A mainstream status quo political pundit by the name of Matt Bai wrote a very provocative commentary in the August 10, 2008 New York Times Magazine. It had the bold title, “IS OBAMA THE DEATH OF BLACK POLITICS?” Bai answered yes.
For some time mainstream White liberals, moderates and conservative gatekeepers of the status quo have been making this argument with slight variations here and there. The United States has “transcended race;” is “post-racial;” is “post-Black” and so on, they claim. All of this argues White racism is dead, or is all but dead. Therefore, Black struggle against White racism is passé.
Also, it’s no surprise but logical. A lot of Black self-appointed gatekeepers from different walks of life also embrace this argument.
It increased in numbers and in volume when the first Black US president took office.
It has been debated over and over on the streets, in the news media, and in private conversations. But all of this came to an abrupt and definitive end. The United States has not transcended race. It is not post-Black or post White.
The 2016 US presidential campaign, the apex of “American democracy,” is rent with open pandering to White racism. Case closed! The GOP presidential nominee Donald Trump, the avowed White supremacist David Duke, and the rightwing guru Stephen Bannon, backed up by their fellow travelers, in the millions, closed the case. American White racism is alive and thriving. It is not dead by any means.
Forget Matt Bai and company. Mainstream Black politics is not –are not—ain’t dead! Take your pick. But Black politics is in dire need of a long overdue major over haul by the national Black community.
The full spectrum of Black politics incudes mainstream two-party politics and various schools of “radical” Black politics. The latter includes a wide variety of Black social democrats, Marxists, and Nationalists-Pan-Africanists; they differ widely in theory and practice. They have very little, if any presence in electoral politics.
The mainstream pundits are referring specifically to Democratic Party Black politics. This is far and away the dominate mode of Black electoral politics. They were not criticizing right wing Black elected officials like US congresswoman Mia Love, or the US presidential candidate Ben Carson.
The Congressional Black Caucus symbolizes Black politics at the national level. There are state Black caucuses and county and municipal level formations of Black elected officials all across the country. Some Black elected officials are left of center. Some are right of center. Most subscribe to the middle of the road Democratic Party politics personified by Barack Obama.
These black elected officials are often attacked by Black critics. “Sell-out,” and “misleaders” are some of the names thrown at Black mayors, US congress members and the lot. It falls largely on death ears, even though many Black people nation-wide say this themselves.
A major problem here is the 1965 Voting Rights Act that legally established the current era of Black electoral politics is now 50 years old and counting. Thousands and thousands of African Americans have been elected to public office during this era. A much larger number of Black political battles have been waged. Yet, the national Black community has not conducted an on-going intense critical review of the era based on two fundamental questions.
The first question, has the “Black vote” accomplished all that the Black masses and Black leaders expected of it in the period before the Voting Rights Act?
The second question, has post-VRA Black politics exhausted the potential of electoral politics as a “weapon” of struggle for Black liberation?
The first question addresses the past and present. The second addresses the future and what must be done.
Mainstream Democratic and Republican party-politics are now confronted with burning struggles over racism, class strife, socialism, gender politics, and possible party realignments. Mainstream two party politics will be rent with raging ideological and political power struggles within the Republican Party and within the Democratic Party and between both parties.
Mainstream African American electoral politics is faced with the same future. Is it prepared for the battles ahead? Is it getting itself readily?
Fred Logan is a Pittsburgh based commentator whose views have been published in numerous publications including the New York Amsterdam News and the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. Email contact: firstname.lastname@example.org