By Bruce A. Dixon
Black Agenda Report (4/26/18)
Every two years, Democrats need a Big Black Vote, along with impressive turnouts of Latino and Latina voters, the elderly, students and young people to maintain their status as a national party. They need this turnout of their base constituencies to elect governors, members of Congress and state legislators, senators and of course the president.
So while the commanding heights of the Democratic party remain securely in the hands of the representatives of capital, empire and the deep state, Democrats must allow self-identified leftists a certain amount of room to campaign for single payer health care or something that sounds a little like it, to oppose some aspects of austerity and privatization, to champion the rights of women and LBGTQ people, or in the case of the so-called “New Poor Peoples Campaign ”, to mobilize Democratic party activists by conducting nonviolent direct action around the proposition that Republican policies, and perhaps Republican voters are morally deficient, much like Hillary’s “deplorables.”
This year, the Berniecrats , the Poor Peoples Campaign, and the Movement For Black Lives’ Electoral Justice Project among others will be deployed as components of the Democratic party’s nominally non-partisan GOTV or “Get Out The Vote” operation. It won’t be the billion dollar operation of a presidential year, but there will be significant money to spread around. The Movement For Black Lives’ Electoral Justice Project alone declared it will spend a couple million s this election cycle on state coordinator salaries alone. Add another million or two for suppoert staff and logistics and a few tens of millions more for media, and we’re talking real money here. The so-called “New Poor Peoples Campaign ” will also throw around a million or two in salaries, logistical expenditures, and media for its 40 day pageant in DC this summer.
The activists have no organizational resources to fund ongoing grassroots mobilizations, and the Democratic party has no machinery whatsoever to translate the wishes of its base voters or the grassroots activists who mobilize them into policy.
It’s not like all this money, or even most of it will be spent on local organizers who are building networks and structures in communities that will conduct political education and form lasting bodies of motivated and mobilized people. That’s a persistent illusion I recall buying into during the 80s and early 90s when I was part of the new young talent mobilized by the Democrat-affiliated “nonprofit” sector to register hundreds of thousands of new voters in Chicago. We too imagined that we could somehow jump start sustainable, internally democratic grassroots political organizations in black and Latino communities using the resources leveraged by Democratic political campaigns and their “non-partisan” GOTV and “voter education” operations. It didn’t work then, and it won’t happen now either.
Media over real organizing
Typically the decision makers, whether they are Democratic honchos or nominal non-profits are the kind of petit bourgeois folks who prefer to spend the money on media rather than local meetings and mobilizations, as some of the best connected among them get commissions or other rake-offs on media buys, and media will be the overwhelming portion of their “electoral organizing” budgets. What passes for “political education” is a joke too. Even though a great many of the grassroots activists will be DSA and others who call themselves “socialists” their mass political education, what we used to call their “mass line” is only about as sophisticated as “we’re black, we’re LGBTQ, we’re women, we’re young, we’re old, so get out there and VOTE goddammit.” That’s typically as far as “political education” during a Democrat electoral campaign goes.
Fact is, the structural reality of Democrat political campaigns does not allow for any more political education than that. The aim of political campaigns and their affiliated non-partisan voter registration and education projects is to get that big base vote out, and to let people go home to be spectators again after the election. Democratic party honchos allow, even encourage activists to make promises about ongoing mobilizations after election day to enforce “accountability” to the grassroots, promises which Democrat higher-ups know perfectly well will not be kept. The activists have no organizational resources to fund ongoing grassroots mobilizations, and the Democratic party has no machinery whatsoever to translate the wishes of its base voters or the grassroots activists who mobilize them into policy.
Tens of thousands of grassroots activists stumped for Barack Obama in 2007 and 2008 hoping they’d see single payer health care enacted. The campaign’s official body, Obama For America was to hold a series of electronically linked local meetings across the country following the new president’s inauguration. But when many of the OFA meetings trended toward demanding Medicare For All, subsequent meetings were called off, and OFA was mothballed. Democrat activists pushing for single payer, for reining in the energy companies, for justice at home and peace abroad were locked out till their pimps needed them for the next election in 2012. That’s a big part of why Democrat turnout was down in 2010 and Democrats lost both houses of Congress.
Who really calls the shot in the party
If Bernie, who’ll be 77 in 2020 runs again, the structure of the Democratic party and its non-profit affiliates would seem to dictate the same result. Bernie looks a lot safer to Democratic higher-ups than he looked in 2016. They know now that Sanders will support the eventual Democratic nominee, even if it’s a warmongering corporate shill almost as inept and incompetent as Donald Trump. They know Bernie is willing to compromise on that Medicare for All stuff too, as he has already introduced legislation that would do just that. And most of all they know Bernie, the supposed “Democratic socialist” is as deeply committed to lawless drone killings, military interventions and the permanent warfare state as are any other top establishment Democrats.
Despite whatever grassroots Democrat activists do, their party’s top shot callers remain the oligarchs of finance capital, big real estate, Big Ag, Big Pharma, the entertainment industry, military contractors and the deep state. The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, the party’s official receptacle and distribution engine for corporate contributions is funding more than 50 congressional candidates who are former military intelligence, CIA, State Department and Homeland Security operatives.
These are the people that run the Democratic party, not DSA or grassroots activists flying the Black Lives Matter flag. Democratic party pimps only need the grassroots types to get the vote out, after which a few will be rewarded and the rest chased off to the margins till next election cycle like abused spouses looking for a shelter spot. In two more years their abusers will need them again, and will pay a select few, to do “political education” and get out the vote once again. It’s an old game. Democrats officials like to call their party the oldest still operating political party on the planet, the party of Jefferson and Jackson. Some things haven’t changed in a long while, and inside that venerable party, they might not ever.
(For Black Agenda Report, this is Bruce Dixon in Atlanta GA. Find us on the web at www.blackagendareport.com, or on Soundcloud. At our web site you can subscribe to our free weekly email newsletter notifying you of new content published at Black Agenda Report, rather than relying on the undependable corporate social media of Google, Twitter and Facebook, who are known to restrict access to content with which they disagree. Bruce Dixon is managing editor at Black Agenda Report and serves on the state committee of the GA Green Party. he lives and works near Marietta GA and can be reached vial email at bruce.dixon(at)blackagendareport.com.)