Bouie discussed his role on the 1619 Project, a New York Times initiative to observe the 400th anniversary of the introduction of slavery to North America. He explained how his contribution to the project was based on two extensive books, The Common Cause: Creating Race and Nation in the American Revolution, a 2016 book by Robert G. Parkinson, and Slavery's Constitution: From Revolution to Ratification, a 2010 book by David Waldstreicher.
The Common Cause looked at pamphlets throughout the colonies at the time and how advertisements and propaganda portrayed slavery helped unite colonists from colonies like Massachusetts and Virginia. Slavery’s Constitution described how America’s founders “established the powerful federal government and then it insulated the institutions of slavery from the power of that government,” said Bouie.
With questions on current policies regarding racial inequality in America, Bouie offered his take on reparations. “I think the legacy of slavery is such that it should inform a public policymaking because there is a direct line between it and present-day conditions. But, in terms of a reparations program, I think a steadier basis, a stronger basis for it is documented examples of state-sponsored theft or state-sanctioned theft,” Bouie said. He discussed examples like redlining in Chicago in the 1960s or blockbusting in Detroit in the 1970s. Those individuals who experienced the effects of these practices, “they are alive and well.”
Bouie also did not believe that reparations is the be-all and end-all for solving racial inequality in America. “In terms of fixing racial inequality or these problems you need deeper seeded programs, broader programs that touch every part of the society.” His wish to ultimately fix racial inequality would be to “disentangle race from place.”
“The problem is that your race has a direct impact on your life chances. It shapes your ability to accumulate wealth. It shapes your ability to achieve an education. It shapes the environment you live in. It shapes your health outcome. It shapes all of these things that it ought not shape, right? There’s no reason why that ought to be the case,” said Bouie.
Before the talk ended for the evening, the conversation returned to President Donald Trump and his re-election chances. Bouie said that Democrats’ message must be strong on economic policy because in 2016 Trump was able to persuade those who were liberal on economic issues and conservative on identity issues to vote for him.
By using 2016 election to look at the 2020 election, one of Bouie’s recent tweets posed an interesting predicament: “What would be a worse outcome for 2020 and the future of American democracy: Trump wins with an outright majority or an even larger Electoral College misfire?”
The second part simply calls for Democrats to “be better at politics.” Bouie warned that another electoral misfire may spell trouble. “It’s no longer an organizing or mobilizing question anymore; it’s an institutional question. Our institutions no longer translate the public will into any kind of democratic outcome that people would understand as being fairly democratic and I think it leads to sort of mass demobilization and mass disillusionment.”