Change my mind
Pelosi wants us to think there are like maybe 5 of us. Let’s take a little look at the politics of the possible, shall we? Let’s start by trotting out a phrase much-loved by the actually-bigoted right (as distinct from the bigotry-tolerant right)…identity politics. Oh, I know, it’s an ugly expression. But let’s look at the pragmatic reality underneath the ugly words.
We’ll start by looking at the putative electoral mission for any party or candidate: win elections. Whatever the agenda, that’s the given, else the whole effort is a farce (an argument to which I’m not actually averse). One does that by getting out the vote and doing so better than the other side. Even-handed enough so far?
First, there’s “the base,” whatever demographic that happens to be. Cynical operatives know not to waste precious campaign dollars appealing to the locked-in base. They’re a given. You’ve got them already. You say just enough in those markets to remind them you’re there for them. That’s it. Any more and you might even alienate a few, but probably not that many. They’re pragmatists in their own right. A little horse-trading is to be expected. No, you spend your money trying to get votes from camps where you think you can make inroads without giving up your most cherished platform planks.
Enter the world of identity politics
Do you need more votes from women? Sure! So you narrow that monolithic demographic down to a couple of talking points that distinguish you from the other side, but you don’t actually say or offer anything substantive beyond that. Reproductive freedom? Check. The other side hates that. Our side is supposed to love that. Offer that, and you clinch a big chunk of the women’s vote. Better options for wealthy white women to sue for equal pay? Check. Oh, they don’t put it that way, but really, given the procedural impediments to justice we face, what low-wage earning woman of color was more greatly empowered by that particular feather in the centrist cap? VAWA is actually important, but did it ever really have as many teeth as needed?
Do you recall seeing a significant number of other pro-women’s issues being trotted out in the news and press releases, at least from the establishment center? Please, shower me with links.
The women’s vote
No? Okay. So, having acquired as many women’s votes as they are going to on the basis of the few compromises they’re willing to offer to women, what’s left for them to gather more? They could poll the actual left and find out. They could proceed to shore up their flimsy women’s issues platform accordingly. But they don’t. They cannot without swinging too far outside of the comfortable center toward a left that is generally hostile to their paymasters on Wall Street. Ergo, they’ve got as much of the women’s vote as they’re likely to get and now stand to lose women’s votes to attrition as more and more women realize that the support they’re getting from the center simply just is not enough.
The black vote
What about the black vote? It’s the same basic formula. The centrist Dems have thrown as many bones their way as they can without upsetting the apple cart of funding from Wall Street. A concerted push for police transparency, for addressing racial disparities in nearly every issue facing the country, well, those things just aren’t in the cards. If they were, we’d have seen far more of it by now…from the center. We’ve been seeing it from the left. Just not from the center. Every bone tossed to black America is tossed begrudgingly. They toss any more, and they swing left toward forces hostile to Wall Street’s obscene gutting of the American dream. At a certain point, centrist Dems have as many of the black votes as they can get, they’re not going to get any more, and now they stand to lose what they do have to attrition as more and more black voters realize they were never really at the table to begin with.
The Latino vote
What about the Latino vote? It’s the same thing. There’s a few bones they throw, but nothing substantive. At the same level, they have gained all the Latino votes they’re going to get, and all that’s left is attrition as more in that voting bloc realize that there’s nothing for them under the superficial promises.
The gay vote
What about the LGBTQ vote? It’s the same thing. End game? Attrition.
The Muslim vote
What about the Muslim vote? Is the center Dem establishment even making sufficient noise when it comes to ending discrimination against them? Barely, if that. End game? Attrition.
Something wicked this way comes
Against that backdrop, we’ve got Schumer horse-trading fast-track judicial nominations for conservative judges in exchange for diddly squat. We’ve got Pelosi minimizing the importance of the left. We’ve got everything in between, and before, and new disavowals and betrayals yet to be revealed. They have made it abundantly clear to anyone paying attention that there is only so far toward old-fashioned Democratic values they’re willing to go. Rather, they’ve picked up on the value of the GOP canard…call us extreme. Call us leftists. Call us socialists. Call us anything but a valuable voting bloc whose loyalty needs to be secured by advancing significant policy change reflecting our priorities.
End game? Attrition.
And we’ll be gaslighted and victim-blamed when center Dem politics lose out to Trump again in 2020. Why? Because, metaphorically, we have a peanut allergy. And somehow, every Dem move toward so-called compromise with us boils down to a few more menu options, nothing really mouth-watering, and the options all still come with a label that says the policy prescription was manufactured in the same plant that processes peanuts. Somehow, looking after our own well-being (which also happens to encompass everyone else’s simultaneously, even that of those we despise) and refusing the peanut-tainted policies makes us the bad actors.
