“There’s Always Hope”: On Biden, Crump, and Pie in the Sky

Image by Jon Tyson.

There is no end of parliamentary cretinism among the liberals.

+ Lenin, 1912

The dispossessed of this nation – the poor, both White and Negro – live in a cruelly unjust society. They must organize a revolution against that injustice.

+ Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., 1967

And so a leader who arguably owes his presidency to the critical and timely support of Black voters in 2020 was left to offer only vague exhortations of hope…

+ New York Times, January 15, 2023

Few things in the insipid dark comedy of US bourgeois politics are more sickening than the recurrent invocation of hope for change within the killing confines of the reigning oppression system.

“We Just Might be Able to Get Police Reform”

Listen to the Benjamin Crump, the Black lawyer who is now automatically affixed to every Black family afflicted by racist police violence. Speaking on the “P”BS NewsHour three nights ago, Crump said this in connection with the recently released videos of the savage beating and murder of the 29-year old Black man Tyre Nichols by five-plus Memphis, Tennessee police officers:

“We need systemic police reform… [Mr. Nichols’ mother] RowVaughn Wells has said on many occasions now that she feels her son was sent on an assignment from God, and that the assignment is completed and he’s now back home with his heavenly father…She said that, when we were talking to President Biden, we want him to have the United States Senators Chuck Schumer and Cory Booker reconvene and put the George Floyd Justice and Policing Act back on the table, as well as talking with Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee over [?! – PS] Judiciary in the House of Representatives for them want to put it back on the table, so, maybe with the tragic killing of Tyre Nichols’ death [sic], we might just be able to get police reform. We know that it’s not going to be easy, but Tyre is worth the fight, and we have got to try to make his mother’s wishes come true.”

Not going to be easy? Someone tell Benjamin Crump to step away from the Hopey-Changey Bong – and to stop trying to pass it on to aggrieved Black communities. Does Crump not know: that the United States House of Representatives has been taken over by the Christian white-nationalist neofascist Republicans?; that a “police reform” bill would require 60 votes in a 100-member US Senate that is essentially half-Republi-fascist?; that the Senate already turned down the aforementioned George Floyd legislation when it came out of the formerly Democratic Party-controlled House in 2021? Bringing up teary-eyed and religiously inspired hope for that DOA bill again after the House has gone white-nationalist takes what Lenin once rightly called “parliamentary cretinism” to a new low.

Talk about “the tragic killing of Tyre Nichols’ death.”

The Racist Capitalist Police State Doing Its Job

What would “police reform” really amount to under the American System of savage race and class disparity and apartheid? As the number of people killed by US police forces continues to rise and averages over eleven hundred per year, the victims disproportionately Black and nonwhite, and as tens of millions of Black Americans are still penned up in hyper-segregated ghettoes and prisons of despair, it’s long past time to admit that US police are acting precisely in accord with their systemic job description when they gun down young Black people. As the Memphis incident suggests, moreover, the job description applies even when the police themselves are Black. The job is to inflict terror in defense of ferocious race-class apartheid and racist mass incarceration and criminal branding – in service and protection of a system that provides little opportunity for a decent life for masses of young Black people.

Crump might want to step back and look at the broader political order he wants Black survivors of police terror to think they can humanize in the name of a supposedly just Christian God. The Republicans are a deeply racist white Christian nationalist party that exhibits numerous key fascist calling cards including this one: lawlessness in the name of law and order. Cops beating up young Black men is perfect match for the Republi-fascist world view and the rightmost major party is perfectly happy to enlist Black cops in the cause. With its constant drumbeat of transparently racialized fear and hatred directed at urban crime and “carnage,” the nation’s rightmost major party has no interests in tying the hands of killer cops to any degree. And this sick racist police state party holds down the US House of Representatives, half the filibusted US Senate, the US Supreme Court, and half the nation’s state governments.

But how less evil are the Democrats on racist police violence at the end of the day? The great majority of police violence takes places in cities whose police are under the control of Democratic mayors and city councils. These doubly blue politicos represent elite financial, real estate, and other corporate interests concerned to keep urban Black and brown population “in their place” by all means necessary. The dismal dollar-drenched Democrats and the Republi-fascists only disagree on how much “nice cop” cover to give that basic cold underlying reality.

