Sunday, June 7, 2020

Last Call For Black Lives Still Matter, Con't

Steve M. asks if the debate over demilitarizing the police is going to cost Biden his lead among suburban women.

Biden is lucky, because while Trump and his allies have the opportunity to portray themselves as the sensible center, and to portray the demonstrators as the extremists, they're misreading the public mood. Trump's team has sprinkled his speeches with pro forma defenses of peaceful protest and expressions of dismay about injustice, and if he could persuade us that that's what he really believes, he might be able to position himself as the reasonable man in the middle. Instead, it's clear that what really gets Trump's juices flowing is the idea of violently crushing protests. Shouts of "LAW AND ORDER!" worked in 1968, but this isn't 1968.

First, Trump is the incumbent -- if there's unrest, it's happening on his watch. In 1968, when Richard Nixon ran as a law-and-order candidate, Lyndon Johnson was president. (Nixon also had George Wallace on his right, which made him appear more moderate. Trump has no one on his right.)

Beyond that, political unrest in 2020 isn't accompanied by an uptick in crime; the two were linked in many people's minds in 1968. I also suspect that more Americans felt ties to the cities where protests and property destruction were taking place. Early in the George Floyd protests, I saw many right-wingers decrying the damage in Manhattan -- "They're looting Macy's!" In 1968, many people from suburban New York, New Jersey, and Connecticut regularly shopped at Macy's. Now they barely shop at local malls. (No one's looting Amazon.)

The downside:

But the slogan will make life harder for Biden. He'll lose the support of young progressives when, inevitably, he makes a statement like Frey's, saying that he supports serious reform but not "defunding" or "dismantling" police departments -- even though some who use that language are describing reforms Biden might be willing to endorse (and many Americans might approve of), as in Minneapolis:

Council Member Jeremiah Ellison, one of the most vocal critics of the city’s response to the protests and riots that followed Floyd’s death, tweeted Thursday: “We are going to dismantle the Minneapolis Police Department.”

[City Council president Lisa] Bender, a few hours later, issued her own tweet repeating that message and adding that they will “replace it with a transformative new model of public safety.” ...

Speaking only for herself and not for the council as whole, Bender said [in an interview that] she would support shifting from a traditional police department to a wider public safety department oriented toward violence prevention and community-based services.

In that kind of scenario, it’s possible that social workers or medics could respond to some calls now being handled by police. 

But the slogan will sound dangerous to a portion of the electorate, the way "Abolish ICE" sounded dangerous even to many people who oppose the Trump administration's immigration policies. On the other hand, "Abolish ICE" didn't prevent Democrats from scoring big victories in the 2018 midterms, so let's hope this slogan isn't too much of a drag on Biden in November.

I don't think it'll hurt Biden at all for the reasons Steve laid out at the top.  Trump will find a way to blast his own foot off with a mortar by, I don't know, demanding military troops patrol the streets.

In a heated and contentious debate in the Oval Office last Monday morning, President Trump demanded the military put 10,000 active duty troops into the streets immediately, a senior administration official told CBS News. Attorney General William Barr, Defense Secretary Mark Esper and Joint Chiefs Chairman Mark Milley objected to the demand, the official said.

In an attempt to satisfy Mr. Trump's demand, Esper and Milley used a call with the nation's governors later that morning to implore them to call up the National Guard in their own states, the official said. If these governors didn't "call up the Guard, we'd have (active duty) troops all over the country," this official said.

That same day, the Pentagon started bringing in 1,600 active-duty troops to bases just outside the District of Columbia. Late that afternoon, Esper and Milley were on their way to the FBI's Washington Field Office, where the command center for the military and law enforcement response to the protests was located, the official said. En route, they received a call to come to the White House to give the President an update.

"Demilitarize the police" is something that should have taken place years ago, and under Obama it did.  It was immediately reversed by Trump. But Trump, as Steve said, is going to hang "get rid of the cops and let the thugs and the criminals get your women" on Biden no matter what.

Biden shouldn't be afraid.

Sunday Long Read: The Cool Revolution

More than ever, Esquire Magazine's 1968 interview with James Baldwin on race relations is prescient, relevant, and distressingly frustrating in what little has changed in the last fifty years.

