Juan Williams: #BlackLivesMatter is playing with fire

#BlackLivesMatter is fast becoming its own worst enemy.

It lacks an agenda, it is antagonizing the black community’s top white political allies, including Democrats running for the party’s 2016 presidential nomination, and it is not finding common ground with any of the Republican majority in Congress.

The catalyst for the movement was outrage over the deaths of young black men like Freddie Gray, Michael Brown and Eric Garner at the hands of police officers who arguably used excessive, even deadly force. But where is the list of solutions to the injustices it so often decries?

ADVERTISEMENT
The movement’s failure to get its collective act together carries real danger for the political clout of the African-American community in the 2016 elections and beyond.

With the movement potentially discouraging black American trust in Democrats, #BlackLivesMatter is increasing the odds of a sharp drop in black voter turnout in 2016. Already Democrats privately worry that without President Obama on the ballot, the black vote will decrease the turnout needed to keep the White House and win back the Senate.

That is more likely to happen if black voters get caught up in the anger that the BlackLives movement has directed at the political structure. The potential absence of black voters who have become discouraged — about a quarter of the nation’s Democrats — would be more devastating than any Republican plan to require voter identification, reduce the number of polling places in black neighborhoods or cut back on early voting.

When BlackLives activists denounce the Democratic National Committee for issuing a resolution in support of police reform, they are hurting themselves with party officials. When they say that all political parties try to “control or contain” black liberation, they are also damaging faith in the political system, especially among young people.

When they interrupt Democrats running for the presidential nomination, such as Bernie SandersBernie SandersJudd Gregg: The self-marginalizing minority Sanders and Bill Nye to host climate change conversation Lewandowski: Perez ‘doesn’t understand what’s going on in America’ MORE and Martin O’Malley, they are alienating longtime political allies and their supporters. When they videotape Hillary ClintonHillary Rodham ClintonClinton: Trump must speak out against hate crimes, threats Piers Morgan trolls Oscars: 'Chin up, La La Land... you won the popular vote' Trump's clueless rhetoric on nukes makes US vulnerable, not safer MORE after she generously agrees to meet with them privately — in an apparent attempt to embarrass her — they are distancing themselves from the likely Democratic nominee. And imagine how local and state officials will react now to any request for a meeting with the group.

Meanwhile, they are not finding common cause with Latinos, even as immigrants are being attacked by the Republican candidates for the presidential election. Have you seen BlackLives interrupting Donald TrumpDonald TrumpDem super PAC ads pressure GOP senators to back independent Russia probe Healthcare reform is not just about coverage It's time to 'Trump' opioid addiction in the United States MORE’s events? Where is the outreach to Republicans?

Sen. Rand PaulRand PaulPaul: Stop 'hysteria' on Trump and Russia Conquering Trump returns to conservative summit Rand Paul rejects label of 'Trump's most loyal stooge' MORE (R-Ky.) is one the most outspoken leaders in either political party on the racial inequities of prison reform. “I see an America where criminal justice is applied equally and any law that disproportionately incarcerates people of color is repealed,” he said in his announcement speech. If change is the goal, where is the alliance with the senator?

New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, a former federal prosecutor, has declared on the campaign trail that “the war on drugs has been a failure.” He told an audience last month “everyone makes mistakes” and that society needs to “reach out” and “embrace those people and say, ‘If you’re not a violent offender, if you’re not dealing drugs to our children, we need to get you treatment rather than prison.’ ”

Earlier this year, the Brennan Center for Law and Justice published a collection of essays highlighting the bipartisan consensus among national politicians that there is a need for sentencing reform, called Solutions: American Leaders speak out on Criminal Justice. Clinton, O’Malley, Paul, Christie and fellow presidential candidates Jim Webb, Ted CruzTed CruzDem senator: Confirm Gorsuch, Garland simultaneously THE MEMO: Trump takes the fight to Congress Brietbart CEO reveals that Trump donors are part owners MORE, Mike Huckabee, Scott Walker and Marco RubioMarco RubioTHE MEMO: Trump takes the fight to Congress Rubio says town halls designed for people to 'heckle and scream' At CPAC, Trump lashes out at media MORE each penned essays for the Brennan Center on the need for reform.

And it’s not just those running for the Oval Office — leading congressional Republicans like Speaker John BoehnerJohn BoehnerMarch is the biggest month for GOP in a decade House markup of ObamaCare repeal bill up in the air Conservatives to Congress: Get moving MORE (R-Ohio), Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck GrassleyChuck GrassleyGOP senator grilled over DeVos vote during town hall Big Pharma must address high drug prices ­ObamaCare fix hinges on Medicaid clash in Senate MORE (R-Iowa) and Tea Party favorite Sen. Mike LeeMike LeeLessons from the godfather of regulatory budgeting Congress must reform civil asset forfeiture laws A guide to the committees: Senate MORE (R-Utah) have all endorsed proposals to relax the federal sentencing laws. Grassley has said he wants to move on a bill this year to do just that.

A bipartisan bill, the Safe, Accountable, Fair, and Effective (SAFE) Justice Act authored by Republican Rep. Jim SensenbrennerJames SensenbrennerA guide to the committees: House House group seeks alternatives on encryption fight Congress should learn from states on civil asset forfeiture MORE of Wisconsin and Democratic Rep. Bobby ScottBobby ScottA guide to the committees: House Repeal without replacement: A bad strategy for kids House Dems press Trump for details on ObamaCare order MORE of Virginia, has about three-dozen bipartisan co-sponsors in the House already. If #BlackLivesMatter protesters were chanting “Pass the SAFE Justice Act now!” they could find themselves in position to make significant change. Somehow they are blind to the opportunity.

It has been said that politicians see the light once they feel the heat. If only the energy and passion of #BlackLivesMatter protesters could be harnessed in something constructive rather than destructive.

Lobby Congress, hold voter registration drives, quiz candidates on their plan for sentencing reform, but don’t heckle the candidates and incite violence by calling for cop-killing. The movement could be critical to securing and mobilizing black support for criminal justice reform that actually would improve black lives.

I am reminded of something my father, who trained boxers, once told me.

He said even the best fighters know fear is like fire. It can cook your food and light your home. It can also burn your house down and kill you. The key to controlling fear or fire is turning it to a constructive purpose. 

Now if only #BlackLivesMatter will harness its own fire into the urgent cause of criminal justice reform.

 

Williams is an author and political analyst for Fox News Channel.