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A Progressive Snapshot from the Eyes of a Black Progressive

A Progressive Snapshot

The last few months of 2015 were a very tumultuous time for the social/political fabric of the US, especially from a progressive standpoint.

First, the #BlackLivesMatter movement has increased its power to fight for change to new heights in the fight for #justice4LaquanMcDonald. The Chicago protests have now embedded themselves squarely into a fight against the most corrupt, archaic institutions in the Democratic Party, the Chicago political establishment led by Mayor Rahm Emanuel. 

“If police shooting video had been released sooner, would Emanuel be mayor?”

– John Kass of the Chicago Tribune

Protesters are now demanding that Rahm Emanuel resign or be investigated for covering up the Laquan McDonald case as it was occurring at the height of the first wave of #BLM protests in Ferguson and NYC. Even more significant was that at the same time Rahm Emanuel was embattled in a very close reelection bid. That second point is crucial to this discussion as it shows how #BLM is now foraying into a broader political discussion on institutional problems within the democratic establishment. John Kass again hits the nail on the head by discussing this point with Rahm Emanuel’s former opponent in that election, Cook County Commissioner Jesus Garcia:

“There’s just some basic Chicago arithmetic in there. He wouldn’t have received as many votes from the African-American community,” Garcia said. “It isn’t rocket science. It’s arithmetic. And so yes, this tragic video would have had a profound impact.”

Which is why Rahm didn’t want it to be seen, why he had to do everything to keep it under wraps. And he did do everything to keep it under wraps, until the other day.

And that’s the Chicago Way,” Garcia said.

Chicago Tribune


This fight reignites a debate that progressives within the Democratic Party have been waging on and off for years. Corrupt institutions like the Emanuel Administration are protected by the national Democratic Party for few reasons outside of party loyalty.  Democrats from Debbie Wassermann Schultz in the DNC, the Clintons creating the age of corporate Dems selling weak tea liberalism, and the crony corruption of Rahm Emanuel, all show why so many young people remain independents. Even the many Millennial voters who now call themselves “Bernie Sanders Democrats” wouldn’t associate themselves with the party otherwise.

These factors are why nominating Bernie Sanders to lead the Democratic Party in 2016 and beyond is so essential.  Millennials and die-hard progressives now have an enormous opportunity to transform the Democratic Party infrastructure to purge the party of its festering corruption  and  remove corporate interests like the DLC and Third Way Democrats from any influential positions. By taking these steps, the Democratic Party would be a more activist grassroots party more in tune with the needs of its actual constituents.

An example of this loops right back to the current protests in Chicago. Joy Ann Reid in her Daily Beast article: Laquan McDonald Shows That Black Lives Matter Is Right to Target Dems. Democratic administrations are culpable in various police incidents and cover ups, especially on the state and local levels and as progressives we should be fiercely supporting the notion that those democratic administrations should be held to an even higher standard, not given a pass due to blind tribalism or party loyalty. Unfortunately, as has been documented, the party response has consistently been the latter. Even before Rahm Emanual was under fire directly, the Democratic Party on the national level had been tip-toeing around the issues of the protests just as they have for every #BLM protest prior.

A competent Democratic Party would have seen various left-leaning movements such as #BLM or Occupy Wall Street as enormous opportunities for creating political change. The Democratic Party should have seen protest leaders as future leaders in the party but instead,these protests are seen as risks, agitators, inexperienced or too radical.


Tying this back to Bernie Sanders, it becomes clear the importance his candidacy could have if he succeeds. For me, personally, how the Democratic Party changes in these next few years will very much have a profound impact on where I see myself in the political spectrum for the rest of my time in politics. If there is ever a time for progressives across the country to stand up and.. well… be progressives, it’s right now in this democratic primary.  That being so, it makes the current silence from many progressive groups and leaders regarding their support increasingly concerning.

