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Let's kick things off for this supersized episode of the Bad Faith podcast with a what is now a recurring segment on the show.
It's near a watch.
I don't know if we have a if we have a jingle for that or some kind of not copyrighted music like to indicate that this we're going about near at this time.
And, you know, I compiled a little dispatch were teetering on collapse is how the press described Neera Tanden nomination to head the OMB this week. Her two preliminary confirmation votes and the Budget Committee and the Homeland Security Committee have been indefinitely postponed, signaled she was likely to lose one or both votes. Krysten Sinema, a right wing Democrat, sits on the latter committee and she's publicly undecided. The speculation is she might follow Joe Manchin in turning Nera down. Bernie, as you know, chairs the Budget Committee, and he's also publicly undecided.
One possible hint why reported by Jake Tapper. A source close to the process confirms that the political report that Senate Budget Committee Chairman Bernie Sanders was not consulted before the Biden team announced it would be nominating Tandan to be director of OMB. Sanders learned about it from news media reports.
That's a good way to piss off the chair of an important Senate committee. Right.
Yeah, I mean, it's curious to me. I wonder if it's like they're intentionally keeping it from Sanders and it's like another level of disrespect, like they just don't have the decency to let them know. Or is this one of those things where they know that he's going to be upset and so they just try to delay the inevitable?
I mean, it could also just be a genuine screw up.
It's hard to imagine, though, with as many people's hands around these kinds of things and not a single person with a flag, that there might be some issues with your attendance nomination.
Oh, absolutely. Absolutely. We'll get to that. There has been some more reporting on that. I speculated last week that the GOP might smell blood and indeed they do. Mitch McConnell has told his caucus he wants them to stick together on this vote. And if they do, her nomination is effectively done. The White House is so far publicly sticking with Tandan, saying they will fight to get the 50 votes they need to confirm her. It comes down now to a handful of senators and whether they're willing to buck their party, Bernie Cinema.
Chuck Grassley reportedly and Lisa Murkowski, Republican, was something of an independent streak. So that's where the battle lines are.
Yeah, there was a stream of media commentary that basically said it was over dead for the year, that she was hitting the phones on her own, the image of her kind of alone in a room trying desperately to get enough people together that would actually continue to support her nomination. But as recently as Wednesday morning, you had Jen Psaki, the press secretary, tweeting Neera Tanden as a leading policy expert who brings critical qualifications to the table during this time of unprecedented crisis.
She declined to elaborate on those qualifications outside of saying that her perspective and values, i.e. the fact that she is a woman of color who use the entitlement programs she has subsequently tried to cut or will qualify her for this position.
Well, it really does seem like a half hearted defense of an embattled nominee, a controversial nominee, a nominee who is starting to make them look bad.
Frankly, another wrinkle of this is that Biden doesn't actually care about Deira. She's not a Biden loyalist. She's a Clinton loyalist. And here's here's a line from Politico's early obituary.
One senior Democratic Senate staffer complained that even early on in her confirmation fight, the White House was lackluster in its advocacy for her and tone deaf to the chilly reception she was getting on the hill. There were questions about how many championed she even had at sixteen hundred Pennsylvania Avenue. The staffer said, who does she have? Ron Klain?
That's her constituency, which really highlights the extent to which the argument from liberals that only some small cohort of bad faith right wingers are against her is really not accurate. It seems like even among moderate liberals, there's not a ton of support, especially given that it's not really clear the payoff is here. Speaking of which, I was listening to a little piece of America as I.
Oh, God, what you look, can I tell you, I don't know if I am just a little ashamed, picky. I don't know exactly what's good for God, but I sincerely enjoy the experience of listening to the show, even as many of the political positions taken and the critiques, the half hearted critique they make, I mean, to pull my hair out.
So one of those was way there was a lot of you can't just you can't just say that and then expect to go to another thing on it. What is it that you enjoy about the show?
And they have a certain camaraderie and they have a certain like. They obviously are friends, they obviously know each other, they have a little routine. Love it. It's funny, you know, he's funny and I am. And for they are they do give you like a straight not so straight read of the news, but like straight enough read of the news and you know what their biases are. So you can correct for it with the level of detail that sometimes doesn't come across.
And the very ironic leftie news cycle, which can jump a little quickly to editorialization that linger enough on what actually happens. So you're brainwashed.
Why you're telling me that they're sending sigma waves into your brain and they're brainwashing you with their with their Obama Abreau patter?
My middle name is Joy, but with one change of one consonant, it could be John.
Unbelievable. Unbelievable. Why don't you go see if they have a job opening? Do you want to be on a show that's informing people and you know where the hosts are friends?
Well, I don't match the demographic requirements there, Virgil. Well, speaking of, they do tackle the mirror question on a recent episode.
They also have a narrow watch that can also preface this with a distorted version of the neurological.
Well, they had a direct dispatch to the left that I thought that our listeners might be interested in hearing.
Yeah, let's let's put that on.
But I also I first of all, fight for the posters, fight for the right to post. Well, honestly, we want people in government who grab a glass of Chardonnay at 11:00 p.m. and start arguing with people that have no pictures with their fists, like we want that fight for freedom of speech, like, are we damn right or speech or not.
I just it's so frustrating. Everyone is for freedom of speech until it hurts their feelings.
And if I Furnier I want I want every retros out there to fight for the right to post.
But this is this is about shit posting Thursday came about near a decision about the federal budget. This is about shit.
I need no more. No more. No more. No more. No more.
No more. No more. Do you listen to that? How do you listen to that? It's those the most caustic thing I've ever.
Look, you know how I am. You know, I love to watch it thing. You know that I. I will literally take something out of my school.
No, that's not what you said. There's clearly some aspect of the aesthetics of this that's connecting with you. And I cannot see how well you look.
I'm not going to have to be sorry, OK? You can change. You don't have to know. Enjoy it. I'm just trying to, I don't know, psychoanalyze it.
The point of the matter is that I'm in the trenches bringing you dispatches from the middle. And you know what's most frustrating? But I mean, obviously, they're being kind of glib there. But what was frustrating about the whole segment is that they are doing the thing that the Democratic Party is doing right now, which is to pretend that the issue with Neera Tanden is exclusively the fact that she doesn't exercise restraint on Twitter. And they are pointing out that Republicans are hypocrites for caring about this, but not caring about all the crazy stuff that Trump and all of his allies have tweeted over the last four years.
Of course, that completely ignores, as they always do, that the critique from the left, from the red roses that they will glibly invoke and a bit like this are critiquing her on substantive policy grounds, none of which I mentioned in the context of this episode.
Absolutely. And, you know, I do I do think it's funny, this admonition of the red rose people to save Nereus candidacy when, you know I mean, I know this is the high stakes thing there are what happened.
And I just looked down and there was no level. And it was because I plug the thing into the wrong hole again, parts of America that would never happen on that show. It's true.
It's very well produced. That's my fault. Yeah. You're really you're really, really you're really insulting a lot of important people right now.
What I've heard what I've learned from this segment is that it's really important to make enemies everywhere you go. Mira style.
I think this admonition to the rose emoji types who are far left hankies in these weirdos minds to save Nero's candidacy is really funny because frankly, as something of a rose emoji individual myself, I don't have any impact over this whole process.
I can't change. I will, of course, in cinema or Lisa Murkowski votes, but I still encourage people to, you know, help tip the scales a little bit, make your voice heard.
But, you know, some hashtags have emerged. Neera Tanden, I think reject Hannon's referred one, but I don't know, reject NERA rolls off the tongue a little better. And I mean, the only reason that I say that is it's not because it's a.
Very high stakes fight it really, you know, it isn't, but it is genuinely disappointing, not unexpected, disappointing to see how the, you know, mainstream corporate media is covering this fight, which, as you said, is making it all about either bad tweets or that, you know, this is motivated by misogyny or racism. And that's it.
And there's and there's there's just two sides on the Republican side and everyone else and not I have not seen anywhere articulated in a place like The Washington Post and New York Times, Washington Post editorial board came out in favor of NERA, by the way, the left wing argument against NERA.
What's funny is that both Jennifer Rubin, who, to be clear, is a Republican. Yes, I know that they like to pretend that being a never Trump Republican is somehow a political ideology that makes you longtime bedfellows with Democrats or bedfellows at all.
But to be clear, is the Republican Party you transcend ideology. So Jennifer Rubin and the lads at POD are in agreement on the fact that if it's not near, whoever will replace her will be even more to the left. Now, Jennifer Rubin brings that up as a incentive for the right wingers and the conservative Dems to go ahead and confirm her. You know, pod save brings it up in that way that they do where it should be an argument, but they refuse to make a political argument.
They refuse to take a position. So they kind of put it out there as though they aren't tacitly making the case for why we should just go ahead and let me and not be confirmed. We should abandon Mirah.
It's a stellar opportunity to condemn online harassment, particularly the the sorts of online harassment engaged in by supporters of Neera Tanden. That's why I want people to be as loud as possible in opposing this nomination. Granted, there are other very important fights happening right now.
So don't let that take you away from things like fighting for a fifty dollar minimum wage.
But it's also just a fun thing you can do. You know, if you just want to blow off some steam and have fun online, you know, tell Bernie Sanders or Lisa Murkowski not to vote to confirm Neera Tanden. Speaking of that minimum wage, you know, all of this is taking place in the backdrop of high stakes negotiations over the one point nine trillion dollars covid relief bill where cinema mansions votes are critical. This is an interesting point from later in the article.
Democrats also argue that a scuttled Tanda nomination is not a terrible political outcome for Biden, as it gives Manchin and Republicans a chance to say they broke with Biden on something on one front while giving them cover to back his agenda elsewhere. If you remember, that's the argument I made last episode.
Virgile, you're brilliant. That's why we really appreciate in value your presence on this show.
It's total confirmation from this anonymous Democrat who talked to political reporters. Are you proud of yourself as the source right now, Virgile?
Who is who is this masked hero?
One other note here. You know, this is just to give you some idea of how utterly tone deaf this nomination is. Here's O'Higgins back in December, just interviewed the head of a major progressive group who said that the Biden transition team reached out after the TANNE nomination to say, quote, Aren't you happy we met your demands? We brought in a movement leader. Was the person they reached out to, Sean McKelway, and did McKelway say, yes, I am happy?
I don't know, he wrote an article about it. So I think the names in the article, but I just quoted a tweet because I'm lazy.
I mean, that's I mean, that's funny. That's how the mainstream, you know, the economy, that's how they view narrative. And that's what they generally think that's the case.
People like Ron Klain genuinely believe that's the case. So scream as loud as you can. No, we don't like this person. She's awful. Yeah.
The fact that mainstream Democrats truly have no sense of what progressive means, even after Bernie Sanders claimed a substantial bulk of the Democratic Party electorate, the lack of intellectual political curiosity on this front is continues to be astounding to me. We should play I mean, I don't want to rehash it, but like, I know we're not playing in other parts of America.
I'm putting my foot down. Then don't do it. I cannot hear it.
I have the show. I will walk away. I was going to allude to how clumsy. You know, with all due respect, you know, Brian Stelter was trying to describe the political orientation of Elizabeth Breunig and I on CNN a couple of weeks ago. And the weird hodgepodge of of shows from Mother Jones to that faith were described as progressive.
I mean, I don't expect much better from CNN and MSNBC or The Washington Post. I mean, that's got symptomatic of the fact that the left, you know, the socialist left for as large as it is, for as influential as it is for its many victories in the past two election cycles, still remains, you know, marginalized in the popular discourse. Well, not for long.
We are here now, not for long, because we're getting our woman in at OMB.
Actually, when this confirmation process started, I glumly thought that NERA would squeak by in a tight vote. Last weekend, I thought she was still a slight favorite, but my New York Times election needle is swinging pretty hard right now. So just to try to read the tea leaves here, I think cinemas know this is a speculative part of bad faith. I think cinema is a no. And that's why they canceled the Homeland Security vote, because NERA would have lost their without without cinemas vote.
