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Campaign 2016: Democrats Fighting Over [& With] #BlackLivesMatter

Deray mckesson

If all goes as expected, Black Lives Matter activist Deray McKesson (above right) will lose the Baltimore mayoral primary today.
 
But that shouldn't obscure what may be the biggest development of the first half of 2016, which is the uncertain, awkward interactions between the social justice movement BLM and the partisan political systems and players that shape everything from how billions in education funding gets spent to how Congressional districts are created.  
 
Even assuming McKesson loses, this Mother Jones article notes that BLM has backed winning candidates in other races.

There's no doubt that BLM has burst onto the scene like a much-anticipated Beyonce album. Just the other day, President Obama -- sounding somewhat out of tune given the detailed proposals of Project Zero -- criticized BLM for too much yelling and not enough engagement. 

Everybody wants to ally with BLM -- from Sanders and Clinton to teachers and school reformers -- at least most of the time.

But it isn't at all clear where the fit is going to last and (so far at least) BLM leaders haven't fractured or joined forces with any particular stakeholder group -- labor, education reform, the Democratic Party establishment, or Bernie Sanders liberals. 

McKesson, with his school reform background, has raised suspicions among some labor activists and progressives who might otherwise be eager to join with the social justice leader.

But for union and other leaders it's hard to figure out how to be with and against BLM leaders at the same time, or to come up with any coherent approach.

In recent weeks, there have been some fascinating, seemingly illustrative run-ins between BLM and existing advocacy groups like the Chicago Teachers Union.

In case you missed it, the CTU invited BLM to join a rally a few weeks ago, then struggled to figure out what to do when BLM's Page May started denouncing the police -- a union local -- from the event podium.

"The CTU keeps acting like they are on our side, but then Karen Lewis refuses to say cops need to get out of schools," May said in the DNA Info story. "Until they come out explicitly opposed to cops in schools, I don't think we are fighting on the same side."

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Read more about that in this excellent Laura Moser piece from Slate (Chicago Teachers Union is going through an awkward radicalization).

According to this American Prospect story, local BLM activists were part of the one-day CTU walkout.  And indeed they were there. But obviously CTU and the local BLM weren't really on the same page -- creating a conflict with the union that represents police officers.

When called on to apologize to the police for the rally comments, one CTU ally defiantly Tweeted "CTU can apologize once the [police union] apologizes for supporting & fundraising 100k for [police officer] Van Dyke who killed our CPS student."

A top CTU official distanced the union from the comments.

At roughly the same time, McKesson was indicating his support in the form of a raised fist emoji: 

How this is going to resolve is anybody's guess. BLM could implode or fade, like so many previous groups. It could splinter, or it could find an ally with one or several of the existing combatants out there.

The conundrum is just as much a challenge to education reform groups and Democratic Party traditionalists as it is to the CTU or progressives.

And of course much of the outcome will be shaped by BLM itself.

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