If you pull the violence we’re seeing from protesters out of the equation, Black Lives Matters’ goal of sustainably transforming America away from racism sounds reasonable enough (that just changed and not for the better, as we discuss in a June 26, 2020 update). It will play a lot better than extreme demands like defunding police departments, whatever that means to empty-headed liberal anarchists.
The catch is that our inherently discordant politics and the negative impact it has on all aspects of our society means there is little chance we will ever see the sought after change, sustainable or not. BLM will fail because maintaining the give and take on race between Democrats and Republicans is more important than transforming anything. Our politics thrives on racism just like it thrives on doing nothing while fighting over the urgency of reform.
You can’t fight over what you fix and in Washington the fight that matters is not about black lives.
BLM will fail because weaponizing George Floyd transforms nothing
No matter what you hear or who you hear it from, George Floyd’s death is just another weaponized media event that will ultimately go nowhere, especially on Capitol Hill where politics thrives on fighting over racism.
Nancy Pelosi made what’s truly important pretty obvious in her June 8, 2020 “Black Lives Matter” update that’s not really about black lives mattering at all. Instead, her remarks focus on what really counts: Democrats vs. Trump.
Instead, the President presents a tone-deaf and escalatory response that does not condemn racism and violence – consistently choosing to fan the flames of discord, bigotry and violence even more, only further dividing our country.1
Pelosi consistently confuses ideology she opposes with divisiveness. What’s more important are her empty promises for reform. If racism is systemic, institutional, and endemic in our society it didn’t just get that way last month:
Led by the Congressional Black Caucus, House Democrats are working on legislation to address policing and other reforms to safeguard every American’s right to equal justice.2
Democrats have been working on this issue for a very long time. We have no reason to believe this time will be any different. Perhaps the speaker was too busy holding press conferences to consider what we all knew would come out of the Senate:
After Spending Weeks Demanding The Senate Take Up A Police Reform Bill Before July 4th, Senate Democrats Have Announced They’ll Block The Senate From Taking Up The Bill, Despite House Democrats Being Open To Compromise3
That’s exactly what happened.
Earlier, as he plotted to stall the Senate floor vote on police reform Senator Dick Durbin (D-IL) resorted to pointing the finger at American history instead of his party’s historic failure to act:
My goodness, it is so long overdue after all of these 400 years of slavery, when it first came to our shore and the greed and racism that fed it as that insidious original sin of our country. Now is our chance to do something in our generation to make a difference for those future generations who march in the street and look to us for real change.4
Whatever the House passes faces just as dismal a future as the Senate bills. It doesn’t matter. The pageant is what counts. Democrats are arguably in a better position this fall if reform never makes it into law. Tongues will sharpen. Fingers will stab. Pointless, angry words will spew. Escalating conflict and controversy is guaranteed and that’s good for politics no matter what the impact is on America’s black community.
The unfortunate fact of the matter is that the political value of black lives is vastly larger than their vote. Protesters claim racism is endemic in our society but so is the very nature of how American politics deals with a minority that comprises less than 15% of our population. Black lives can be used when the opportunity presents, but when it comes to substantive reform Democrats prove time and again that the real value lies in liberal talking points held in the party’s trick bag until the time is right. That’s why BLM will fail.
List of black martyrs is a list of Democratic inertia and failure
As far as politics is concerned, the trappings of systemic racism are less a problem than an opportunity to publicly take a stand again and again, year after year.
What happened to Trayvon Martin?
When Barack Obama first took office Democrats had the power and the votes to pass the Affordable Care Act, Dodd-Frank, and massive economic stimulus spending. They had the strength to do as they pleased. Why didn’t they do more to protect the black Americans?
The February 2012 Trayvon Martin shooting summoned a call to action from Pelosi:
The story of Trayvon Martin’s death has shocked the nation and spurred many leaders, including Members of Congress, to call for action.5
The shooter wasn’t a police officer, but the president pointed out that our racial history was again in play:
And when you think about why, in the African American community at least, there’s a lot of pain around what happened here, I think it’s important to recognize that the African American community is looking at this issue through a set of experiences and a history that doesn’t go away.6
Obama was right about something not going away. Spurring lawmakers to call for action isn’t action. It’s just politics. Years later, in a June 8, 2020 press conference Pelosi added Trayvon Martin to the “names of martyrdom.”7 That’s what this call to action accomplished.
The Eric Garner incident was a police-involved death. Obama weighed in on that one, too:
And as I said when I met with folks both from Ferguson and law enforcement and clergy and civil rights activists, I said this is an issue that we’ve been dealing with for too long and it’s time for us to make more progress than we’ve made. And I’m not interested in talk; I’m interested in action. 8
That was in 2014. Pelosi was also interested in action. She tossed out a list of “tragic deaths of unarmed citizens”9 and affirmed:
I support President Obama’s recent call for measures to increase trust between law enforcement and their communities — including new limits on the use of military style equipment and new funds for body cameras for police officers.10
Years later we’re still talking about reform in the wake of more police-involved killings and an election year call to action that’s useful for blaming Republicans for not doing what Democrats never did and from all appearances never will.
