Standing Against the Right

By Bill Fletcher
Telesur


Dec 18, 2015 – It is not just Donald Trump; nor is it just Trump and Marine Le Pen (leader of the Front National in France). The specter of right-wing populism haunts the planet and places us all in a state of perpetual anxiety.

Right-wing populism is not equivalent to the entirety of the political Right. It is a specific trend within which one can find movements such as fascism. It rises in response to progressive social movements and it specifically seems to emerge in times of economic crisis when the larger capitalist system has proven dysfunctional. It poses itself as the defender of the “people” against various elites and “alien” forces, frequently defining the elites in racial/ethnic/religious terms. While it may articulate language reminiscent of the political Left, it is more a caricature or a deception which aims to peel away supporters and potential supporters of Left and progressive projects.

Right-wing populism is dangerous in its irrationalism. As one can observe in the Donald Trump campaign, Trump has never been constrained by facts or the truth. Perhaps the most obvious example has been his repeated references to alleged cheering by thousands of Arab Americans (and/or Muslims) on 11 September 2001 at the time of the al-Qaida terrorist attacks. No documentation has ever been discovered of such alleged cheering, yet Trump insists upon it and many of his supporters have either been willing to take a pass on his suggestion or go so far as to back up his story.

There is a term for seeing things that don’t exist…

The irrationalism and revanchism of right-wing populism speaks very much to the crisis faced by the white population of the U.S. and, indeed, the crisis facing so-called whites in many parts of the capitalist world. While right-wing populism is not limited to whites — with a case in point being the Hutu genocide against the Tutsis in Rwanda in 1994 — there is a particularity to right-wing populism in the advanced capitalist world. It is a combination of the sense that their [white] old world is disintegrating due to both massive economic changes as well as demographic changes. In the U.S., such a combination has fueled movements such as the Tea Party that emerged during the first year of the Obama administration.

With the rise of the Islamic State group, right-wing populism in multiple countries has shifted gears with Muslims becoming the target of choice. In fact, it can be argued that Islamophobia is the most acceptable form of open racism of the moment. Islam has been branded, by right-wing populists, not only the religion of terrorists but the religion of the brown and black barbaric masses that supposedly threaten Western so-called civilization.

Right-wing populism cannot be written off as irrelevant lunacy, despite its irrationalism. It is a powerful social movement that represents danger to progress wherever it raises its ugly head. For forces on the Left, the challenge is how to combat this phenomenon? While it will not be easy, it cannot be collapsed into simply offering an alternative for the future, though our work must contain that. It should include, but not limit itself to: (continued)

Trump’s Demagoguery Threatens Democracy Itself

Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump speaks during a news conference, Saturday, July 25, 2015, in Oskaloosa, Iowa. (AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall)

By Chip Berlet

Daliy KOS

Dec. 10, 2015 – Now is the time for blunt talk. Donald Trump is a dangerous demagogue generating "scripted violence." Trumpism threatens not just the First Amendment but democracy itself. I call him a right-wing populist using fascistic rhetoric to target scapegoated groups. Other journalists and scholars have dubbed him a fascist or a totalitarian. But we all smell the stench of the burning bodies. So let us have our terminological debates, but setting aside all intellectual disagreements, as citizens of an increasingly unfree society, we must stand up and speak out.

The First Amendment guarantees the free exercise of religion, and that includes the right to call religion ridiculous. It protects devout Roman Catholics and those in the church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster–even those who sometimes wear colanders as hats. Over at Talk to Action. where I often blog, we are nonpartisan, welcome respectful contributions discussing human, civil, and constitutional rights, and find debates between theists and atheists annoying (no trolls blasting either are allowed). Democracy is what we cherish…and it is in trouble.

Some early studies of prejudice, demonization, and scapegoating treated the processes as marginal to “mainstream” society and an indication of an individual pathological psychological disturbance. More recent social science demonstrates that demonization is a habit found across various sectors of society among people who are no more prone to mental illness than the rest of society.

Philosopher Hannah Arendt taught us that ordinary people can become willing–even eager–participants in brutality and mass murder justified by demonization of scapegoated groups in a society

Lawrence L. Langer raises this as a troubling issue regarding the Nazi genocide:

“The widespread absence of remorse among the accused in postwar trials indicates that we may need…to accept the possibility of a regimen of behavior that simply dismisses conscience as an operative moral factor. The notion of the power to kill, or to authorize killing of others, as a personally fulfilling activity is not appealing to our civilized sensibilities; even more threatening is the idea that this is not necessarily a pathological condition, but an expression of impulses as native to ourselves as love and compassion.”

