Tuesday, February 25, 2020

No Answer

The argument that Bernard Sanders has helped move the Democratic Party leftward was reflected  in Tom Steyer's response pertaining to whether he'd support "direct cash payments to the descendants of slaves reparations" if recommended by a commission. The billionaire stated on Tuesday night at a CNN town hall meeting

... If you want to tell the truth about the African-American experience here, and you -- how did we get here? If we want to figure out how to repair the wrong together, we have to go back and tell the story of what's happened, so that we understand how we got here, so together we come up with the right solution, Chris.

It would be inappropriate for me to mandate the solution. This is something that we have to work through together, but there has -- that's why, when I was talking about the historically black colleges and universities, there's a narrative there about why those schools are so important. There's a narrative about how they've performed. There is a policy that comes out of those truths that is inescapable.

And I believe -- look, the -- I'm not kidding about this moral leadership. If you go back -- one of the things that's true. George W. Bush got war powers to fight the war on terror that were virtually unlimited. And it's turned out to be a big mistake. I think most people recognize that.

There are 435 congresspeople and 100 senators in the United States; 434 congresspeople and 100 senators voted for that. One person voted against it -- a black congresswoman from Oakland, Barbara Lee. It's not a fluke. There has been moral leadership from African- Americans before Dr. King, long before Dr. King, and after Dr. King's assassination....

There are parts of the African-American experience which haven't been told. There also are parts of the immigrant experience which haven't been told, as with the history of the American government supporting dictators throughout the world, especially in this hemisphere. There is also an untold story about how powerful corporate interests gained control of the American economy from forces representing the public interest. That has been particularly the case in the health care industry and has provided impetus for single-payer health care, which Tom Steyer opposes.

The story of the African-American experience has been inadequately told, as have so many other of our stories. However, at this point, the American people have a reasonably good knowledge of the oppression of black Americans. This pertains even to the number of whites who believe, albeit absurdly, that election of a black man to the presidency in 2008 purged the nation of the stain of discrimination and repression.  Their duty done, many voters believed, election of a white bigot in 2016 would be wholly acceptable.

If Steyer wants American history to be better told, perhaps he should be a student of early 21st century history.  President Bush was not given "war powers to fight the war on terror that were virtually unlimited." He took them. The Authorization for Use of Military Force of 2001 authorized the President "to use all necessary and appropriate force against those nations, organizations, or persons he determines planned, authorized, committed, or aided the terrorist attacks that occurred on September 11, 2001, or harbored such organizations or persons."

It permitted that specific President, and only to use force against those involved in the attacks of 9/11/01. It was abused numerous times by Presidents Bush and Obama and is a prime example of the dangerous expansion of Executive power in the last few decades- and which has been spiraling out of control in the Trump Administration.

Barbara Lee deserves credit for her vote. But she did not cast it because she is black, nor did did the 35 other members of Congress who are black who voted in favor of the resolution do it because of their race. Neither Steyer's reference to Representative Lee's wise and courageous vote nor the value of Historically Black Colleges and Universities constitutes a valid answer to a question about reparations.

Tom Steyer himself might be the answer- but to no question which ever has been posed or contemplated.

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