What good are Democrats if they act just like Republicans? What good are black elected officials if they harm black people? These questions are not mere thought experiments for the people of Baltimore, Maryland. It is a reality they must face after their Democratic mayor consigned the working poor in that city to a bleak economic future.
The Baltimore city council passed a bill that would have raised the minimum wage from $8.75 to $15 over a five-year period. The cry for a $15 per hour minimum wage has rallied activists across the country, despite the fact that this arbitrary figure is far from a living wage in most of the country. Even where the $15 minimum has become a reality, it is often phased in over a period of years, making this already over hyped figure worth very little.
The legislation would nevertheless have had an immediate positive impact on Baltimore workers had the mayor not vetoed the legislation. Mayor Catherine Pugh is a Democrat, and a black woman. Those facts should have some political meaning, but the death of both black politics and of the Democratic Party are epitomized in Pugh’s treachery. Pugh broke a promise that she made during her 2016 campaign, a promise which gave her financial and voter mobilization support from unions.
Pugh’s explanation for her decision came straight from the Republican Party playbook. She said she was concerned that an increased minimum wage would increase unemployment, which is what Republicans have falsely claimed for decades. Pugh is not alone among Democrats in talking out of both sides of their mouths. While the party makes a claim to represent working people, they have passed on every opportunity to prove it.
In 2009 and 2010, Barack Obama was president and Democrats controlled the House and the Senate. They were in a position to make the federal minimum wage any figure they chose. But, in 2009, they increased it a mere 70 cents per hour. Republican control would have meant no increase at all, but that is no reason to praise the Democrats for refusing to meet what was once among the low hanging fruit of their policy decisions.
Corporate America has no reason to fear Democratic politicians because they are as much their errand boys and girls as Republicans are. Black people have no reason to rejoice with the Pughs of the world in office, because they are just as eager to act against their interests if powerful people give them marching orders.
There is nothing mysterious about who spoke to Pugh in support of the veto. Maryland business groups praised her decision and that is a reason to express dismay and to ask hard questions. This majority black city is one of the poorest in the country and thousands of workers there struggle to survive on an income that guarantees poverty.
Those workers and every black Baltimorean have a duty to turn their backs on Pugh and to denounce her at every opportunity. She must be shunned as the traitor that she is. Invitations should be withdrawn, pulpits should no longer welcome her presence. She is an enemy and she must be treated like one. But apparently she isn’t alone.
City Council members who supported the legislation could have voted to override it but chose not to do so. The details of the political trickery may be murky but the end result is obvious and the working poor will be left in the lurch.
This disaster is an opportunity not only for the people of Baltimore but the entire country to question their political alliances. Pugh is a typical member of the black misleadership class, those politicians and supposed leaders who live off of the crumbs of corporate tribute and misplaced loyalty from their constituents.
The change that is required in this country cannot consist of incremental reform. What do workers in Baltimore and other cities do with double crossing politicos like Pugh? They can endorse someone else and face the same fate. Or they can recognize that engaging with the duopoly and the black misleaders is always a suckers bet. The Democratic Party and their black misleaders must be abandoned altogether and the duopoly must be torn up root and branch.
Every defeat like the minimum wage veto ought to be an advertisement for self determinationist politics and a reason for black people to lose their fear of helping the Republicans. Democrats are also the white peoples party if workers are treated like fools who should happily race to the bottom.
Pugh should be the poster child for dumping the Democrats for good. They lie to their voters, parrot Republican talking points and act on them too. What good are they? They aren’t any good at all and it is time to say so clearly and unequivocally.
We have nothing to lose except our political chains.
Margaret Kimberley’s Freedom Rider column appears weekly in BAR, and is widely reprinted elsewhere. She maintains a frequently updated blog as well as at freedomrider.blogspot.com. Ms. Kimberley lives in New York City, and can be reached via e-Mail at Margaret.Kimberley(at)BlackAgendaReport.com.