Black Voter's Choice...Bernie Stretches Our Imagination!....This is Not a Partisan Choice!
Bernie Stretches Our Imagination!....This is Not a Partisan Choice!
OR: You Tube..Or, Transcript which Follows the YT:
Published on Feb 25, 2016
Veteran social and political activist Dr. Ron Daniels argues that Sanders' campaign vision for a more progressive America will benefit African Americans
SHARMINI PERIES, EXEC. PRODUCER, TRNN: It's the Real News Network.
I'm Sharmini Peries coming to you from Baltimore.With the South Carolina Democratic primaries coming up this Saturday, polls are indicating that Hillary Clinton has a greater chance of walking away with the victory. However, according to our next guest, Dr. Ron Daniels, Bernie Sanders' campaign matters a lot more than it is getting credit for. Dr. Ron Daniels is president of the Institute for a Black World 21st Century, and distinguished lecturer at York College at City University of New York. Thank you so much for joining us, Dr. Daniels.
RON DANIELS: It's good to be with you.
PERIES: So, Dr. Daniels, last week the Congressional Black Caucus PAC endorsed Hillary Clinton, and now you've just met with members of the Congressional Black Caucus in Washington, DC, who endorse Hillary Clinton. So what did you say to them when you met with them, and who did you meet with?
DANIELS: Well, we weren't really meeting with them about the Bernie Sanders campaign, or about the Hillary Clinton campaign. We were talking about the UN Decade for People of African Descent. The Congressional Black Caucus every Wednesday has a luncheon in which its members come together to take up major issues, and we were delighted to have an opportunity for Mireille Fanon-Mendes France, who essentially is in charge of the civil society aspect of this program for the United Nations, to have an opportunity to share a few thoughts with the Congressional Black Caucus, and there is subsequently going to be a briefing about that.So we didn't get into any politics.
These are, many of these are folks that I know. They are friends of mine, I have worked with many of them over the years. We just have a difference of opinion in terms of who is the more visionary candidate in relationship to not only black people, but for the nation. And so that's how, I guess, politics works. So we'll agree to disagree, at least with many of them. There are some within the Congressional Black Caucus, I suspect, who are leaning towards Bernie Sanders. But they've been very, very cautious and very, very careful at this point, and many of them have endorsed the incumbent. Not the incumbent, but the presumed nominee, so to speak.
PERIES: Dr. Daniels, in the article you wrote that we just cited, you wrote: Under fierce assault from reactionary forces on the right, for decades the Democratic party has retreated from the hard-fought gains secured over generations. You wrote that this is contained in the Roosevelt's New Deal. Give us a sense of why you wrote that and what's meant by it, and relate it to the Bernie Sanders campaign.DANIELS: I mean, the fact of the matter is for from the Clinton era on what you've had is a kind of centrist approach, a kind of center-left, center-right approach. And this is what the Clintons represent. This is what they profess to be. There's something called the Democratic Leadership Conference, and some people may have forgotten. I haven't forgotten about it. When Jesse Jackson ran for president in 1988 I was deputy campaign manager. He ran on a slogan of bold leadership in a new direction. He was talking about, you know, how to build a better society, how to hold corporate America accountable.
How to, in fact, get masses of people involved in creating, for lack of a better word, a counterrevolution based on economic common ground.After that election was over, the Democratic party under the leadership of Clinton made a calculated decision that that would not win, that the way to win in their judgment was to take an incremental approach. It was to become Republican lite. Adopt--end welfare as we know it, for example, adopt trade policies that would be sort of a free trade system, or a free market system, as the Republicans call it, and to be tough on defense. And that's the way the Democratic party essentially has been rolling, and when on key questions like privatization, the privatization of public institutions, the Democratic party has been retreating.The fact of the matter is the public space, public hospitals, public schools, public education, this is the equalizer in a capitalist, political economy. And yet under the assault of the right wing, Democrats have not stood firm. And what Bernie Sanders' campaign is doing--this is why it matters--you see, now, stretching our imagination to envision what America could be. It's not a question of what we can afford, at this point. It's what are we willing to fight for. Because the Democrats have not been willing to fight for very much. It's been a kind of holding action. Bernie Sanders is coming out clearly saying there is a 1 percent, and that 1 percent is controlling an incredible amount of wealth in this society, and it is polluting the entire system, and it is, in fact, you know, devastating the lives of millions and millions of people in the middle class and working class people and the poor.And that's why this campaign matters, because there is a vision that's involved here.
And I think that's why many young people are inspired by it, because they're tired of just hearing what's practical, what's realistic. Of course we have to be realistic. But when you have nations in Europe where you have universal healthcare, you have universally across the board in Western societies paid pregnancy leave, paid sick leave, you have long vacations and whatever, here we in the United States are made to feel as if somehow we should feel privileged to be able to work for, you know, to be worked to death, indeed by these corporate bandits, if you will. And Bernie Sanders is railing against that in a very, very effective way.
