Stifling Candidate Sanders: We the people aren’t real good at formulating discussions. We say that after reading Jamelle Bouie’s new piece at Slate, a piece concerning Black Lives Matter and Candidate Bernie Sanders.
Don't get us wrong! Bouie’s piece is thoughtful and informative; it’s well worth reading. That said, we were struck by Bouie’s premise—or at least, by the premise which appeared in the headlines to his piece:
Black Lives Matter Protests MatterIs Black Lives Matter “focused on Bernie Sanders?” Beyond that, does Black Lives Matter have some “strategy” to that effect?
Why the group is so focused on Bernie Sanders, and how that strategy is paying off.
So far, we’d have to say no on each count. But that isn’t just some editor’s reading of what Bouie says in his piece. According to Bouie himself, “Sanders gets the brunt of Black Lives Matter activity, at least among Democratic presidential candidates.”
Is Candidate Sanders actually “getting the brunt of Black Lives Matters activity among Democratic candidates?” At this point, we’d have to say no. We’ll also say that, in this debate, clarity matters a lot.
Has Candidate Sanders been getting the brunt? So far, no! Here’s why:
Sanders has been interrupted twice to date. The first time was at the Netroots Nation convention. The other Democratic candidate who was present, Martin O’Malley, received the same treatment. Presumably, Candidate Clinton would have been interrupted too if she had been there.
The second interruption, which happened in Seattle, has set off a possible era of bad feelings. That said, can we talk?
On that occasion, Sanders wasn’t exactly interrupted by “Black Lives Matter.” He was interrupted by two individuals, neither of whom was affiliated with the BLM leadership at the time.
Whatever you think of their behavior or thinking, we shouldn’t wander into the thought that Sanders is being targeted by a whole movement or group—is being subjected to some “strategy” in which he takes “the brunt,” simply because two individuals did something on their own.
Can you really spot a pattern or “strategy” here? Last week, two BLM people from Massachusetts went to New Hampshire hoping to interrupt Candidate Clinton. But they didn’t arrive at the venue on time, so they had to settle for a videotaped discussion with Clinton.
Should Black Lives Matter people be doing these things? That is a different discussion. For today, arguments and insults are starting to form as this premise takes shape in people’s minds. Yesterday, Charles Blow’s column poked at this wound a tiny tad, though that may not have been his intention.
Tomorrow, we’ll look at the strengths and weaknesses in Blow’s column. We’ll also suggest that you should consider the thinking of one of the people who staged the Seattle shutdown.
That particular person’s thinking seems quite striking to us. But at this point, it’s the thinking of one individual, not of some general movement.
In our view, Blow got way out over his skis in several parts of yesterday’s column. We’re especially thinking of this passage, in which he criticizes Sanders supporters who got mad at the Seattle Two, and perhaps at BLM itself:
BLOW (8/17/15): I must say that I, too, found some of the responses to the protesters troubling.Please. A person can lose confidence in a group without renouncing the general goals for which the group stands. If people lose faith in BLM, that doesn’t mean they have ceased to have “support for black lives,” except in the frequently overheated world of a Blow column.
First, some people said that the disruption had caused the movement to lose their support. This seemed strange and extreme to me. How fragile must your support for black lives have been if a rally’s disruption caused it to crumble?
What happened in Seattle was done by two individuals. It doesn’t mean that Candidate Sanders is the focus of some “strategy” by the Black Lives Matter group.
Meanwhile, if some Sanders supporters end up deciding that they don’t support the approach of the Black Lives Matter group, that doesn’t mean that they no longer have “support for black lives.” It's a bad idea to turn every event into a giant dispute.
Tomorrow, we’ll look at Blow’s column. We’ll also consider the thinking of one of the people who staged the shutdown in Seattle. For obvious reasons, race is a highly emotional issue. It would be better if people on various sides tried to avoid getting a snootful or three and reaching unhelpful conclusions about what is, so far, just a few events.
In our view, Blow is sometimes inclined to get such snootfuls. Especially at our highest journalistic levels, we don’t think snootfuls help.
Nothing completely new under the sun: These incipient disputes strike us as extremely serious.
We think of noble Nestor addressing the Argives near the walls of Ilium: “Tonight's the night that rips our ranks to shreds or pulls us through.”
That said, ranks are easily ripped to shreds in the face of high emotion. Can you hear “a fire-bell in the night?” We almost think we can...