A troubling concept–that some of us who helped jumpstart the Talk to Action website have discussed for decades–is that when most people in a society realize that a fascist movement might actually seize state power, it is too late to stop it. So let us act now: as Republicans, Democrats, Independents and the folks who think voting just encourages a corrupt system. As people of faith, the spiritual, the agnostic, and those who think that God is Dead because she doesn’t exist. We are all in the same lifeboat here. Grab an oar.

Facing History and Ourselves reminds us of the “Fragility of Democracy” in a series of essays by Professor Paul Bookbinder, an international expert on the Weimar Republic in Germany in the period just before that nation collapsed into the inferno of Nazi rule and genocide. No, we do not face a crisis like that faced by the German people in the 1920s and 1930s. Yet as Bookbinder observes, there were moments when Hitler’s thugs could have been stopped.

In her small yet powerful book, Eichmann in Jerusalem, Arendt concluded that evil was banal, and that if there was one clear universal truth, it is that ordinary people have a moral obligation to not look away from individual or institutional acts of cruelty or oppression. We recognize the processes that lead from words to violence, they are well-studied, and the theories and proofs are readily available. Silence is consent. Denial is complicity with evil.



Chip Berlet, an activist involved with building democracy and human rights for over 50 years, is an investigative journalist and independent scholar whose blog is Research for Progress. This post first appeared on Talk to Action.

‘Unfortunately in Pittsburgh, We Have a Tale of Two Cities.’

Local filmmaker Chris Ivey stands at the entrance to East Liberty, now marked by new development. - PHOTO BY HEATHER MULL

Local filmmaker Chris Ivey stands at the entrance to East Liberty, now marked by new development

Pittsburgh is poised for growth for the first time in 60 years. Will the city’s African-American community grow with it?

By Ryan Deto

Pittsburgh City Paper

It used to be that community activists, politicians and developers would fight over allowing the gentrification of city neighborhoods. If you eliminated affordable housing and replaced it with housing that was not as affordable, most people agreed it was at least the start of gentrification.

These days, the battle is apparently a little more nuanced. 

On Nov. 5, for example, Mayor Bill Peduto tweeted: “So far Pittsburgh’s East Liberty neighborhood has avoided gentrification while reducing crime & improving investment,” with an accompanying study by local analytics firm Numeritics.

The study claims gentrification is “obviously not the case in East Liberty” because all new market-rate development happened on vacant land, and because neighborhood demographics from 2010 to 2013 remained the same.

However, Pittsburgh filmmaker Chris Ivey feels differently.

“The [report authors] certainly knew the story they wanted to tell and chose to ‘back up’ that story with the facts that happen to support it,” wrote Ivey, who documented the demolition of an East Liberty housing project in 2006, in an email to City Paper.

Ivey notes there has been a demographic shift in East Liberty since 2000, with the numbers of blacks declining three times as fast as whites, according to U.S. Census data. Census data also indicate that the northern tract of East Liberty lost hundreds of African-American residents since 2000, and that the median black income there went up 14 percent as a result — or, as Ivey puts it “poor blacks moved out.”

Another statistic foregone by the study was homeownership. According to statistics compiled by Pittsburgh Community Reinvestment Group (PCRG), from 2011 to 2014, East Liberty saw 55 homes purchased by whites, while only three homes were bought by blacks.

So while some may argue whether what’s gone on in East Liberty and other city communities is gentrification, one fact is uncontroverted: African Americans are leaving some of their long-time Pittsburgh neighborhoods in droves because they can no longer afford to live there, and that urban flight could get worse before it gets better. 

With thousands of residential units slated for development, the city is seemingly poised for growth for the first time more than 50 years. But will Pittsburgh’s black population grow with it?

Historically, many African Americans came to Pittsburgh in the years between World War I and World War II. During this era of black migration, African Americans settled in the city neighborhoods of South Side, Garfield, East Liberty and Homewood, with the Hill District becoming the preeminent black neighborhood. (Continued)

Donald Trump, Nasty Rhetoric, and Scripted Violence

December 4, 2015

By Chip Berlet

Demagogic rhetoric targeting unpopular groups of people can incite violence. Republican frontrunner Donald Trump can claim he never told his followers to hurt anyone, and perhaps avoid legal consequences, but Trump is morally responsible. His nasty vilification produces “scripted violence.” The victims of Trumps rhetoric are piling up. The term “incited violence” also describes this process that draws from the media studies concept of “constitutive rhetoric.” Incitement to violence also has legal ramifications.