PERIES: Dr. Daniels, recently we've had a lot of very good public intellectuals in this country in the African-American community such as Cornel West and Michelle Alexander, Ta-Nehisi Coates at the Atlantic. We have also had stars like Danny Glover and others endorsing Bernie Sanders' campaign. So I guess you're in good company here.Now, my question to you is, why is these kinds of very important endorsements not having traction in places like South Carolina?
DANIELS: Well, I think it's having some traction. But the fact of the matter is over the years the Clintons have cultivated an image of being very heavy on symbolism and not very good on substance. A lot of people don't remember that. They're quite good at it. I mean, Bill Clinton could play a saxophone, you know, so he's a down guy. In fact, he came to be known as the first black president.And in some ways my friends and allies in the Congressional Black Caucus are at fault, because you know, politics is a matter of making tough decisions. We had, we supported, I supported Bill Clinton during the course of his presidency not because I agreed with all of his policies, but because all of us were under assault by the vicious attack from the right. And so Clinton was sort of the firewall. He was, that was a defensive move. That didn't mean I believed in everything that he was about. I knew we needed a more visionary politics. So that was a tactical decision. But somehow this tactical decision in the black community came off as if this man was this great, you know, this really great lover of black people.
And I'm not saying that in a [inaud.] kind of way.The fact of the matter is we've had no urban policy, you know, since the Clinton era and before. I remember distinctly during the Clinton era he campaigned in urban areas after dark. He did, in the evening, he did not want to, in fact, be seen in black communities in the daytime. That was the thrust of, in fact, what Clinton was about. And of course the 1994 omnibus crime bill, which unfortunately some blacks signed off and so forth and so on, has been very, very devastating.So I think that when you look at Coates and Danny Glover, Ben Jealous of the NAACP, Spike Lee and others, they understand that we need a politics which is far more, is stronger than that. But the Clintons are good at building relationships in the black community.
And one of the things I think Bernie Sanders has needed to do is to have a clearer, more explicit position as it relates to black issues. Black Lives Matter, you know, have been pushing him on that. Ta-Nehisi Coates raised the issue of reparations. And it seems to me that Bernie Sanders could have at least said, I support HR 40. And my recommendation was that he have, in fact, he do a speech on race and lay out his positions on racial issues, including not just mass incarceration but indeed, what would he do in terms of investment in the black community? He has a bill before Congress, apparently, that would be very effective in that regard. But he's not wrapped it in a message that would be as effective as it might be.
The 1 percent issue, certainly inequality is an important issue.In one of the debates he pointed out that during the great crash it was black people whose wealth was--I mean, emaciated by the great meltdown in 2008. Those are the kind of points that he needs to make in order to tie his major theme to issues that affect black people. And we hope that some of us, Danny Glover and others, can get that message across to him so that his message will resonate.But to me, if it resonates, fine. We hope it does. But for some young people they kind of get it.
They understand that we need an America which is much better than it is now, that it can, we can do better. But we won't do better if we only focus on what is realistic, what is practical. We need to stretch the imagination of the American people, of workers, of poor people.Let me just say this. For the longest time in the Democratic party they couldn't even put poor in their mouths. They couldn't say workers in their mouths. It was actually disgusting. All we talked about--and you know, the middle class is fine. But they were being--they're captured by this consulting class, talking about the middle class, the middle class. Of course we have to help the middle class. But workers exist in this society. Poor people exist, and they need to be spoken to. And Bernie Sanders is speaking to them, and he's asking them to join this revolution. Because the biggest political party in America today is not the Democrats, it's not Republicans, it's non-voters who become apathetic, who are in fact turned off by a system that they know is rigged.
They in their gut know it's rigged.And Bernie Sanders is tapping into that. And quite frankly I'm so proud of so many young people across this country who understand that and who really want to fight for an America which is not exceptional because, you know, the only America--every Western industrial society has healthcare, and America is the exception because it does not have these things. There are so many things that can be achieved if we have a more visionary politics.And let me just say this. At the end of the day it's also important that this energy be maintained, because one of the problems we've had is we've not had a third, what I call a third force in American politics that would gather up those who are progressive, those who are visionary, to continue to battle at all levels. For school board, for city council, for state representative, senator, Congress. All the way up. That's what the Tea Party did on the right.
They not only mouthed their politics, they translated it into a force. I don't agree with that force. But it has to be reckoned with.We need to do the same thing on the left, no matter who wins the presidency. I hope Bernie Sanders wins, but if he doesn't win we need to maintain a third force in American politics.
PERIES: Dr. Daniels, on February 11 Congressman John Lewis questioned Senator Sanders' civil rights record. Let's have a look at what he said.JOHN LEWIS: Well, to be very frank--I don't want to cut you off