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July 24, 2015



It would be a mistake for Democrats to write off the Netroots types. Here's the 2014 age demographic copied from their site:

24 and under: 7.6%
25 to 35: 43.5%
36 to 45: 20.9%
46 to 55: 12.1%
56 and up: 15.9%

In some ways these people represent the next 20-40 years of the progressive movement. What they might lack in philosophical study they make up for in motivation and social media savvy, the latter of which is quickly replacing ward heelers, envelope stuffers and phone canvassers. All the Democratic candidates have bobbled the young black activist crowd. Why not simply have a contact at Netroots? It wouldn't hurt to acknowledge them a little more than showing up for a stump speech and would avoid some clumsy moments.

More interesting is that a conservative strategy for attracting minority voters is taking shape. It's advertising, of course, and resembles that used to attract religious fundamentalists in the past. Instead of televangelists they're using, so far, Nikki Haley and other surrogates to "fight racism" in a theatrical and symbolic way. Last night Larry Wilmore showed a clip of some Fox talking heads stating forcefully that the traffic cop who pulled over Sandra Bland was in the wrong and should be investigated. He then showed Donald Trump repeating the talking point. Wilmore acted like his mind was blown. Will the targets of the right's showy but empty PR fall for this stuff? Evangelicals did.

Peter G

Yep. Do Black lives matter? To any thinking human they do. Do they matter more or less or the same as Asian lives? Latino lives? Aboriginal lives? White lives? If you failed to answer with the third option, the same, you have a problem that you will have difficulty defending. So we pretty much must conclude that all lives matter. Which at Netroots is exactly the wrong answer.

Now Bernie has always represented the view that economic disparity is the fundamental problem which must be addressed in order to correct class deficiencies that disproportionately afflict Blacks and Hispanics in particular. This is manifestly bullshit. It is bullshit because a very popular phrase, a rising tide raises all boats, has never ever been true. It has never done that equally. A simple examination of the statistics regarding incomes by race reveals the truth. Good economic times do not benefit all races equally and bad economic times erase the gains made by particular races almost immediately. And yet I am forced to agree, at least economically, with the path Bernie has chosen.

Why? Pragmatism is the answer. The fact is that the largest group of the poor by race is whites. And if you attempt to craft general economic policy to benefit particular races and you prioritize your response by race then you must by necessity put some people first and others last. And that's exactly the wedge the Republicans used to divide the vast numbers of economically disadvantaged whites (the people Webb wants to bring into the Democratic fold) into the Republican camp. They should have always been your allies.

There is much that can be done to address the inequities so apparent in incarceration rates and sentencing and educational opportunity and economic opportunity but I will insist that if these are not universally applied
(I speak always to the importance of universality in social policy) then you are making a very big mistake. Again. Netroots, which I have been following for years, almost inevitably turns into a My Grievance is Bigger Than Your Grievance festival which generally produces Occupy level results.


Emphatically disagree with you, PM.

Race is a huge problem in this country and it *must* be addressed. It has to be. There's no way around it. Race is a bigger problem than class- no matter how poor a white person is, they will never need to fear for their lives during a routine traffic stop, or any number of other police interactions.

Tens of millions of people in the United States still see blacks as "the other," which harms them in a myriad of ways.

The point behind "black lives matter" is not that they matter more, it's that to many people, they don't matter as much as white lives, or much at all.

Race is the original sin in this country, and until we collectively address that, we aren't going to get where we need to be as a nation, and blacks certainly aren't going to get the justice they need.

Peter G

You might want to check with those poor white people. I'll bet they see things differently than you do. No one said race shouldn't be addressed. But if you make it the central issue and division in economic policy then guess who you lose? It is a completely unnecessary conflict. Both can be done.


Well said Josh ! I absolutely agree with your disagreement with Peter G. This is exactly what the problem is, false equivalence in the matter of race, particularly in the USofA. The most critical observation is not that Black Lives Matter More than that of is that they are worth LESS than those of others in the USA and other parts of the globe.

Stealing a link from the Rude Pundit, check his take on this:

Those poor white people have a leg up than the middle class black people no matter what and it's not going to go away no matter how you frame it. Nobody is saying race should be the central issue, but it must be addressed and addressed with vigour by those wanting to lead this country. Just like guns. Just like economics. Just like ISIS.


I'm sure they would see it differently-- that's part of white privilege. They don't live their lives in fear on a day to day basis the way so many blacks in our country do.

If you are white, you benefit from white privilege, no matter your economic status.

In a way, it's a bit startling and yet also telling that the blindness to white privilege runs so deeply that it encompasses people who I otherwise almost invariably agree with (i.e. PM Carpenter, in this case).

Obviously those poor white people would disagree with me. But, when they get pulled over (which happens far less than it does to blacks), they need not fear for their lives in the way blacks do. They need not worry about being passed over for a job in part because of their "ethnic" name. They need not think about many things that blacks must think about daily.

Have you read "Between the World and Me" yet, PM? I strongly suggest that you do, if you have not.