So they can't. So then right after that, they cancelled the Budget Committee vote. In part.
My guess is because he didn't want to vote to confirm someone he doesn't like who's doomed anyway.
Yeah, my read is unless there's a miracle, I think the nomination is doomed. And I will boldly predict right now, this is the Virgil, Texas lock of the week that NERA gets pulled on Friday night.
OK, Virgil, I trust your Neidl.
I'm not going to push back against your Neidl, except you said it's swinging hard and I will not object.
It could happen Thursday, but you know what I mean. I could have said by Friday night. But no, I'm going to say it's going to be Friday night, late afternoon, Friday night.
You know, what do they call the Friday night death zone?
Is this like your price is the price is right? Where if I just undercut you by a penny, think Saturday morning, then fine.
Be my guest.
You know, the opposite direction. Because if you go over, you lose. You have to you have to come in. Well, I don't know.
Maybe the analogy doesn't work. Yeah, no, that's right. No, no, no.
We know. Right. Wait, no, it's the other way. No, it's other way. It's the other way. Because if I.
OK, wait. OK, I don't know how much time I should be spending thinking about what the damn price is. Right. Rules are. I just know that sometimes people bid a dollar and then someone else will bid two dollars. So it's closest without going over.
It's closer and there's no over here. There's no over here. So doesn't really make sense. Oh right.
Yeah. Oh wait now. Oh this is OK.
We're spending too much because we're spending too much time on the prices. Right. We can't do that. We're going to we're going to get the Drew Carey stance about it us in addition to the nearest fans.
You know, I just I just have one little thing, you know, and, you know, you touched on this. The defenses of Neera Tanden are getting pretty deranged. Yeah, they're it's like some some wild stuff.
I mean, some of it some of it does make sense. You know, I heard someone, you know, it's been going around that, oh, you know, man should oppose there because they were criticized.
Mansion's daughter, who is the head of this pharmaceutical company that, you know, the prices. Yeah. Yeah. Of EpiPen or an EpiPen equivalent. Something like that. Which I mean, it could be the case.
Certainly there's no defending Joe Manchin.
This I mean, I'm sending him I'm sending his office. Ten thousand roses, certainly to thank him for going against an error. But that's all I give you. That's all I care about. The man like what? He votes MarkWest energy. Yeah. I don't know.
I don't know if you caught this this, like, disgusting little bit by some Capitol Hill reporter. That was Joe Manchin, the rock star.
He just gets off the elevator and all these senators are calling him out by name. Charness off, you know, shakes his hand and Cory Booker stops to take a selfie with him.
Wait seriously. Like they're all just trying to ingratiate themselves to him so he doesn't hold up the Democratic Party agenda.
No, they think he's really cool. They think he's a cool, like, hot guy. It would be like if Logan Ball showed up, like you'd want to get a selfie with him.
Wait, don't I know they're trying to ingratiate. Yeah, they're trying to pick that up. But, you know, just one last bit.
One last thing here. Here's my favorite, just deranged argument for Neera Tanden. This is Congressman Eric Swalwell.
Obama, who is white. I should have stated you are white. I represent one of the largest Indian American districts in the US. How do I look at what's happening to Neera Tanden and to little girls of South Asian descent that they'll have the same opportunities in life as white men?
The answer I can't. And that's a shame.
Like that's not your job. You did your job to go around to like strange little girls of South Asian to say what they can and can't do.
But what if when when you're making the rounds, what you got to tell them is, sorry, you can't be the OMB director of South Asian descent and you can't you can't do it.
That's life. If you're South Asian, you can be vice president.
You can make a documentary about UPU or you can publish Jacobin, but you absolutely, positively cannot be the director of the Office of Management Budget. It's not allowed and that's because of white supremacy.
As a little girl, I spent I remember spending a lot of energy worrying over Condoleezza Rice's confirmation hearings because Condoleezza walked so I could run.
You know, I that might not be a joke.
I don't know. I do have her biography on the shelf behind me. I've been we. To see if anybody would notice, I honestly, I think the White House fire breather resolution is too low when you're video to notice either. But, you know, maybe there's a way to rectify that.
We have to see if we can get enough support from our amazing patrons that we can fund higher resolution cameras for your viewing pleasure.
And then maybe then you'll also get those full video pichon episodes you've been clamoring for.
Volks make Braila could help us help us out here a little. That's why I have you. Oh, come on.
That's like make Bree look as good as her favorite podcasters, the Pod Johnson, Tommy. And I think another one's name is David.
No, you don't enjoy it even a little bit like there's nothing like that.
Oh, I don't know. It's like they sound like awful people at a bar who might be at the table next to you.
OK, have you is there anything that you watch that you know is bad? Like do you hate watch anything?
I got to think. Hang on. Hang on. Yes. Bob's Burgers. You don't like Bob's Burgers? No, I don't care for it. I watch it, but I don't care for it. I don't like the sauce.
OK, I was expecting I don't like the children. Bob is a fool. I don't care for his behavior is fine. I think she's trying her best. But she's also a bit of a of a buffoon.
I'm like I'm losing my mind a little bit. I have been compared. To Louise, in tone and energy in my life, I don't know what to make of a real bad apple.
I don't approve of her ethics in the slightest. You know, Tina, Tina, somewhat relatable, but I think she needs a lot of help and a lot of self-confidence. I like Teddy. I like I like Teddy.
Like that is this is so weird. OK, we're going down a weird path. I don't think we are going to ever actually.
So I just want to say I've got some you know, I've got some mixed feelings about Hugo, the health inspector, as I'm sure you know as well.
OK, look, the point of it is I want to ask you the follow up question is why do you think you enjoy watching Bob's Burgers despite not liking the show for silly reasons?
There's like vivid colors for me to look at, OK? The voice acting is very good. It's like voice actors that I like.
OK, so we can still have John Benjamin on the show because you approve of his work. You just don't like the writers. I just don't like the show, OK?
I don't like I don't like the the, the short of it.
Got it. But yes, we should definitely have a John Benjamin on the show. He would love to come on.
You know, I would love to have him on. We should sort this out at that time. Let's show. Let's do it.
I mean, we can get on to the only point I'm trying to make is that sometimes you watch something like I famously watched like five seasons of the West Wing thing when asked to watch one episode to go on The West Wing was your decision.
That was your idea.
Sometimes there's a cadence, there's a rhythm of the show. For example, I'm currently watching Outlander, but I keep stopping because there's something about it that makes me not want to watch in any given moment. It requires too much emotional investment. You know, it's too stressful sometimes. I don't want the anxiety of suspense in a show. I just want something where I don't care what happens to any of the characters. I want it to wash over me with 90s music.
I want it to be competence porn in the way that Star Trek or the West Wing is. And whether it's good is secondary. I think that maybe that's it. Maybe for me, Pottsy of America is like competence porn.
It's very well produced. They know what they're talking about. Even if I disagree with it.
We have to explore this. Another topic, OK?
We've run along a little long on this intro for a very long episode, though.
I think it was very good intro personally. Well done to both of us.
I thought it was great. And look, I know some people are going to take issue with the interview. So for you, you can just enjoy this extra long intro that we gave you. In addition, it's just content on content. Yeah.
I mean, if you're racist, you don't have to live the rest of this episode, which is a two hour long panel.
But we get into it.
We get into. The left's approach to putting together the multiracial coalition and correcting some of the mistakes that the Brady Campaign may or may not have made with respect to securing the black vote and the Democratic primary. Now to the point made by our panelists. Bernie actually was number two with black voters. So you've got to take this with a grain of salt.
But the question becomes, how do we get around some of these bad actors, some of these bad feebs actors like the Jim Cliburn's of the world, who have the ability to come in at the last minute and really swing things in a direction that is very much against what the bulk of black people actually want.
Yeah, I think the most valuable part of the conversation was a real reckoning with the patronage networks in the democratic machine in places like South Carolina that influence the votes of black voters.
Yeah, and Professor Reid goes really hard on the King family.
So those of you who had quibbles with last week's premium episode will love this.
You know, I mean, I can see the feedback of people are going to say, well, how dare you have Adolph Reid on? This is too anti woak. And it's I, I like to think that balances with the last one, which was too low.
And then we were just reaching a nice yin yang here. And that's what we're going for in the podcast called Bad Faith. Amen, brother. So we get to it.
Let's do. Let's meet today's guests. He is a public school teacher, political liaison with the Philadelphia Federation of Teachers and contributing editor for Jacobin magazine, Paul Prescod.
Hey, thanks for having me.
He is professor emeritus of political science at the University of Pennsylvania and organizer Dabbs Jones Douglas and Institute's Medicare for All South Carolina initiative, Adolph Reed.
How are you doing? Glad to be here. It also sounds like an all star introduction.
And finally, he is associate professor of political science at UMass Amherst.
Dean Robinson, glad to be here.
Thank you all so much for joining us.
I'm very excited about this, I have to say, because as someone who kind of made her bones in journalism, writing about a lot of the issues that each of you often foreground and articulates so well, it's nice to feel like I am, in fact, in a safe space with like minded black folks where we can have a kind of conversation that gets past some of the initial wrapping up that we have to do to kind of grease the gears for the general public to to to handle some big ideas.
So what I want to ask you first and foremost, this is our last episode that will air during Black History Month.
People with our political orientation aren't often asked the question of why is it we haven't progressed farther and what we think the obstacles are in the way and even more critically, what we think the kind of mainstream narrative is getting wrong about the obstacles to black progress. I want to start with you, Professor Reid. What's your take on where we are in this moment, particularly after we just came out of a year, in particular, a summer of unprecedented protests from a black movement?
Where are we now and why aren't we farther?
Well, well, those are big questions. I think I say, first of all. First question is who the we is? Right. Because some of the we are doing pretty well and have come very far, actually. Right. Some of the we haven't. And one problem that that speaks to or that the question speaks to is, is how discourse about black American political life has been shaped in the last decade, two to two decades or whatever.
And I think that the way that the problematize first person, plural, as a way of talking about black people is a reflection of how that discourse has been shaped. And it's interesting in this regard, when you think about it, the discussions of black Americans aspirations and grievances and the power of racism and the transcendent power of white supremacy, whatever, tend to take the concrete instantiations from the past. Right, like from 16 19 to slavery or Jim Crow or and what we haven't done and this is ironic, especially as black, leftist, whatever that category is supposed to be, what we haven't done is turn the lens onto Fine-grained upon examination of class and other disparate political dynamics among black America.
So, for instance, I mean, you remember I know as well as I do that when Jim Jim Clyburn and former hero of the civil rights movement, John Lewis and Cedric Richmond, then the chair chair of the Black Congressional Caucus, Congressional Black Caucus, denounced Bernie Sanders for supporting free public higher education for everybody. And I mean denounced them on terms indicating that he was irresponsible because nothing is free in America suggests that there are, at the very least, substantial political differences.
Right among black Americans as far as the two other comments. And then I'll defer and will happily and listen to my former colleagues. But one is the movement question. And it's been so long since there was a real dynamic political movement out there among black people or anybody else in America that the qualifications of what counts as a movement have become watered down. Right. Mark Dujarric, who's a friend and comrade of all of us, too, and I look at an article in 2015, laid out characteristics of a serious political movement, and they would include things like being able to exert a force of state force that's capable of altering that, the dominant terms of political debate around some some issue or other.
And if that's the case, definitely as far as black people are concerned, but as far as any kind of left of economic agenda is concerned, it's also true that there hasn't been a movement worthy of the name around in like 30 years at least. And we've had a tendency to conflate. A lot of demonstrations and public protest caps, which can be Potemkin, frankly, but to conflate that with the existence of of an actual movement and a key distinction for me.
