Below is my column on the conflict in Democratic states over the fulfillment of prior political pledges from reparations to sanctuary cities. Democratic states like California cannot blame the opposing party for a failure to fulfill the pledge for cash reparations. That leaves them in a bind. Small payments will belittle a commitment that was called a civic duty and moral imperative. After years of campaigning on the issue, expectations are high and tensions appear to be rising.
Here is the column:
“It’s time to pay.” Those four words from Rep. Cori Bush (D., Mo.) are being heard a lot by Democratic politicians across the country this month. For Bush, the debt amounts to $14 trillion for reparations for every black American.
In California, activists are demanding as much as $5 million per black resident and asking Gov. Gavin Newsom “where’s the money.” One member of Newsom’s Reparations Task Force demanded that the state pay its “sin bill.”
In New York and Chicago, mayors are balking at towering costs of migrants being shipping from the border to their “sanctuary” cities.
In Tampa, after demanding $3 million per black resident, a witness said that he and others were putting “white people on notice that we want our reparations.” Bills are coming due after years of political campaigning on these issues.
Reparations and sanctuary cities have long been the bread and butter of identity politics. For years, Democratic politicians have campaigned on these “moral imperatives” in passing sanctuary laws and setting up reparation task forces. It is the equivalent of a compounding interest on credit card debt. Each election Democrats used these issues for short-term political gains. Now those bills are coming due and Democratic leaders are balking.
President Joe Biden and Congress are in a potentially lethal game of chicken over the looming default over our debt. It would not seem an ideal time to demand an additional $14 trillion, but Bush declared “Black people in our country cannot wait any longer.” She was joined by members like Reps. Barbara Lee, Jamaal Bowman and Rashida Tlaib.
It is a view being voiced across the country by black citizens who were told that these payments are an undeniable moral obligation. The years of politicking on the issue have created a sense of entitlement to large cash payments. As one well-known California activist declared: “It’s a debt that’s owed, we worked for free. We’re not asking; we’re telling you.”
Gov. Newsom recently balked at the payment of the reparations recommended by his own task force, though he has indicated that some cash payments may still be made. Newsom attempted the long-expected pivot and said, rather plaintively, that dealing with the legacy of slavery “is about much more than cash payments.” It may be too late for that spin. Recent polling shows 77 percent of Black Americans now support reparations–a stark increase in recent years.
Task Force member Rev. Amos Brown said that they will not accept any excuses and that the state has to commit to the full amount and, if needed, “pay it over installments.”
Mario Cuomo famously said that politicians campaign in poetry, but they govern in prose. However, the “prose” of many Democratic leaders is not winning any prizes.
While many have denounced the busing of migrants to sanctuary cities, most privately admit that there is an element of poetic justice. For years, these cities have told undocumented migrants that they are welcome to come to their cities where they would be protected. Then they showed up. It was a political version of “Look Whose Coming to Dinner,” the movie about a liberal couple who are confronted with a visit of their daughter and her black fiancé.
The single most riveting moment came at Martha’s Vineyard where residents came out to clap and wave to the migrants . . . as they were shipped to a military base off the island. New York City has been shipping migrants to other cities, which are going to court to stop the relocation. Many of these towns point out that, unlike New York City, they have never declared themselves a sanctuary for undocumented persons.
Even though these cities have been sent a fraction of the influx of states like Texas, mayors in sanctuary cities like Chicago have expressed outrage.
As with those expecting reparations, these migrants are understandably confused. They were told that Chicago was a “ciudad santuario.” Chicago reaffirmed this status in 2022 when it extended protections and benefits. At the time, politicians scrambled for cameras to declare, as did Alderwoman Rossana Rodríguez, that Chicago must be “a welcoming city for immigrants” and reaffirmed that “our city is responsible for acting with solidarity towards the people that are the most marginalized and the most impacted by a system that oppresses them.”
Then they showed up in greater numbers and the former Mayor Lori Lightfoot demanded that the migrants be sent elsewhere or kept in border towns overwhelmed by far greater numbers of migrants.
In some cases, there is no alternative but to try to quietly abandon prior campaigns that generated acclaim nationally and caused serious damage locally. For example, some of us criticized cities like San Francisco for declaring a boycott of states which did not adhere to their views on issues like transgender rights. I noted at the time that the boycott would cost the city dearly in cutting off 22 states by driving up costs. It did and the city quietly rescinded the boycott after losing millions. While the media paid far less attention to the rescission than the original decision, other reversals have come at a greater political cost on the left.
For example, cities that led efforts to defund the police are now refunding the police after soaring crime rates and high-levels of police retirements and resignations. Activists in cities like Los Angeles called it a “slap in the face” given years of promises from Democratic politicians.
In the meantime, Newsom’s task force has demanded an assortment of other changes, including eliminating cash bail, abandoning the prosecution of certain crimes, subsidizing home purchases for black residents, and guaranteeing a “right to return” by taking over development projects to guarantee black housing ownership. Some of those reforms can be finessed by politicians, but there is no spin that will obscure the absence of a cash payment.
These are the creditors of the Democratic Party and they now seem intent on collecting on compounded interest of years of identity politics.
This column previously appeared on Fox.com