Last August the Washington Post in an editorial warned that “Mr. Trump’s immigrant-bashing rhetoric breeds violence.”[1] In a column, Robert Reich collected a long list of violence in the path of Republican bigoted blustering. Those that commit bigoted violence “often take their cues from what they hear in the media” wrote Reich in November following the murderous attack on the Planned Parenthood clinic in Colorado Springs.[2] Reich said “the recent inclination of some politicians to use inflammatory rhetoric is contributing to a climate” in which violence against targeted groups is real.

Writing about Trump’s nasty rhetoric, and the alarming welcome it has found during the Republican pre-primary media blitz, American Prospect journalist Adele Stan put it bluntly:

===What Trump is doing, via the media circus of which he has appointed himself ringmaster, is making the articulation of the basest bigotry acceptable in mainstream outlets, amplifying the many oppressive tropes and stereotypes of race and gender that already exist in more than adequate abundance.[3]

And it is not just Trump. Some of the other Republican hopefuls closer to the Christian Right also demonize gay people and feminists, and excoriate defenders of reproductive rights. One militant slogan is “If abortion is murder, then act like it is.”

How does the process of scripted violence work? The leaders of organized political or social movements sometimes tell their followers that a specific group of ‘Others’ is plotting to destroy civilized society. History tells us that if this message is repeated vividly enough, loudly enough, often enough, and long enough—it is only a matter of time before the bodies from the named scapegoated groups start to turn up. Social science since World War II and the Nazi genocide has shown that under specific conditions, virulent demonization and scapegoating can—and does—create milieus in which the potential for violence is increased. What social science cannot do is predict which individual upon hearing the rhetoric of clear or coded incitement and turn to violence.

In their study of how media manipulation for political ends can help incite genocide, Frohardt and Temin looked at ‘content intended to instill fear in a population’, or ‘intended to create a sense among the population that conflict is inevitable’. [4] They point out that ‘media content helps shape an individual’s view of the world and helps form the lens through which all issues are viewed’. They found two patterns: content creating fear and content creating a sense of inevitability and resignation that violence was about to occur. According to the authors:

  • In Rwanda prior to the genocide a private radio station tried to instill fear of an imminent attack on Hutus by a Tutsi militia.
  • In the months before [conflicts] in Serbia, state television attempted to create the impression that a World War II–style ethnic cleansing initiative against Serbs was in the works.
  • Throughout the 1990s Georgian media outlets sought to portray ethnic minorities as threats to Georgia’s hardfought independence.

Frohardt and Temin found that media can create a sense within a target population of potential perpetrators of violence that ‘imminent’ and serious threats were to be expected, even though ‘there was only flimsy evidence provided to support them’,

===When such reporting creates widespread fear, people are more amenable to the notion of taking preemptive action, which is how the actions later taken were characterized. Media were used to make people believe that ‘we must strike first in order to save ourselves’. By creating fear the foundation for taking violent action through ‘self-defense’ is laid.

In approaching some of these questions social science uses the concepts of ‘constitutive rhetoric’; the vilification, demonization, and scapegoating of a named ‘Other’; coded rhetorical incitement by demagogues; the relationship between conspiracism and apocalyptic aggression; and the process of scripted violence by which a leader need not directly exhort violence to create a constituency that hears a call to take action against the named enemy. These processes can and do motivate some individuals to adopt a ‘superhero complex’ which justifies their pre-emptive acts of violence or terrorism to ‘save society’ from imminent threats by named enemies ‘before it is too late’.

Conspiracism evolves as a worldview from roots in dualistic forms of apocalypticism. Fenster argues that persons who embrace conspiracy theories are simply trying to understand how power is exercised in a society that they feel they have no control over. Often they have real grievances with the society—sometimes legitimate—sometimes seeking to defend unfair power and privilege. [5] Nonetheless, Conspiracism can appear as a particular narrative form of scapegoating that frames demonized enemies as part of a vast insidious plot against the common good, while it valorizes the scapegoater as a hero for sounding the alarm. [6]

Conspiracist thinking has appeared in mainstream popular discourse as well as in various subcultures in the United States and Europe. [7] In contemporary examples we can see conspiracy theories built around fears of liberal subversion by President Obama;[8] fears of government attempts to merge the United States, Canada, and Mexico into a North American Union; [9]and fears that Muslims living in the United States are plotting treachery and terrorism.[10] (Contnued)

Bernie Sanders Gets Immigration Policy Right

By THE NYT EDITORIAL BOARD

NOV. 26, 2015

Senator Bernie Sanders released his immigration plan on Tuesday. To read it — and every citizen should — is to be yanked back in time, to an America that not so long ago was having a reasonable immigration discussion and a time when major reform had strong bipartisan support and a shot at becoming law.

