The 2016 US Presidential Campaign and Black political struggle
By Fred Logan
December 18, 2016
What are the lessons from the 2016 US presidential campaign for both mainstream and independent black politics? How does the black community transform and implement these lessons as political strategies and tactics?
This is the “Black perspective” on campaign 2016. This is the African American perspective for each and every national or local political campaign—for school board, gubernatorial, US Congress, or the White House.
Fox News, Harvard University, or white experts at large cannot do this for the Black community. First, it is not in their status quo interests. Second, the establishment experts were totally surprised over the past decade by the campaigns of Barack Obama, Bernie Sanders, Hillary Clinton, and Donald trump. The establishment does not know mainstream white America. It does not know itself.
Just as confused are countless factions on the US Left. As always, they have been left apologizing for the open white racism of the white blue collar working class.
Only the Black community can provide a critique of the 2016 campaign from the perspective of Black liberation. This will always be a very difficult task, but not impossible.
Fred Logan, like most Black people, was certain Hillary Clinton would beat Donald Trump on November 8. But like most Black people, he was not at all surprised that over 60 million white US citizens had voted for Trump, most of all, because his campaign was based on open white racism.
Every Republican president who won the White House since the 1965 Voting Rights Act, that is Richard Nixon, Ronald Reagan, George W.H. Bush and George W. Bush ran on the GOP’s “Southern Strategy,’” also called “White Backlash,” and “Law and Oder.” These are thinly veiled code names for white racism. GOP candidates John McCain in 2008 and Mitt Romney in 2012 down played white racism a bit and both lost.
Barack Obama was saved when the US economy appeared on the verge of collapse just weeks before the 2008 election. Billions were wiped out, and John McCain had to admit he did not know anything about economics.
Donald Trump raised the bar on white racism. He not only race-baited African Americans but also Latinos, Muslims, and non-European immigrants. Racism appeals to European Americans across lines of ethnicity, class, and gender, and across Republican and Democratic Party affiliation.
The Democratic Party candidates who lost during these years Hubert Humphrey in 1968, George McGovern in 1972, Jimmy Carter in 1980, Walter Mondale in 1984, Michael Dukakis in 1988, Al Gore in 2000, John Kerry in 2004, and Hillary Clinton in 2016 were type casted by the GOP “Southern Strategy” as “nigger lovers.” We all know they were not!
Trump’s victory was not an anomaly. It was the organic progression of the GOP presidential strategy. It is embedded and fused in the Republican Party’s post-1965 VRA strategy.
And whenever President Donald Trump gets in hot water and comes under mounting public criticism for any of his policy decisions, look for him to fall back on race-baiting to rally his supporters. Trump’s white supporter know exactly what they voted for and to defend themselves, they will race-bait with Trump to defend him from his critics.
Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump are both mainstream status quo politicians. They represent different tendencies in the stream. Far and away, Clinton was the most experienced and capable of the two. You can ask Trump’s supporters or Trump himself. Compared to Trump’s obscene personal behavior and his self-acknowledged shady business deals, the criticism hurled at Clinton were non-issues.
When Trump’s white racists supporters where shouting, chanting, screaming, and crying “Jail Clinton!” “Jail Clinton!”, in their hearts they meant “Lynch Blacks!” “Shoot Latinos!” “Kill Muslims!” What the hell did they care about Clinton’s emails?
Julian Bond said that on the battle field of America’s race, gender, and class struggles, race trumps class and gender (he meant the verb, not Donald). White women in almost every category voted for an open misogynist. White blue collar workers and white collar workers voted for a billionaire capitalist with a public record of ripping people off. The white working class, employed or unemployed, has a long history of supporting right-wing reactionaries like Donald Trump, James Eastland and “Pitchfork Ben” Tillman. White populism often races headlong to the right. In contrast Black populism is on the left. 1
At the root of the turmoil in 2008, 2012 and 2016 is “the crisis of American mainstream white leadership” in the present era. No one could possibly personify the terminal essence of this crisis more emphatically than Donald Trump as President of the United States of America. If you dare dispute this, then you name someone else, or try your best to imagine someone else in your wildest imagination.
