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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?

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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 SandersBernard (Bernie) SandersElection Countdown: Small-donor donations explode | Russian woman charged with midterm interference | Takeaways from North Dakota Senate debate | O'Rourke gives 'definitive no' to 2020 run | Dems hope Latino voters turn Arizona blue Bernie Sanders' age should not disqualify him in 2020 Small-dollar donations explode in the Trump era MORE and Martin O’Malley, they are alienating longtime political allies and their supporters. When they videotape Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonRepublicans bail on Coffman to invest in Miami seat Katy Perry praises Taylor Swift for diving into politics Election Countdown: Small-donor donations explode | Russian woman charged with midterm interference | Takeaways from North Dakota Senate debate | O'Rourke gives 'definitive no' to 2020 run | Dems hope Latino voters turn Arizona blue 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 John TrumpCorker: US must determine responsibility in Saudi journalist's death Five takeaways from testy Heller-Rosen debate in Nevada Dem senator calls for US action after 'preposterous' Saudi explanation MORE’s events? Where is the outreach to Republicans?

Sen. Rand PaulRandal (Rand) Howard PaulSaudi mystery drives wedge between Trump, GOP Noisy democracy, or rude people behaving like children? Lawmakers, Wall Street shrug off Trump's escalating Fed attacks 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 CruzRafael (Ted) Edward CruzElection Countdown: Small-donor donations explode | Russian woman charged with midterm interference | Takeaways from North Dakota Senate debate | O'Rourke gives 'definitive no' to 2020 run | Dems hope Latino voters turn Arizona blue White vote is 'fundamental problem' for Texas Dems, political analysts says Houston Chronicle endorses Beto O'Rourke in Texas Senate race MORE, Mike Huckabee, Scott Walker and Marco RubioMarco Antonio RubioMeghan McCain calls Russian attacks against her father the 'highest compliment' to her family The Memo: Saudi storm darkens for Trump GOP leaders hesitant to challenge Trump on Saudi Arabia 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 Andrew BoehnerHouston Chronicle endorses Beto O'Rourke in Texas Senate race The Hill's 12:30 Report — Presented by Citi — House postpones Rosenstein meeting | Trump hits Dems over Medicare for all | Hurricane Michael nears landfall Kavanaugh becomes new flashpoint in midterms defined by anger MORE (R-Ohio), Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck GrassleyCharles (Chuck) Ernest GrassleyGOP plays hardball in race to confirm Trump's court picks Trump officials ratchet up drug pricing fight Dems angered by GOP plan to hold judicial hearings in October MORE (R-Iowa) and Tea Party favorite Sen. Mike LeeMichael (Mike) Shumway LeeSenators pledge action on Saudi journalist’s disappearance Bernie Sanders: US should pull out of war in Yemen if Saudis killed journalist Senators warn Trump that Saudi relationship is on the line 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 SensenbrennerFrank (Jim) James SensenbrennerTime to protect small businesses from internet sales tax rush On The Money: Trump readying 0B in tariffs for China | Warren wants companies to disclose climate impacts | Bill aims to provide clarity to online sales tax ruling One bill that will stop the spread of deadly fentanyl MORE of Wisconsin and Democratic Rep. Bobby ScottRobert (Bobby) Cortez ScottDems want to hold officials’ feet to the fire on ObamaCare Healthy business vs healthy people — how will this administration address the two? Washington turns focus to child nutrition 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.