But since the immigration reform bill was killed, in 2013, the party that killed it — the Republicans — has dragged the immigration debate to grotesque depths that go well beyond the usual nativist bigotry. Republican presidential candidates are arguing, in all seriousness, about sealing the border with fantastical 2,000-mile fences and weaponized drones; merging state, local and federal authorities and private prisons into one all-seeing immigration police state; forcibly registering American Muslims; mass-deporting 11 million Mexicans and others in a 21st century Trail of Tears; and turning away thousands of refugees fleeing war and terrorism in the Middle East.

Mr. Sanders, the Vermont senator seeking the Democratic presidential nomination, turns away from the insanity. His plan starts with the right premise: that immigrants should be welcomed and assimilated, not criminalized and exploited. His proposals seek to uphold American values, bolster the rule of law, bolster the economy and protect and honor families.

Recognizing Congress’s chronic inaction on immigration, Mr. Sanders promises to use executive authority well beyond what President Obama has done. He would protect young immigrants and their parents from deportation, and give “broad administrative relief” to young immigrants, to the parents of citizens and legal permanent residents and to others who would have been allowed to stay under the 2013 Senate bill. This affirms the humane and sensible principle behind that legislation — that 11 million unauthorized immigrants should stay and contribute, not be isolated and expelled. (Continued)

Donald Trump, American hustler: The Frightening Fascist Tendencies of his GOP Rise

Previous right-wing leaders had a healthy fear of the rage they unleashed from their base. Not this one

By Rick Perlstein

Washington Spectator

Oct 7, 2015 – Donald Trump is not a fascist––probably.

His ex-wife Ivana once claimed he kept a volume of Hitler’s collected speeches in a cabinet by his bed, and read from time to time the fuhrer’s vision of human life as a pitiless war of all against all. “If I had these speeches, and I am not saying that I do, I would never read them,” he told Vanity Fair in 1990. But consider something the architect of Trump Tower, Der Scutt, once said on how to evaluate the truth value of Donald Trump claims: “divide by two, then divide by four, and you’re closer to the answer.”

Trump worships armed force, pronouncing at a rally in August in Derry, New Hampshire: “I believe in the military and military strength more strongly than anybody running by a factor of a billion.” (Applying Scutt’s formula, that means Trump believes in military strength 125,000,000 times more than Lindsey Graham, who opened his presidential campaign with a promise to go to war with Iran.)

When Trump speaks in the subjunctive mood, he can certainly sound like an aspiring dictator. Regarding a $2.5 billion plant Ford intends to build in Mexico, he announced that “every car, every truck, and every part manufactured in this plant that comes across the border, we’re going to charge you a 35 percent tax—O.K.?” The Constitution, of course, grants Congress, not a president, the power to tax. Maybe it’s just ignorance on his part. Or maybe, by “we” he’s referring to the Congressional coalition he’s building in his spare time between stadium rallies. But if Trump has ever made reference to any understanding of the three coequal branches that govern the United States, I haven’t noticed it.

He refers lustily to his passion to destroy the malcontents stabbing America in the back, longing for the days when they received summary executions: “So we get a traitor like Bergdahl, a dirty rotten traitor [pause for applause], who by the way when he deserted, six young beautiful people were killed trying to find him, right? . . . You know, in the old days:bing, bong.” (Trump pantomimed cocking a rifle.) “When we were strong, when we were strong.”

Too much to expect procedural niceties—innocent until proven guilty?—from the guy who in 1989 took out full-page ads in four New York newspapers, headlined: “Bring Back the Death Penalty. Bring Back Our Police!” There followed a 600-word essay: “What has happened is the complete breakdown of life as we know it. . . . How can our great society tolerate the continued brutalization of its citizens by crazed misfits? Criminals must be told that their CIVIL LIBERTIES END WHEN AN ATTACK ON OUR SAFETY BEGINS.” It went on to relate a tale from some mystically perfect past, where he witnessed “two young bullies cursing and threatening a very frightened waitress. Two cops rushed in, lifted up the thugs and threw them out the door, warning them never to cause trouble again. I miss the feeling of security New York’s finest once gave the citizens of this City.”

