Jamelle Bouie, writing at Slate about the BlackLivesMatter protestors at this past weekend's NetRoots Nation conference, and the failure of Martin O'Malley and Bernie Sanders to engage in the debate in any meaningful way:
Some might want to dismiss the whole fracas as left-wing infighting, with no relevance for any but a small slice of American voters. Or they might dismiss it as New Left narcissism—the kind of identity politics that alienates ordinary Americans. The latter description is flat out wrong; say what you will on the optics of protests, but the fact remains that there is a genuine and serious problem of police violence against minorities, and blacks in particular.
As for the former critique, I think this episode was more significant than mere infighting. Regardless of where you stand on the wisdom of the direct action against Sanders and O’Malley, it showed the limits of Sanders’ brand of liberal coalition-building, which hinges on the idea that we could ameliorate serious injustice if we just achieve—or move toward—economic justice. It’s why he touts college education and affordable health care in response to questions on police discrimination and criminal justice reform.
I think Sanders has some important things to say, and his left-leaning influence on Hillary Clinton's campaign is important. However, this affair is a perfect illustration of the problems with his "It's all about economics/class" policy approach.
To be sure, there are plenty of class and economic problems facing the United States. However, reductionist approaches wherein we try to reduce a complex system of interactions and outcomes to a single, fundamental cause, while appealing, vastly over-simplify the situation and close out discussion of anything that fails to fit neatly into the model.
At a more practical level, the utter tone-deafness of Sanders' response to the protesters is troubling. Pointing to the fact that he marched with Martin Luther King is clearly in "But I have black friends!" territory. Try shutting up and listening to what people are saying rather than insisting that you know what is best for them.