Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Why Did Bernie Sanders Lose The African-American Vote? The Death of Roy Innis

OK, weird juxtaposition, especially three quarters of an hour before Barack Obama delivers his farewell address in the McCormick Center in Chicago, not too far south of where the ASSA/AEA meetings were just held. But the death at age 82 of Roy Innis, the leader since 1968 of the Congress of Racial  Equality (CORE) has pushed me to this, especially as I have no doubt there is nobody else out there who is making these connections.

The immediate relevance of Roy Innis is that Bernie Sanders's very authentic role in the US civil rights movement was his very serious participation in CORE activities in Chicago during 1962-64, give or take a year on either end.  He was a local leader out front in numerous demonstrations, appearing in the local media, and so on.  He was about as solid and sincere an activist in support of CORE in Chicago as one could find fine, a very hard place then as well as now.

So, why did he lose his poltical standing with African-Americans?  I mean arguably they gave the Dem nomination to Hillary, especially southern female African-Americans, who then, unfortunately, were unable to deliver their states for her in the general election. In early spring, 2016, youth went for Bernie 2 to 1, but African Americans went for her 2 to 1, even if they did not turn out sufficiently in Philadelphia to offset the rural and Erie/Scranton white vote that gave PA to Trump, despite her spending lots of time and effort there, including on the closing night of her campaign.

Well, I do not think anybody can seriously diss the loyalty of older southern African-American women to Hillary over Bernie, but maybe it is too bad, especially given what is coming down on us soon after Barack Obama exits the White House.  A lot of it has to do with Bernie's specifically overt activism on this front was a long time ago, more than a half century, and he ended up in very white Vermont with white millennials supporting him. The southern African-Americans dumped Hillary for Obama in 08, although with a lag, despite their long support for her husband, "America's first black president," but they came home for her.  So it is.

Regarding CORE, it was founded in 1942 by the late James Farmer, who still led it in the early 60s, the most activist of the four major civil rights orgs of that day, NAACP, Urban League, SCLC, and CORE, with Martin Luther King specifically associated with the SCLC.  They all agreed on equal treatment between races and all people and nonviolence, although CORE pushed the envelope harder than the others.

It was after the death of MLK, Jr. in 1968 that Roy Innis came to the leadership of CORE.  He moved it towards black nationalism and violence, as well as a "conservative/libetarian" political economic perspective.  As near as I can tell it never played a significant role in national politics under his long leadership, lasting until now, near as I can tell. The most dramatic event of this many decades period was a showdown he had at one point with Al Sharpton over something, a showdown between two people between whom I am not sure which I view with less respect, frankly.

I note the odd detail that slightly overlapping with Bernie, around 1963-65, I was involved with CORE in Madison, Wisconsin, when I was in high school.  I was not nearly as active or as important as Bernie, but I did participate in some demos against Sears for discriminatory hiring.  For this I earned my first entry in the FBI lists, as I was informed by my well-too-well-informed late Old Man.

And now I shall send this off so I can hear Barack Hussein Obama give his farewell address, for better or worse.

Barkley Rosser