SO WHY ALL THE FERGUSON HOOPLA? Last time the Dems and Sharpton made a big deal of a shooting, it was the Trayvon Martin case, hyped to keep up black turnout for 2012. But now there’s not an election. So why Ferguson, and why now? Polling indicates that most people aren’t all that sympathetic, and protests that tie up Interstates, etc. aren’t going to attract swing voters.
But it’s not about swing voters. It’s about the base. And it’s not about the Democratic Party’s base, but about certain leaders’ base within the Democratic Party. This may be best understood as an intra-party struggle. Obama is the champion of the urban-black wing of the party, and because of him that wing has been on top. But his star is fading, black voters are beginning to realize that they haven’t benefited economically, and the next Dem nominee — whether it’s Hillary Clinton, Jim Webb, or Elizabeth Warren — will be from the white gentry-liberal wing of the Democratic Party. The riots, the marches, the traffic-blocking are a way of telling them that the Sharpton wing is still a force to be reckoned with, and to improve its bargaining power between now and 2016. At least, that’s the only way this — not at all spontaneous — street theater makes sense.