The first thing to know about the #BlackLivesMatter confrontation with Democratic presidential candidates Martin O’Malley and Bernie Sanders is that it happened at the annual NetRootsNation gathering this year in Phoenix.
NetRoots bills itself as “the largest gathering of the progressive movement” in this country. It’s actually the largest gathering of paid and wannabe-paid Democratic Party activists, Democratic candidates and Democratic campaign managers, of consultants and vendors to Democratic campaigns, and folks of all kinds who are part of the far-flung partisan and ostensibly “non-partisan” machinery that gears up to elect Democrats.
If you’re a Black Democratic Party activist like I was for 25 years, you go to NetRoots to connect with other Democratic Party activists, and hopefully, with the people who will be handing out grassroots money, among other things, to get out the Big Black Vote in November − without which Democrats have no hope of winning.
High-ranking Democrats who hand out money are always on the lookout for new activist blood with catchy new hooks, for activists who’ll say the things they will not say in the effort to turn out the Black masses for that Big Black Vote. A Black activist at NetRoots really NEEDS to stand out, to get noticed by the people who can give you fellowships, grants, jobs, funding of all kinds, and a career.
Since Hillary is the inevitable Democratic nominee, demanding they “say her name” and come up with solutions that address White supremacy, structural racism and the runaway police state is a foolproof strategy to get noticed. Since Hillary did not attend NetRoots, they got to do it without antagonizing the Clinton camp. Hillary wisely covered her own ass by releasing a tweet that unequivocally said “Black lives DO matter.”
The NetRootsNation confrontation wasn’t the stirring of Black women activists “taking their rightful place at the front of the progressive movement,” as one breathless tweet called it.
It was about flying the #BlackLivesMatter flag to jockey for positions inside the machinery that is the Democratic Party and its affiliates.
Bruce A. Dixon is managing editor at Black Agenda Report.