Is that a movement would be would consist of institutional actors that are connected with constituencies and members that have actual names and addresses that can be mobilized to do stuff. Right. I mean, not the first person, the first articulate black person to grab the microphone on the last question, we've got my father. That's a complicated one, too. I mean, like I said, a lot depends on who the we is. But the fact of the matter is that what would improve the social and economic circumstances of the vast majority of black Americans who are, after all, people who either get up and work for a living or are expected to get up and work for a living would be the same kind of redistributive economic agenda that would improve the living conditions of everybody within the society.
To the extent that a black movement insists that that is not the case, then that's enough of an explanation about how we haven't been able get farther than we've gotten. I mean, there's a. One facet of this is, for instance, my old friend, William Sandy Darity, who is now what should we call him, like the Lenine of of the reparations? I saw an interview with him or he was on a panel like few days ago.
My son, Sandy and Sandy said explicitly that when he talks about the racial wealth gap, which is another problematic category, we might be able to talk about it. Like for him, it's it's wrong to focus on the median wealth gap. We have to focus on the median wealth gap. Why? Because he acknowledged, as Matt Groening has shown, that according to Sandy, ninety four percent of the racial wealth gap is above the median. So what that comes down to is a conviction that the effective standard of racial justice should be that black people ought to be able to get as rich as the rich white white counterparts are.
And the flipside of that is that the middle is fighting for scraps. I think Brinegar said that like three percent black middle class, half, three percent of black wealth, white middle class, three percent of white wealth. And we're talking about matching up those three percent instead of going for the one percent at the top, right?
OK, so I saw I saw you nodding here. There was some raised eyebrows, I think, when Professor Reid mentioned that, you know, our prevailing discourse kind of perceives any argument that that which would benefit black people the most also aligns with what would benefit white working and poor people the most as well. Did you have something to build on?
I mean, I'm I'm glad you started with saying, like, who is the we? Because what I was going to say is that the things that are in our way are the similar things that are in every working person's way. And I'll start with two that are close to home as a public school teacher and public sector union member, and that is the public sector and trade unionism. And as these two decline are under attack, that is, I would argue, affecting black people even more.
And I think the public sector has been historically such a critical lifeline for black people, even more so than white people, for a variety of historical reasons, partly because of anti-discrimination law being stronger and more enforced in the public sector and allow black workers to gain a foothold. And just look at today, like six percent about the private sector is unionized. Thirty three percent of the public sector is still unionized. So black workers are more likely to be public sector workers.
And these are jobs that are more likely to have good pay, good benefits and stability. So as that is under attack know, of course, all people are suffering under that. But black workers especially and like we're never that's a key component of the obstacle and same thing of unions. I mean, people are shocked to hear this because I know everyone here is union member and they're thinking white man and a hard hat. But today, statistically, a black person is more likely to be in a union than a white person.
That's that's a fact of life. So with that on a decline as well, I mean, just to paint a picture, maybe like a more human example of just what is happening, I mean, take an average black public school student in Philadelphia. So not only is the district underfunded, under attack and probably less likely to prepare you for college, whatever that means. Exactly. I mean, let's say you are prepared for college, the price you're out, price of college for most of them.
So you can't really go that route for a lot of them. OK, well, let's say I want to learn a trade. Well, they've also cut off this qty career technical education programs at the same time. So you're in these schools with 40 in a in a classroom, roofs literally caving in. I could send you the link to that article and your option for maybe not going to college is being cut off as well. So it's I mean, it's literally a squeeze every size you can look at.
And then it's like, OK, well, what do we expect to happen when this student graduates if they can't unionize at Amazon? I mean, really, what do we expect to happen to them? So I think that kind of paints a picture of what is getting in our way. And again, I mean, I would argue not only is it the interests of black workers is the same as as white workers, but I say these things are actually even more important for black people than whites.
So I don't have to tell anybody on this panel that that idea is still down. The way it's described talked about in the media is a rising tide raises all boats. That idea in and of itself is racist or it it ignores the historical moments at which a rising tide did not, in fact, raise all boats, in particular New Deal programs that excluded significant percentages of the black population. I see. Professor Reid.
I know I know an involuntary reaction.
I believe you me, but we're we're getting there. But this is what is said, right? Like they take some some true instances of historical exclusion. You know, participation is also another one at the exact. This brought up, OK, here are some historical examples of the racist and exclusionary practices of unions to then say unions are for black people, universal programs are for black people. Those who would focus on those sorts of efforts as a means of uplift for black people are class reductionists and are somehow hostile to the interest of black folks.
And instead, the real ones among us would focus on talking about those issues, which exclusively are racial in nature, which I would argue are very difficult to come by. But to the extent that they like to focus on them, they tend to find examples like Serena Williams being discriminated against in the context of her pregnancy. She's very affluent. So there a class piece that's removed, although I could argue that the fact of her being black and the presumption that folks make about black people and black value and worth are linked in with the broader economic generalities of our community.
But like they go to those examples and see and say, see, even when classes in a factor, there's racism, therefore we have to tackle this first. I see you nodding, Professor Robinson. I'm curious what you make of that particular strain of argument and how you think the left wholely could be doing a better job of addressing it without further alienating people who already are distrustful of the left for reasons that we should probably get into, you know, maybe even going back to the first question you posed and the comments by Adolf's and Paul.
I'd say this, you know, part of what we're seeing is the amplification of particular perspective or take on black politics. It's a leadership and professional class take on articulating and explaining the quote unquote, black agenda. And I'll say this. I'm one of the faculty involved in a community based participatory research project that's looking at stress and chronic disease among middle aged black men in Springfield, Massachusetts. And so, you know, weekly, I'm working with this group, Moka.
These men are not college educated. They're working class. They are existing on the margins of the U.S. economy. And if you ask their priorities, there are things like, you know, job that pays a decent wage and housing security and basic nuts and bolts, bread and butter issues. Never in a meeting when I hear calls for, you know, reparations or equalizing the black white wealth gap. So I think part of it is that it's kind of the monopoly of, you know, not saying it wealthy, the overrepresentation of a certain voice that happens to coincide with kind of black professional classes, black political and economic elites who have the luxury to to worry chiefly about racial disparities or discrimination that they face.
They feel oftentimes real. But it's the luxury to focus specifically on, you know, forms of discrimination or oppression that affect them as a that's a political class, as a as a sort of stratum, rather than hearing from black working class people and what they might sort of raise as immediate concerns or what should what should drive the focus of our attention.
So what I'm hearing is it as a theme that's emerged, is that the conversation is being defined by the so-called black leadership class.
And there isn't really a lot of controversy around what would be helpful among the people who are looking for help, but the people who are in a position to potentially a whole politicians accountable and to make a certain kind of demand and to structure the political conversation are very attenuated from those kinds of acts and in fact, are participating in the project of making sure that those assets are stigmatized negatively as somehow being Arpatepe antithetical to the interests of black people.
This has been a chief consternation of mine in the context of the campaign and after. And there are these moments where I get hopeful, like, you know, Cardi B's hesitating in her conversation with Bernie after he dropped out to endorse bigheaded and saying, oh, Bernie, do I have to basically in the context of this interview and I said this to Dr. West when he was on the show, a part of me was like, oh, gosh, if I could just get to Kadee and convince her to say I'm withholding my vote from voting until and unless these needs are met, what promise there what promise lies in some of these black people with a large platform, but.
Are caught up in all of this narrative building that is so removed from real experiences, but absent A Cardi B style intervention or even a Puff Daddy style or Ice Cube style intervention, these these figures who have managed to to step a little bit away from the conventional wisdom, how do we get out of this now?
Say a couple of things. What one is like, I've got all the respect in the world for for Glenn Ford and Margaret Kimberley. I think the missed leadership class notion, though, gets our way. And I think it's also like an expression of the problem. Right. I spent like the better part of a decade trying to figure out how to put together a sort of black power, radical understanding, black power, populist understanding of political inequality and conflict and tension within what was called black black American politics before figuring out that the reason that the radicals hadn't been able to mount an effective critique against the mainstream black black political class that emerged after the Voting Rights Act is that they.
Accepted and insisted upon the black community as the normative standard against which the actions of these putative misleaders should be measured. But the black community is affected politically. It's a fiction that's constructed by those the new black political class itself, because the Sedrick Vasquez pointed out what we think of as black politics is really just just American ethnic interest group pluralism, but among black people. And that's always been a professional and managerial stratum defined project and its interests are. And this is ultimately what gets us in a position of people like Joy Reid and Granter like all fairness, she had a brain.
You might be dangerous, but we don't have to worry. But what gets them to this position where they can argue that redistribution and growth politics are the same when historically growth politics was the alternative to redistribution? Right. And I mean, that's the problem with the rising tide lifts all boats comparison. That's not what leftists have ever been talking about. That's what Kennedy liberals talked about. That's what Clinton talked about. Right. And they always understood it to be an alternative to a real social democratic redistributive policy.
So does that. But but the other thing is, you know, part of being politically serious is facing up to the undesirable circumstances that that you're in. As Paul knows, like in Philly, we've been thinking about trying to jam three of our area congresspeople to see whether we could press them to support Medicare for all. From the moment that Biden forced Barney out of the race, then we knew it was time to abandon that project because we didn't have the leverage with them and Biden had all of the leverage.
The fact of the matter is that we don't have any space. There's no space for us to challenge the corporate Wall Street and identity and hegemony within the Democratic Party. We don't have the standing. We don't have the troops.
Well, who's the we now, when you say that, who who is the we that you're referring to? The left, right. I mean, left to of our sort and anybody else who considered themselves committed to a politics that's about making the society qualitatively better than it is, is at the moment. Right. To the extent that we have more than a half century of the electoral domain being defined in ordinary people's understanding with a sort of cash and carry stuff, that horse trading and symbolic stuff of like appointments and the like that the Democrats have on offer, we don't have any space to move in that domain to make anything happen.
We don't have the allies to do it. So where that leaves us is to face up, I think, to the bitter pill that the most important task for us to pursue as leftists is to try to build that popular movement that's got the capacity to force a change on the terms of debate. You know, as progressives, we mainly got more from Richard Nixon than we got from any of the three Democratic presidents that followed him. And that's not because he liked us more.
I'm prepared to grant that Carter and Clinton and maybe even Obama liked us more than Nixon did. But the social forces that Nixon had to respond to, the movements that were connected with advancing our interests, the labor movement, civil rights movement, the environmental movement like the women's movement, were strong enough and insurgent enough that they could force the Republican president to do things like affirmative action, OSHA, EPA and the Democrats. We haven't been able to force the Democrats to do that with because we haven't had the clout, the political clout to do it, because we haven't had the movement.
That movement I was talking about earlier with with like institutions that have people with names and addresses that are connected with them. And that's the ultimate explorer, that's the first layer explanation of why things have got worse and worse and worse over the last 40 years, because the capacities, that kind of political capacity has shriveled up. And the task then is really, I think, to rebuild that. And frankly, when we look at the political landscape now and the dangerous options out there on the right, I think that's the only task for us to consider.
So that project and examining why it is that our revolutionary, potent potential is neutered, that these movements are in some ways less effective than the movements of your spouses, is part of the, I think, a project of this this podcast.
And what what seems to me to be the case. And I encourage and I hope that some more people who are come from, you know, various movements are willing to come on the podcast and talk to us about strategy and some of the choices that have been made in our coming down the pike. But something that continues to be a theme is this kind of lack of accountability. So you talk about not only having historically had institutions, whether it's organized labor or a more concrete movement or infrastructure that's been able to make specific demands of leadership.
So much so that even, you know, Richard Nixon had to come to the table. It seems to me now that even if sure structurally the movement isn't as secure, what have you, the numbers and the interest are there. So the question has to start being asked, why isn't there more organization within these movements and why are specific assets being made?
