Freedom Rider: Elizabeth Warren and the trap for black voters

Whether Democrats are openly obstructionist corporatists like Pelosi, or liberal sounding like Warren, they will not consider any meaningful systemic reforms.

The next presidential election in the United States is now just one year away. In January 2020 the process begins with the Iowa caucuses followed quickly by the New Hampshire primary and contests across the country. Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren is the first to officially announce the formation of a campaign exploratory committee.

The role of black voters in this process must be discussed before any more candidacy announcements are made. If not, black people will be no better off than when Donald Trump was elected. As the race begins let us remember that there is still a rock solid attachment to the Democratic Party and to all of its failures. The black misleaders have not been dislodged. The Democratic Party’s corrupt alliance with corporate interests led to their defeat and to the election of the openly racist Donald Trump. Unfortunately, there has been little examination of the 2016 debacle and, in fact, Democrats have doubled down on all of their strategies which led to a Trump administration.

Elizabeth Warren talks a good progressive game but her description of herself as “capitalist to my bones” is an indication that she will only go so far. She signed on to Medicare For All legislation but also sponsored her own bill which undercuts that effort. That stance isn’t surprising. Adherence to private sector control of the health care system is what capitalists do.

But Warren herself is not the only issue. She will be followed by others throwing their hats into the ring. Bernie Sanders, Joe Biden, Kamala Harris and Cory Booker are all expected to follow suit. Texas congressman Robert “Beto” O’Rourke is the latest flavor of the month and favorite of corporate Democrats. O’Rourke has been called Obama 2.0, a pretty face with center right politics who is sold to voters as a progressive savior.

Black voters will again be the losers if there is no discussion or debate about how to make political demands. If there is no serious reflection about 2016 that will be the case even if a Democrat wins. We already see the meager benefits of Democratic control of Congress. Nancy Pelosi speaks of forcing Donald Trump to release his tax records but doesn’t discuss anything that will motivate new voters to come out or bring any benefits to the masses of people.

Their choice is quite deliberate. Whether Democrats are openly obstructionist corporatists like Pelosi, or liberal sounding like Warren, they will not consider any meaningful systemic reforms. The Warrens of the world may in fact be equally dangerous. Instead of Medicare For All she proposes The Consumer Health Insurance Protection Act. This mouthful of a name is a plan to provide subsidies to pay for a system that is unnecessarily costly. Like Obamacare, it enshrines private sector control, which is the cause of all our health care problems.

Likewise, her Accountable Capitalism Act is a sleight of hand. Capitalism is inherently unaccountable to the people. It sounds good to include workers on corporate boards but Warren’s proposal would apply only to those valued at $1 billion or more. That loophole leaves out millions of people. Managing capitalism never works very well in any case. Warren and her ilk ought to be known for accepting the status quo and not for turning back the clock to regain what right wing Democrats like Bill Clinton and Barack Obama gave us: endless austerity and war.

Black people must take the lead before it is too late. Our reluctance to deviate even slightly from Democratic Party dogma has done us no favor. While the fear of Republican control silenced us, Democrats lost over 900 legislative seats across the country. Silence is not golden in the political arena.

The early primaries located in southern states will play a huge role in determining the eventual nominee. In the South, Democrat means black and those voters have every right to ask hard questions and make clear demands. Going along gave us nothing but NAFTA, the loss of the right to public assistance, bank bailouts, a right wing health care scheme and finally a Republican in the White House who embodied all of our worst fears.

Our plight will worsen if the people who failed so miserably are given undeserved trust yet again. The moment is ripe to oppose them, to assert our own political will, and to speak for true self-determination. That effort may lead to a split in the Democratic Party but that outcome should not be feared either. Up until now, our political power has been wasted on fear, fear of the Republicans who have ended up in office anyway.

On election night in 2016 this columnist wrote, “The destruction of the Democratic Party and creation of a truly progressive political movement is the only hope for black America.”That movement is stymied whenever a particular Democrat is examined for his or her worthiness. By now we know that is a loser’s game. The 2016 campaign must be the last one in which black voters played the role of loyal chumps.

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 Ms. Kimberley lives in New York City, and can be reached via e-Mail at Margaret.Kimberley(at)

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