How “Progressives” in the Black Caucus Shrunk to Almost Nothing

The “Russiagate” hysteria is only the latest reason to conclude that the Democratic Party is the greatest institutional impediment to the creation of mass “resistance” to onrushing war and never-ending austerity under late-stage capitalism. Last week’s vote on the National Defense Authorization Act for fiscal year 2019 showed, by the numbers, that any legislative “resistance” depends, not on a Democratic victory in November of this year, or in 2020, or the cycle after that, but on the formation of an entirely new party. Only 59 Democrats  voted against the $717 billion Pentagon spending bill, whose passage guarantees, not only more war, but new waves of privatization and a painful spiral of doom for what’s left of the social safety net in the United States—an ultimate outcome that is fully understood by the perpetrators on both sides of the corporate duopoly.

The lopsided vote reveals that there really is no “left wing” of the Democratic Party, just a tiny, ill-defined faction that can be brushed aside even on “bright line” issues of war and peace, guns or butter, and social justice versus police repression. Since it is the Democratic half of the duopoly that claims the allegiance of the vast demographic consisting of virtually all the components of a “progressive” social base in the U.S. — components representing large majorities of the American people and the near-totality of the Black population — it is the Democrats that are to blame for the strangulation of the majority’s aspirations for a more just, equal, and peaceful society. Republican gerrymandering of legislative districts concentrates Democrat-leaning voters, but it is the Democratic Party that turns these voters’ progressive notions into mush and dust. Donald Trump didn’t make the Democrats betray the solid progressive majority of their constituents; Nancy Pelosi did, on behalf of the party’s masters on Wall Street. No rescue of “the people” is conceivable under budgets burdened with such military outlays, yet there is only token “resistance” to military spending from the Democrats, and even those that voted against the authorization still scream for war against the Russians, daily.

The 59 Democrats that opposed the Pentagon bacchanal make up just 30 percent of the 192-member Democratic Caucus in the House — a smaller group than the 78-member, and wholly bogus, Congressional Progressive Caucus. Only thirteen Black Representatives voted “Nay,” composing exactly the same 30 percent proportion of the Congressional Black Caucus . Yet Black people are the most anti-war, pro-peace and social justice, left-leaning ethnic constituency in the nation, as shown by public opinion polls going back generations. According to a Zogby poll taken weeks before the U.S. invaded Iraq in 2003, only 7 percent of Blacks supported an invasion “that would kill thousands of Iraqi civilians,” while majorities of whites were willing to countenance such an outcome. Polls also show Blacks are, in the majority, a “socialist”-friendly demographic, and Black millennials are even more socialist-leaning than that. But the Democratic Party reflects none of that demographic political sentiment because it snuffs it out at the source.

The Democratic Party is a people-suppression mechanism. It is, therefore, even more harmful to the Black polity, since Blacks are more left-wing than whites. Overwhelming majorities of Blacks are anti-war, and huge super-majorities of Black people favor a revival of social and economic development spending. But, because the corporate electoral duopoly system offers only a choice between the White Man’s Party (GOP) and the Democrats, the Democratic Party has infested every nook and cranny of Black society. That’s why only 30 percent of the Black Caucus — a pitiful 13 members — voted against a monstrous Pentagon-funding measure that will starve the social arms of government and prime the pumps for more war. Here’s the result of the roll call :

“Yeas” (29)

Alma Adams (NC); Sanford Bishop (GA); Lisa Blunt Rochester (DE); Anthony Brown (MD); G.K. Butterfield (NC); Andre Carson (IN); Wm. Lacy Clay (MO); James Clyburn (SC); Elijah Cummings (MD); Danny Davis (IL); Val Butler Demings (FL); Dwight Evans (PA); Marcia Fudge (OH); Al Green (TX); Alcee Hastings (FL); Sheila Jackson Lee (TX); Johnson, E. B.(TX); Robin Kelly (IL); Brenda Lawrence (FL); Al Lawson (FL); Donald McEachin (VA); Gregory Meeks (NY); Cedric Richmond (LA); Bobby Rush (IL); David Scott (GA); Bobby Scott (VA); Terri Sewell (AL); Bennie Thompson (MS); Marc Veasey (TX)

“Nays” (13)

Karen Bass (CA); Joyce Beatty (OH); Yvette Clarke (NY); Emanuel Cleaver (MO); Keith Ellison (MN); Hakeem Jeffries (NY); Hank Johnson (GA); Barbara Lee (CA); Gwen Moore (WI); Donald Payne (NJ); Maxine Waters (CA); Bonnie Watson Coleman (NJ); Frederica Wilson (FL)

Not Voting (1)

John Lewis (GA)


“Bright Line” Issues

The effectively “progressive” faction in the Black Caucus is even tinier than the 13 “nay-sayers” that opposed the Pentagon super-budget. On the other “bright line” issues of police repression and militarization of local cops, the Black Caucus’ voting record is damnable — and the best proof that the Party is the main impediment to Black dignity, safety and political empowerment.