And particularly and I've mentioned this in the podcast before, it struck me that during this past summer, regardless of who is at the head of this leaderless movement or who's, you know, controlling the marches, there are millions of people and an unprecedented number of people in the streets in this moment, in the middle of a general election, in the middle of a general election. And yet, while demands important demands are being made, none of the demands are being connected to the one thing that I think is actually useful about considering there to be one giant black community, which is that black people do vote as a block more so than any other ethnic group in this country.
And that has been the source of a lot of political vulnerability in so far as the Democratic Party doesn't have to listen to us. We are going to vote no matter who.
But it's also a real vulnerability for the Democratic Party. If one were to able to weaken that alliance, disrupt that to say I won't actually vote for you unless and to attach conditions to all of the marching and all of the whatnot and to have some kind of accountability mechanism, even if it isn't the traditional voter block that you would get, for example, through a union. And my question is always, if the average black worker agrees, if the average black, not MSNBC pundit agrees.
Right. Why is there still so much sensitivity to the idea of breaking ranks with a party that has so obviously done so little to benefit us over the past 50, 60 years?
I can say something I don't think will be coherent, but I mean, I think I believe it.
That's kind of the mantra for the show.
Yeah, right. OK, good safe space. I forgot. Yeah. I mean, a few things to say. I mean I think one, there's no one that would want a Labor Party more than me or whatever, something that would be a Labor Party. But I mean, I get what you're saying, like black voters voting as a bloc. I get what you mean by that. But also at the same time, it's not like this is an organization of black voters, because I think right now there's nothing to flee to.
Really, when we're talking about leaving the Democratic Party, there's not an instance, an institution set up to leave to. And and it's not like this bloc of voters is organized in the sense of like all on the same page, all cohered around a certain platform that could like. Not that I'm saying, Brianna, you're trying to give an order, but like, if there were an order to follow it, you know, which is not a problem, supposed to be have it like that.
So, I mean, I guess that's kind of my one response. I mean, another and this is another can of worms. I'm glad there's not like a comment section that I can see. But I've said this before and people are a little bit taken aback. But I think going back to the summer about why this happened on black people in the summer, I mean, from what I saw locally in Philly and from what I could gather on TV, and I know that's not like comprehensive.
The protests were vast majority white. And that's like a weird thing. I don't know, maybe this is just me. Maybe I'm off base, but people have not really been willing to acknowledge that. I think that kind of opens up a whole nother can of worms there. And we might have some disagreements about this. But I kind of was half jokingly saying during the election, like, I'm a single issue voter and on the NLRB, what Trump?
Doing alone is enough to make me hold my nose for 10 minutes and vote for Biden, and even what he's done so far is like more than I've expected from Biden. So I'm already impressive that. And I guess my point is that I think people still feel I think most people agree, like the Democrats suck, but people still feel there are some real stakes there. And without something clear, I think, to go to, it's very hard for people to make that choice.
And that doesn't I mean, that doesn't negate anything. You're saying that we should have another party or I mean, we could talk for three hours about how much the Democrats have let people down and let black people down. But I think that's kind of goes back to weight off of saying, like we were kind of but still in those beginning stages of being able to build a force that could even start making those moves or those decisions. That makes sense.
But what does that look like? So to me, we all, I think, understand that that kind of organization that we'd like, that we could actually control, that we could direct doesn't exist. What I'm trying to do is say in lieu of that and understanding that things are so exigent and particular in the context of this pandemic, that the idea of some 20 year timeline where that might be the case might be might be because we've had a 50 year timeline where that hasn't been the case.
But that's not adequate. And so my feeling about why black people vote, I mean, I think there's a lot of. At this point, kind of weird cultural pride in being a Democrat, like when I went down with the campaign to the Alabama Democratic Party convention, which is basically the Alabama Democratic Party has a black convention and it was hosted by it was funded by Bloomberg this year, about last year, which was a blast. But when I was talking to people and I gave my little speech, I think a lot of people in the audience were charmed and pleased that they liked the idea of me.
And the Bernie campaign had sent someone there and here I was a young black woman, and there was a certain amount of pride associated. And a lot of the older people came up to me were like, oh, yes, I liked what you had to say. Good job.
But Bernie is not a Democrat. I'm a proud Democrat. My family voted Democrat for all these generations. The Democrat Party did X, Y and Z.
For me, this is what the Democratic means culturally to me in this context, I can acknowledge that reality and acknowledge that that's not a principle, that's not a policy driven association. But as a political actor, I want to know how to disrupt that.
And can we use the fact that there is so much frustration that it's only peaking in this moment given the exigency of the crisis, to do the voter education and to do the kind of proselytization that is required not just in the year up to an election, but all the time to start to change the character of what that black voting bloc is.
OK, I see a couple things about that. Yeah, please. Yeah. First, I want to thank thank you for having clarified one thing. I was trying to say that he did much, much better. Which is that and this is what you encountered with the Alabama black black Democrats, that because we saw this in South Carolina, too, that just as the old saw about how black people voted for the party of Lincoln until the New Deal isn't correct or it's an over simplification, black people who were able to vote, who were, first of all, like a very small class class two segment of the population, voted Republican because they got benefits from it, like ambassadorships to Liberia.
Postmasters appointments. Right. And a bunch of other stuff, stuff like that. Customs officials. Right. So they had tangible reasons to vote Republican, just like they had tangible reasons to start voting to the New Deal once FDR was elected. Well, that's the same reason that at least black Democrats and those would be the Democrats show up at the Alabama Democratic convention. They have a career in power. Right, because like for them, as Frederick Douglass said about the Republican Party, the Democrats took the ship.
And all else is to see, by the way, for Black History Month references, I'll point out today is the boy's birthday. So does that. But the point that I made less coherently that Paul made more coherently is that we've got more more than a half century now of of electoral politics not being recognized as not the domain where people go to pursue their hopes and dreams for a better society. Right. What's in effect, like a bipartisan neoliberalism that goes back to Jimmy Carter has foreclosed that Bill Clinton said famously.
And in his State of the Union message in nineteen ninety six, the era of big government is over. So that's twenty five years ago. And we've had, at a minimum, twenty five years of understanding that the Democratic Party voting or Democratic Party politics is not where you go to pursue serious or the kind of serious reforms that we were fighting for in the Sanders campaign. So it's a different domain, first of all. I mean, the other thing is, you know.
Yeah, like it's true that the 20 year time frame. Is unacceptable, but it's unacceptable and kind of the same way that gravity is unacceptable. Right. I mean, I wish that I could jump up and fly, but I can't. So I got to live with it. And I mean, the reality is that there's only one way to do this, and it's the way that working people, black people, poor people, farmers, whatever women, it's the one way that we've gotten everything that we've ever gotten that's worth having in this society and in the capitalist world.
And that is by long, steady, deep struggle that is rooted in the working class and wrenches power, whatever, to some degree like away from the ruling class, even the emergence. Of the modern notion of free labor, right, I mean, there's a kind of Markovits saw that capitalism requires free labor, which is bullshit by the capitalists. We're quite happy with slavery. And anybody who has ever worked at consumer service sector job knows just how adaptable capitalists are to a slave regime.
Free labor was kind of seized from from below from about a half century of conflict between employers and workers. That was basically like a zero sum conflict that when the economy was bad and employers wanted to bind workers to the shortest possible contract terms and the workers wanted the longest and when the economy was good, but vice versa. So but my point is that the debts aren't any quick, quick fixes, right? I mean, there's no way that we can call out like the individuals who who are dissatisfied.
I mean, we've we're living testament to this limit, right? Because this is what we came up against. Licona Sanders campaign, you and I mean in particular. Right.
But it's also true that within the last four years or that, let's say five years ago, no one could have anticipated that Bernie Sanders would have been as successful as he was in twenty sixteen, that he would have come as close as he did in twenty twenty. But he would have radically changed the discourse and the expectations of the American voter that every candidate in twenty twenty would have to defend why they didn't support Medicare for all and come up with weird slogans about why their health care plan was close enough to Medicare for all of blurring the differences.
Well, well, what's happened since then? Right. Like the combination of covid-19 and and this is most insidious. I think the bourgois tsunami in support of anti racism has been directed as much as anything else toward Weiping, that Sanders agenda of the realm of public discussion. So we're at a point now where almost daily the class character of of what's generally considered the anti racist and political agenda becomes clearer and clearer. But the response that we get or the response, I'm sure you've got it to like when anybody sort of points to the class character of what people are demanding, like all of the reparations related stuff and the rest of that.
I mean, the response that we got is, is anti-racist. Start yelling George Floyd, Rihanna, Taylor, 16, 19, which is just the equivalent of put your hands over your ears and going blah, blah, blah, blah, blah.
Professor Reid, that is true in part, but it's also true that Joe Biden dangled a student debt cancellation. Chuck Schumer, strangely enough, went for a bigger package and that became dangled out there as a possibility. People loved it. And Joe Biden's reneging has caused some consternation among folks, including those who are not always politically aligned with us, including the members of the, frankly, professional managerial class who also, because they're black, have a lot of student loan debt.
Right. If I could push back just a little bit there. I don't think it's as simplistic as Bernie's got. And I don't say this is how you characterized it. But it's not just that Bernie's gone and the genie goes back in the bottle. I think that there are certainly, to your point, efforts to make that happen. But I guess the question I'm asking is what tools are in our arsenal to make sure that that's not the case?
And sometimes I feel like talking about the obvious time that it does take to make things happen in the world can become a bomb for folks who say, OK, there's a 10, 20, 30, 40 year time horizon. Therefore, I'm going to just sit and wait for 10, 20, 30 years. No, during that time, people are actively agitating and struggling to make sure that that outcome comes out manifests.
And I think a great example of like how do we change the balance of forces in the conversation? I mean, any teacher who's involved in a union like we'll talk about Chicago teachers strike of 2012 and like I mean, before that, I mean, they still are. But the education reformers, the the privatization people were really on the march and like that struggle and which was, I mean, in reality, a modest success. But it was a big success, really inspired teachers unions across the country.
And I mean, so much that's going on today, you can trace back to that strike. I think that's a great example of like a local example of organizing kind of emanating out to a national scale. So I think like things like that need to keep happening. I think that can change the debate. And I think what is good, you know, it depends how you look at the Sanders campaign. And like, I never quite understood why it was like this absolute gloom when he lost because, you know, my outlook was like I mean, this would be incredible if he won.
We know the deck is stacked against us. So like I will admit, I was in a bar and I when I saw the Nevada results came in and I had a few drinks, I, I really thought we could win then. But we know we know what happened. But for me, it was like the takeaway, honestly, for me it was actually fairly optimistic, like, OK, Bernie showed we're on to something like. I really like what he's talking about, even with the media blackout and all the stuff that you know about, this is now a basis for us to continue.
So I think beyond obviously like building the labor movement itself stuff even I think these primaries, whether the state level, federal level actually are play an important role. I don't think everything should come down to elections, but elections are that opportunity to keep those ideas out there. And as long as we have more people running who are clear about some of that platform, you know, I think that also ramps up the pressure and keeps burning ideas, not going back in the bottle.
And I think you are right that, like, they can't really put it back in. And it's kind of up to us to, like, put the organizational heft on that happening. But it doesn't take forever. But it does it will take some time. And this is going to play out differently across the country. But I think for some people, they still don't feel there is that viable option yet. But we are on to something again.
I mean, it's much better now than 2013, for example. I think we can more realistically say, like we are on to something, we got to keep this up and to maybe bring it all the way back or not. This is part of the problem, too. And what I was going to say of like how do we get out of this mess? And especially like the rhetoric from the cynical identity people, for lack of a better word.