Behind the crisis of white leadership is the long term crisis of America’s global hegemony. Some forty-odd years ago, the Black community was told by Robert S. Browne, a seminal voice of the late 20th Century Black Liberation struggle, that “we are witnessing the end of an era—the passing into history of the age of American world predominance.” 2
The very brief golden era of US world predominance, which much of white America seems to believe started with Genesis, lasted from 1945 through the US wars in Southeast Asia. (It is very important to remember this same period marks the heydays of the mid-20th Century white blue collar working class, which was the products of raging labor struggles and also direct government intervention during the 1930s and immediate after 1945, “When affirmative action was white.” 3
Asia, Europe, Africa, the world is gaining on the political, military and political power of the United States which has around 5% of the total world population. World leadership comes and goes. Britain had it for just a moment. So did others.
With Donald Trump as the political symbol of the United States, the USA has lost political and moral respect before the world that it will never regain. Trump accelerates the decline of US global hegemony.
The traditional white elite cannot stop this decline. So, a black president, of all things, was elected in 2008 and 2012. In 2016, a right-wing real estate tycoon who has never held any political office won the electoral college and White House, but he lost the popular vote by just shy of 3 million votes.
Mainstream black politics
Without question the national black community was a progressive vanguard in campaign 2016. It voted over 90% against Trump’s reactionary right-wing campaign. This is one of the most important lessons of the campaign.
In Pittsburgh, our point of reference, Black people in every social and income category voted against Trump. VIP Black professionals in Pittsburgh’s elite institutions and the so-called “Black underclass” hanging out, say, at Homewood and Frankstown Avenues in the city’s far east end held the same opinion of Trump: racist and unqualified for the White House. That’s the Black consensus.
Now, the black community must transform this consensus into strategies, tactics that will increase its organizational and institutional power to wage political struggle to the utmost in the turbulent era ahead.
To raise the struggle, the Black community must constantly review and critique mainstream Black politics at the local and national levels since the 1965 Voting Rights Act. We must ask and answer has the Black vote delivered all that the Black community expected of it? We must also ask and answer have we exhausted the potential of electoral politics?
Black elected officials come in three general categories. They are left-progressives like NYC city councilwoman Inez Barron; centralists like Barack Obama; or right wing conservatives like US Senator Tim Scott of South Carolina. Most BEO’s in Pittsburgh and nation-wide are in the middle-of-the-road category with Obama.
What position, if any, will black elected officials in Pittsburgh take in the local and national ideological and political power struggles between left, center, and right factions in the Democratic Party? Will they just tail behind Pittsburgh mayor Bill Peduto and Allegheny County manager Rich Fitzgerald?
The city’s black electorate may not be nearly as apathetic as its critics contend. Over the past dozen or so years, three Pittsburgh city council members, two black state representatives, and one black county council members all in majority-black districts lost their bids for reelections.
Of course, the most far reaching change in black politics must come from the community. For the sake of time, here is Criteria mainstream black politics. 4
Independent black politics
The National Black Independent Political Party (NBIPP) the National Black United Front (NBUF) and the National Black Political Assembly (NBPA) are three of the many independent organizations that have passed through Pittsburgh in recent decades. Partisan black political organizations “independent” of the Democratic and Republican Parties have the potential to mobilize, educate, and organize the Black community in its immediate and long range struggles and are indispensable to the politics of Black Liberation.
In the never ending ebb and flow of African American social struggle, the black masses are attracted to independent politics at specific moments. A February 5, 1972 Pittsburgh Courier story, “Black Politicos adopt 12-pt Platform at Confab,” reported that over 1,000 Black people attended a two-day black political convention at the old Fifth Avenue High School. This contributed to the formation of the Western Pennsylvania/Allegheny County Black Political Assembly chaired by Dr. Leroy Patrick in the early and mid-1970s.
That black assembly had by far the largest and most politically diverse membership and hence the most political potential of any local black independent formation since then. It was the local branch of the National Black Political Assembly from the 1972 Gary Convention. The national black assembly became mired in an internal “struggle for ideological clarity” which was one of several reasons for its demise.
Independent black political activists often do things and say things that are very important to the Black community. But some of them are often sectarian, egotistical, and dogmatic. This turns the community off. By now, the black community can spot at a glance a web-site, or paper, organization selling political wolf-tickets with no popular community support.
