Rome Is Burning

Too big to fail.

We have heard this mantra many times in our daily lives. First popularized in the Eighties by Congressman Stewart McKinney, it was used to describe the theory that certain businesses were too big to crash. It’s now been used to describe businesses, institutions, and even democracies. What history has shown us is that there is no system of government too great to topple, no empire too powerful to defeat. Ancient Rome was seen as invulnerable, but within 500 years it had imploded due to multiple factors, including the weight of its expansion.

We have reached an impasse as a nation where our foundation, built on racism and greed is cracking under the weight of harvests long overdue. The seeds sown of racism and bigotry have reaped the harvest of distrust and division. Greed has reaped hunger and despair. Years of injustice have produced chaos. The cowardice of neutrality has allowed the intolerant and ignorant to bolster and uphold bigoted systems that crush the very wills of the marginalized.

Many have tried to hide their heads in the sand and ignore politics’ role in our downward spiral. We cannot ignore that there is an evil movement at work in America. A movement of white supremacists, domination, and tyranny. One whose desires are channeled through the Grand Ole Party. They seek to take back to a time of submission, a time of oppression. They seek to remove Black history and strip people of their very identities. Politics is not their goal, but only the means they use to reach their goal of a white ethnic state, and their first major test will be in the upcoming elections in November.

While there are many Americans who disagree with this immoral onslaught, what frustrates me is that many of those people do not have the fight needed to push back against this assault. Even the good people in power have not acted courageously in every decision and as a result, some people feel left behind and abandoned.

In response to many of the attacks on minorities and marginalized voters, Those in power have not done enough to combat them. When voting rights were under attack nationwide, not nearly enough legislative capital was used to combat voter suppression as it was not the number one concern for the party in power. The needed push wasn’t initiated until it was far too late in the process. When Black history was being taken out of school books, some talking heads and consultants said that we should stay out of “culture wars”. While police are still killing Black people with no consequence, we hear that we need to give police even money. This fear of antagonizing white voters at the risk of Black and marginalized people’s protection is as old as the republic itself.

A lot of these misfires in strategy can be tied to a traditional belief held by some that if you stay out of certain issues or tailor your language you can obtain that mythical white working-class voter. This plan usually comes at the expense of Black voters. This belief also manifests itself in the erroneous idea that economic benefits alone will shift ignorant, bigoted, or hateful stances. The sad part about our present ordeal is that the voters that were sought after still disapproved while the loyal base was alienated.

Many will say that there was no use in pushing demographic-specific issues because we didn’t have the votes and thus there was no need to put those issues above infrastructure. To that, I say even if we weren’t going to kill the filibuster, people will not be pushed until they are galvanized. That is what the mantle of leadership is for, to consolidate, to inspire people to fight for a cause greater than themselves. Dr. King said that “A genuine leader is not a searcher for consensus but a molder of consensus,”. The only way to push people to vote for you so you can pass more is to invest more time in barnstorming, not just giving up on a just and moral cause when you don’t have the numbers. When you make issues imperative the people have no choice but to follow. Give it the same efforts we gave Build Back Better which never was going to have the 60 votes required either.

Again I say these things not to sully or downplay the administration’s achievements. Neither am I blaming Biden for the inflation that is hurting American pocketbooks. All I am implying is that a return to normal or moderate advancements is not meeting the moment. Black people are still hurting, still tired. Too many are still poor and desperate even in this economy. The Democratic Party must now shift its attention to hearing and elevating the voices of those underserved. There needs to be more courageous rhetoric that speaks to the desperation that so many feel in neglected communities. I think many underestimated the patience that we have and that many have reached their wit’s end. Recent polls have shown that there has been some slippage in the President’s approval with Black people, amongst other key constituency groups. Basic political theory will tell you that midterms are already tough on the incumbent party and that turning out your base is key to mitigating losses, especially in battleground states. There can be no Democratic victories without Black votes, so it is imperative that our community feels engaged, enthused, and heard.

The moral conflict we are headed toward cannot be avoided and must be met head-on. For too long we have pursued a false peace where we ty to both. In pursuit of this falsa pax, we have let the architects of insurrection go unscathed. We’ve let cops get away with extrajudicial murders of Black people. We have let runaway greed lead to price gouging and inflation. We have let white supremacists overrun school boards and overturn our elections.

Even now we still have talking heads saying that we should just avoid “culture wars” and “identity politics”. If you are afraid, just say it and leave the arena, because neither cowardice nor neutrality will deliver victories for justice and righteousness. The only option we have now is to dive headfirst into the critical issues of the day. Whether it was the Pre-Civil War era or Civil Rights, history has shown us that no matter how long you kick the political can down the road, the road will always lead to strife. The great Dr. King also profoundly said, “There are times when it is conflict, not its compromised resolution, that is the moral imperative”. If we say we are in the battle for the soul of our nation, then it’s time to act like it.

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Joel Pulliam

Joel Pulliam

Millennial, campaign/Voter Protection Unit alum. Passionate about civil rights, politics, music, and comics.