The Wrong Approach

Okay, I’m going there. Sorry, but it was either this or a rant about the stupidity of ending shelter in place rules while virus cases are on the upswing.

There was a letter to the editor in the SF Chron a couple of days ago. The gist was that both the Republican and Democratic parties have utterly failed to do anything to benefit African Americans. Accordingly, the author says–in apparent seriousness–“The only remedy left for African Americans to get them out of their misery is for them to form their own national political party.”

I can only assume that the writer, Guy Vigier, is either a Trumpist looking to split the Democratic vote or completely and totally ignorant of how people think.

Forget the woeful history of third parties in American politics since the demise of the Socialist movement. Never mind the fact that the NAACP–arguably the most effective organization working for civil rights in the past century plus–hasn’t managed to gain the support of all African Americans*.

* According to their own website, they currently have a membership of “more than a half-million”.

Can you think of any better way to mobilize racist white non-voters than to give the right wing the opportunity to point Fingers of Alarm at the BLM Party candidates? “They’re coming for our jobs! They want to take over! They said so themselves!” (The identity of the “our” is left as an exercise for the reader.)

Maybe there’s something I’m missing. It’s certainly possible. I’m white. I don’t have a visceral understanding of the African American experience–I hope I have a handle on it intellectually, but I don’t have the gut-level automatic understanding that comes from living it.

Maybe a BLM Party could turn a significant chunk of the American population into active, informed voters. Even enough of the population to elect a president. I doubt they could take Congress as well, but say they do. Say they do it by such an overwhelming margin that the Supreme Court can’t find an excuse to overturn the election.

What happens next? Barring assassination, I mean, though history suggests that’s a distinct possibility. A bunch of laws get passed. Most get tied up in the courts; those that don’t will be enforced by the same police they’re intended to restrain. Anyone want to put money on the laws being fairly enforced? If there’s a way to selectively enforce them against African Americans, you better believe they’ll be used that way.

Then, two years later, with the racist right fully mobilized, Republicans recapture control of the Senate. Anyone remember how much trouble the Republican Senate caused President Obama in his last year in office?

And, of course, two years after that, President Trump (or the functional equivalent) is re-elected on his promise to give America back to the Real Americans. You know: the melanin-deficient ones.

Mr. Vigier seems to think that an “African American national political party” could somehow “hold the balance of power between the two major parties” and turn that into resources for their communities. I’ve got news for him: this is not a parliamentary system. Small blocks are largely powerless.

Hell, large blocks that aren’t the majority don’t have a whole lot of power. I suggest Mr. Vigier check back on Puerto Rico and remind himself just how little aid they got two years ago, despite the efforts of a large-but-minority chunk of Congress. How would he suggest that his hypothetical BLM office holders direct money to their communities in the face of conservative resistance and without decades of political favors to draw on for support?

It’s the opinion of this white guy that the current crisis is not going to be settled by the creation of a new political party. It’s not going to be solved in a top-down fashion. And it’s not going to be resolved–not truly–at the ballot box. If it’s ever settled, it’ll be because right-minded people of all parties–yes, including Republicans, Libertarians, Greens, Democrats, and independents–come together in their communities and create change from the bottom up. By the time national laws come about, they’ll be a recognition of the status quo.