Joe Crow Biden: “Do it Quickly, Before the Summer”

I find it shameful that Crump would take Tyre’s family to Joe “Nothing Will Fundamentally Change” Biden and the woefully right-tilted Congress rather than to call for a massive new Mike Brown-Eric Garner-Laquan McDonald-Sandra Bland-George Floyd-Breonna Taylor-Jacob Blake Rebellion from coast to coast, reaching from New York – where a Black ex-cop mayor has ordered a vicious police state sweep up of the homeless – to Los Angeles, where the police opened 2023 by killing two young Black men and one young Latino within one week.

Joe “Corn Pop” Biden, the racial paternalist who told a Black talk show host that “you ain’t Black if you don’t vote for me?” The guy who boasted of his past friendly relations with openly segregationist white supremacist Senators, who “never called me boy”? Who once offered creepy praise for presidential candidate Barack Obama by calling him “articulate” and “clean”? Joe Biden, who as a US Senator helped author and worked to pass the racist federal mass incarceration Three Strikes crime bill of 1994? The guy who bragged about his ability to work with Jim Crow advocates as a U.S. senator in the 1970s, when he opposed federal desegregation busing orders and worried about sending his children to desegregated schools – and who boasts about his ability to work with racist Republicans even today? Joe Crow Biden, who invoked George Wallace, the former arch-racist Alabama governor and segregationist, to denounce Trump – and who, during his first White House bid in the 1980s, crowed (Crowed?) about receiving an award from Wallace while campaigning in the South?

Joe “Put on the Record Player” Biden, who helped lead the charge for the criminal, racist, and mass-murderous US invasion of Iraq and who promised wealthy white Wall Street donors in 2019 that “nothing would fundamentally change” when he became president? The president who is now essentially declaring the end of the Covid-19 pandemic, halting protections in ways that will disproportionately people of color as new variants form and circulate?

F-12 and F the serial liar Joe “Sleeping Car” Biden, who claims outrage at the Dobbs v. Jackson decision but refuses to use his executive branch powers to declare the war on abortion a public health emergency and provide legal abortion services on federal lands across the entire county.

How revolting to Crumple at the feet of the imperial warmonger Biden, who last May geared up for the second anniversary of George Floyd’s murder by going on stage with top cops to tell states to use federal stimulus funds to bolster their local racist police states. As The New York Times reported:

Flanked by police chiefs from across the United States, President Biden on Friday praised state and local governments for committing to use at least $10 billion in federal stimulus money to bolster police departments. And he urged local leaders to keep the money flowing. ‘My message is clear: Spend this money,’ Mr. Biden said in the Rose Garden. ‘Do it quickly before the summer, when crime rates typically surge.’

As Republicans seize on rising violent crime to portray the White House as weak on law and order, Mr. Biden is making a push to show that he is a strong defender of the police ahead of the midterm congressional elections in November. But the timing of his remarks, just two weeks before the second anniversary of the murder of George Floyd by a police officer, also frustrated progressives who say Mr. Biden has yet to make good on early promises to reform police departments accused of racial discrimination.

‘The funding should be used to help residents hit hard by the pandemic and help them with longstanding disparities,’ said Hannah Halbert, the executive director of Policy Matters Ohio, a nonprofit organization. Instead, she said that officials seemed to be relying on traditional investments in policing. ‘You’re just going to double down on the strategies that have produced the outcomes we’re living under now,’ said Ms. Halbert, noting that officials in Ohio had used stimulus funds to purchase police vehicles.

Last June, months after the passage of his $1.9 trillion pandemic relief bill, Mr. Biden announced that state and local governments would be allowed to dip into $350 billion in relief funds and use the money for public safety. .. The White House hopes the spending will help forestall another spike in crime this summer. But some critics said the money should go toward addressing public health as well as economic pain caused by the coronavirus pandemic”(emphasis added).

The pandemic? Biden just announced that he plans to let the coronavirus public health emergency expire this May – this as the virus spikes in China and elsewhere, certain to form new globetrotting variants.

“Public safety” and “public health”? When does the White House declare racist police violence a public health emergency?!

The nation’s leading “pro-union” strikebreaker Joe “Sleeping Car” Biden is quite the snake oil salesman when it comes to peddling electoralist hope and change bunkum. Leading up to the last mid-term elections, Biden told people upset about the war on abortion that the first thing he’d do this year was sign a bill that codified Roe v. Wade as national law. What a joke: he knew damn well (a) that the Republi-fascists were going to take back the US House (meaning that no such bill could make it through the lower chamber of Congress) and (b) that it would take 60 votes in the absurdly powerful and lethally malapportioned upper chamber of Congress (that’s the Senate for the civics-challenged) for such a bill to reach his desk – a complete impossibility given the radical overrepresentation of the nation’s most reactionary regions, states, and party in the US Senate. His promise was pure unadulterated bullshit.