The ad was Trump’s response to the arrest of five kids for the vicious rape and beating of a jogger in Central Park. The kids were coerced into confessions, later proven to be false, by the same police force Donald Trump insisted had been intimidated into politically correct timorousness. Last year, after the five families settled for $41 million in compensation for the years the accused youths spent in prison, Trump published an op-ed calling the settlement “ridiculous.”

“These men do not exactly have the pasts of angels,” he claimed. At the time of the event, one of “these men” was 14 years old.

A demagoguery so pure

Trump has now provided more “specifics” about his immigration plan: a forced population transfer greater than any attempted in history, greater than the French and Spanish expulsions of the Jews in 1308 and 1492; greater than the Nabka of approximately 700,000 Palestinian Arabs from British-mandate Palestine; greater than the 1.5 million Stalin consigned to Siberia and the Central Asian republics; greater than Pol Pot’s exile of 2.5 million city-dwellers to the Cambodian countryside, or the scattering of Turkey’s Assyrian Christians, which the scholar Mordechai Zaken says numbers in the millions and required 180 years to complete.  Trump has promised to move 12 million Mexicans in under two years––“so fast your head will spin.”

Only then will he start building the wall.

But all Republican politicians say stuff like this, right? They all want a wall, they all want to bury criminals under the jail, they all crave war, even if they’re not quite so explicit about it.

Not quite, actually. Previous Republican leaders were sufficiently frightened by the daemonic anger that energized their constituencies that they avoided surrendering to it completely, even for political advantage. Think of Barry Goldwater, who was so frightened of the racists supporting him that he told Lyndon Johnson he’d drop out of the race if they started making race riots a campaign issue. And Ronald Reagan refusing to back a 1978 ballot initiative to fire gay schoolteachers in California, at a time vigilantes were hunting down gays in the street. Think of George W. Bush guiding Congress toward a comprehensive immigration bill (akin to that proposed by President Obama) until the onslaught of vitriol that talk-radio hosts directed at Republican members of Congress forced him to quit. Think of George W. Bush’s repeated references to Islam as a “religion of peace.”

Trumpism is different. Donald Trump is the first Republican presidential front-runner to venture a demagogy so pure. (Continued)

Why Nuclear Power Is a Bad Idea: A Case in Point

Fukushima Four Years After The Nuclear Disaster Is A Post-Apocalyptic Wasteland

In these amazing photos, a photographer gets rare access to document the both extraordinary and mundane images of the Fukushima cleanup.Seven years ago, photographer and filmmaker Arkadiusz Podniesiński visited Chernobyl. This year, four years after the nuclear disaster in Japan, he took his camera to Fukushima to document the similarities between the two post-nuclear-disaster sites, and see how the cleanup was progressing.

Fukushima is divided into three zones: red, orange, and green. In the green zone, the cleanup has almost been finished. The topsoil has been removed and cleaned. Homes have been decontaminated, and soon residents will be allowed to return.

But Podniesiński was more interested in the orange and red zones. In the orange zone, where residents can visit but not stay overnight, he found farmer Naoto Matsumura, who returned illegally to live because "he could not bear to see whole herds of cattle wandering aimlessly in the empty streets when their owners had fled the radiation."

The red zone is deserted, but for the police who regularly checked Podniesiński’s difficult-to-secure permits. The place is eerie and peaceful. The earthquake and the tsunami that sent the nuclear plant into meltdown didn’t damage the entire town, so many deserted buildings stand intact. An abandoned motorbike stands tangled in weeds that have grown up through cracks in the concrete floor, and dumped cars are hidden in overgrowth.

Stopped clocks in a primary school still show the time they stood when the tsunami cut power to the region. Inside the school, computers remain on desks, while trophies are piled haphazardly inside glass-fronted cabinets after the earthquake shook them off their shelves. The gymnasium remains almost untouched, perfect except for deep hollows where the floors collapsed into the earth below. (Continued)

Anti-Racist Organizers Win as Seattle Council Votes to End Youth Incarceration

Young people pressuring city council meeting

By Marcus Harrison Green

Yes! Magazine

Oct 2, 2015 – After a three-year crusade of protest, agitation, and organizing, a Seattle City Council meeting on September 21 brought a major victory to a diverse coalition of youth-prison abolitionists and anti-racist organizers.

“We wouldn’t be here today if it wasn’t for the youth activists.”
In a 9-0 unanimous decision, Seattle’s City Council passed a resolution that fully endorses the goal of zero-percent detention of youth [1], and called for the city to develop policies eliminating the necessity of their imprisonment.