Do poor whites have a tough time in many cases? Absolutely. No disagreement from me. But, that tough time does not extend into a fear for their lives, or about to think constantly about how they come across to others. They have the benefits of being able to go around and be "normal" and accepted by everyone.

If any of those poor white folks gets a well paying job and becomes well off, their life is fundamentally changed. If a black person gets a well paying job and becomes well off, they still must (and do, for those already fitting that situation) still deal with all of the things they had to deal with when they were poor.


As an addendum, I think a lot of blacks in this country are beyond tired of essentially being told that we'll get around to helping them, just as soon as we take care of this, this, and that. They are constantly made a lower priority than everyone else. This is a fact, and I'm sure you know this.

It's way past time to prioritize blacks in this country. They have been shunted aside and placed well in the back of the line, mostly for no other reason than their race.

No more of that.

The Raven

It is not like race and class are separable issues. Richard Wright knew it, and Bernie Sanders knows it. He was even talking about it before Netroots. But this is theater and Sanders is not a performer. O'Malley, whose policing polices contributed to the death of Freddie Gray (see: came off looking better than Sanders, who has a long and honorable history of anti-racist activism.

As I wrote in another venue: "So far, it’s got the Republicans snickering, the racists saying 'See, see,' and a lot of potential allies thinking 'If they attack people already on their side, do we want them in our coalition?' The only candidate who so far has taken black lives matter seriously is the one who has been harmed the most by the black lives matter protesters in Phoenix. And, my god, O’Malley. The man who intensified the brutality of the Baltimore Police Department is getting a better deal from Black Lives Matter? Really?

"Does damaging the electoral chances of a person who was already on your side make any sense?"

Peter G

I'm sure those poor whites feel extremely privileged. Please feel free to tell them that and further that their problems must wait because there are other more important poor people to attend to. I'm sure they will jump at the chance to put the concerns of others ahead of their own.

You might want to check your stats on how many people get killed after being pulled over in traffic stops yearly. Your chances are better of being killed by lightning on your birthday.

Peter G

What false equivalence am I not recognizing? Why is it wrong to say all lives matter? That's your error right there. When you start ranking the importance of lives by race you create racial divisions, you don't end them. Netroots proved that.


It should be recognized that the "black lives matter" catchphrase is not meant to be exclusive, it's a political slogan with a meaning specific to a group of activists. It's not good politics to pick a fight of any kind over it. With a little more skill Bernie and the Democratic politicians could channel the anger into a more positive channel. That's what politicians do. Our side doesn't have to drum up phoney issues like conservatives do, only pay more attention to the real ones on the ground.


You don't need to feel privileged in order to experience it. It doesn't depend on a person's self-awareness or general perception.

How do you think blacks have felt being told precisely what you suggest that I tell poor whites? They've been told that their problems must wait for decades now (at a minimum, depending on what standard you want to use).

It appears that you also are blinded by white privilege. I strongly recommend reading "Between the World and Me" as a starting point-- it's highly relevant and current at the same time, always a good combination.

Whether blacks actually do get killed while being pulled over is secondary to the fear of it, which is completely legitimate. They may also have to deal with a wide array of legal problems stemming from citations that whites are not nearly as likely to be forced to deal with, and if they are, it's likely to be less severe.


Monty already told you, and so did I. Saying that "all lives matter" in response to "black lives matter" is erasing the identity of blacks from the discussion, and it allows the reality that black lives have been treated as less important as whites to be obscured.

Peter G

Perhaps I am blind but I am not stupid. I can do math. And the math says that there are more poor white people in the US than there are black people of all economic classes. And guess what? They can vote. They just love being told how priveleged they are and how they don't get stuff. Please go ahead, patronize them for another thirty years. I'm sure they will thank you for it. The republicans certainly will.

Peter G

No it isn't. It is making common cause with all. Insisting that all lives don't matter or some matter more than others is exactly what you need to do to drive wedges where they don't need to be. So please explain to those poor whites why they matter less and while you're at it don't forget to attack anyone like Bernie or indeed any white progressive on how imperfect their understanding is. How successful have you been at persuading people of this? Why not at all.

Peter G

That's supposed to be the argument but you'll notice how Josh with very little prompting moved right past that into asserting black grievances had a right to priority based on past history. This is not necessarily factually or morally wrong. It's just something that is virtually impossible to sell to vast numbers of people. If this couldn't be sold without controversy at Netroots how will it fare in red states? It is pretty consistent with standard progressive practice these days which is to call people names until they agree with you.


Actually PG you moved past the argument when you brought in the poor whites argument. No one would argue that they have the larger number of poorer people, white people being the largest population, the number would probably be larger. What Josh was arguing was a different thing - that the Black Lives Matter does not mean that ALL lives DON'T matter. No one, not even the people that started that proposal would say that their needs should be prioritised over every other need, but that there is need to recognise that Black lives matter LESS than others. Not more.