Here's the problem. It's very easy. And all of us on the left can agree. We can beat up on a Jim Cliburn's of the world. But the problem is much of what is identified is the left or socialist left buys into this stuff, too, and parrots it and they parrot it in a different way. And they love to claim they're doing it differently. If you sit them down individually, they'll say, of course, I understand a cynical identity politics.
Of course I understand Amazon donating to Black Lives Matter is cynical, but we're doing it the good way. And that's the more like uncomfortable truth.
Well, what's what does that look like? Doing it the good way? What do you think their claim is like? Well, I know they're cynical, but from the left, like we got it, we got to admit, Bernie didn't talk about race enough and blah, blah, blah. And so they from their end are still feeding in to the same thing.
Well, let's talk about that. Paul, do you think that Bernie's the way that Bernie handled race and did outreach to the black, whatever the black community, black people in America was sufficient? Do you think that he shouldn't have changed anything given the outcome?
I mean, I don't have an inside look in the campaign, so I can't speak in terms of like the on the ground outreach. But I can also. You've been looking at the numbers. I mean, I think correct me if I'm wrong, but even among black voters. Thirty five and under. Right. Bernie was number one and he was number two. The Biden overall, that gap was that gap was narrowing, as I understood it, up to Super Tuesday.
In fact, Bernie was ahead in February. It wasn't reported.
This caused the question. And no one has been able to answer this. So, OK, if Bernie struggle with black voters because of how we talked about race or didn't talk about race, what the hell would explain Joe Biden being number one? And that kind of gives it all away, right? It means it's not about how we talked about it, because Biden, I don't think has had a thought in his life. It's more about a million issues.
So what. No, what is it about? What is it about? This is what's important. It's about again, I mean, these decades of neoliberalism, what what has it done? This pragmatic understanding of where we vote Democrat just because who's electable? But black people, just like every other person, are influenced by the mainstream media, just like everyone else. So I'm just saying, like that gave it away that this was about who talked about race the best.
Biden's numbers of black voters would be OK.
But this is where I think that I agree with you entirely, Paul. But to the extent that Bernie has some control over those factors, over the electability argument, over how, you know, not all the control in the world, but some influence over how black figureheads receive him, treat him, talk about him. You know, Bernie famously says, I'm not going to call you up and wish you happy birthday.
All right. Well, you know, I just last week or earlier this week, we interviewed Martin Luther King, the third for this podcast.
And what I perceive as your fingers, once the show is over and we get the credit cards close to what?
I want to talk to you about that. But like what I you know, I think a lot of people, you know, we're frustrated by many aspects of the interview that he is nowhere near as radical. I think that he might admit this as his father. But in the course of the conversation, it was also clear that there was more flexibility there than one might have perceived. And that in the conversation about Biden's failings, I thought myself wondering what if Bernie had called him up?
What if Bernie had done more of that handshaking nonsense that we all hate about politics, but that there are these people out here who are especially principled, not necessarily talking about Milošević in the third, but aren't necessarily that principled, but who might have been really useful spokespeople for a. Black population that's used to following figureheads in that way. Professor Robinson, this is going to sound like an anecdote, but I'm working with this group called Moka, not a college degree.
Among them weekly discussion sometimes I present. And several times during the last two primaries, I discussed Sanders candidacy and some of the you know, the key parts of this platform pre-hire at fifteen dollars an hour. There was nothing controversial in what I said. It was more incredulous, like they couldn't understand why they had never heard of this guy type thing. And then meanwhile, you know, the bishops and the city council and the and the kind of democratic black elected officials that are part of the statewide machine.
Well, you know, they're not they're obviously not supporting Bernie Sanders. And so there's just not an opportunity to have these discussions and and organize among constituents who found Bernie Sanders platform very favorable. And so so in the end, it comes down to voice and turnout. And so black and brown people in Springfield gave Biden a narrow victory in Clinton in the previous primary. But there's a lot of potential to engage people around these concrete ideas. And again, it's a very different experience for me in college classrooms when we discuss the, quote, black agenda compared to in these spaces when I'm around working class black and Puerto Rican folks who are, you know, pretty clear about the types of things that they'd like to see.
Yes. So that's really what I want to say. I don't know that it's Martin Luther King. I'm not sure it's that constituency to whom we make the appeal. I think that there are broad constituencies that are more open and receptive because they're not you know, their interests aren't embedded in the status quo in quite the same way, you know. But again, it's the weird world that I operate in between, you know, public higher ed on one hand and then and then kind of this community work that I'm involved in the other.
So the problem is and this was Bernie's problem, regardless of race, the problem is we knew who liked Bernie. People under 30, people under 40 liked Bernie. They got it. But that wasn't the same group that turns out in big numbers. So, you know, Bernie did better with young people.
But the untold story is how, like Bernie was like in single digits with voters over 65. I mean, it was really bad. And I think that there should be some conversations about why that it was and whether the campaign should've just done better to hit older voters in general. But the question becomes, looking at the statistics like this, that 50 percent of Biden voters in South Carolina said that Jim Cliburn's endorsement was a factor in choosing to vote for Joe Biden.
But they also said more than 50 percent of Democratic voters in South Carolina said they wanted Medicare for all. Yes. And when Clyburn endorsed Biden, he said, as far as I'm concerned, the race is between Biden and Medicare for all. So that tells you is that there's a disconnect there. Yes, this is this is what I'm getting at.
But the disconnect has has to do more with the place of electoral politics and what people expect from participating in electoral politics. And I think this points to another issue maybe or points another issue, but maybe a deeper one. If you start out thinking, what could Bernie have done to win the nomination, then that's what propelled like all the post campaign like debate like in Jacobin and the left media with all the smart people explaining what he could have done. But if you start out from the premise that Britney was never going to win the nomination, right, not in 2016 or in 2020, like the Democratic establishment was, was never going to let that happen, then that's when you look at the Sanders campaign as a big success, because to me, the brilliance of what Romney did was he, in effect, like I never heard him say this.
I was never around him anyway. But effectively, he used the election campaign. And the visibility that comes with that as a movement building strategy has worked well.
If it's a movement building strategy and Bernie Sanders was only doing this for that reason, then his behavior after the election doesn't make very much sense.
No, I think it does. I mean, after the election, he's in the Senate. We're in the middle of a pandemic. And he makes a determination that he can be most effective in having some impact on what you consider to be the most pressing issue of the time, which is a pandemic. But the movement would never have been about Bernie anyway. Frankly, after twenty sixteen, I naively, it turns out, kind of hoped that Bernie would just go back to the Senate and go away then, because I thought that between the seven national unions that had supported his candidacy, that came together around the Labor for Bernie initiative and like other activists out there, that there might have been enough self generated activity to do the local and state level organizing disconnected from from Bernie's person and from the dynamics of one of the winning votes for Bernie.
Turns out that there wasn't so it was good that he ran again. But by the end of twenty twenty, things were a lot better. I mean, there was a lot more activity on the ground, especially around Medicare for all. And people were moving like we got eighteen thousand mainly black rank and file voters in South Carolina who signed a pledge card saying that they would prefer to vote only for candidates who support the Medicare for all. Right. Right.
But an enormous number of candidates in southern states, or I think it was Super Tuesday states thought that Joe Biden supported Medicare for all, because that's part of the obfuscation thing.
But see that they should say that twice the limit of trying to build build a movement through the electoral domain. Right. And I think part of this disconnect that we're talking about between like I mean, if we want whatever black communities at large that broadly support social democratic programs but then will vote for the can. And I think the larger question is, as a left, whatever you want to call it, where we're rooted or how to establish more of that connection.
Right. And I think to kind of bring this back to what we're talking about earlier, the danger I see now among white lefties is like, OK, acknowledgment largely true on the left is largely not connected to working class black communities. True enough. And then it's like how to do that? And where the problem is becoming for me is like people are getting attracted to this idea that if we use enough hyper anti-racist rhetoric or we're woken up, we come with our Robin D'Angelo in our bag.
That is the truth. And I think that is a part that's left no doubt on the left.
I see that from the from liberals. I don't I'm not seeing that on the left. Well, all of it.
DSA, who in the DSA is saying that we're going to convert black working class communities by using this white woman's book to do so?
I'm certainly not saying everyone, but I mean, it's very prevalent in the USA and and in just from what I'm hearing, what I'm saying and again, it's not always literally using Robin D'Angelo, but a lot of times in conversation is like, well, I mean, some people call it the magic words. It's like a matter of what we got to say this thing a certain amount of time, kind of similar. I mean, I think similar to what you dealt with with Bernie.
Like, well, the problem is he didn't say these things in there.
So that's not what I say. That's not my I but I really try to drive it. If I could just get to this critique of Bernie that I'm trying to drive to is that my critique is that Bernie should have talked more about electability because black people cared about electability. My critique is that Bernie should have done more of the advocacy.
Bernie is telling them that he's truly electable isn't going to outweigh Cedric Richmond telling them that he's not.
Well, that's the next point I'm making. Bernie needs to do more of the glad handing, frankly, and promising of positions or whatever it is.
But the problem is that you're assuming that Bernie was going to be elected president. I am. I don't share your your view, Professor. And that the movement would have been what we would have been empowered with a Sanders presidency. I mean, yes, this is my frustration, because the way elections are won and lost doesn't have much to do with principle, doesn't have much to do with even what the political consultants. So it has to do with it has to do with who has the institutional capacity to turn out votes.
Right, and to get a message out. The Sanders campaign, especially in itself, never did. Right? I disagree, Professor Reid. I think that we didn't have I was on the ground.
It didn't do what it needed to do, but it didn't lack for money or ability. These are strategic failings that I think that we should talk about because I think we could improve upon them in the future. I don't think I'm pushing back against the idea that what it feels like and correct me if I'm wrong, if you're not saying this, but it feels like, as you're saying, a left candidate in the in the vein of Sanders is never going to be able to win because the oligarchy is never going to let him.
And if that's the case, then we can all say never.
But at this current conjunction, it's not going to happen. Right. And this is not going to happen. All right. I mean, it's just I've got as much faith and possibility as anybody, but this conjuncture of political forces that we are up against. I mean, look, I mean, just look back that after Nevada and probably all of us had that moment in that bar after that victory thinking, well, you know, maybe this could go someplace the next day or two, like one member of the Democratic establishment after another leaked that that was never going to happen, that Sanders was not ever going to get the nomination and they were going to do whatever it took to make sure that he didn't get the nomination.
And the next thing that happens then is it gets skunked in South Carolina. Right. And I mean, Scott.
But why? I'm trying to just stay on that. Why?
Because to me, that matters because the deck was stacked. That says Senator Johnson has written about the misunderstandings of what black black politics is and and especially about South Carolina is really pertinent to the democratic institutions are well embedded. Right. They have like a local apparatus of people who make candidates great candidates, get out the message, turn out the vote, who are phalanxes ministers and what he looks like. I mean, it's like Chicago, basically. And again, like if you start out from the premise that people are not conditioned to look to the electoral realm for making big changes in their lives and then ad add in like in a case like South Carolina, where even before Trump, like the Republican Party, was the worst and the nastiest and the most dangerous that we could find that concerned about that threat, the threat from the right, that also shapes shapes the way people think about voting.
I mean, it's just not a simple matter of, oh, well, these are good ideas. I like these ideas. All right. I want to. Right.
And I'm not saying that either. What I'm really trying to point out here is that if we can all agree on the statistic that 50 percent of Biden voters were going into South Carolina, Bernie Sanders has very, very good polls. Now, whether they want to believe polls they were there, that's all we've got. Right. And then he did terribly in South Carolina. And then 50 percent of the voters said they took Jim Clyburn endorsement and followed it like that was highly influential for them.
Why aren't we? To me, this is why it's important to have a conversation about decoupling the behavior of black voters from the black leadership class or whatever you want to call it.
But you can't do that during an election campaign. I agree. It's the stuff that's got to happen like four years. I agree.