We Shall Overcome, Someday: “Vague Exhortations of Hope”

When he went to Atlanta to honor Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. in January of 2022, “Biden delivered a call to nonviolent arms for voting rights, equating opponents to segregationists and vowing to rewrite Senate rules to defeat them. ‘I will not yield,’ he declared. ‘I will not flinch.’” One year later, Times national correspondent Peter Baker writes:

“Mr. Biden returned to Atlanta…with little to show … None of the sweeping voting rights measures he championed passed the Democratic-controlled Congress last year, and the prospects of any passing a newly elected Republican-controlled House seem vanishingly smallAnd so a leader who arguably owes his presidency to the critical and timely support of Black voters in 2020 was left to offer only vague exhortations of hope and no concrete policy plans or legislative strategies. He assured an audience at Dr. King’s fabled Ebenezer Baptist Church that its side in the struggle would, indeed, overcome someday…’At this inflection point, we know there’s a lot of work that has to continue on economic justice, civil rights, voting rights and protecting our democracy, and I’m remembering that our job is to redeem the soul of America,’ Mr. Biden told the appreciative crowd… ‘Look, I get accused of being an inveterate optimist,’ the president added. ‘Progress is never easy. But redeeming the soul of the country is absolutely essential’”(emphasis added).

The best gut-punch lines came at the end of Biden’s shameless, smarmy, and dreamy, pie-in-the-sky oration:

“The point is: There’s hope.  There’s always hope.  We have to believe. And, ladies and gentlemen, that was Dr. King’s path, in my view — the path of keeping the faith — and it must be our path. Folks, for God’s sake, this is the United States of America.  (Applause.)  The United States.  There’s nothing beyond our capacity.  Nothing is beyond our capacity if we set our mind to it. And, ladies and gentlemen, we’re a land of dreamers and a land of doers.  Nothing is beyond our capacity… My fellow Americans, I don’t think the Lord brought us this far to leave us.  I really don’t.  My word.”

“The Dispossessed of This Nation Must Organize a Revolution”

What a stinking and embarrassing pile of pie-in-sky malarkey, all quite contrary to the militant and even revolutionary messages King himself sent out in the last three years of his life, when the martyred civil rights, anti-poverty, and antiwar leader said and wrote things like these:

“The dispossessed of this nation – the poor, both White and Negro – live in a cruelly unjust society. They must organize a revolution against that injustice… There must be a force that interrupts [that society’s] functioning at some key point [to ] transmute the deep rage of the ghetto into a constructive and creative force [by] dislocat[ing] the functioning of a society….The storm is rising against the privileged minority of the earth…The storm will not abate until [there is a] just distribution of the fruits of the earth…”

“The black revolution is much more than a struggle for the rights of Negroes. It is forcing America to face all its interrelated flaws – racism, poverty, militarism, and materialism. It is exposing evils that are rooted deeply in the whole structure of our society. It reveals systemic rather than superficial flaws and suggests that the radical reconstruction society of society itself is the real issue to be faced.”

There’s nothing about passive appeals to divine intervention and hope for change somewhere over the rainbow in Dr. King’s “Testament of Hope.” King’s militant courage came with a clarion call to radical collective human agency of the sort that repudiated the cringeworthy parliamentary cretinism voiced by Crump and Joe Biden. King’s God didn’t want folks to hope for deliverance from ruling class political reptiles like Biden, Kevin McCarthy, Charles Schumer and Mitch McConnell. King’s spirit called for the mass disruption of business rule as usual with an eye to “the radical reconstruction of society itself” beyond “superficial” changes like the increasing skin-colorization and gender expanding composition of the capitalist-imperialist political, military, and media classes.

Postscript: I did not watch the Nichols funeral on Wednesday. I read that the neoliberal fake progressive bourgeois politicos Al Sharpton and “Copmala” Harris spoke. I assume they doubled down on the parliamentary cretinism and the false and “vague exhortations of hope.” That’s their job – to try to attach masses to a system and social order that cannot be redeemed and is long past what should have been its expiration date.

Paul Street’s latest book is This Happened Here: Amerikaners, Neoliberals, and the Trumping of America (London: Routledge, 2022).