom. Black Democrats know this full well, but they have signed on with Captain Clinton, or whomever the Party assigns, in dread of Donald Trump and the rest of the Republican pirates. The same thing will happen, with different captains, the next election cycle. Independent Black politics is forever postponed.
Maintenance of the Democratic Party amounts to preservation of the racially bifurcated Wall Street duopoly in perpetuity—and to perpetual fear. All our efforts must be dedicated to building a mass Black movement that is not just independent of the two corporate parties, but opposed to them. In the process, we will forge allies that are similarly opposed to the rule of Wall Street, here and abroad, and are respectful of our right to self-determination.
Take time to go see The Black Panthers: Vanguard of the Revolution. It will remind you of a time when some of us conquered our fear.
—Black Agenda Report, September 9, 2015