During this election, I have read, watched, and listened to more about politics than I ever have. To date, I have voted in three elections, and I voted Democrat in the vast majority. I was groomed and indoctrinated in the Black Democrat political bubble – much like the White Democratic bubble with the added weight of being the party of Civil Rights, of Black advancement, of POC united against racists, i.e. Republicans. I voted twice in ‘08 and ‘12 for exiting President Barack Hussein Obama and once more for Democratic primary candidate Bernie Sanders, then for Jill Stein in the 2016 general election. In two of the elections I voted with nothing more than the mantra “Democrats Good, Republicans Bad” and ashamed as I am now to say, because of identifying with a Black man with charm, or “swag” as some in my age group would classify him. In this latest election, I was prepared to do the same and “Vote Blue” by voting for Hillary Clinton. Or as I perceived it, Bill 2.0 or Return of the “First Black President.”
This changed when I watched Bernie Sanders speak at the first Democratic Primary debate. I began to research this weird looking old guy who my people were laughing at, saying he couldn’t win and what I learned shocked me. How could I not know of this living Civil Rights activist working in Congress? Then the question soon became “How can another Civil Rights activist disavow Sanders as not being seen in the movement or marching with King, only to have been photographed 7 paces behind him?” I speak of course of Rep John Lewis questioning the legitimacy of Sanders’ Civil Rights cred for the benefit of Hillary Clinton, who at the time was campaigning for Barry Goldwater. Goldwater was in opposition to Civil Rights. And it was then that my first brush with identity politics and neoliberalism occurred. A member of my race using his political power and skin color in tandem to push a lie for political interests and the private interests of the Clinton political machine.
I began to see many flowing parts of this Rube Goldberg machine of Black journalists and faux activists using the art of implication in print and social media to slander Bernie Sanders as a racist (see the work of Jamile Bouie and James Capehart) by insinuating there wasn’t enough color in campaign ads or staff or even in his message, arguing his focus on economics didn’t speak to the Black community, only to White working class. Black politicians and pundits came to overwhelmingly support Clinton even in the face of revelations of Clinton Presidency’s past such as welfare reform, the infamous ‘superpredators’ line or it’s policy progeny the 1994 Crime Bill and its disastrous effects on POC that continue today; in the prison pipeline, private prison industries, and arguably the maintained racial discrimination in policing. Black people in the South during the primary were referred to as Hillary’s firewall, a voting block that would hold Sanders at bay and with coordination from A-list POC celebrities, entertainers, and Obama himself.
The neoliberal elite base of the Democratic party set about making Hillary Clinton the candidate for Black America in spite of damning evidence to the contrary, by using Black identity against Black intellect. To supersede the universal message of wealth inequality with an easier-to-curtail-and-control fight against racism narrative and to separate the working class into racist White Trump supporters. Therefore, turning any working class message into one at odds with the Black community, engendering a racist overtone to Sanders. In the primary season, I saw that plan succeed in parts of my community. Opinions ranged from ‘Hillary and Bill back in office will be good for Black people,’ ‘Obama is behind her, so Black folk should be too,’ ‘All of our elite folk say she’ll help us so…, ‘ and ‘I like Bernie but he can’t beat Trump like Hillary. We don’t know him like that.’ These are all opinions fed by the fake news provided by the mainstream media for the past two years, which data and independent news fervently disproved.
The other prong of the neoliberal attack on Sanders was in the news coverage about POC. On television, there was Beyoncé, Kerry Washington, Shonda Rhimes, Taraji P Henson and Angela Bassett speaking to the Black women (largest minority voting block) and parroting the same platitudes, pie-in-the-sky disregard of Sanders. Avoidance of economic strife in the Black community and the smokescreen mythos of the ‘Hillary Clinton for the Black community’ is cultivated by years of photo-ops and church pulpit vocal caricatures. Bill and Obama name-dropping into an electorate and relying on T.V. news rather than independent research amidst the blackout of Bernie Sanders, further poisoning the opposition to Clinton and providing more of a divide between the working class message of Sanders and Black people. Or even worse, like Samuel L. Jackson, celebrities spoke on the electoral process with incredible ease and equal ignorance. That was the plan to control the Black vote as the South was first in primary voting. Democrats circulated policy that they would not promise concrete policy in regards to Black issues but instead placate with language to ensure votes with no strings attached. Parading the pain of The Mothers of The Movement and the Black mothers of police murder victims to manipulate votes from POC and the Amazing Vanishing Flint Water Crisis outrage were convenient neoliberal tools of identity. Both of which conveniently disappeared as talking points immediately after they were no longer politically viable.
The General Election on the Democratic side began devolving into more and more pandering to identity. As if the neoliberal monster felt that only more platitudes from celebrities of color and concerts featuring prominent acts of POC would be all the bait the minority electorate would need to draw them into voting for the lesser of two evils that would neither help nor hurt them more so than usual. And it worked, mainly because of the controlled opposition in pushing racism through the pied piper strategy of elevating the Trump campaign. Voting against what’s best again to avoid a deeper hurt, all of which could have been avoided through research and boldness in the primary stage.
To all of the “woke” negroes claiming that Sanders did not speak to Black people, or that when he talks about income inequality he is distinguishing White working class from POC; that is an ingrained racist mindset that neoliberalism has developed in stopping the tenants of systemic racism and classism from being faced by the whole of the disenfranchised, both White and POC. To that effect, 2016 was a success for the Powers That Be. Congratulations! Neoliberals have used you to integrate the crab-in-a-barrel stereotype in order to forward their ideals of crony capitalism, incrementalism, and political lip service that do the whole of America wrong, especially us.
Correction: A previous version of this article mistakenly referred to the work of James Capehart. It has since been updated to refer to the work of Jonathan Capehart.