Opinion: A Failure of Black Leadership

By Robert Patillo


2018 started with a line in the sand, drawn by the Democratic Party.  No DACA, No Dreamers, No Deal!  That means no “Deal” on Wall funding or border security, no deal to keep the government open and no deal on any part of the President’s agenda.  This is what a minority opposition party is supposed to do.  Pick an issue, stand on it and use every drop of power that you have to push it through.  Look no further than the efforts of Congressional Republicans in Obama’s first term.  Despite having even less power than the Democrats have now, the GOP was able to push the Healthcare bills to the right with the rhetoric of “Death Panels” and jail time to enforce the government mandate.

For this reason, the only thing surprising about the Democrats effort is the issue that they picked to plant their flag upon.  The party has decided that they need to stand strong as the party of Latino and Hispanic voters.  However, this focus has again re-directed focus from the needs of the African-American community.  For the better part of the last decade, Black folks have been in the streets protesting.  From sweet tea and skittles; Hands up, Don’t shoot; I can’t breathe and Black Lives Matter.  Nothing that our community has done has created an electoral imperative for Democrats to put a line in the sand for the interest of our community.

This is not about pitting Blacks against Browns, however, on your first day of Political Science you learn that “Politics answers the question of ‘Who gets what when’”.  And I am tired of the answer for black folks being, “After everyone else.”  Being a Black voter in the Democratic is a lot like playing basketball with Kobe.  In theory, it is a team game, so when you get the ball you pass it to him and he scores.  Then when he gets the ball he takes it to the hole and he scores.  And when you have the ball again he demands the ball then takes it and scores.  Even though you are “on the team” you’re not seeing any benefits of the teamwork.

This played out this week at The State of the Union.  A large portion of the Congressional Black Caucus boycotted the event, the rest of the caucus dressed in traditional African clothes to demonstrate their disapproval of the President’s characterization of Black nations as S***hole countries.  But while the Black Caucus was boycotting and protesting, the Democratic leadership has been negotiating with Trump on a DACA fix.  Because of these negotiations, President Trump announced an immigration plan that gives Democrats and Immigration advocates exactly what they want in exchange for Wall funding.  I ain’t hating, get your coins how you get’em.  But if everyone else is negotiating with Trump and getting what they want, why is Black leadership boycotting and dressing up in Wakandan cosplay?

The Congressional Black Caucus is one of the largest and theoretically most powerful groups in Congress.  They have 49 members (not including Republicans Mia Love and Sen. Tim Scott).  Black folks even have 3 U.S. Senators for the first time since Reconstruction.  But instead of using this political power to negotiate with the President the same way that Sen. Chuck Schumer and Rep. Nancy Pelosi are, instead, we are treated to the same old tactics of boycott, protest, press conferences, and outrage.  If we have learned anything in 2018, it is that President Trump is open for business when it comes to fulfilling his promises to his base.  But if our leadership has more allegiance to the Democratic Party than to Black People we will continue to fade into history like “Smush” Parker on a team with Kobe.

Attorney Robert Patillo