The week before, an even smaller number of Black House members pried themselves away from Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi’s grip to vote against the Protect and Serve Act, which makes any assault on a police officer (a charge that is attached every time the cops beat you up) a “hate crime.” Only 11 Black Caucus members opposed treating the police as a “protected class.” They were:

Karen Bass (CA); Yvette Clarke (NY); Wm. Lacy Clay (MO); Alcee Hastings (FL); Johnson, E. B.(TX); Barbara Lee (CA); Gwen Moore (WI); Donald Payne (NJ); Bobby Scott (VA); Maxine Waters (CA); Bonnie Watson Coleman (NJ)

Black Democrats have learned nothing from the grassroots movement that emerged after Mike Brown was shot down by a cop in Ferguson, Missouri, in August, 2014. Two months prior to Brown’s killing, on June 14, the full House voted on the Grayson amendment to halt the Pentagon’s transfers of weapons and equipment to local police departments. Only 8 Black Caucus members voted for the amendment and against the continued militarization of the police. They were:

John Conyers (MI); Donna Edwards (MD); Keith Ellison (MN); Hank Johnson (GA); Barbara Lee (CA); John Lewis (GA); Bobby Scott (VA); Maxine Waters (CA)

Police wearing riot gear walk toward a man with his hands raised Monday, Aug. 11, 2014, in Ferguson, Mo. (Photo/Jeff Roberson,AP)Police wearing riot gear walk toward a man with his hands raised Monday, Aug. 11, 2014, in Ferguson, Mo. (Photo/Jeff Roberson,AP)

Police wearing riot gear walk toward a man with his hands raised, Aug. 11, 2014, in Ferguson, Mo. during protests following the police killing of Michael Brown. Jeff Roberson | AP

80 percent of the Black Caucus, 30 of the full-voting members, opted to continue the Pentagon program, or abstained, which amounted to the same thing.

So, how tiny is the dependably “progressive” faction in the Black Caucus, as revealed by votes on such “bright line” issues? If we take the 13 “Nays” against last week’s Pentagon measure as a base, and then subtract those members that voted the wrong way on the two key police issues, we are left with even less than a faction — hardly a grouplet — that can be depended on to reflect fundamental Black political sentiments. Of the group of 13 from last week’s vote, Karen Bass (CA), Joyce Beatty (OH), Yvette Clarke (NY), Emanuel Cleaver (MO), Hakeem Jeffries (NY), Gwen Moore (WI), Donald Payne (NJ), and Frederica Wilson (FL) all voted to continue the militarization of police in 2014, and therefore fail the “bright line” test as dependable Black progressives (or decent human beings). Some of them also voted this month to make police a protected class, as did Keith Ellison (MN), and Hank Johnson (GA).

That leaves standing only three Black Caucus members: Barbara Lee (CA), Maxine Waters (CA), and Bonnie Watson Coleman (NJ), who was not a member of Congress when the 2014 vote on the militarization of police occured.

Michigan’s John Conyers, a reliable progressive vote on such issues, has resigned after 53 years in the House. Donna Edwards has been replaced in her Maryland district by Anthony Brown, a Pelosi-sucking hack. The entire Black Caucus class of 2017 and 2016 is worthless: Dwight Evans (PA); Lisa Blunt Rocherster; Val Butler Demings (FL); Al Lawson (FL); A Donald McEachin (VA).

This is not a generational issue. The thoroughly corporate nature of the Democratic Party is the reason that only three Black Caucus members are minimally worthy of the term “progressive” (and, of course, if slavish support for Israel is made a “bright line” issue, then none of the Caucus qualifies.)

The Democratic Party grossly distorts and mangles the political aspirations and sentiments of all the Americans it purports to represent, but especially Black people, who are effectively stripped of any real say in government by the only corporate party the duopoly provides for them.

Anybody that thinks they can transform such a party from the inside-out, is thinking very badly – or a Democrat trying to fool you.

Top Photo | Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton, left, accompanied by James Clyburn, D-S.C., right, receives the Phoenix award at the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation’s Phoenix Awards Dinner at the Washington Convention center, in Washington, Saturday, Sept. 17, 2016. | AP

Glen Ford is the executive editor of the Black Agenda Report. He can be contacted at [email protected]

Source | Black Agenda Report



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