BLM will fail because our two political factions will make black lives about Democratic and Republican lives. Democrats value black Americans as an excuse to do battle. Republicans will play along and do what Republicans do when faced with a bill from Pelosi’s House and bombastic minority Senate Democrats. Nothing will happen.
Democrats say yes to the fight and no to black lives mattering
We can’t and won’t agree on anything when the precept is based on a fundamental falsehood. House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-MD) insisted:
House Democrats will keep fighting to ensure that the words of our Declaration of Independence – that all are “created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness” – hold true for all in our country, regardless of race. We will continue to use our House Majority to ensure that black lives matter.11
“Keep fighting” are the important words.
Democrats had their House majority. Instead of black lives mattering we cracked down on the financial sector and passed a bad health care bill. Now they have an excuse for more failure: Mitch McConnell.
Hoyer invoked a historic document that his party’s extreme liberal wing would probably rather burn than fall back on. Nancy Pelosi also got involved with history. She patted herself on the back for ordering that pictures of Confederate leaders be stripped from the Capitol, remarking:
The halls of Congress are the heart of our democracy and should reflect our highest ideals, not memorialize men who embody racism, bigotry and hatred.12
It’s far easier to damn figures from another time who can’t answer the charges against them than it is to take responsibility for repeated failure.
As far as politics is concerned, whether or not black lives and racism matter is about timing. This year Black Lives Matter. Next year it could be Latino, Asian American, LGBTQ, or homeless lives. The issue isn’t protecting life. It’s about wringing the most value out of whatever is trending on the national scene.
There’s a saying that integrity is all about what you do when people aren’t watching. Our politics is the exact opposite of that.
Democrats want people to watch, in fact they attract attention with bold words that are empty and hollow. When it comes to black lives mattering, BLM will fail because Democrats can’t afford success combatting racism. There is too much valuable ammunition in an issue they can resurrect whenever the time feels right.
UPDATE June 25, 2020: Pelosi distracts us from her certain failure for all the wrong reasons
Shortly after Donald Trump took office in 2017 Nancy Pelosi seized the moment to demand that historic statues dedicated by states be removed from the U.S. Capitol. As we’ve come to expect, she managed to work “white supremacy” into a political ploy that came five days after the Charlottesville “Unite the Right” rally:
The Confederate statues in the halls of Congress have always been reprehensible. If Republicans are serious about rejecting white supremacy, I call upon Speaker Ryan to join Democrats to remove the Confederate statues from the Capitol immediately.13
Like black lives, this got her a little extra attention. Now she’s back where she started with new demands to take the same statues down:
[T]he halls of Congress are the very heart of our democracy. The statues in the Capitol should embody our highest ideals as Americans, expressing who we are and who we aspire to be as a nation. Monuments to men who advocated cruelty and barbarism to achieve such a plainly racist end are a grotesque affront to these ideals. Their statues pay homage to hate, not heritage. They must be removed.14
Wrong. The statues are history. They express who we were. The fact that we moved past that moment speaks to what we aspire to be. I don’t know how the speaker defines heritage, but whitewashing history changes nothing. Santayana said it best. It’s important we remember the past no matter how much it offends.
What’s important is that we have the power to change the present, but Democrats don’t want to do that. They just halted our best chance at policing reform by blocking a Senate bill in a purely partisan manipulation that all but guarantees they will be able to keep this issue alive, well, and on Congress’s plate for as long as it’s useful to them.
The Hill quoted Lindsey Graham’s bleak, now or maybe never prediction for where reform is headed. Inaction for political purposes appears to be who Democrats are and what they aspire to be. This is not what our democracy is supposed to be about, but if we’re going to obliterate the memories of how we got to where we are now the political ideals we were founded on might as well be forgotten, too.
UPDATE June 26, 2020: House policing bill holds no one accountable. Newsome’s threat guarantees BLM will fail even without the Democratic Party’s help.
The vote on H.R.7120, their George Floyd Justice in Policing Act was a perfunctory yawn. After the vote the bill’s champion, Rep. Barbara Lee (D-CA) took credit for two things that never happened:
After generations of systematic abuse, violence, and murder, the George Floyd Justice in Policing act will finally hold police accountable, end police brutality, and create structural changes to end systemic racism in policing.15
As obsessed as Rep. Lee’s party is with democracy, one would think Democrats would have at least a passing knowledge of how government works. Her press release cheers a “Historic Policing Reform Bill Passed by Congress.” Congress didn’t pass anything. The House of Representatives did.
