12 April 2016

C.P. Time

Someone is desperate to embroil Hillary Clinton in a fresh scandal. I suspect the Sanders campaign will make much of it in the hope of alienated black voters from the front runner. It's really one of the most pathetic scandals I've seen in a while. In case you haven't found out about it already, it seems that Clinton participated in a little skit with Mayor DiBlasio of New York City over the weekend. The idea was to poke fun at the mayor for his belated endorsement of the former Senator. Asked why he took so long, the mayor explained that he was running on "C.P. time." At this point, I now understand, the audience is supposed to be hesitantly outraged at the mayor's remark. They've been set up for the punchline, which comes when DiBlasio explains that he meant "Cautious Politician time." You were supposed to have thought that DiBlasio had meant "Colored People's Time," which has apparently been a thing in pop culture since at least the 1970s. This is one of those somethings that black people can say about themselves, while the propriety of white people mentioning it is open to question. And so, even though no one in the skit actually said "colored people's time," the idea that the idea was in the air on stage has offended some people, if not as many as some hope it will.

Just this morning I was reading the latest In These Times, in which columnist Salim Muwakkil discusses debates over the Clintons in the black community. He notes that many black leftists who support Sanders have expressed frustration with their siblings' apparently uncritical support for Clinton. Muwakkil himself claims to be more understanding. He attributes black support for Clinton, despite the recurring anger of the Black Lives Matter movement over measures taken under Bill Clinton, to "functional pragmatism." The basis of this functional pragmatism seems to be an unshakable belief, regardless of the relative merits of Clinton and Sanders, that Clinton will be the stronger candidate in the general election. The only thing that matters, in this analysis, is keeping a Republican out of the White House. Muwakkil hints at divisions among blacks over the priorities of race and class. Muwakkil himself is a black nationalist, which in this context seems to mean placing the highest priority on the interests of black people and communities. He notes that black nationalists have been criticized in the past by black intellectuals of a more Marxist or generally leftist persuasion, while Muwakkil himself criticizes Sanders (on inference) for seeing blacks as a lumpenproletariat. The columnist's own belief seems to be that Marxist categories are inadequate to address, let alone remedy, the specificity of racial oppression. In simpler terms, a black Sanders supporter, Nina Turner, says elsewhere in the same issue that "African Americans are brand loyal," while a sympathetic interviewer observes that "Making the conversation only about race doesn't yield anything productive for people who are working for $8 per hour." So it seems that, despite enduring BLM anger at the Clintons, those blacks more likely to "make the conversation only about race" prefer Clinton to Sanders, presumably because they see a Republican president as something like an existential threat to them specifically. Their "pragmatism" means always taking the minimal deal the Democrats offer out of fear of a Republican terror, and thus never really pressuring Democrats to offer a better deal, rather than take a risk that might bring greater rewards by moving to the Clintons' left, either by supporting Sanders in this year's primaries or by joining a third party. Blacks have a pretty firm idea -- accurate or not -- of what Clintonian governance means for them, and yet they'll take it if that'll prevent a President Trump or Cruz. What that tells me is that, at least when it comes to politics, C.P. time is a real thing after all.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

"Muwakkil himself criticizes Sanders (on inference) for seeing blacks as a lumpenproletariat. "

That depends, I suppose, on which definition of the word you're using. Marx himself used the term to describe "the layer of the working class that is unlikely ever to achieve class consciousness and is therefore lost to socially useful production, of no use to the revolutionary struggle, and perhaps even an impediment to the realization of a classless society." (wikipedia). I should think this would include a rather large number of white Americans who labor under the delusion that they are "Middle Class", even though they live paycheck to paycheck, simply because they owe a mortgage on a house, rather than rent on an apartment.

The Marxist Internet Archive, on the other hand, defines the term as: " the class of outcast, degenerated and submerged elements that make up a section of the population of industrial centers" which include "beggars, prostitutes, gangsters, racketeers, swindlers, petty criminals, tramps, chronic unemployed or unemployables, persons who have been cast out by industry, and all sorts of declassed, degraded or degenerated elements." Which would include a number of Americans of all races.