(Photo: Elaine Thompson/AP)
Bernie Sanders is not the enemy -- not if you're in any way liberal. Let me repeat that so it sinks in: If you're liberal, Bernie Sanders is not the enemy. Likewise, the Black Lives Matter movement is not the enemy -- again, not if you're liberal. Both Bernie Sanders and the Black Lives Matter movement espouse political ideals that are thoroughly progressive in nature, with Sanders being the best hope the left would ever have in terms of trying to bring strong progressive policy to the White House. Whether it ultimately happens doesn't matter; the fact is that Sanders is the candidate most likely to pay attention to the needs of those who adhere to a fiercely liberal worldview. What's more, he and, to a more centrist degree, Hillary Clinton are currently an oasis in a sea of unfathomable hard-right lunacy. As far as the 2016 presidential race goes, Sanders and Clinton are the only people standing between America and whichever frenzied member of the GOP Clown Car manages to out-batshit all the others. Complain all you want about how practical politics has never given us the beautiful utopia where everyone's individual wounds are salved, but reality is reality. Sanders and Clinton are all the left has. Period. The alternative is a nightmare. If you're progressive, you should be beating down doors to see to it that one of these two people becomes president.
A handful of Black Lives Matter protesters, however, have decided that the most effective course of action to achieve the justice they unquestioningly deserve is to hijack the campaigns of people who -- one more time -- are not the enemy. This is ridiculously misguided, particularly when you consider that there are 16 people in the running for the Republican ticket, not one of whom gives a single crap about the concerns of black Americans. These are people who are, at the moment and for the most part, playing a game where they try to see who can slide under the bar Donald Trump has lowered to well-below-ground levels in an effort to get just a little of the media attention he's been getting over the past couple of months. If any one of them thought that saying, "When I'm elected, I'm shipping every black man, woman and child in America back to Africa where they belong," would get them even a tiny bump in the polls, they'd be standing on a podium shouting it right now. It can certainly be argued that, despite their best intensions, Democrats haven't directly addressed the wants and needs of black people in this country, but make no mistake -- the Republican party is now the party of straight-up racism. Don't even try to argue otherwise. If you believe in progressive ideals or, at the very least, concepts like justice and compassion, conservatives are the enemy. They're the ones you should be aiming your ire at.
This being said, Black Lives Matter is, again, indisputably a liberal movement and to attack it from the left, as some angry Bernie Sanders supporters in particular have, is as ludicrous as the reverse of that. No matter how unfair you may feel it is that Black Lives Matter has infringed on your Bernie love-fest, the fact is that what the group is demanding is essential to your cause. If you believe liberalism is about fair treatment for all and solidarity with those who've been crushed under the weight of the privilege the majority has been afforded for centuries, people whose very lives may now depend on that solidarity, then you have no choice but to be a willing ally to Black Lives Matter. Maybe you don't like every representative of the group or appreciate their tactics and you don't like being made to feel uncomfortable. Tough shit. Deal with it. When it's all over there's a pretty good chance you get to go back to not having to worry about whether you'll live through your next police traffic stop. True, there are plenty of other hugely important problems facing this country and the world right now -- from economic inequality, to global warming, to foreign policy issues -- but as far as the protesters behind Black Lives Matter go, none of them represents an immediate threat of death. Again, nominally you're on the same side as Black Lives Matter, or at least you should be.
And yet here we are again, with liberals doing what they always do -- what for years allowed the American right to beat them into the ground like they were a jailhouse snitch. Black Lives Matter is taking on Bernie Sanders supporters and Bernie Sanders evangelists are howling back at Black Lives Matter protesters, or at the very least the women who hijacked the Sanders rallies at Netroots and in Seattle (with the latter protesters shouting about how Seattle is a racist town). Two groups, not at all enemies, taking aim at each other -- because there's nothing liberals love more than a circular firing squad. There's no such thing as "good enough" or "better than I'll ever get anywhere else" when you're progressive. No, what's demanded is a unicorn, an absolutely perfect, magical being that fulfills every single political wish when you rub its horn the right way. You can't reason with that kind of thinking, not when you're dealing with people who refuse to accept that politics is ugly and weird and it's going to make you uncomfortable sometimes -- that you're never going to get every single thing you want because other people have wants and needs to that they're trying to get met as well. Liberals love their pet issues and outrages so much that they tunnel their vision until there's simply nothing else -- and they'll go to war when their babies aren't properly attended to. All this while conservatives, despite a few hiccups, would follow each other into hell if it means they get to raise their own flag there.
Sure, it's true that progressivism has so many different kinds of people under the tent that it naturally lends itself to chaos. Identity politics are a problem for liberals because there are so many identities carrying the liberal banner, each demanding its own personal spotlight. But the only way to win -- and make no mistake, if you're liberal, putting one of your own or a direct ally in office is the only thing that should matter these days -- is to come together as one, given that, at the risk of going all Kumbaya, real solidarity by way of a strong electoral coalition is the key to the White House. It sure as hell is when you're up against a very large, very strong coalition on the other side. You can do this -- you can stop battling each other and start battling those aligned against all of you and everything you stand for -- or you can characteristically self-cannibalize. You can behave like fucking children or you can join hands and raise them all together. You can stupidly believe the enemy is the person who should be standing right next to you or you can fight the real enemy.