Second, the House bill is not going to hold anyone accountable because it isn’t a law and most likely never will be.
It’s lucky for the lawmakers who will cheer this non-existent victory that anyone who will pay attention to their blather won’t question why this isn’t another big fail for the Democratic Party just like every other bill they’ve applauded that never became law.
While the newest House legislative charade took place we heard a rather astounding threat from Black Lives Matter’s Hank Newsome to “burn down this system.” We’ve already seen enough burning, violence, and pain at the hands of BLM’s naïve flock of insurgents. If Newsome wants to ensure, once and for all, that BLM fails he’s on the right track. There are good ways and bad ways to attract attention. This is not one of the good ways. America has been tolerant of the left’s destructive, anarchic tendencies, but there are limits.
UPDATE June 27, 2020: Lightfoot, Pritzker prove black lives matter most when they are politicized and not protected
Last weekend there were 102 shootings in Chicago. That number should have astonished everyone in Illinois. Instead, it was a momentary distraction from the usual litany of state pandemic news.
This is only Saturday morning. Anyone in the city sweating out another weekend knowing they could be shot dead in their own home at any moment has a long way to go.
Last night the local news eagerly reported Governor JB Pritzker and Mayor Lori Lightfoot’s retorts after President Trump addressed a letter to the pair in which he stated:
I have been horrified by the continued violence in this great American city.16
Trump offered federal help:
If you are willing to put partisanship aside, we can revitalize distressed neighborhoods in Chicago, together. But to succeed, you must establish law and order.17
The sad truth is that you can get used to anything when it happens often enough, including dead children murdered in Lightfoot’s city week after week.
The other truth is that anything and everything this president says will anger Pritzker and Lightfoot, but what about their disavowal of the enormity of this tragic loss of black lives?
A police-involved killing in Minneapolis sparked national protests. The murders of children in Chicago spark only an angry retort at a federal offer to save these lives and the earnest pleas of city activists that, so far, have accomplished little or nothing.
The president’s letter concluded:
Unfortunately, you continue to put your own political interests ahead of the lives, safety, and fortunes of your own citizens. The people of Chicago deserve better.20
Trump is right. This is Illinois. Political interests will always come first. That’s why we have no money. It’s also why in Chicago the bodies will keep piling up while our leaders keep their heads buried in massive piles of rhetorical sand.
UPDATE June 28, 2020: big city politics accepts continued loss of black children’s lives
All took place yesterday. The number of shootings and deaths this weekend continues to rise.
There is no limit to the number of dead children the Illinois Democratic machine will tolerate. Back in 2017 Congresswoman Robin Kelly blasted the president after he suggested he could step in to stop the mayhem and loss of life:
In recent days, President Donald Trump has repeatedly threatened to ‘send in the Feds’ to address the ongoing violence in Chicago. These tweets and comments show a complete ignorance to reality.22
The reality is black kids were dying then, they are dying now, and no one is going to stop it.
One after another, the continued loss of these black lives prove Trump’s point that political interests in Chicago and the state of Illinois always come first. The mayor’s strategy is to recite the party line on the president’s lack of leadership while her own leadership produces dead black child after dead black child.
What could the president possibly do that would make the situation in Chicago worse?
Trump calls the violence in Chicago “tragic and unacceptable.” Day after day and body and after body Democrats confirm the killing is more than acceptable for the sake of keeping their destructive grip intact.
No matter what BLM accomplishes on the national scene and at the moment it doesn’t look like that will be much, black lives still don’t matter in Chicago. We’re not hearing anything from Democrats on how they plan to stop that. Are voters and city residents so brainwashed by these political hacks that they believe blaming others is the solution to the problem?
1“Black Lives Matter.” Nancy Pelosi. June 8, 2020. https://pelosi.house.gov/media-center/pelosi-updates/black-lives-matter, retrieved June 18, 2020.
3“Will Senate Democrats Shut Down Policing Reform?” Mitch McConnell. June 23, 2020. https://www.republicanleader.senate.gov/newsroom/research/will-senate-democrats-shut-down-policing-reform, retrieved June 24, 2020.
4“Durbin Calls On Senator McConnell To Allow For Bipartisan Negotiations On Police Reform Legislation.” Dick Durbin. June 23, 2020. https://www.durbin.senate.gov/newsroom/press-releases/durbin-calls-on-senator-mcconnell-
to-allow- for-bipartisan-negotiations-on-police-reform-legislation, retrieved June 24, 2020.
5“Pelosi Statement on the Trayvon Martin Investigation.” Nancy Pelosi. March 21, 2012. https://pelosi.house.gov/news/press-releases/pelosi-statement-on-the-trayvon-martin-investigation, retrieved June 20, 2020.
