Sunday, December 6, 2015

Emanuel, Black Voters, Clinton, Sanders

It is Advent now, and while the entire season has been commercialized and sentimentalized, it is historically a political season.  Today's lectionary includes a reading from Luke, wherein John the Baptist is raising hell in the periphery against a backdrop of imperial rule.

 photo taken by members of Chicago PD

That Gospel includes Mary's extremely political proclamation in the first chapter:

he has scattered the proud in the thoughts of their hearts;
he has brought down the mighty from their thrones
and exalted those of humble estate;
he has filled the hungry with good things,
and the rich he has sent away empty.
So it seems appropriate to do political commentary on our own imperial backdrop today.  Specifically, I find myself reflecting on Hillary Clinton's current defense of her old friend and co-conspirator, Rahm Emanuel.

Rahm Emanuel is ambitious, intelligent, and mean as a rattlesnake.  He is a former investment banker with deep ties to Wall Street, a gutter-fighting politician, the current mayor of Chicago, and one of the most unlikable characters in the Democratic Party.  He is also an alumnus of the same Chicago Democratic Party machine that gave political birth to Barack Obama - the first African American President of the United States.

There is some irony here, inasmuch as he is currently under siege in Chicago for his defense of one of the most corrupt big city police departments in the country (and that is saying something!), which is now under intense scrutiny for the police killing of Laquan McDonald. Gawker recently published and article calling Chicago PD the most racist department in the country, so no surprise that CPD is involved in yet another killing of a black teenager  - this one resulting in murder charges (the policeman - Jason Van Dyke -  was on a police videotape shooting this kid sixteen times when the victim's back was turned and he was ten feet away from the cop).

Emanuel, who was involved in a very tight re-election bid, is believed by many to have colluded to withhold the police tape until after his election.  The recent resignation of his police chief has led Chicagoans to demand Emanuel resign, too.  Emanuel's ego and concomitant combativeness pretty much rule that out; and in this hour of need, Hillary Clinton has rallied to him.  They are both powerful personalities in the business-controlled Democratic Leadership Council as well as friends, so this is no surprise either.

Since Clinton's last racial gaffe in the Democratic Primary race against Barack Obama in South Carolina in 2008 turned the tide in Obama's favor and ultimately lost her the nomination, one would have thought that she had at least learned to perform as if she had some shred of sensitivity to the lives and concerns of black voters; but alas, here in the wake of Ferguson and Charleston, when the Black Freedom Movement has been resuscitated in the form of Black Lives Matter, her defense of Emanuel suggests the contrary.

Whether the Sanders campaign will make hay with this - by consolidating its identity with the Black Lives Matter movement and thereby contrasting itself with the Clinton camp - remains to be seen.  Sanders is aiming for a working class constituency, and the white working class has shown time and again that they can be tempted away from class solidarity by a persistent devotion to white supremacy, even though most African Americans are themselves working class.  But Sanders has a substantial lead among that other demographic that rode the Hopey-Changey train into the 2008 station - voters under 30 years of age.  If Clinton loses a substantial fraction of the black vote, she is - in a word - toast.  (Lest we forget, the first member of the Clinton dynasty signed the Crime Bill into law that rocketed our gross incarceration rate - especially among people of color - past China's.)

Her only refuge, given Bernie Sanders' claim to be a socialist (a word that frightens the young far less than the old), is that old bone-headed, but reliable, swindle - "electability."  The Democratic news media, i.e., CNN and MSNBC, will spout this term as early and often as possible; but the truth is, given that Donald Trump - by exposing the racialized underbelly of the Republican Party with his not-so-baffling popularity - has actually made an embarrassment like Ted Cruz look good, whoever gets the Dem nomination will have a downhill battle.

This is not an endorsement for Sanders or a call to arms against Clinton - even though she represents the absolute worst to me in American politics.  Even if Sanders did get the nomination, and then the Presidency, symbolic as it may seem, he would immediately confront a governing apparatus, as well as a thoroughly self-organized world system, that will overwhelm him.

I've never entertained illusion about Sanders - like all the rest, an American exceptionalist, a pro-Zionist, and a technological promethean, not to mention he'd begin his office by swearing allegiance to that hoary hogwash known as the United States Constitution.