We’ll be sold a new/old bill of goods. It’s the politics of the possible, you see. It’s pragmatism. But here’s the damning tell-tale. We’re being told this by an establishment power that purports to believe in the reality of climate change, the reality of the harms coming our way from not addressing it with all the vigor the issue demands. I say “purports,” because if one truly accepts the science, if one is paying attention to the worsening predictions, one knows that we are simply running out of time. Climate change doesn’t care about pragmatism or the politics of the possible or incrementalism. It’s chugging along down the tracks at us, it’s building up steam. If anything, it’s going to bear down on us harder and faster than ever before.
But we’re supposed to wait for much needed systemic change. Time is a luxury we’re supposed to believe we have. Reality says otherwise.
So where else can the Dems reach for more votes to win (if winning is really the goal)? Well, there’s the non-voting registered voters and the non-registered eligible voters. Sorry, friends. That’s not going to happen. Neither establishment party has ever figured out how to crack that nut. My cynical position at this late stage is that they never meant to. If either party were saying what the non-voters needed to hear to GOTV, it would have worked by now. It hasn’t. Ergo, there are promises that need to be made and that need to be believable to get out that vote, and those are simply not forthcoming. Regardless of what the right stands for, the Dems have made it abundantly clear that they’ve offered only as much as they’re going to offer, and not a bit more. Whatever it would take to get a non-voter off the sofa just isn’t forthcoming. We already know that voting bloc isn’t opposed enough to the horrors of the radical right to do anything about it, else they would have already. And there’s nothing new coming their way from the center. Maybe the left could offer something (or not) if they unhitched their cart from the old gray mare of the Democratic establishment, but that’s also part of the con. Third parties don’t stand a chance because third parties don’t stand a chance, and that means the bad people win.
So who else is left for the Dems to gain votes from? That should be abundantly clear by now. It’s the center right, those elements of the GOP that are actually dismayed at their own regressive forces, the ones not wedded to the evangelicals, the bigots, and the other contestants in America’s Least Common Denominator.
As you watch the news, take note. Does the deeply concentrated corporate media tend to err in favor of the left, or the corporate friendly center/right? As you watch the establishment politicians and candidates, pay special attention to the degree they veer one way or another. Given a choice between erring on the side of the left or erring on the side of the right, it’ll be the right. Notice the attention given to the exceptions…it’ll either be zero, minimal, or negative.
Especially pay attention to the new Democratic darlings now that we’re well into election season. You’ll be dismissed as a purist if you point out the warhawk tendencies among them. You’ll be dismissed if you note actual deal-breakers that are in plain sight for an otherwise viable candidate, and you’ll be wrong for that. For a moment, forget Late to the Game Creepyhandsy Uncle Joe. After all, do we really need another geriatric Boomer who even needed to evolve away from segregation to begin with? I think not.
Case in point
How about Buttigieg? First off, I have no trouble with the idea of a gay president. I also don’t think it’s a qualification, any more than a vagina is a qualification. He’s the darling of the moment that the media wants us to attend. He gets lefty brownie points for youth and for being gay. How about that whole clemency for Chelsea Manning thing, though? He has a problem with that.
Let that sink in. War crimes were revealed. Our war crimes. Given the choice of painting Manning either neutrally or even as a hero, he has problems with clemency. There you go, then. The Dems’ new war crimes-tolerant darling.
That’s not even the end of it, though. His economic advances back home seem to have done really well for the gentrification set. Black citizens slightly west of it? Not so well. Point that out, and you’re likely to run into excuses that either ignorantly or intentionally elide reality. See, gentrification leads to better jobs, which leads to more educated people in the area, which leads to more expensive home sales, which leads to increased property values, which leads to more education-supporting taxes, which leads to better education, and at long last, that rising tide will finally lift the black boats, you see! I kid you not, that is the supply-side Democratic defense of Buttigieg’s local economic policy.
Just never mind that increasing property values drive the poor and/or black farther and farther away from the economic hub of activity and education. Forget that the check wasn’t even due and payable until later. The important part is that the benefit isn’t even plausible until they’ve been forced so far from the table as to make having a seat at it pointless.
That’s the center’s new darling. The myopically pro-gay at the expense of all else on the left may very well miss the more important parts. And we’re probably not supposed to notice the clash between gay and black interests. Going back as far as Watts, when has the gay demographic ever been a staunch ally of the black demographic? It’s only ever been a political marriage of convenience.
Is this really the best we can do?
What does the left actually have to offer? A different geriatric Boomer who’s soft on Israel, which rather makes him a foreign policy hazard unless one is the sort of “left” that thinks American interventionism and destabilization of the Middle East are good ideas, ergo, not really properly left at all unless it benefits one’s personal, and probably very white, wallet. By all means, there’s some good domestic policy ideas there, but to what avail if we’re still bankrolling American imperialism and Machiavellian intrigues abroad?
The end. No, really.
This is the landscape of the moment. It’s the same landscape as it has been in previous years, but the temperature is a lot hotter, both actually and metaphorically. The stakes are so much higher.
And the Democratic center will predictably swing right in pursuit of nominally sane Romney voters before they’ll do anything substantive to earn the trust of the actual left.
Change my mind.