Obama vs. Black Lives Matter

My morning dissent: Dec. 3, 2020

Like every Progressive of a Certain Age, I’m slogging through Barack Obama’s memoir, which is very long, occasionally revealing, and in its most interesting moments, walks up to the line of self-interrogation before hauling ass back toward Obama’s comfort zone. 

For our purposes, the important thing is that the ex-pres is doing the promotional rounds, which means he’s saying newsy things. From a Snapchat interview with Vanity Fair contributor Peter Hamby

We take for granted that if you want people to buy your sneakers, that you’re going to market it to your audience, right? We take for granted that if a musician drops a record, that they’re going to try to reach certain audiences by speaking to folks where they are. It’s no different in terms of ideas, right? So if you believe, as I do, that we should be able to reform the criminal justice system so that it’s not biased and treats everybody fairly, I guess you can use a snappy slogan, like Defund the Police, but, you know, you lost a big audience the minute you say it, which makes it a lot less likely that you’re actually going to get the changes you want done.

To translate: “Defund” messaging complicated life for Democrats. This did not go over well on the left. 

  • “The remarks drew immediate backlash from notable, Black progressive Democrats—including the Minnesota congresswoman Ilhan Omar of Minnesota, who stressed ‘defund the police’ was not about mere words but a ‘demand for equitable investments and budgets for communities across the country.’”

I suspect Obama is right if you accept his argument on its own terms. However:

  • Obama assumes that BLM activists and Democratic operatives share the same goals—that what’s good for the latter is good for the former. 

  • BLM activists don’t see it that way.

  • As Melina Abdullah, co-founder of Black Lives Matter-Los Angeles, recently told The Root

We’re not going to water down our message in order to make people who don’t understand feel more comfortable. As a Black mother of Black children, I’m working for a world where they can live and walk freely. I’m not going to soften that to make some white suburban mothers feel more comfortable.

+ Briefs: 3 Stories to Read Today

  • “My discussion with Senator Ron Johnson [of Wisconsin] was one that I have hesitated openly discussing for three weeks. … The TL;DR of the call was this: Senator Johnson knows that Joe Biden won a free and fair election. He is refusing to admit it publicly and stoking conspiracies that undermine our democracy solely because it would be ‘political suicide’ to oppose Trump.” (The Bulwark)s

  • “The White House coronavirus task force issued extremely dire warnings to states in weekly reports this week, urging public health officials to circumvent state and local policies amid record-high cases, hospitalizations and deaths, as well as fears of a surge upon a surge following Thanksgiving.’” (CNN)

  • “At the U.S.-Mexico border, tens of thousands of migrants with pending asylum claims are waiting to enter the United States, some in squalid tent cities that resemble refugee camps. U.S. border agents have been making arrests at a soaring rate—more than 2,000 per day in recent weeks—as the economic fallout from the pandemic and devastating hurricanes in Central America threaten to trigger a new wave of illegal migration to the United States.” (WaPo)

+ The Rundown

  • The UK became the first Western country to approve the Pfizer COVID vaccine. (NYT)

  • The CDC has cut the standard 14-day COVID quarantine to 10 or even seven days. (WaPo)

  • With Justice Barrett as the deciding vote, the Supreme Court seems likely to rule that convicted felons have a constitutional right to buy firearms (but not to vote). (NYT)

  • Donald Trump failed to reach 47% in both of his presidential runs. (Dave Wasserman)

  • America will soon have another president who enjoys long BS sessions with Tom Friedman. (NYT)

  • Trump told Christmas Party guests he plans to run again in four years. (Kaitlin Collins)

  • Emmanuel Macron’s attempt to crack down on French activists and the media has not gone over well. (WaPo)

  • Iran says it will increase its uranium enrichment. (NYT)

Thanks for reading.