He'd be a new ruler who has no capacity to rule, like all the rest.  The machine grinds on until it breaks; as will the next.  My hopes are still grounded elsewhere, in that child born into Roman subjection who refused that kind of power (and here we are, our polity the modern Rome).

We are called to discern - as best we can with these mortal instruments - so we can tell the truth; not attempt to take hold of some Future with our pride.  In this way, we can speak plainly, never worried that we need to conform our speech to fit anyone's pre-existing agenda.

For everything there is a season, and a time for every purpose under heaven.

In the fifteenth year of the reign of Tiber'ius Caesar, Pontius Pilate being governor of Judea, and Herod being tetrarch of Galilee, and his brother Philip tetrarch of the region of Iturae'a and Trachoni'tis, and Lysa'ni-as tetrarch of Abile'ne,  in the high-priesthood of Annas and Ca'iaphas, the word of God came to John the son of Zechari'ah in the wilderness;  and he went into all the region about the Jordan, preaching a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. As it is written in the book of the words of Isaiah the prophet, "The voice of one crying in the wilderness:  Prepare the way of the Lord, make his paths straight. Every valley shall be filled, and every mountain and hill shall be brought low, and the crooked shall be made straight, and the rough ways shall be made smooth; and all flesh shall see the salvation of God." 


  1. I acknowledge that Sanders would have a difficult time if he were elected President, and would likely be lacerated by the many sharp teeth of the gears in the machine.

    On the other hand consider the change in the electorate that would be necessary for him to win... consider that if he did win, he would likely be accompanied by a relatively progressive congress. I'm not saying that he can feed the multitudes with a few fish and loves of bread... but would that not be a positive outcome? Roosevelt wasn't Jesus either, but did he not put us on a path towards more widespread prosperity, which alleviated much suffering and permitted a lot of good work to be done?

    I'm not trying to get you to endorse Sanders... but do you see no hope in politics, or the efforts of people to govern themselves in a more inclusive and less bellicose manner?

  2. Roosevelt did what he had to to rescue capitalism from its own excesses, including a careful entry into war and the incarceration of Japanese-Americans, etc. It was always a temporary fix; and I am not an advocate of core-nation prosperity. It necessarily comes at the expense of other people abroad. Did then, does now, always will.

    As to a more 'progressive' congress - I am not progressive, and abhor the term as well as the movement - that won't happen either, because of the mechanics of politics, the wealth primary. patronage, et al -- but the greater the scale (319 million in the US), the less capacity for anything that justifies the term self-governance. No such thing has ever existed in history beyond the village level.

    I'd happily vote Sanders just to stick my thumb in the eye of the system, but the least free person on the planet is the POTUS. It's one thing to describe what is going on, but another altogether to believe it is susceptible to public rituals like elections. It isn't. Moreover, whatever comes next will be broken, too. The best we can do is to love, serve, and make peace where we can. Forgiveness helps too. I am always needing a measure of that.

    1. Hmmm. I understand the urge to focus on the local, and on improving our own input to the world...

      Is the problem that you think a more equitable distribution of wealth (within USA) would only foster more consumption? A growing middle class, financially and politically empowered, and hungering for the worlds resources?

      Thanks for the response and getting me to think a bit more about it. My gut says that there is no turning back, short of war or pandemic, and that no matter what we do or say there will be a quickening.

      God did not put us here (outside the garden) to live in static harmony.

  3. A more equitable distribution would be great; but we have to first discern what constitutes wealth - where does it come from, and how? Prosperity as it is commonly understood - as you say - to be property and consumables. People need a few possessions, and as animals we are required to consume. God, as I understand God - only through the Incarnation (the before and after of that is beyond my ken) provides grace. The gift. Whether we give what we receive is left to us. And we are fallen creatures. Some things, about the world, however, are discernible through reason. Political economy, for example - but a lot of ideological veils have to be lifted to make these things apprehensable.

  4. Sanders has already capitulated in one aspect----he's been taken in by a Super PAC, and immediately removed any criticism of Super PACS from his speeches. Owned!

    Any solutions for or to the system have to come from outside the system, and I can't think of a better way than following (or trying to follow) the WAY, not worshipping the MAN one day a week & raising all-fired hell the rest of it.

    We're like alcoholics, and sometimes it's one minute, one hour, one day at a time coping with pride. Pride causes entropy---faster.