We may now be in another era when support for independent black politics is rising. The experiences of independent black political formations over the past fifty years demands review, critique and assessment.
The Black Agenda
Black People in Pittsburgh, and nation-wide, have drawn up countless Black Agendas over the past fifty years. These agendas all list similar priorities and make demands on the establishment that are shared by the Black community at large. But seldom if ever are the agendas’ demands met by the powers-that-be. And seldom if ever do the agendas have an A, B, C, plan to “organize” community support behind the agenda. And seldom if ever do the agendas have a bank account funded solely by the black community to wage the agenda-struggle.
Here is a very important Black Agenda related point the Black community should state out loud and clear. The priorities of jobs, social services and so forth in most “Black Agendas” are the very same priorities that the Donald Trump “populist” GOP is now promising the blue collar “White” working class. If the Democratic Party establishment, including Barack Obama (and a lot of Black people supported Obama on this!), had not ignored and mocked the Black Agenda, the Democrats would have, by political necessity, also addressed the plight the of the “white” working class and not now be tailing behind Donald Trump.
The Black community must also be clear on this and state it out loud. One of the most prominent contemporary social issues to advance the struggle toward socialism is the Black Reparations struggle. The logic is obvious. But Bernie Sanders, like US white socialists historically, has kept his distance from issues that are initiated by the black community and deemed a “Black issue.”
Black Unity and Black Fund Raising
The Black community is always scolded for not banding together or supporting black projects. In Here I Stand, Paul Robeson challenged this bogus claim. He said its often denied but Black people do work together and have achieved some remarkable endeavors.
We often complain that because the community does not support our particular projects it does not support anything.
Black people do “work together to achieve a common goal” that is unite. In Pittsburgh, black people support a wide variety of organizations and institutions from churches—which we all recognize— to black motorcycle clubs that own buildings, along with plenty of expensive motorcycles and the high-priced biker’s boots, jackets and so on.
The Harambee II Black Arts Festival was a major black event enjoyed by tens of thousands of black people. But Harambee of Pittsburgh the sponsoring organization did not have the administrative infrastructure to conduct labor intensive individual fundraising. So, the Black community could not give the festival the individual monetary donations it surely would have. The local Black community did donate a lot of indispensable support in volunteer in-kind services.
Black fundraising is a demanding science and a very sophisticated art form. Black people must master both ends. The October 31, 1992 Fund Raising in the Black Community Conference took several very important steps in this direction. But most unfortunately, the conference follow-up was lost when the sponsoring organization the Philadelphia-based Black United Fund of Pennsylvania folded. 5
The Black community must review and critique all of the many issues raised in the 2016 presidential campaign from the Black Perspective of overhauling mainstream black electoral politics and creating and sustaining independent black political institutions to wage its struggles ahead. This review and critique is the challenge for the print and electronic Black media, for Black folks on the street and in private and public conversation, that is for every medium of Black Dialogue.
If Clinton had won, the black community would still be faced with the same task. This was equally true in 2008 and 2012 when Obama won the White House. But the hard and valid Black anxiety over Trump’s victory may push African Americans to do what we should have been doing all along. That’s good, not bad.
1. See Robert Allen, Reluctant reformers: racism and social reform movements in the United States, 1974
2. See Robert S. Browne, “The black community and contemporary economic dynamics, The Review of Black Political Economy.- National Economic Association – NEA. – Vol. 6.1976, 2, p. 145-160. This 1976 African Heritage Studies Association presentation is a very important milestone to gauge the course of black struggle and the world. Browne called attention to rise the of non-European global powers, the emergence of “global interdependence”, i.e. globalization, and the imperative of African American self-reliant political organization in the years ahead.
3. See Ira Katznelson, When affirmative action was white: an untold history of racial inequality in twentieth-century America ,2005. Nelson provides very important history and critique of the GI Bill and other US government policies that created the post-1945 white blue collar working class. But he fails miserably to understand the important of Black Reparations.
Also, See, Harry Braverman, Labor and Monopoly Capital: the degradation of work in the 20th Century, 1974. Braverman’s critique of capitalist production and the blue collar work force is immediate relevant to the high tech work force of today.
