IRVINGTON – If the Black Lives Matter Movement and those with similar goals appears big enough to accomodate stout backers of Joe Biden and those reluctant to empower a two-headed establishment, Newark Mayor Ras Baraka said it’s an illusion. Most people in the streets understand the difference between President Donald J. Trump and former Vice President Joe Biden.
“The mistake people make is they take our anger and rage and take it as us not having a political analysis,” Baraka told InsiderNJ this morning at a Rev. Al Sharpton booksigning organized at City Hall by Mayor Tony Vauss. “They may not agree with everything Joe Biden represents or have issues with Kamala Harris, but they do understand they are a hundred times better than what we have now.
“As the moments get more and more grave, it becomes more clear,” the mayor added.
“Anti-establishment young people have always had that in their minds, myself included,” Baraka said. “But the good thing is more young people are voting, and they will vote, because it’s getting more and more dangerous out there, particualry because people are making it hard for people to vote.”
He noted Trump calling into question the entire national election, most recently at the end of the presidential debate. “Putting doubt on the U.S. Postal Service – all of it is a voter suppression tactic,” the mayor said.
Regarding the debate itself, the mayor said, “I don’t think they had a debate. I don’t know what that was. It was really Trump’s tactics, which is the same way he runs the govenrmnet: subterfuge and obfuscation. The one thing Biden did [well] was he didn’t fold under pressure. The Trump camp thought that was going to happen, but he handled the pressure.”
Former Governor Chris Christie and former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani advised Trump in preparation for the debate. Giuliani and Biden have long dueled each other on the national stage, with Biden in the 2008 debate ridiculing the former mayor (and that year also a candidate for the presidency) by saying he couldn’t open his mouth without referring to 911. Giuliani later said Biden wasn’t bright and had never been bright, a point Trump tried to make in the debate when he objected to the former vice president’s use of the word “smart.”
All that said, “The debate didn’t change anyone’s mind; it didn’t move the lever,” said Baraka, who acknowledged being “perturbed at the way people handled themselves; very immature, and juvenile, to say the least.”
InsiderNJ asked Baraka – a poet and the son of the late poet Amiri Baraka – about the overall deterioation of the language in public discourse.
“It’s more than just the language,” he said. “The deeper context is the social media generation we live in, on the one hand it gives us access to more information than any generation had before us. But all of it is really short, based on headlines, clicks and likes, and it’s easy to put information up that’s not verified. People look at slogans and headlines. Often in journalism the headline has nothing to do with the story. We’ve conditioned each other to be in this situation where the least information you have is enough to mount a campaign based on a few words and no study. Whatever this person said, it gets shared millions of times. It’s dangerous for people to mount their whole ideology based on what they can’t prove.”
Baraka said he remains upbeat, but that leaders must have faith in regular people to make decisions based on the most information.
“We’re going to go wherever the American people decide to take us,” he said, nearly a month after award-winning journalist Bob Woodward revealed Trump’s decision to downplay to the public the severity of the coronavirus. “Our job as leaders is to give people as much information as possible so they can make their own decisions. If you’re confident enough, good and truthful, you shouldn’t have an issue with giving them information. The problem is we’re giving them less and less instead of more and more. We underestimate their intelligence.”
Baraka admitted that he hears people questioning why the Black community should engage on behalf of the Democratic Party, and noted that someone argued with him recently about how the party was “duping” people. He reflected on relatives of his whom he describes as educated and informed, who read and think deeply about issues and who still find a way to express their opinions come election time, by voting for Democrats. “These are smart brilliant people, who know this is what they need at this time,” said Newark’s mayor. ‘We undersetimate our own community’s acumen, and we steer them here and there in the guise of trying to protect them, but nine times out of ten they’ll make the best decisions to protect their families and their communities.”