PG, nobody has said that all lives don't matter. Your false equivalence comes in when you immediately jump to the poor white argument and their needs...people are talking about fear of walking down the street while black, being mistaken for a thug and then being killed without so much as a by your leave. That is the false equivalence. Unfortuantely Black Lives in the USA are ranked - that's precisely why there is a racial divide recognised by anyone who has seen it first hand. That's white privilege right there saying "ranking creates divisions", because that's what people who have not experienced that kind of treatment can never understand...racism is ugly and when it kills without repercussions then it is because of ranking "others" as not deserving of the same treatment. Poor white people definitely need economic opportunities and that's fair. Black, Asian, etc. need the same opportunities. Talking about stats, the number of black people arrested for petty drug crimes compared to whites for the same crimes is horrendous as you may know, but you probably don't care about that. But that's part of the white privilege.


Hillary is probably the default candidate for the black vote because of Bill, and it's not likely the nascent conservative propaganda campaign will have any effect this cycle. However, it's a mistake for liberals and Democrats to move away from civil rights issues. If they can't stand for those what can they stand for? They even have history and social evolution on their side. Fuck the deep red states. It never helps to appear to encourage their mouth breathers.

Peter G

Racism is certainly ugly. And it is subtle sometimes. For example, ascribing a defect to a class of people based on their race is racism. And that is exactly what the term white privilege is intended to do. If someone does not agree with you they must suffer from a defect inherent in their race. It won't work. Not only does it alienate allies it helps your foes. If you read my original post you would be aware that I am well aware of the disproportionate economic effects of racism. I assume that both you and Josh are male and must therefore suffer from the defect of gender privilege. But I have a question. If suffering from racism or sexism makes one superior in knowledge and perception then why is Africa a deadly place to be gay? Why did the black evangelical churches comes out so uniformly and stridently against marriage rights for gays in California where they put the proposition banning it over the top. That must be straight privilege right? Even if you personally support gay rights, as Bernie manifestly did support civil rights, the stigma remains. What's the point again exactly of questioning the support of your allies in this way? I maintain that it is just plain dumb.

Peter G

I did so quite forthrightly too and without shame. Those masses of poor whites that have been underpinning republican control of the South for so long are not only immune to the essentially racist accusation of white privilege,that sort of language is a dog whistle to them. They know exactly what you mean when you use it. They know you want them to be ashamed to be white. Good luck with that. It didn't even work at Netroots Nation.

Peter G

Who said they need to do that? In fact Hillary, who showed great wisdom in avoiding Netroots completely, is making incarceration rates and the disparities therein an important part of her campaign. Same as Bernie really but didn't have shit thrown at her.
I'm the guy saying the conflict is unnecessary. I'm not the guy trying to enforce ideological purity that demands the interests of some are more important than the interests of all.


"Do Black lives matter? To any thinking human they do. Do they matter more or less or the same as Asian lives? Latino lives? Aboriginal lives? White lives?"

It seems you've fallen into the same trap as Bernie and O'Malley. It's completely forgivable because you're not a professional pol. At I hope minimal risk I'll point out that the black community still socializes somewhat apart and often creates idiomatic political language. Democrats should put a little more effort into familiarizing themselves with it. Black people I have known personally are sometimes surprisingly socially conservative, and Democrats had better not take their votes for granted. I agree leftist types like Netroots are often self-absorbed, but why alienate them?


Whoa...that's a jump PG about disagreement between people means suffering from a defect in their race. White privilege as it has come to be known, is a term that describes a very real bias in American society where a person of certain colour is treated differently in the same circumstances as a person of a different colour, of that there is no argument. Call it what you want, it is REAL. And yes, all phobias are an implicit testament to that person's perceived superiority so yeah, I admit that I may have a gender bias, for e.g. when I watch soccer - when watching a women's game, I feel it is not as technically sound as when watching a men's game - gender bias ? Guilty ! We all have those. But when it comes to race bias, that is true too and that is the privilege we have come to know. Africa and homophobia is a whole nother super-kettle of fish. But right here in the states that is an issue too as you see from leading Repubs, so not only an African thing - in Africa it is deadly because the justice system is waaay different than it is in the First World.
Yes, I agree you did say that there is disproportion in economics based on race.


LOL ! Those masses of poor whites in the South are poor because of whom they support. They're kept poor by the policies of their representatives. What does it mean to them if we say they suffer from white privilege ? I don't want them to be ashamed - I want them to fight for equal treatment of the "others". Not be ashamed ! When everyone acknowledges that there is a problem, whatever that problem may be then and only then can you try and resolve it. But as long as people counter argue the most basic of problems, even those who are progressive and supposedly on the right side, then that perpetuates the problem - whether it's racism, homophobia, trickle down economics, etc...when that issue has 2 sides it will always be there, until there is only 1 side and everyone is on it.

Peter G

I would submit Bob that I did not fall into a trap. I avoided it. The idea that all lives matter is some creation of the right is completely false. The first person to say it was a liberal college administrator. She was instantly condemned for it. And yet that person was echoing an ideal that has been popular for some centuries, that all men (now persons) are created equal. That's something that has very evidently need quite a lot of work in practice to even say that progress has been made. And not just in the US. Nevertheless I would insist that color blindness is ultimately the goal even if it can never be perfectly achieved.

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