That's why I'm trying to have the conversation now. Right. That's why I try to have a conversation now. So what can we do? Part of what I'm trying to do and why I wanted to have Martin Luther King uttered on last week is to see what happens when you have a conversation with someone who does not necessarily share my politics, but we confront him with the reality of the extent to which this class of black leaders has been throwing black people under the bus.
And what does he say to that? What does he say? When I bring up the leaked Biden call? What did he say? By the way?
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Look, what I thought was useful was there was an acknowledgement when I said, look, Jim Clyburn takes more money from the pharmaceutical industry than any other person in Congress and black people. He he was like, yes, black people want Medicare for all. Jim Clyburn does it. And this is why. Isn't that an issue? There is an acknowledgement now on the record. Yes, money and politics is a significant issue. And we need to figure out ways to hold to me black leadership accountable and whatever little way I can get.
If I can get MLK the third on to get that acknowledgement, I'll take it. If we can start getting some black people in the media who, as much as they are not leftists in our lives and all the things we dislike, but do at their core care about black people offended by some of the things that Joe Biden has said and done in his past and continues to do the black moments and the eulogies for segregationists and all of that stuff, then why can't we do a better job as the left to.
The extent to which some of these people could be held more accountable as Joe Biden goes down this path of being particularly hostile to our community interests, I mean, what you said about, you know, people saying Cliburn's endorsement matter.
And I think that kind of brings us back to the point that as it stands now, I'm not saying never, but as it stands now, the left does not have the people like Clyburn who are left, but people say their endorsement matters. And all that to say, I mean, to the question, what do we do about that? Is like this is kind of why I brought up the this primary question. Like, I think there's plenty we can criticize about the squad and people like that.
But to me, that as a hopeful sign that I see it being very realistic, that we can keep electing people like that and that can have ripple effects. But then on the other side, I think this question of like holding black leaders accountable, I think just as an example, getting rebuilding the labor movement and majority black workforces or black unions in urban centers, forcing a question on the table like the Chicago teachers strike and forcing black leaders, clergy, whatever in that area to take a side is also part of that, I think, in terms of holding them accountable.
And if you can force them to come over on that issue, who knows the ripple effects of that? I think that's kind of where I see the two sides of that is like, yeah, I mean, we you know, Bernie to me was like this. Is that the first stage? Like, we're finally out of the gates electorally. We got to get to the point where we have people like, well, that left candidate's endorsement mattered.
I think there's this goes back to I don't think it's necessarily all 40 years like we've seen we've seen some big changes in the last five to 10 years. But I think it speaks to some things can happen in one electoral cycle and then it's what you're doing beforehand. But I think building up these like progressive labor blocs and coalitions in certain urban centers I think will force, if you want to call it the black leadership class to make some more challenging choices when you have, you know, what are you going to do when a majority black workforce goes on strike?
Which side are you going to choose? And I think that will I'm going to use the cliche of highlighting the contradictions.
But is that a cliche, that that's the reality? I don't know if that really answers the question, but I think it speaks to I kind of see it in a more protracted way. And I do think it's a fair point to bring up. You know, in any electoral campaign, there's going to be some opportunism. You can be the most pure person ever. And I think you really bring up a good point that this is an open question, I think, for any candidate like how much glad handing you do, how much of that bullshit you do, I think that that's a fair question generally.
We can't be too pure about it.
It's not to be giving anything up. By the way, half the people just were like, I'm glad you're here. I'm glad you gave me a call. I'm glad to be seen. It takes like surprisingly little.
It's fair to bring that up. Like, that is a real question in concrete campaigns, like how much you do that and when do you slide to like an unacceptable level of opportunity by doing that? Right.
I got to say to Rihanna, look, I would bet you 100 bucks that after your conversation with the Martin Luther King, the 30 call Fizer and want to know where his money was.
And why do you say that, Professor? Oh, because the whole King family is like a pack of leeches. And these I mean, that's horrible history.
I mean, here's what I want to ask you, Professor Reid. I want to ask you this for a long time. Yeah. So I agree with you.
Ninety nine point nine percent on all of the critique of identity politics. You are like obviously the grand master of the identity politics discourse, and I'm with you, but I have observed that we take a different approach.
My approach is to say in an article, let's say, about identity politics, identity is important. People value their identities. People have been marginalized on the basis that their group identities for hundreds of years. And it makes sense for people to want to organize around those identities to restore the balance and challenge. And I do all of this pablum up top so that no one can accuse me of being racist because being black doesn't make a difference. I definitely had reviews that said if Brianna weren't a white man, that I'd take her more seriously.
Like, truly, this is a comment on Daily Kos.
OK, and my feeling is that a little you get more flies with honey. And I know that so many people have so much respect for Obama and the legacy of the Kings are such that it is. And people are. People who listen to this podcast were mad at me for the last episode because they said I went too soft on King, not everybody, but some people.
My feeling is that it is useful to be able to make that case, which I share with you, about weaponized identity in a way that doesn't make people feel like the racialized harms that they've been programmed to prioritize and which I think are legitimately, deeply felt by folks, because I do think that there's a certain kind of antagonises. There's a certain kind of cruelty that one feels about being discriminated against on the basis of something and you know something that you really can't change the intrinsic right.
I'm always trying to figure out how to respect that and acknowledge that and like, not inflame people so much that they can't hear me when I say, OK, but not Neera Tanden.
OK, but not when, you know, there are different people who are engaged in different projects.
I'm like out here on the campaign trying to talk to people on a bus and you are writing academic papers and talking to classrooms.
And it's a different kind of audience. But I wonder if how do you feel about the tightrope walk that I'm doing and what's the decision making that you're going through about like coming out guns blazing, like MLK?
Well, no, no. I think his family, MLK Civil. Right.
But because they have a back alley as well, a lot of it has to do with the audience that one is trying to address and how they'll say something else to to get to that in a second. I mean, we've got an audience. I'm not really trying to win the hearts and minds of the identity and black audience, because for me, it's kind of like I mean, doing that is kind of like trying to win people back from from the old boys or from the militia.
But once once you've made the commitment, then you make a commitment. And my objective is to try to connect with people before they make the commitment or people who haven't made the commitment. Frankly, I spend more time talking to working people than I do.
And they don't mind when you say things like things like bomb attacks or anything, but things that we all agree with.
This is kind of what I was saying earlier of a very dangerous mistake, people. And I'm I'm I'm going to say mostly white leftists are making that. Oh, well, the way to connect to people of color, workers of color is you've got to use race language. You've got to do. And it's like that's actually not the I mean, the think about race language right now.
We're talking about kind of taking aim. Look, my mother, the Green Party voter, her whole life, Obama was the first Democrat she ever voted for.
But it took until recently until she was, like, warning me, Brianna, like maybe don't go so hard, caveated a little more.
If you're going to talk about jobs, you have to be smart about it. Yeah, but again, I mean, I think I think the reality is, though, a lot of what we're saying and again, in the context of conversations in a union, we're really not even talking much about identity politics, per say. We're just straightforward issues. And it is what it's like instead of thinking, well, if we're in a city like Philadelphia as a DSA chapter, let's get involved with fighting austerity and defending the public sector in the labor movement, that is going to automatically put you more in a working relationship with people of color who honestly are not going to be really carrying the specifics of all the language you use in the White House.
Staffers are the ones who are most likely to be woak. Right? Right. And this is where I'm saying this is like a dangerous thing, where people are thinking this is the trick to get to the black people. You've got to say the right that. I'm like, no, it's something else. And I'll give a great it's also about what people care about. I'll use my dad as an example. So he's a public school teacher, one of like literally two black teachers and a K to 12 district.
So you can imagine he would not use the term microaggression. I mean, he's seven years old, want to use that term. But the file, the big file that we all have on bullshit from white people, you can imagine and I've heard them all my life complaining about that stuff, but it's like if he were to be asked, what should a political group be focusing on? What is main concerns are his pension. He just turned in his retirement later today, revelations keeping his pension.
I mean, the debt, the student debt that his two kids are under. So, I mean, I'm going on a little bit of a tangent, but I think this is and I think it does get dangerous. Some people try to split the difference with identity. And I've seen it so many times. Just leave the train goes the same place. And that's saying I mean, the vivid example is when Elizabeth Warren talked about black women's health, therefore she is right.
I think I know Brown. You're not doing that.
But I'm saying, like, people start they start thinking they can split the difference. And more and more, I've just become more hard line. I'm like, I know where this leads every time this leads to you. Auschwitz's leads ultimately and well before that, it leads to it leads to sowing unnecessary doubt about arm. That's right. Sowing that's down second guessing instead of trusting that we are on the right path. And so many times people who should have known better and where the clear, obvious thing to do if you were anywhere on the left during the Bernie campaign was throw yourself into it.
This kind of stuff just sold out. Again, I'm not talking about the most ridiculous version of it, but I don't know. And again, obviously we're talking to ordinary person like, yeah, I'm not going to be trashing Obama like that. But yeah, I think people are making a mistake in terms of what they think people actually are caring about.
A few years ago to DC Labor Film Film Festival ME. One, you know, the John Sayles film about a West Virginia mining strike and at the end of the show and in sales happened to be there? Well, sales was was there and he answered questions afterward. And one of the first people got up was a young white woman who was a union staffer. I won't mention the union, but she karaka him and asked him why he had this device of this black miner who was played by James Earl Jones, who in the story they'd been brought up from Alabama scabs and they didn't realize that's why they'd been brought up.
So I got there and the black workers organized and joined forces with the Polish workers, I think, for the strike. So the woman asked him why he employed this device when everybody knew that the Polish workers hated the black workers and they were racist. And sales said to her, well, I'm sorry, but, you know, this guy was real sorry. I was real. But I'm like, OK, so like this is a work union staffer who is objecting to a class story.
What the hell does that say about where the movement is or like who's coming into the labor movement? Yeah, no, I hear you. But Paul is absolutely right about my experience, too. Like, it doesn't come up. And when it does come up, like when I'm at places where ordinary people are talking about Obama and I sit on my hands, I don't go out of my way to. Well, I got to rain on your parade, but we are all trying to go to the same place as the class character of what we understand is black politics becomes clearer and clearer.
I think it's more and more important to point it out now that so much so like the stuff I write, I mean, the populist stuff I write the two most two versions of one gratifying response I get from random people are either that. Thank you so much. Like you helped me be articulate about something. I was feeling vaguely, but like I hadn't been able to put into words or ideas or thank you so much, because you gave me the courage to think what I've been thinking but felt bad and guilty about.
And to me, I mean, that's like the audience for my popularising, right? Because I see it as a movement building project, as a fishing for it for Kaddouri projects and the kind of not even political education so much as encouragement for people who want to be committed to trying to build a better political movement. Understand that.
That's certainly how I took it and I was very gratified by it. Well, thank you, Professor Robinson. I think I cut you off earlier.
It's OK. I've not written anything for popular consumption on politics of identity, although I'm working on a second edition of a book I wrote on Black Nationalism, which which really takes that up. But the way that I'm attempting to engage these issues is also in my union, both my local that represents faculty and librarians. And I've sat on the board of the statewide body, the Massachusetts teachers, as well as the national body, the National Education Association. And there I think it's really to not always openly and explicitly contest these ideas.
But for me and again, I don't know that this is the winning strategy, but I argue by assertion, you know, Medicare for all is the black agenda. You until you convince me otherwise, you know, fifteen, fifteen dollars an hour is the black agenda. Do you want an anti-racist effort? Let's eliminate these standardized tests that cost millions of dollars to administer and kind of, you know, destroy any hope of of creativity and meaningful curriculum.
So, I mean, in a way, it's kind of a dodge, right? Because I think that this kind of identity stuff is really it is a class politics. It is unfortunate is it is a obfuscation. But in I think most of my interventions, it's more like just trying to contest the terrain about what black politics is and actually to remind people that it's only in sort of the neo liberal it's the last four or five decades that we have we have lost sight of the fact that economic inequality and matters of economic inequality were central to the black agenda.