6“Remarks by the President on Trayvon Martin.” The White House. President Barack Obama.” June 19, 2013. https://obamawhitehouse.archives.gov/the-press-office/2013/07/19/remarks-PRESIDENT-TRAYVON-MARTIN, retrieved June 20, 2020.
7“Pelosi Remarks at Press Conference Unveiling Congressional Democrats’ Justice in Policing Act.” Nancy Pelosi. June 8, 2020. https://pelosi.house.gov/news/press-releases/pelosi-remarks-at-press-conference-unveiling-congressional-democrats-justice-in, retrieved June 20, 2020.
8Somanader, Tanya. “President Obama Delivers a Statement on the Grand Jury Decision in the Death of Eric Garner.” The White House. President Barack Obama. December 3, 2014. https://obamawhitehouse.archives.gov/blog/2014/12/03/president-obama-delivers-statement-grand-jury-decision-death-eric-garner, retrieved June 20, 2020.
9“Pelosi Statement Following Grand Jury Decision Regarding Death of Eric Garner.” Nancy Pelosi. December 4, 2014. https://www.speaker.gov/newsroom/pelosi-statement-following-grand-jury-decision-eric-garner, retrieved June 20, 2020.
11“Black Lives Matter. House Democrats are committed to addressing systemic racism, ensuring justice and accountability, and ending the loss of African American lives due to violence.” Majority Leader Steny Hoyer. https://www.majorityleader.gov/issues/black-lives-matter, retrieved June 18, 2020.
12“Pelosi Statement on the 155th Juneteenth Celebration.” Nancy Pelosi. June 19, 2020. https://www.speaker.gov/newsroom/61920, retrieved June 23, 2020.
13“Pelosi Calls for Removal of Confederate Statues From Capitol” Nancy Pelosi. August 17, 2017. https://pelosi.house.gov/news/press-releases/pelosi-calls-for-removal-of-confederate-statues-from-capitol, retrieved June 25, 2020.
14“Pelosi Sends Letter to Joint Committee on the Library Calling for Removal of Confederate Statues from the United States Capitol.” Speaker.gov. June 10, 2020. https://www.speaker.gov/newsroom/61020-1, retrieved June 25, 2020.
15“Congresswoman Barbara Lee Praises Historic Policing Reform Bill Passed by Congress.” Congresswoman Barbara Lee. June 25, 2020. https://lee.house.gov/news/press-releases/congresswoman-barbara-lee-praises-historic-policing-reform-bill-passed-by-congress, retrieved June 26, 2020.
16“President Donald J. Trump’s Letter to the Governor of Illinois and Mayor of Chicago.” Whitehouse.gov. June 26, 2020. https://www.whitehouse.gov/briefings-statements/president-donald-j-trumps-letter-governor-illinois-mayor-chicago/, retrieved June 27, 2020.
18Sweet, Lynn. “Trump throws darts at Lightfoot, Pritzker over crime; offers help with ‘unsolved challenges.'” Chicago Sun-Times. June 26, 2020. https://chicago.suntimes.com/politics/2020/6/26/21305100/trump-letter-lightfoot-pritzker-chicago-crime-violence-protests-looting, retrieved June 27, 2020.
19Schuba, Tom, Charles, Sam, and Hendrickson, Matthew. “18 murders in 24 hours: Inside the most violent day in 60 years in Chicago.” Chicago Sun Times. June 8, 2020. https://chicago.suntimes.com/crime/2020/6/8/21281998/chicago-deadliest-day-violence-murder-history-police-crime, retrieved June 27, 2020.
20“President Donald J. Trump’s Letter to the Governor of Illinois and Mayor of Chicago.” Whitehouse.gov. June 26, 2020. https://www.whitehouse.gov/briefings-statements/president-donald-j-trumps-letter-governor-illinois-mayor-chicago/, retrieved June 27, 2020.
21Fry, Paige. “10-year-old girl killed after bullet goes through Logan Square apartment window.” Chicago Tribune. June 28, 2020. https://www.chicagotribune.com/news/breaking/ct-logan-square-shooting-06272020-20200628-qrm5fniatvht5evsp52l6c45ma-story.html, retrieved June 28, 2020.
22“Congresswoman Kelly Responds to Trump’s Attacks on Chicago.” Robin Kelly. January 27, 2017. https://robinkelly.house.gov/media-center/press-releases/congresswoman-kelly-responds-to-trump-s-attacks-on-chicago, retrieved June 28, 2020.
*“About the National Statuary Hall Collection.” Architect of the Capitol. https://www.aoc.gov/art/national-statuary-hall-collection/about-national-statuary-hall-collection, retrieved June 25, 2020.
Author’s note: edited for content after original publishing date of June 24, 2020.