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Blue Civil War
Hillary Clinton’s ‘Black Lives Matter’ Triangulations

Democrats are debating whether it is proper to say “all lives matter” or “black lives matter,” and Hillary Clinton has now formally taken a side. After watching her rivals for the Democratic presidential nomination Martin O’Malley and Bernie Sanders get burned at the progressive Netroots convention over the weekend for mostly declining to use the “black lives matter” slogan, Clinton took to Facebook yesterday and posted:

Black lives matter. Everyone in this country should stand firmly behind that. We need to acknowledge some hard truths about race and justice in this country, and one of those hard truths is that racial inequality is not merely a symptom of economic inequality.

Last month, Clinton herself said “all lives matter” in a speech at a black church, arousing the ire of some progressives—though not enough to make her apologize for using the phrase, as O’Malley did after his roasting at Netroots. Clinton’s statement Tuesday indicates that she likely won’t make the mistake of saying “all lives matter” again, at least during primary season.

It might be tempting to dismiss Hillary’s triangulation on “black lives matter” as petty primary posturing with little political significance. In fact, it points to a very real division within the American left, with important implications for the future of the Democratic Party—namely, the division between economic populists who rally around the politics of class and social progressives who rally around the politics of identity.

Sanders, Hillary’s chief rival, is clearly a social liberal, but the unifying theme of his platform—which includes single payer healthcare, a Wall Street crackdown, and a 90 percent top tax rate—is economic populism. Clinton has attempted to adopt a left-wing populist tone during the primary campaign, but as a private jet-setting multimillionaire whose top donors are Wall Street banks, she cannot credibly position herself to Sanders’ left on class or economic issues. Her Facebook statement rebuking Sanders and O’Malley on race—along with other policy moves like her celebration of the Supreme Court’s same-sex marriage decision and her leftward pivot on immigration—can be seen as an effort to compensate for her populist deficiencies by emphasizing her identity politics bona fides.

Fortunately for Clinton, in America, the politics of identity have usually trumped the politics of class. Unlike many European countries, the United States has a legacy of mass immigration and racial slavery that brings issues of identity to the fore of our politics. In part because of how slavery and immigration drove identity politics, we have never experienced the same degree of class solidarity as European countries have—one of the reasons a real American socialism never really appeared. Left-wing economic populism had a good run during the New Deal era, but since the 1960s it has been cultural liberals, not economic progressives, at the vanguard of the intellectual left.

The Democrats’ days as the party of the working class are long gone. The party’s faithful is a coalition of non-white identity groups, along with young voters and upper class cultural liberals. Winning them over will require appeals to the politics of race, gender, and sexual orientation, not merely economic issues. Hillary Clinton recognizes the importance of social issues and identity politics for holding the party’s diverse constituency together; that’s why she emerged on top from the Netroots saga.

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  • Andrew Allison

    All lives matter, and Hillary is demonstrating once again her complete and utter lack of scruple. She obviously feels threatened by Sanders.

    • TechZilla


      I’m so sick of ethnocentric nationalism passing itself off as egalitarian. Of course Hillary would support bourgeois well-funded academic nonsense, she’d live in the sociology department if she could use it against sanders.

  • TechZilla

    Sanders is not a liberal, he’s not even loved by liberals. The progressive side of the “base”, sure… the progressive organizations have no choice, supporting Hillary publicly would discredit them further as shills… but without Warren, they have to show Sanders the respect of someone who they know their own supports prefer.

    let me ask this question… WHY is it that one cannot define their own political ideological foundations, assuming it’s left of social liberalism? How about when they are lighter on the liberalism, and way heavier on the “social”?

    If someone called themselves a Neo-Nazi, would mainstream elitists say that they are clearly “super conservative”? Show some respect to the American public, for once, and acknowledge that socialism is on the table.

  • Stormcrow

    Is there anyone but me that looks on with amazement and wonders how the country got this jacked this fast?

    • Boritz

      There are days that seem to me to be extraordinary news days with not just lots happening but way too much happening. The next day the elevator conversations are all about my team, my kids, my cats. That explains it though not adequately.

  • Pete

    So, blacks and the guilt-ridden white liberals are offended when it is said that ‘all lives matter.’

    Earth to blacks: Who do you think pays for your food stamps, housing, health care, free education, welfare, and Obama-phones?

    Was this a politically incorrect observation? Guess so.

    • Anthony

      It was an observation premise on….

      • Pete

        Government statistics and decades of practical observations.

        • Anthony

          Ridiculous (mythical/fictive) and easy to believe when seeking cognitive reassurance but hey… By the way, I am not in the defending business but recognize hidden and unhidden biases put forth as rational observation. Keep your beliefs (biases) just don’t expect for them not to be occasionally critiqued when sweeping.

          • Pete

            “I am not in the defending business but recognize hidden and unhidden biases put forth as rational observation.”

            And I am good at recognizing when political correctness is put forth as a way of burying inconvenient truths.

            But I suppose if the status quo is to be maintained, some taboos have to be honored … at least that’s what the ruling elite believe..

            And by the way, Anthony, do you think ‘all lives matter’ and if not, why not?

          • Anthony

            Pete, I just responded to your query @ Proud Skeptic. Status quo, trues, taboos, etc. expansive topic and entail much much more than a few lines on the web.

          • Pete

            Okay. Understood.

          • Fred

            Any statistics that refute Pete’s point? Any critique of statistics he may be referring to that undermine his argument? Any argument at all other than the usual accusation of “bias” and pseudo-scientific boozhwa about “cognitive reassurance”? No? I’m having a heart attack from not surprise. Looks like Pete’s been Anthonied.

          • Anthony

            As Dan Greene said, you are a fella who assumes his conclusions… Also see Oct 16, 2014 reply as it still stands.

          • Fred

            See February 26, 2015 reply to your reply. I still don’t take you or Dan Greene any more seriously than I did then.

          • Fred

            PS. Whatever your Oct.23, 2014 reply may have been, I seriously doubt it constitutes an argument against Pete’s point, so my comment stands. I’m still having that heart attack from not surprise.

          • Anthony

            “You made no reply” and unless you’re trying to inform another audience to keep saying so is futile. Also, you’re premature Dan Greene’s solicitous advise has at least sixteen months before expiration.

  • Proud Skeptic

    It absolutely astounds me that ANYONE can have a problem with someone saying “All lives matter”.

    • Anthony

      All lives certainly do matter Proud Skeptic but we (Americans – specially those designated white/black [but its moving to others] have become so caught up in our “racial bribes” that the obvious truth – all lives matter – for some is less preferable than sacrificing psychological or cosmetic racial benefit. Here’s one to work on “All of US or None” – Americans.

      • Boritz

        NASA used to believe that military test pilot lives mattered less. Then they backed off of this position and launched a school teacher or two. Some made it back.

        • Anthony

          They all matter.

  • CapitalHawk

    I look forward to the debates where Hillary’s Republican opponent will get to ask her if she believes that “all lives matter”.

  • Teto85

    She was a Goldwater Girl in 1964 and it appears that she has not changed much since then.

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