Bernie Sanders and the Wider Failures of “Progressivism”


By Chris Lowe  (August 12, 2015)

Bernie Sanders as Myth and Symbol. The etiquette of demonstrations at other people’s events. Meh. 

A basic truth that “progressives” and people who work with them/us need to face:

In many cities, it is self-identified progressives or liberals who administer the systems of policing and prosecution that protect and advance police impunity for violence, for racial profiling and acting on mental illness stigma, and who ignore, refuse, and reject demands for police accountability and reforms to achieve such accountability. Most of those self-identified progressives are white, while the victims of police impunity are disproportionately black, Latino, Native American, and persons experiencing mental illness. 

In those cities, organized progressive groups and campaigns fund and work to elect those self-identified progressive officials, and seek preferred policies, funding, and employment through the actions of those officials.

We, liberals, progressives, lefter-than-progressives who still engage with them have to examine what it means to be progressive. Should anyone who upholds police impunity be allowed to call themselves progressive unchallenged? I don’t think so. So we need to challenge them.

And we need to examine why on the whole most self-identified progressives have been passive or only intermittently active in challenging “progressive” complicity with police impunity and racially discriminatory “criminal justice” that protects impunity for police violence. What are our conflicts of interest? How do we get past them? For those of us who are white, that includes white privilege. But there is a material dimension to it, that goes beyond psychology or identity. There are people getting paid, people who get help from the mayor and the city council for other priorities, who stay quiet so as not to rock those boats.

We have to face that and say, No more. Silence on police impunity, racial profiling, racialized use of disrcretion in arrests, charging, and prosecution, and acceptance of violence based on mental illness stigma cannot be an acceptable item in political horse trading.

Bernie is being used as a symbol of the wider failures of “progressivism” in this area. Love that or hate it, think it fair or not, hope he is stepping up or be cynical about it.

The underlying truth about the failures of progessivism, and white progressives, in this area, is real, and we need to change it.

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