Left Voice - December 3, 2020

"...Cori Bush tweeted “With all due respect, Mr. President—let’s talk about losing people. We lost Michael Brown Jr. We lost Breonna Taylor. We’re losing our loved ones to police violence. It’s not a slogan. It’s a mandate for keeping our people alive. Defund the police.” Ilhan Omar said, “We lose people in the hands of police. It’s not a slogan but a policy demand. And centering the demand for equitable investments and budgets for communities across the country gets us progress and safety.”

Political candidates lose support when using “snappy” slogans like “defund the police.” That’s what former president and political heavyweight Barack Obama said this week on Good Luck America — a Snapchat show with Peter Hamby.

He went on to say, “You lost a big audience the minute you say it, which makes it a lot less likely that you’re actually going to get the changes you want done.”

According to Obama, the only way to put an end to police terror is to stop talking neabout it and stop fighting against it. We should expect nothing less from a member of the ruling class — especially from Barack Obama, a former U.S. President and leader of the racist, imperialist war machine. For all of Obama’s popularity, his comments aren’t friendly advice from an activist who shares our goals. Obama represents a capitalist state which needs a police force to maintain a system of billionaire leeches who profit off of the labor and misery of the vast majority of working class folks.

His statement is part of a larger strategy within the Democratic Party of crushing social movements — in this case the Black Lives Matter movement — and of shaming activists into accepting the status quo. Obama is suggesting nothing other than maintaining police funding and police presence in their entirety. But this strategy extends way beyond Obama; on the local level, Democratic party politicians brutally repress the movement. Yet at all levels of the government, the Democrats attempt to co-opt it with symbolic gestures — like painting “Black Lives Matter” on city streets or the kente cloth stunt in Congress. With this two-faced strategy the Democrats were able to drive some of the movement out of the streets and to the polls in November. The height of the BLM movement was also the height of voter registration.

Biden won the election thanks in part to the actions and activism of the Black community and the anti-racist protests over the summer. As Donald Trump bellowed about Antifa and told white supremacists to “stand back and stand by,” the Democrats associated themselves with BLM by tweeting and speaking about institutional racism. Biden spoke at George Floyd’s funeral. He traveled to Kenosha after Kyle Rittenhouse killed BLM activists. The Democrats acted appalled when Donald Trump ordered the tear-gassing of protesters in Washington, D.C., while carefully ignoring the fact that Democratic officials all over the country tear-gassed protesters as well. The Democrats attempted to lay claim to the anti-racist vote, to paint themselves at the antidote to Trump’s outright white supremacy — but without promising any substantive structural change. And it worked.

They counted on the BLM Network, unions, and countless local non-profits to campaign for Biden and to persuade people to swallow their disdain for his racist politics and Kamala Harris’s past as a prosecutor, all to “get Trump out.” Now, having had a worse-than-expected performance in the 2020 election, the Democratic Party is seeking to blame their losses on the Black Lives Matter movement rather than on the fact that it ran an entirely anti-Trump campaign. They proclaimed that “nothing will fundamentally change” and promised more neoliberalism when it was neoliberalism that created Trumpism, as well as the economic and health crisis we are in right now.

Now that Trump has lost the election and the Democrats have gotten what they wanted from BLM, the Democrats want to quash the movement and any idea that the police should be defunded. Who better to do that than the charismatic first Black President of the white supremacist United States of America? Now that Biden has won and the movement has died down for the time being in the streets, it’s time to trod out Barack Obama as the “friendly advisor” to the movement. It’s time to paint activists as unrealistic and convince us that the best we can ever do is water down our proposals and vote in Democrats like him in the name of pragmatism.

Obama has spent the last month trying to fill the vacuum of enthusiasm for the “establishment” sector of the Democratic Party. His book tour is meant to do just that — rev up enthusiasm for “the good old days” of the Obama administration before the chaos of the Trump years. He’s trying to shore up support for Biden’s administration and the Democratic Party to reinvigorate their neoliberal rule in the middle of a shifting social, political, and economic climate. But it’s not clear if this strategy is going to work. More and more people are seeing through Obama’s veneer. ...
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