Can we still cool it? 
That depends on a great many factors. It's a very serious question in my mind whether or not the people of this country, the bulk of population of this country, have enough sense of what is really happening to their black co-citizens to understand why they're in the streets. I know of this moment they maybe don't know it, and this is proved by the reaction to the civil disorders. It came as no revelation to me or to any other black cat that white racism is at the bottom of the civil disorders. It came as a great shock apparently to a great many other people, including the President of the United States. And now you ask me if we can cool it. I think the President goofed by not telling the nation what the civil-disorders report was all about. And I accuse him and the entire administration, in fact, of being largely responsible for this tremendous waste and damage. It was up to him and the Vice-President to interpret that report and tell the American people what it meant and what the American people should now begin to think of it. Now!It is already, very very late even to begin to think of it. What causes the eruptions, the riots, the revolts- whatever you want to call them- is the despair of being in a static position, absolutely static, of watching your father, your brother, your uncle, or your cousin- no matter how old the black cat is or how young- who has no future. And when the summer comes, both fathers and sons are in the streets- they can't stay in the houses. I was born in those houses and I know. And it's not their fault. 
From a very short-range approach, what should the federal government do, right now, to cool it off? 
What do you mean by the federal government? The federal government has come to be, in the eyes of all Negroes anyway, a myth. When you say the federal government, you're referring to Washington, and that means you're referring to a great many people. You're referring to Senator Eastland and many people in Washington who out of apathy, ignorance or fear have no intention of making a move at all. You're talking about the people who have the power, who intend to keep the power. And all they can think of are things like swimming pools, you know, in the summertime, and sort of made up jobs to simply protect peace and the public property. But they show no sign whatsoever of understanding what the root of the problem really is, what the dangers really are. They have made no attempt, whatever, any of them, as far as I know, really to explain to the American people that the black cat in the streets wants to protect his house, his wife and children. And if he is going to be able to do this he has to be given his autonomy, his own schools, a revision of the police force in a very radical way. It means, in short, that if the American Negro, the American black man, is going to become a free person in this country, the people of this country have to give up something. If they don't give it up, it will be taken from them. 
You say that existing jobs are just make-work jobs. What kind of job program should be adopted? 
It's very difficult to answer that question since the American Republic has created a surplus population. You know it's created not only people who are unemployable but who no longer wish to be employed in this system. A job program involves, first of all, I would think, a real attack on all American industries and on all American labor unions. For example, you're sitting in Hollywood. And there are not any Negroes, as far as I know, in any of the Hollywood craft unions: there is no Negro grip, no Negro crew member, no Negro works in Hollywood on that level or in any higher level either. There are some famous Negroes who work out here for a structure which keeps Negroes out of a union. Now it's not an Act of God that there aren't any Negroes in the unions. It's not something that is handed down from some mountain; it's a deliberate act on the part of the American people. They don't want the unions broken, because they are afraid of the Negro as a source of competition in the economic market. Of course what they've made him is something much worse than that. You can't talk about job programs unless you're willing to talk about what is really holding the structure together. Eastman Kodak, General Motors, General Electric- all the people who really have the power in this country. It's up to them to open up their factories, their unions, to let us begin to work.

They would have to begin, say, on-the-job training programs for those... 
Yes, and by the way, I know a whole lot of Negroes on the streets, baby, that are much brighter that a lot of cats dictating the policies of Pan American. You know what this country really means when it says on-the-job training programs is not what they are teaching Negroes skills, though there's that, too; what they're afraid of is that when the Negro comes into the factory, into the union, when he comes, in fact, into the American institution, he will change these institutions because no Negro in this country really lives by American middle-class standards. That's why they pick up half-dozen Negroes here and there, and polish them up, polish them off, and put them in some ass-hole college someplace, and expect those cats to be able to go back to the streets and cool the other cats. They can't. The price in this country to survive at all still is to become a white man. More and more people are refusing to become a white man. That's the bottom of what they mean by on-the-job training. They mean they want to fit you in. And furthermore, let's tell it like it is. The American white man does not really want to have autonomous Negro male anywhere near him. 
In on-the-job training programs, the white American structure wants a worker who is trained, who shows up regularly at eight-thirty in the morning and works till five in the afternoon. 
Yeah, well I know an awful lot of cats that did that for a long, long time. We haven't got to be trained to do that. We don't even have to be given an incentive to do that. 
Would you say, then, that many black people have been able to go nowhere, so they've lost any feeling that it's worth working regularly? 
That is part of what we're talking about. Though it goes deeper than that, I think. It's not only that. What is happening in this country among the young, and not only the black young, is an overwhelming suspicion that it's not worth it. You know if you watched your father's life like I watched my father's life, as a kid much younger than I watches his father's life; his father does work from eight to five every day and ends up with nothing. He can't protect anything. He has nothing. As he goes to the grave, having worked his fingers to the bone for years and years and years, he still has nothing and the kid doesn't either. But what's worse than that is that one has begun to conclude from the fact that maybe in this Republic- judging now on the evidence of its own performance- maybe there isn't anything. It's easy to see on the other hand what happens to the white people who make it. And that's not a very attractive spectacle either. I mean I'm questioning the values on which this country thinks of itself as being based. 
What you are calling for, then, is a radical change in thinking by government and industry. 
And given the inertia plus... 
…and fear and whatever else there may be, any such changes seem… 
…seem improbable. 
Certainly they will come slow. A union will not throw open its doors and bring on several hundred people from the black community right away. Now my question is… 
You've answered your question.

There are some differences between 1968 and now, but for the life of me the same basic problem that existed then is why we're in the streets again now, finally.
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