Juan Williams: #BlackLivesMatter Is Playing with Fire
Juan Williams, The Hill, September 7, 2015
#BlackLivesMatter is fast becoming its own worst enemy.
It lacks an agenda, it is antagonizing the black community’s top white political allies, including Democrats running for the party’s 2016 presidential nomination, and it is not finding common ground with any of the Republican majority in Congress.
The catalyst for the movement was outrage over the deaths of young black men like Freddie Gray, Michael Brown and Eric Garner at the hands of police officers who arguably used excessive, even deadly force. But where is the list of solutions to the injustices it so often decries?
With the movement potentially discouraging black American trust in Democrats, #BlackLivesMatter is increasing the odds of a sharp drop in black voter turnout in 2016. Already Democrats privately worry that without President Obama on the ballot, the black vote will decrease the turnout needed to keep the White House and win back the Senate.
That is more likely to happen if black voters get caught up in the anger that the BlackLives movement has directed at the political structure. The potential absence of black voters who have become discouraged–about a quarter of the nation’s Democrats–would be more devastating than any Republican plan to require voter identification, reduce the number of polling places in black neighborhoods or cut back on early voting.
When they interrupt Democrats running for the presidential nomination, such as Bernie Sanders and Martin O’Malley, they are alienating longtime political allies and their supporters. When they videotape Hillary Clinton after she generously agrees to meet with them privately–in an apparent attempt to embarrass her–they are distancing themselves from the likely Democratic nominee. And imagine how local and state officials will react now to any request for a meeting with the group.
Meanwhile, they are not finding common cause with Latinos, even as immigrants are being attacked by the Republican candidates for the presidential election. Have you seen BlackLives interrupting Donald Trump’s events? Where is the outreach to Republicans?
It has been said that politicians see the light once they feel the heat. If only the energy and passion of #BlackLivesMatter protesters could be harnessed in something constructive rather than destructive.
Lobby Congress, hold voter registration drives, quiz candidates on their plan for sentencing reform, but don’t heckle the candidates and incite violence by calling for cop-killing. The movement could be critical to securing and mobilizing black support for criminal justice reform that actually would improve black lives.