Sunday, September 6, 2015

Black Lives Matter Has a Mainstream Program

Black Lives Matter has had some problems from the start.  It started out as a sense of unfocused rage over police abuses and, as such, threatened to go the way of Occupy Wall Street, a movement that was all passion and no goals and so (unsurprisingly) failed to achieve anything.  The lack of focus proved even more dangerous to the movement in that it allowed hostile critics to project their worst fears onto it, claiming that it was a new Black Panther movement, or wanted to eliminate police departments altogether, or even that it favored killing police officers.  The most galvanizing even in black communities is killing of a black man by a white police officer, but these invariably turn out to be more complicated and ambiguous than they appear on the surface, leading critics to conclude that there is no "there" there.  The ambush killing of police, first in New York and now in Illinois was blamed by the right on Black Lives Matter for stirring up anti-police hostility.  And opening with riots in Ferguson and Baltimore definitely did not help.

But now Black lives matter has coalesced around a specific program which they call "Campaign Zero."  (As in, campaign for zero incidents of police brutality).  It turns out not to be nutty and radical at all, but well within the mainstream of what civil libertarians have been calling for for a long time.

In the color-coded scheme above, blue stands for limiting police interventions, pink stands for making such interventions less confrontational, and green stands for accountability if an intervention goes wrong.  I do not know how they chose what order to put their goals in.  Organizing goals by topic would make more sense to me, but this is a minor matter.  In proposing measure, they cite to either actual measures taken by real governments, actual police policies, or specific proposed measures.  They have made specific proposals at the federal, state, and local levels, and have begun evaluating candidates, much like any other political pressure group.  So far, the things that stand out for me are:

  1. There is not actually all that much to be done at the federal level other than nudge the other levels along.  Most of the action will be state and local.  
  2. Of the Democratic presidential candidates, the left wing, i.e., Martin O'Malley and Bernie Sanders, have a lot more to offer than Hilary Clinton.
  3. Of the Republican candidates they have evaluated so far, only Rand Paul has anything to offer.  He supports the two "limiting interventions" policies of ending interventions for minor matters and ending for-profit policing.  He also supports ending militarization of police forces and requiring police to wear body cameras.  The only other Republicans they have evaluated so far have been Trump and Jeb (the front runners) and both score zero.
  4. None of the candidates evaluated has proposed anything Campaign Zero considers harmful.
In short, Black Lives Matter has taken its place as a mainstream political pressure group, advocating specific, reasonable mainstream goals.  Of course, this is not the same as saying that it is uncontroversial.  More on that in my next post.

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