Progressive groups like MoveOn and the DFA have taken their sweet time in weighing in on the presidential race, as Huffington Post notes. In the case of MoveOn though , Hillary Clinton snubbing their candidates forum in November and their strained relationship since MoveOn Endorsed Obama in ‘08 could push them in Bernie’s direction. Beyond those organizations, when speaking about progressive silence, none is more deafening than that of the “unflinching” firebrand progressive Senator Elizabeth Warren, but we’ll get to that “unflinching” part later. Senator Warren made it clear after she decided not to run that she would wait for the race to develop to see what role in the race she would play. At the time, it seemed that she was taking her role as the progressive voice very seriously.  At the time, this made sense because the Democratic race was still very unpredictable.


Fast forward 6 months and this continued silence makes increasingly less sense. The democratic race is set in place now. The will he/won’t he obsession regarding Joe Biden, that Warren took part in herself, is now already a distant political memory.  Martin O’Malley, Hillary Clinton, and Bernie Sanders are the only people going forward in this race and that’s been clear for quite a while now. What further developments could Senator Warren be waiting for?

It’s not as if Warren would be the first progressive in Congress to endorse the Senator from Vermont. Progressive congressman Keith Ellison and Raul Grijalva have already stood on progressive principles and endorsed Bernie Sanders. An early endorsement of Hillary Clinton seems incredibly unlikely, as Warren and Clinton have had a number of contentious disagreements, and the Clintons see Warren as a threat to the era of the corporatist Democratic Party they have created. Recently, Warren was the sole female Democratic senator not to go to Hillary’s endorsement event on November 30th, but that is nowhere near satisfactory with the Iowa Caucus only 60 days away.

It seems more and more likely that Senator Warren intends to sit this race out until Hillary is nominated. Only then will Warren somewhat begrudgingly endorse her. This is not an acceptable course of action and her silence so far puts into question how much praise we should give when she refuses to stick up for progressive movements in the race. Even if she were to endorse Bernie tomorrow and campaign in Iowa, the image of an “unflinching” progressive would be considerably tarnished.  No matter what her supporters, staff, and even she would say, it’s hard to see her weeks and months of silence as anything but a flinch.

Senator Warren and progressive groups have been disappointingly abandoning the fight for progressive values and social justice movements. From a Black perspective, the Black Church has been doing the same thing for years, if not decades.


Benjamin Dixon notes in his piece:  The Systematic Castration of the Black Preacherthe endorsement by numerous Black pastors of Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump show that the integrity and soul of most Black Christian institutions has been eroded to the point that the churches are just pools of voters to be pushed toward whatever politician their opportunistic pastors point them to.

“Many of today’s Black preachers are no longer leading the charge for equality and justice. They are more concerned with Sunday morning offerings, attendance, getting fitted by their tailor, charging the right speaking fee, and getting access to political and economic power through opportunistic endorsements of either party.”

-Benjamin Dixon 

I am almost sure that if Black churches around the country held themselves to the standards that they owe their congregations, they would see that from a social justice standpoint Bernie Sanders is in a league of his own. They would’ve at least seen the fact that Bernie was a member of SNCC and CORE as big eye-openers. instead, the Democratic Establishment simply feeds them a candidate, and the pastors get their congregations in buses and vans to vote for them in November in return for political favor like reliable lackeys.

Well, that’s progressivism and the Black movement as we begin the journey into 2016. It seems the two forces are poised to collide as the campaign season ramps up.  A lot of systemic challenges exist but, as we see with #BLM, protesting against Rahm Emanuel they can be overcome. Movements to push Warren in the right direction, or forcing Black pastors to join the fight for social justice as their predecessors did, are just as possible. As Bernie often reminds us, the problems we have now were caused by people making bad decisions, so they can still be fixed by people making good decisions.

(Based on this tumblr post I wrote in November)

(Images courtesy of: cnn.com, democraticunderground.com, origins.edu, csmoniter.com, aljazeera.com)

Written by Solomon Russell

A progressive ready to build a movement fighting for more than just the vague notion of Hope & Change.

Solomon Russell has been a member of Progressive Army since 2015.

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A Progressive Snapshot from the Eyes of a Black Progressive