I’m getting pretty fucking sick of cisgender, heterosexual, professional/upper class white dudes lecturing leftists on how shit our policies are and how little we’ve done for the Democrats. It continues today in the New York Times, in an opinion piece titled, “Back to the Center, Democrats,” by Andrew Stein and Mark Penn. Here is a taste:
Central to the Democrats’ diminishment has been their loss of support among working-class voters, who feel abandoned by the party’s shift away from moderate positions on trade and immigration, from backing police and tough anti-crime measures, from trying to restore manufacturing jobs. They saw the party being mired too often in political correctness, transgender bathroom issues and policies offering more help to undocumented immigrants than to the heartland.
This piece is full of useful advice for Democrats, such as, “restore the sanctity of America’s borders,” “reject socialist ideas,” “give up on both building walls and sanctuary cities” (side note: pray tell when progressives were into building walls; pretty sure that was all conservatives, and frankly, fuck you both for equating xenophobic walls and sanctuary cities), be nicer to the Catholics, and back tougher anti-crime/pro-police bills. You know, if I were going to write a parody of the asinine think pieces about how Democrats really need to get back to the center, it would look a lot like this loose stool Penn and Stein managed to squeeze out.
Obviously, the question of what progressives need to do to get elected in this era isn’t conclusively answered, but we do know (or should know) that there will never be one solution for giant, systemic problems. Solutions will take a long time, operate on micro, meso, and macro levels, and will probably vary to fit the varying needs of different localities. Given the complexity of the problems we’d all like to solve, it would probably behoove us all to try for some humility. I don’t mean that I know the answers, because I don’t. But neither do these fools!
Here is my main issue with this piece and others like it: when cishet, rich, white men say that Democrats need to let go of “identity politics” and “political correctness” to gain “working class votes,” they mean that they are willing to sacrifice the concerns of people of color, women, LGBTQ+ folks, and people with disabilities in a weak attempt to appeal to WHITE, MALE working class voters and to maintain their own positions at the very fucking tippy top of the global hierarchy. And that is just unacceptable. Why should we privilege the feelings of alienation that some white, working class people have over the actual material realities that people experience? It is completely fucking nonsensical. These two asses have the nerve to make it sound like police violence against black people, transphobic violence, and the suppression of reproductive justice are just sideshows to the REAL political battles to protect “working class voters” (they mean white people, in case that was unclear). But guess what, boys? People of color are working class, too! And you know what? Working class people of color DID vote for the Democrats. So don’t fucking use “working class” as a way to lend your own bigotry some ethical shine.
Beyond the racism/sexism/transphobia, a lot of this piece doesn’t even make sense. As Sarah Jones points out in this piece from the New Republic, Penn and Stein confusingly say we need to reject socialism and that bigger government handouts won’t win back working class voters, but also that “health care is the one area where the Democrats have gained the upper hand and have a coherent message about protecting the working poor from losing coverage.” Healthcare for all IS a socialist value and a “government handout, you nincompoops! They argue that brick-and-mortar businesses are being regulated “to death,” but also that workers aren’t protected enough. They say that pardons are being given to “so-called nonviolent drug offenders,”* to imply that pardons for people incarcerated for drug-related crimes are being handed out willy nilly, but they’re not– Obama commuted a little over 1,300 sentences, but there are over 80,000 people whose most serious offense is drug-related in federal prisons alone. They claim that we need more Democrats who will “defend human rights and equality passionately,” but throughout the piece, they make it clear that any policy or principle that isn’t specifically for white, working class people is on the chopping block. Contradictions abound– I’m shocked that this made it to press, honestly!
What is the point of having two parties if they’re both going to be hyper-conservative? Because that seems to be their solution. Nobody should care if Democrats win just because they’re Democrats; we should only root for Democrats if they have more just and equitable policies. To illustrate the point, Bill Clinton’s crime bill may have been a victory for the Democrats, but it was not a victory for the people the Democrats claim to serve (in this case, black folks, particularly in low-income areas). Democrat victories are meaningless if Democrats are going to be fucking evil! As I said earlier, it’s hubris to think that one knows The Answer to fix all social ills. It’s never been done, so we just don’t know! But we’ve already tried moderate, centrist solutions for a long time, although the Red Scare panicky tone of Stein and Penn’s piece implies otherwise, and we’ve found ourselves here, in Shitlandia. The Democrats have always been further center than left, but they have an opportunity right now to move left in a serious way. I really hope they take the opportunity, and not the advice of these two clowns.
*And beyond making no sense, “nonviolent drug offenders” is pretty clearly code for young, black men; their implication is that young, black men really are violent and that ending mass incarceration would, therefore, be a bad thing. FUCK OFF, RACISTS >:~)