While Council Member Mike O’Brien introduced the resolution in a committee meeting last week, it originated with three organizations that advocate for the abolition of juvenile incarceration: Ending the Prison Industrial Complex (EPIC),  Youth Undoing Institutional Racism (YUIR), and the Seattle branch of the anti-racist organization European Dissent.

“We wouldn’t be here today if it wasn’t for the youth activists,” said Council Member Nick Licata prior to the resolution’s passage. “They’re the ones who created the huge pressure on the county and also the city.”

Seattle’s movement for ending youth incarceration picked up speed after the same city council in 2012 voted overwhelmingly (8-1, with only Kshama Sawant opposed) to fund the replacement of an existing youth detention facility with a new one. What struck organizers at that time was the $210 million poured into the facility.

“I was here the day all except Council Member Sawant voted to build a youth jail with $200 million of our tax money,” asserted white anti-racist organizer James Kahn, addressing the city council. “The movement did not stop after those defeats. The movement could not stop or end until we stop putting children in cages.” (Continued)

The Average American Worker Earns Less Today Than 40 Years Ago

It’s not just unemployment that matters. Many full-time workers take home less money, after inflation, than in decades.

 

Because most everything we buy gets more expensive over time, we have to earn more money each year just to maintain our existing standard of living. When we’re not given raises that keep up with this rate of inflation, we’re effectively suffering a pay cut.. That’s why many American workers are actually poorer today than four decades ago. They may be earning more money. But, in real terms, they’re getting less for it. Measured in 2014 dollars, the median male full-time worker made $50,383 last year against $53,294 in 1973, according to new U.S. Census Bureau figures.

At $50,383, the figure is the lowest it’s been since 2006. It’s also $450 lower than in 2013. Women have seen bigger increases in real pay in the last few years, though from a lower (unequal) base. The median female worker earned $30,182 in 1973 (in 2014 dollars), but $39,621 last year.

As we explored in our income inequality series recently, technology, globalization, and reduced union bargaining power are all factors behind stagnating wages. The economy has been getting bigger, driven by continuing increases in productivity. But, for one reason or another, workers haven’t been sharing in those gains. But they’re not just disappearing: They’re making a small group of people very, very rich. What are we going to do about that?

[Top Photo: Thomas Barwick/Getty Images]

Meet the Group of African-American Organizers Building Black Support for Bernie Sanders

A woman cheers during a Bernie Sanders campaign event on August 21 in Greenville, S.C. (Photo vis Bernie 2016)

Will grassroots organizing within the black electorate be able to challenge Clinton’s hegemony?

By Salim Muwakkil
In These Times

Will Crosby, 63, a veteran political organizer in Chicago’s bruising electoral battles, is worried that the black community will be caught flat-footed in the 2016 presidential campaign.

The way he sees things, too much of the black electorate is sleepwalking in lockstep support of Hillary Clinton. She is by far the black electorate’s favored candidate, with an 80 percent approval rate.

But Crosby thinks Bernie Sanders is the best presidential candidate for African Americans. “Bernie Sanders is talking about issues that directly affect our community and he’s doing it in a fearless way,” Crosby says. Unfortunately, he adds, Sanders’ message has yet to penetrate into the black community.

Crosby and other Chicago-based black activists have formed a group called the Bernie Brigade that attempts to showcase Sanders’ progressive platform and long history of support for the black struggle. The group canvasses for Sanders in majority-black neighborhoods and holds pro-Sanders events. “We’re still very much engaged in an educational process,” he notes. “Many in our community are unfamiliar with Bernie. They just see an elderly white man from remote, white Vermont. And, quite frankly, that’s a hard sell.”

Crosby says attitudes are easily changed when they hear Sanders’ political spiel and his policy prescriptions, especially on reforming the criminal justice system and curbing wealth inequality. But a black electorate that feels warmly toward Clinton may not take the time to listen. According to a CNN poll from June, Sanders had the support of just 2 percent of black Democrats.

The Bernie Brigade is struggling to get political traction in a city still raw from recent hard-fought battles for both Illinois governor and Chicago mayor. The group includes many members who were bitter antagonists in those elections. “If Bernie can bring us together for one cause, I know he can grow his appeal to the larger black community,” Crosby says.

That’s essential for Sanders. As his campaign understands, unless he can ignite the so-called Obama coalition that includes youth, people of color and single women, his likelihood of victory goes from remote to infinitesimal. (Continued)