Today’s “high tech” US workers, that are lionized by the establishment, must and will go the same route as blue collar workers of generations past, who were ballyhooed as exemplifying the “American Dream”, and were later displaced by low-wage foreign labor and technological changes in production. This is inherent in the profit motive of capitalism.
“Globalization” is simply another name for capitalism. The US workers being displaced by globalization are being displaced by capitalism.
Trump’s white blue-collar supporters know, just like you, that he cannot revive high-wage, labor intensive domestic manufacturing that produces commodities, like coal or automobiles, that are competitive in the domestic and world-wide retail market-place with similar commodifies made by low- wage labor in Mexico, China and elsewhere.
The editors of the Monthly Review Magazine have long pointed to the growing contradictions in “mature” US monopoly capitalism, another long term crisis the US establishment can not resolve.
4. A Yardstick for mainstream black politics
• Black politicians and black political organizations must constantly struggle for the equitable distribution and acquisition of goods and services for their constituents. This includes funding for public education, mass transportation, and all of the others that we all know. Most black people agree on this. But some of us stop with goods and services and don’t go any further.
• But equally important, black elected officials and political organizations must pursue and practice the highest ethical practice to guide our politics to serve the community. For example, former Detroit congressman Charles Diggs was one of the most progressive members of the US House of Representatives. But in the late 1970s, he was found guilty of mail fraud, and his valuable service to the black community, on both international and domestic issues, was lost. Ethical practice is indispensable.
• Black elected officials and black organizations must develop and pursue a logical, practical strategic and tactical plan to wage struggle in the political arena.
• Black political organizations and African American elected officials must know the black political history of the district they serve. How can anyone adequately represent their district and not know anything about it? Stated another way, black politicians and organizations must be rooted in black culture.
• Black politics must persistently organize, mobilize, and educate the masses in the on-going political struggles that are endemic to the society we live in. We must have an informed organized black electorate.
• Black elected officials and black political organizations must always be accountable and in deference to the masses. This is based on political ethics coupled with the material power to reward and punish our representatives.
• Black electoral politics must also struggle relentlessly for immediate and long-term democratic social change to the reigning status quo.
• Neither last nor least, black elected officials and black political organizations must master the skills to integrate electoral politics with mass direct action and other modes of social struggle.
• One major failure of contemporary black electoral politics has been the failure to systemize and pursue these tenets in its daily practice.
• We must continue to develop this yardstick in progress with each and every election in each and every year from now on.
5. Fund Raising in the Black Community Conference
Saturday, October 31, 1992
Manchester Craftsmen’s Guild
(Excluding Introduction and Closing remarks)
I. Fund Raising in the Pittsburgh Area
A panel discussion on four local fund raising projects
The Manchester Craftsman’s Guild
* William Strickland, Jr. Executive Director of the Manchester Craftsmen’s Guild
The Jobs with Peace campaign
* Jeffery L. Richardson, Former Director, Jobs with Peace
The African Heritage Classroom
* Nancy H. Lee, Coordinator, African Heritage Classroom Committee
Bob Pitts Mayoral Campaign
* Honorable Robert L. Pitts, Mayor, City of Wilkinsburg
II. Keynote Address
Black Fund Raising Past, Present, and Future
* Dr. King E. Davis, Commissioner to the Commonwealth of Virginia
Department of Mental Health, Mental Retardation, and Substance Abuse
III. Funders Roundtable
A panel discussion on four philanthropic institutions
*Linda Waters-Richardson, President, Black United Fund of Pennsylvania
*Philip H. Hallen, President, Maurice Falk Medical Fund
*Dr. Cynthia Vanda, President, Three Rivers Community Fund
*Bernard H. Jones, President, POISE Foundation
IV. Fund Raising Workshop
Instructions on the nuts and bolts of several fundraising techniques
* Neddie Hollis, Executive Director, Sickle Cell Society, Inc.
Fund Raising Radiothons
* Jerry Lopes, Executive Vice President of Programming,
American Urban Radio Network
Fund raising Patron books
* Delores Williams, Owner, Xantus Printing and Publishing
Fund raising from Individual Donors
* Jovina Hill, Campaign Director, Black United Fund of Pennsylvania