Somehow, Sanders gets smeared, is not committed to the black agenda. Like, you know, that that's a narrative that coalesces within recent decades. But that was never the case somehow, never the case.
That somehow is what's interesting to me. Right. Like, you're all like I can sit here and agree with you, Professor Robinson, that of course, there was a part of it during the campaign that was like, OK, people want a black agenda. Let's put up some fliers. It just lists our entire platform and just write black agenda at the top of it. But you and I, all of us here know how that's going to be perceived.
How that's going to be spun in the media is that Bernie doesn't care enough to come up with the black agenda. Bernie doesn't understand that there are discrete issues that affect the black community that don't affect. Everybody else, and he has no plan for it, right, and there's some truth to that, do I believe that a universal program will do scads more for black people than a million particularized programs, many of which are just living in people's brains and aren't even real things that they could even articulate?
Yes, 100 percent. But my goal, my job, my preoccupation, perhaps because I am in the column, was on the Commerce Department, was to deal with the reality before us, which is to say, what can I say or do to insulate Bernie Sanders against that criticism while that still allows him to pursue that Universalis project. And so to your point, Paul, I don't disagree that the focus on maternal mortality is maternal mortality an issue?
Absolutely. Is the disproportionate focus on it in the course of the campaign campaign cynical? Yes. Yes. I think that both of those things can be true, but no way that's the case. What is the harm in making sure that Bernie has a couple of op ed out, in essence talking about how important the black maternal mortality disparity is?
And sometimes I think the left resists doing that easy thing that would at least give us something to point to when the accusations come flying our way that says, OK, well, Bernie actually did do that, OK, but Bernie does have a plan for that. So be quiet. Let me talk about Medicare for all, which is at the root of helping my community through a bigger crisis.
Well, let me say this, though, too. I mean, in both campaigns, as you might imagine, I had to experience a lot of people asking me, well, why doesn't Bernie have a black agenda? And my response was always the same. Every time I just took out the program and went down item by item and said, OK, is this something that blacks and Hispanics would not benefit from disproportionately? And of course, it was.
Yes, yes, yes, yes, yes. Right. But all the way down and I got two different reactions and it was class skewed reactions. Now, granted, most of the working class black people I talked to were in unions or they were disproportionately in unions. But the response that I invariably got from them was, oh, yeah, I see your point. Yeah, that's right. It was our class, the PMC, where the skepticism was and the response was very well, but it still isn't.
I mean, they wanted a black agenda that applied only to black, basically. Yes. Right.
And they'll explicitly they'll say we have to cure racism first before we do anything else, which good luck with that.
And then. Yeah. And then like in the context of an election campaign where the context, the Tumblr, boom, boom, and they said, fuck it, you go talk to me. Glad to say you're allowed. OK, I'm going to go talk talk to somebody else now because I'm not winning. And that's another place, I think that the that the residual concern with the black community is kind of a problem for us. Right. Because because for black people, just like everybody else, your social circumstances are quite influential in shaping what you understand to be the pertinent political issues.
Like when I was on the faculty of Yale in the 80s and early 90s, I was sometimes taking it back and talking to some of my colleagues and ask them about about problems of economic inequality as part of the black American experience, because and granted, a lot of them will look type's or whatever. But the response I got often was a dismissive thing like, well, but you have to understand that there's more to life than just economics. And yeah.
And I would think, OK, what's easy for you to say? Because you've got this job with all these good benefits. And I mean, that is really I mean that's so somehow we're supposed to accept and I'm not saying you, but the MSNBC influences of the world out there and some of my alumni friends of whatever, saying that kind of thing, they're comfortable enough in their own circumstances or they understand their own circumstances as linked closely enough with the advancement of upper status black interests.
Right. That they are more likely to accept a demand for more Oscars for diversity as being more of a black black issue than that of a universal health care.
Well, they're just on the other side. We just aren't going to win.
And I think to be honest, I like I mean, I definitely see nothing wrong with someone like Bernie or another candidate. OP ed about this is why postal services is so important for black audiences. Why? Right.
But you've written those articles, right? Yeah.
So I think the danger and I know, Brianna, I know you understand is slipping in policy. And I brought up the black maternal mortality thing because I remember all the glowing stuff about Warren's proposal. And it was amazing because when you read it, it was No Child Left Behind for. Well, basically, he was back in these hospitals don't make these improvements on race, we cut funding and I think it will talk. But think about Temple Hospital in North Philadelphia, mostly servicing working class black people.
I am willing to bet they don't have the resources to make those metrics, whatever they are. So now you're going to cut funding from them. But again, I think we should go back to and this is not to say every campaign can make improvements, but I have to keep reminding people this and it's surprising how quickly people forget. But I keep driving home. Let's clear away to smoke. Bernie was second place with black voters present. Mean there's nothing you could have done.
Doesn't mean better, but it's like again. And was Biden not Biden? Yeah, he had his lift every voice agenda.
You know, he he was not someone that was, you know, constantly, constantly the black agenda. This, this, this. And again is like, come on. Like, we got to realize what happened there. Bernie was second.
I think you're right on that, Paul. But that's, I think, why I'm so focused on not convincing black people. My analysis here is that why didn't Bernie do more doorknocking in black neighborhoods? Like maybe that would have maybe not made a difference. My focus is on what were the things he could have done that drove the media narratives.
And at the end of the day, at the end of the day, had a significant effect on what the turnout was and the one state that was pivotal. It mattered. Now, maybe he would have lost even if he won South Carolina. But I don't think that we can ignore. I don't care what Jason Johnson says or does, except insofar as that Jason Johnson is allowed to go on TV in front of millions of people every day.
I have a bunch of like two months tomorrow of my apologies, Julian Reid, whoever it is. So all I'm thinking about is strategically what puts Bernie in the best position to be able to call out Elizabeth Warren over how terrible her plan is. How can we hide the contradiction so that even someone like Joanne Reid is forced to confront how detrimental a policy like Elizabeth Warren's is? How can we use exploit the fact that these black people at least have to pretend to care about black people, to shame them into doing the right thing when bad actors do things that are still wrong.
And in the context of the Biden administration, when we're seeing him basically run around saying you ain't black to a whole conference room full of black civil rights leaders and we still can't get people to blink. We can't get April Ryan. We can't get any of these actors to to even acknowledge that that was like uncouth.
I mean, that's what their job is, right?
The corporate media aren't neutral and they're never going to be neutral. And and they were against Bernie from the very beginning for the obvious reasons. It's a reasonable undertaking to try to figure out if there were ways that that could have been done better. And you and I both know that there were a lot of fumbles and kind of fucked up hires and stuff in the campaign. But it's also true of all campaigns like that. Every campaign is a mess and is incoherent and it's contradictory because it's kind of the nature of the thing, because everything's moving is all fast.
When Bernie started to get heat about in 2016, about not having enough black staff people, I was suppose my voice didn't count. So I don't even bother to express it to anybody. But I was the first to know I wasn't opposed. I didn't like the way that the campaign brain trust mobilized to respond to put out the fire. But I also understood them in at least enough campaigns in my life to understand that in the internal logic of a campaign when a potentially damning criticism comes up, the first thing you do is to look at a fire extinguisher and you've got to because you don't have like six months to correct the damage.
Part of that is just the nature of an election campaign. So considering what the nature of an election campaign is, also has to be part of the overall evaluation. And I mean, that's why have to be honest, I mean, Paul knows this probably better than anybody else. I tend to be skeptical about the effort to build movements through electoral action. And I'm obviously not opposed, Phil and I, apart of at least one now together. But it's one of the techniques.
But I think that another thing that's happened within the left the last 30 years is fetishizing candidates and elections. And I think that's another expression of the cultural adaptation to defeat. And this kind of a wish that if we could just grab this one thing that could change change the stakes for us and that can happen in some ways. I think the Sanders campaign did that as much as it could be done, but it might have been able to get a few more electoral votes.
But as a vehicle for movement building, it kind of did. What we needed for it to do, and it succeeded, I think, spectacularly, especially if you consider where national political debate was was before the pandemic and try to keep people eyes focused on trying to make sure that we don't lose all that ground that we gained during a pandemic or the ground that we came prior to the pandemic. I don't know. I mean, I think one of the problems with the kind of broad appeal or I mean the actually broad, broad appeal is that you can water down or you can dilute the message so much in the effort to reach out to constituencies often enough.
These are constituencies that are defined only around the electoral arena that you can lose sight of what it is you're trying to do.
So maybe this is a good place to end because you guys have all been very generous with your time. I really appreciate it. You've all indicated an interest in extra electoral movement building, and I know a lot of our listeners want to know what they can do to be supportive of those kinds of efforts where they should look, how they can help, what they should get involved in, particularly, I would argue in the context of this conversation we've been having to do the work that has to happen outside of a campaign season of connecting with populations that are not currently sufficiently engaged, whether it's nonvoters, working class voters, black voters, obviously largely overlapping categories.
Well, I think I would go at that a slightly different way, but only slightly. But I think one of the lowest common denominator, right. That runs through all of our problems is that over these last 40 years or so, the idea of government and governments of responsibility as securing the public good and the public welfare has been driven completely on the ground. And I'm actually trying to write about this now for my next column in The New Republic is going to be a bipartisan attack, right?
I mean, the Republicans have done it directly by demonizing government, but the Democrats have abetted it. With that. We can do better than this. We can do more, more with less. And then the era of big government is over. And and like Warren's crap about having to have. Sorry. Well, it's a good one. And I say that crap about having to have skin in the game. Right. You can't just say it's like a giveaway.
Federal program. Biden's excuse now for not not wanting to accept the fifty thousand dollars is pretty paltry. Ceiling for for student in indebtedness is basically to invoke antiracist defense. Right. So that since since Clinton, basically, they've been the corporate Democrats have been using means tested this sorry, they've been projecting means tested this as a civil rights justification for attacks on government spending. So one thing that everybody can do is not so much a matter of connecting with discrete populations, but operating in one's own networks where ever possible, to propagate the notion that the should the government ought to be doing right.
It ought to be maintaining luvvies ought to be operating schools and ought to be fixing the physical or upgrading the physical infrastructure in Texas. Right. Is to just take over Texas. Right. Basilar or give it back. Right. Because I think the Mexicans probably want one that Warren has said and done. But I mean, that's what we can do and that's what it's going to take ultimately, because I'm talking about class, make sure your neighbors, your co-workers, fellow union members, and just be prepared to think about and yourself once oneself to think about the public good as the center of what government functions ought to be.
I know that sounds kind of cheesy, like the civics class, but we've lost so much of that that people can't can't even imagine that black people got anything from the New Deal for that. So, I mean, I think that's that's an important thing to do. And I'll defer to my brothers. I will say that that Professor Robinson and I were like part of, what, 15 year project of trying to create an alternative political party in the US that that's anchored in the trade union movement.
So what happened there and how do you feel about some of these newer efforts like the People's Party and or the Green Party or what have you?
Right. Well, I mean, the Greens our approach was different. Like we spent several years trying to organize within unions and to get institutional support from trade unions. And when we had a pretty good amount, I think we had nine national unions and like three hundred fifty locals and joint councils. And we had a founding convention in Cleveland with delegates who. Represented more than two million workers, and we kept trying to grow and organize. But the final convention was 96 and we grew in a moment of of the labor movement dynamism.
And then the labor movement went into retreat at the end of the century. And we declined. And we never lost a local or maybe we lost one local affiliate through active disaffiliation. We lost affiliates because the locals went out of business and unions merged. But the thing that we left actually was was a Labor Party that's on the ballot in South Carolina, won we won a ballot for a South Carolina Labor Party, still exists. We ran a candidate for the statehouse to keep it alive.
