It was an outdoor event for Bernie Sanders in Seattle. Just as Sanders began his speech before several thousand supporters activists for BlackLivesMatter overtook the stage. Sanders retreated, abandoning the stage to the activists. Amid boos and shouts the activists demanded a moment of silence for Michael Brown, killed by police in Ferguson Missouri a year to the day earlier. Calling Sanders supporters a bunch of white racists, the activists were a gift the Clinton campaign. But what if they were something else? What if they represented an attack by Clinton on Sanders? There is a history that supports that theory.
Bernie Sanders is a distraction for Hillary Clinton. On August 5th it became only too clear to her campaign that the distraction had in fact become a threat. He has real momentum, as a virtually every poll of likely voters found Sanders and Clinton in a statistical dead heat. More alarming for the Clinton camp is that those numbers show Sanders’ numbers continuing to rise as confidence in Mrs. Clinton continues to fall. The attitude of the Clinton camp is that she will be the democratic party’s nominee, and major forces are aligning behind Clinton to ensure that inevitability. The Clinton campaign’s number one task is to deliver a decisive blow to Sanders.
Sanders’ Achilles heel is his lack of recognition within the Black community. It represents a substantial weakness, as the Black vote is critical going into the primaries, but more so for the general. Hillary lags behind and even is perceived as insincere on economic issues. In the past she courted banks and financial interests, while Sanders has been consistent about those institutions and their legacy in bringing about the financial collapse of 2007-2008, which decimated millions of middle class and poor families. Sanders has helped to drive her to a more public position of holding Wall street accountable, even while she still courts those same interests.
The facture point is in the BlackLivesMatter movement. That movement has succeeded in highlighting the singular disparity in police shootings of Blacks versus any other racial or ethnic group in the country. A Black man is seven times more likely to be shot by police than a white person. Getting to a proper comprehension of that issue poses challenges to many in the white community who have no cultural reference to the Black experience in America. Martin O’Malley found that out abruptly at a campaign stop in Arizona when interrupted by a black lives matter activist when he proclaimed that “all lives matter.” Sanders was forced off the stage at the same event. The reaction by both candidates did little to increase their profile in the Black community.
The Arizona Netroots Nation event, moderated by Jose Antonio Vargas, an undocumented immigrant, was focused on immigration, in a state in which police have pursued an anti-immigrant agenda. She is trailing Sanders in the immigration debate, adamantly opposing illegal immigration but supporting TPP and remaining silent on corporate transgressors, both of which are directly responsible for driving undocumented immigration.
Here is the interesting part: Bernie Sanders has been the target of two high profile disruptions, covered extensively on the corporate press and on social media, as if to make the case on how poorly in touch with the Black community Sanders appears. Unlike Arizona, sanders did not immediately leave the stage until it was obvious that the protesters were not going to allow him to speak, understanding that the imagery of BlackLivesMatter protesters being dragged off the stage would have been potentially devastating. But Sanders can point to a half Century of work for race issues and neglected communities, including an arrest in Chicago over fair housing practices.
Hillary made the same mis-speak in June, following the tragedy in Charleston when she said that “All Lives Matter,” while speaking at a Black Church. Despite that she has not faced the same disruptions that have dogged Sanders in particular. Whether or not that has been a deliberate tactic to drive Sanders out of the race is yet to be seen. There is, however, a history by Hillary Clinton in this sort of all out political warfare. In that fight her campaign has always gone for the jugular. While establishment democrats and progressives are keen to warn constituents and voters against the so-called circular firing squad in criticizing fellow dems, Hillary Clinton has shown an inclination in destroying adversaries and their supporters regardless of party affiliation. This is her last shot at a run for the white house. Those long knives are apparently out and quicker than ever.
Recall, it was Hillary Clinton’s campaign who began the “birther movement” to undermine the Obama campaign. The campaign also circulated the now infamous Obama “Turban” photo, meant to portray Obama as both a non-citizen and as a Muslim as a means of playing on base nationalism and bigotry. It was attorneys acting in support of Clinton who first raised erroneous doubts regarding Obama’s eleigibility(http://canadafreepress.com/article/22345). At the end of July the Clinton campaign began its outreach to Black Lives Matter leaders led by Clinton Black outreach director LaDavia Drane. On July 25th Drane attended the Movement for Black Lives convention in Cleveland, which saw some 1400 attendees. BuzzFeed confirmed from the Clinton campaign that Drane held “one on one meetings” with key figures (http://www.buzzfeed.com/darrensands/clinton-campaign-starts-black-lives-matter-outreach#.pxv5VPoJ7). Opel Tometi, founder of the group that disrupted the Netroots event expressed an interest in meeting with Drane. This from her Twitter following the event:
opal tometi @opalayo Jul 27
opal tometi retweeted Tana Hargest
Nah, Clinton camp absolutely did not meet with #BlackLivesMatter. https://t.co/pam8V0Yh8U
opal tometi added,
Tana Hargest @TanaHargest
Clinton’s black engagement dir. LaDavia Drane attended #M4BL & didn’t meet w/@aliciagarza @osope or @opalayo Huh??? https://twitter.com/katherinemiller/status/625496183360892929 …
Tometi is a tireless activist, for both immigrant and African American rights. It seems likely that two events disrupting Bernie Sanders, just as his momentum is proving a substantial threat to Clinton’s designs on the white house are coincidental, a lack of organization or the open door policy of Sanders events in welcoming everyone. By contrast Hillary maintains strict order in every environment, even roping away reporters. Hillary events, it should be noted, are virtual fortresses, usually requiring mandatory donations to get within eyesight of the candidate. Still, Sanders’ immediate reaction was to hire a new press secretary, a Black woman and active supporter of the BlackLivesMatter movement, Symone Sanders. It at least communicates an effort to squarely address issues critical to progressives and the Left.
Tia Oso, who works alongside, Opel Tometi, and who took the stage and microphone in Arizona tweeted earlier this month that, “Hillary has been getting protests. There is likely a demonstration in front of her HQ every day.” That may describe the true problem. The Black community is the battleground between Sanders and Clinton. For Sanders, the reaction by his predominantly white base may become his biggest weakness. That base was clearly upset by the Seattle disruption, sparking a social media battle that may drive away Black voters and BLM activists. In Chicago, so-called progressive radio station WCPT’ drive-time host Norman Goldman was livid about the affront to Sanders.
For Hillary it may just be hollow words to a community exhausted and cynical about hollow words and focus group responses at a time when deaths of Blacks at the hands of police seem to be on the rise rather than…
As one activists put it on Twitter, echoing a theme and strategy of oppressed peoples everywhere. “When oppression is the #statusquo, disruption is a moral duty.”