As the Black Lives Matter movement becomes an influential political force in the wake of George Floyd’s death, some are now wondering if its follow
As the Black Lives Matter movement becomes an influential political force in the wake of George Floyd’s death, some are now wondering if its followers — frustrated by a two-party system that refuses to heed its calls — could ultimately organize their own political party in the United States.
Four years ago, 43 percent of American adults supported Black Lives Matter, according to the Pew Research Center. Today, two-thirds of U.S. adults say they support the movement and 38 percent say they strongly support it.
While Democrats have sought to incorporate the movement into its party, some activists have been reluctant to do so: Presumptive Democratic nominee Joe Biden, for example, recently ignited outrage by telling radio host Charlamagne tha God “you ain’t black” if you’re figuring out whether to vote for him or President Trump. His comments renewed cries from African-Americans that the Democratic Party take their vote for granted.
“That someone could be so presumptuousness, that you have to vote for a Democrat or otherwise you’re not identified as Black, that is the principal reason why we need a Black party, independent, to change that kind of behavior,” Robert Johnson, the founder of BET, said in a recent interview.
So, could Black Lives Matter mobilize into its own political party?
Who is advocating for it?
Johnson, the first black billionaire in the U.S., said in an interview with Fox News that he sees the need for a group to stand up with the sole purpose of fighting for African-Americans because he said the Democratic Party hasn’t delivered on mending the systemic wealth gap between white and black Americans.
“No minority group has ever achieved significant power in a two-party system when they are locked into one party and considered unreachable by the other party,” Johnson said.
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Johnson said the permanent interests of African-Americans have diverged in many ways with the Democratic Party; now, with the nation behind the Black Lives Matter movement and racial injustice at the forefront, it’s time to act.
“I propose that an independent party formed by Black Lives Matter should echo the founding principles of the original Congressional Black Caucus members in 1971 who … said black Americans should have no permanent friends, no permanent enemies, just permanent interests,” Johnson said.
Johnson suggested that Black Lives Matter run candidates for various offices and leverage their power in battleground states such as Michigan, Wisconsin and Pennsylvania, where black voters staying home or breaking with Democrats can determine the outcome of the presidential election. He recently publicized this idea in an open letter to the BLM movement.
Meanwhile, Fox News’ Tucker Carlson has argued the movement has already become a political party, “maybe the strongest political party in the United States,” after Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey was met with boos and threats to defeat him in the next election when he said, “I do not support the full abolition of the police department.”
How would it work?
Getting added to the ballot differs by state, but generally requires garnering signatures on a petition. In New York state, for example, the group would need to get 15,000 voters spread out across the state to sign a petition to have one or more candidates be added to the ballot. Distribution requirements say that more than 100 voters must sign in at least 15 Congressional districts.
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If a party garners 50,000 votes in a gubernatorial election, it can host an official convention and earns a slot on the ballot for four years and can field candidates without having to get signatures each time.
Johnson says a Black Lives Matter Party could be used as leverage to influence the two major parties.
“I’ve been convinced for a long time that 40 million African Americans who tend to vote as a bloc in one of the two parties limit their leverage in getting action form both parties,” Johnson told CNBC.
“Had African American interests been embraced by one or two of the dominant parties, we wouldn’t have the tremendous social, economic, racial issues that we have now,” Johnson said.
Is it likely?
It’s still too early to tell. Black Lives Matter leaders have not publicly responded to Johnson’s calls, and Fox News could not reach leadership for comment.
“The two-party system in the U.S. is very well entrenched, and suggestions of a viable new party are unrealistic,” David Hopkins, a Boston College political science professor who specializes in American politics, told Fox News. “There’s already a party that favors the Black Lives Matter movement, and it’s the Democratic Party.”
In 2015, the Democratic National Committee unanimously adopted a resolution in solidarity with the Black Lives Matter movement. But members of the movement quickly disavowed all political affiliations.
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“We do not now, nor have we ever, endorsed or affiliated with the Democratic Party, or with any party,” the Black Lives Matter network said in a response posted to its Facebook page. “The Democratic Party, like the Republican and all political parties, have historically attempted to control or contain black people’s efforts to liberate ourselves. True change requires real struggle, and that struggle will be in the streets and led by the people, not by a political party.”