But the thing that concerns me about some of these other efforts, like the People's Party and very good comrades of friends of mine are active in it. Is that so, so many of these things start by calling a bunch of people at the top to get it and creating the entity and then going out to propagate it. And that just seems to me the wrong way to go. It seems to me it's got to come from the bottom up. But again, I understand that that the natural response to recognizing the graveness of the situation that we're in is to think that we don't have time to try to do stuff the other way to which I've been saying, well, one of the reasons that we're in the pickle that we're in now is that we didn't take time to try to do it that way earlier and this just the way around it.
Do you think that's really true? Do you think that the obstacles to having labor organizations and other kind of institutions that used to be able to rely on is because people let them go fallow or didn't value them enough? Or do you think there was a concerted corporate backed approach to to create laws that make it very difficult for people to be organized now?
That's absolutely right. But I mean, the reason that one of the reasons that we don't have a force that's capable of meeting the challenge coming from the right is that we haven't tried to organize at the base like that. That's farther because, frankly, the F or the national AFL CIO is at this point at least as much a propaganda tool of the Democratic Party as it is a vehicle for taking the demands of workers to the Democrats. And it's complicated and it's complicated because of the precarious circumstances that the trade union movement is in.
But anyway, I mean, the long and short of it is I was on a panel with Jill, Jill Stein at the 10th anniversary of Katrina here, and she kind of laid out a program platform. And I heard you say, OK, well, the platforms here. So people should just come to it. And I said something like, well, you know, can't just have a platform to put it out there and come to as you got to try to organize.
And she said, well, what if the platform is good and solid and clear and true? Then why don't people just just come to it? Because that's just not how politics works, right? It's an understanding of politics or how politics works. That's common within a certain class or within certain class strata register. People who don't know follow the newspapers and pass platforms.
Well, what do you think happened with Bernie in 2016? Because I don't I mean, obviously there's an organizing effort and people try, but I think everyone appreciates that Bernie 2016 campaign started with like five people and an inauspicious little announcement at a podium where nobody was there and everyone was kind of shocked by how quickly people cottoned on to it. So I'm not saying I'm not. Obviously, this isn't an argument against organizing and it's value, but it is.
Bernie, 2016, a counter argument to to some extent to the idea that if you build it, they will come under certain circumstances, perhaps the circumstances running on the Democratic Party ticket, running against a uniquely unpopular candidate, Hillary Clinton.
Do you want to jump in, Professor Robinson?
Yeah, I wanted to say that I think that the Chicago Teachers Union strike that Paul mentioned and then both of Bernie Sanders campaigns, I think it did kind of open space, you know, kind of ideological space. And I want to say in the in the context that, you know, the state I'm in in the Union, I work with real concrete gains, policy gains that that we were able to push through in coalitions that engaged our sort of rank and file as well as community groups.
Here's the list. We'll we'll have fifteen dollars an hour in days to come. We have a paid paid family medical leave policy that's available to new parents this year. Twenty, twenty one. We previously established the sick leave bank. And before the pandemic, we even secured and this is you know, maybe this is the, you know, picture we haven't seen in 15 years, we've secured more equitable funding for K-12 and we're trying now to work on public higher education.
So, of course, that's not everything that we want. So let me let me also mention that we're making some headway on establishing progressive taxation in Massachusetts. You have to amend the Constitution to establish higher taxes on top earners. And really all of that was not only a sort of more sort of fight on the standpoint of the unions and allies, but it really was much more of a bottom up kind of rank and file approach to organizing. And that was made, I think that that was enabled by Bernie Sanders success in 2016 to kind of create a space of the thinkable.
But then, you know, but then to me, it was about really doing this kind of organizing work because it's still a fight. It's like tooth and nail even to get the, you know, these relatively modest proposals kind of to the finish line. So I guess that's my but that's the best that I could do, that we need to grab hold of all these opportunities because they are it's the opportunity to engage people in ways perhaps they're not not not just what they're going to get from the media, you know, not not just the cues they're going to get from church leaders or political figures, but really the way that we move an agenda is to engage people around those issues.
So that that's what that's what I would say here.
Paul, did you have any closing thoughts?
Yeah, just in terms of like, I think the original question, how to people getting involved and what our priorities. And I'm really kind of continuing what they've been saying the on quiting austerity know, I think that should be priority. And I think, you know, in the post-Cold War world, we're already hearing it. I mean, almost every state and local government is proposing cuts in Philly. They're projecting a four and a 50 billion dollar shortfall.
So I think we've got to throw down for that. And what attracts me about that is, I mean, literally touches everyone and you can do it on a city wide basis, in a statewide basis. And I think in its election, I mean, one of the biggest divisions in the presidential election that keeps rearing its head is the urban rural divide. And this is one of those issues that can help address that. But you can campaign on austerity in the realm of schools, in the realm of infrastructure, in the realm of public workers.
And like you said, I mean, it's a way to get and get working with constituencies that we are not already involved with. And I think related to that, you know, 20, 20 was the year of the essential worker and there was a lot of public sympathy for kind of revive public sympathy, sympathy for blue collar workers. And some of these contracts are expiring. So like last summer, postal workers were the heroes of the country, surprisingly.
But to my great very happy about that, I felt very validated. But this summer, I mean, September, the postal workers union contract expires. And I think this is opportune in your local area to really build public support for these contract fights and utilize the public sympathy that we have now. Same thing with nurses, also city workers. So you asked me in Philly also their contract expire, right, as we're going through austerity. So I think this is the time to rally around these fights.
And it's the type of thing that even if you're not in a union or whatever you can get involved with. So that's that's my two cents.
Sometimes I have had pushback for doing this, but sometimes I think to myself, that's a great point you just made. Paul, Democrats have entangle themselves in all of these identity politics. They've locked themselves in. They've defined their own rules. Identity is king. So let's get a big banner up that says austerity is antiblack and see what they do with it. Yeah.
Is that an acceptable before? Because there are some on the left who say that's Briana's buying into identity politics.
And I don't know anybody would say that I can name names, but I'm not trying to validate her in this space right now.
Again, I think as long as it's not diluting the policy, but yeah, making those points. And then the one thing I'll add sorry I'm going on long, but just as a thing about, again, what connects with people. Now, some of you know, I love talking about the post office and how much how much the benefits of the black workers.
Oh, really? Yeah. I will say this. When we were flowering last summer at post offices locally, it's not like I had to tell black people that wasn't right. It's not like I had to be like I got to make sure I say black this, black that. And that's just a broader point. Again, like you, you don't necessarily need the magic words, but I mean, again, I agree that should be obvious. We right.
That should be part of the overall messaging.
But again, I mean, I think if that puts pressure on it and that puts pressure on elected officials when you're in the post office, that's a different conversation. But yeah. Yeah, I. I mean, there's anyone that knows that it's black people, and that's kind of my point of like I think some white leftists are like, oh my God, if we're ever going to connect with the postal workers union, we got to tell them about how it helps black people.
And I think they're getting it kind of in reverse right now. Absolutely. That's great. So when I took my PhD qualifying exams, we had like four eight hour exams over eight days. And the deal was that if you failed one of them, you got an automatic right to retake. If you failed more than one, you had to take all four again or something like that. And when I finished the last of the four, I walked out and I saw a friend of mine and I said, look, you know what?
If I failed any one of these, I'm not taking shit over. I'm just going to go down and toss stuff and take take the civil service exam and get a job job or as a letter carrier. And I mention that because that was reasonable as even a joke. Right. All those only half a joke in nineteen seventy five. But it's also a lot less likely that those job jobs are there now. And and I think that's another reason that you see so many young people, I mean walking around in black communities trying to model being a successful entrepreneur with like a briefcase and the dress for success and so of Theepan prosperity, Christianity, people who are cultivating that and resurgence of a kind of neo garvie I do for yourself by by a black line, which is part of what we have to overcome.
So, yeah, that one of my notes was talk about black capitalism and we didn't quite get there. Oh, we'll have to have you back. But the whole show, it is a whole show.
And we're going to have to have you back because this was this was so rich. And I really appreciate all of you. Thank you so much for your time. And if there's anything that you want to plug or let people know where they can find your work, please let our audience know.
Go to Jacquemin. All right. And you said, Presbury, that you're having a new piece coming out of the Republic. People should keep their eye out for that. Yeah. All right. Well, we'll flag it when it comes out. Thank you all again. And do take care of yourself. Thank you.
All right. Thanks. You, too. Sometimes I feel like I want to have the same conversation over and over and over again, but sometimes I feel like there just some conversations that are really the root of the root, the bud of the bud. And one of those conversations is the role the identity plays in the Democratic Party. And how the left best exploited or overcome in one of those conversations is about the left's approach and sometimes its failure to understand the best thing to do to reach out to populations, it needs to actually be the multiracial coalition that it wants to be, at least the electorally powerful one that it wants to be.
And I was really glad to have both of those conversations today, even though I know that I went along. You were a kid in a candy store today.
I really I really was, because it's all it's all one giant conversation about how do we do anything.
My my frustration, always my hesitation always is like I don't want us to get stuck at the stage of identifying the problem, because sometimes I think when the left does that, it decides that the problem is basically like we won't listen to conservative and black people. Listen, you are taking too many cues from Jim Clyburn. And it's like I mean, yes, we all were there. We all saw that. But what are you going to do about it?
You're if you don't have a solution, that is how to communicate more effectively, how to disrupt the talking heads that change black people's minds or able to influence black people. So then you end up at a reductive position that's just like black people suck and can't be fixed. And that's when some on the left start to sound racist. And that's where we get some of the blowback that we get from liberals. That isn't all wrong.
Well, I mean, it depends on exactly how it started because, I mean, the way you just articulated it doesn't strike me as particularly controversial. I mean, I think it is part and parcel with the overall project to erode the power of the Democratic machine.
Yeah, I just I just I think there is a way that even the left will essentially rise. The intractability, the seeming intractability of like black voters, which I don't think is actually helpful because you got to do better, like you got to do better. And if you're if you're giving up an entire population that way, they don't do it when it comes to the white working class or even sometimes boogaloo boys.
And so it becomes frustrating when there's a kind of like reductive absolutism when it comes to black folks. I was really glad to have this conversation and I could have gone obviously for another hour. But I'll spare you all. We'll just have to have them back some other time.
Absolutely. I can think of some interesting pairings we could do, maybe Adolph Reid and Martin Luther King.
The third, I can't tell if you're joking about, but I think that that would be actually very useful for everybody.
Not so much like Adolf Redon, like Tennesee Coates, Elie Mistal and Cornel West, Zerlina Maxwell and.
Me, too, but like in all seriousness, because I do think that the reason why I am also preoccupied with the racial angle is that I do think even among the black managerial class, professional managerial class, the fact of their blackness makes them have a vulnerability to some arguments that I wouldn't necessarily be able to make with a white PMC, because they know, at least on paper, they have to care. They have to like, acknowledge that there are things that black community needs that are largely overlapping with white working class people in need.
So there is like a tension there that you can exploit to get them to acknowledge the failures of neoliberalism, but isn't always there when you're dealing with a white neoliberal.
Absolutely. As you ably exploited that tension during your interview with Martin Luther King, the third on this Monday premium episode. Indeed.
So if you haven't already subscribed, we encourage you to do so. I think that kind of apology is really useful, and I'd love to know what you think you can do. So a Patriot dot com slash Bad Faith podcast. And you should also make sure you don't miss clips of our premium episodes if you want a taste of what you're missing at our YouTube page, your URL, which is YouTube clips of not just premium episodes, but the free world leading this way, including this one.
Thank you, Virgil, for always coming through. Thank you, IRA. I know my job is to keep the faith. Keep the faith. What impressed me? Show me a real. Any chance for success, the song of.