How Black Lives Matter can use Bernie Sanders

The best thing for the African-American community might be black leaders tackling class issues the way the socialist senator does

Sanders' platform would largely benefit black people.
(Image credit: Sean Rayford/Getty Images)

Neoliberalism has made black political leaders complicit in their community's brutalization. So argues Professor Lester Spence of Johns Hopkins University, in a new book called Knocking the Hustle: Against the Neoliberal Turn in Black Politics. It's a fresh and interesting work, and perfectly timed as the Democratic presidential primary comes down to the wire. Much of the competition between Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton comes down to whether Sanders can successfully sell his message to the African-American community. The argument of Spence's book, however, suggests that black activists may be able to use Sanders' campaign for their own purposes just as well as he could use their votes.

Spence sketches out the story of the evolution of American political economy since the 1920s: the heights of inequality in the late '20s, the Great Depression, growing economic equality as the New Deal took hold, and the gradual return of inequality after the 1970s stagflation crisis. A cadre of right-wing and libertarian ideologues seized on this supposed "crisis of Keynesianism" as an excuse to advance theories that would return self-regulating markets to the center of American society. As a result, the country has returned to something recognizably similar to its 1920s economic self, complete with a massively profitable yet rattletrap financial system.

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Ryan Cooper

Ryan Cooper is a national correspondent at His work has appeared in the Washington Monthly, The New Republic, and the Washington Post.