by Keaton Weiss
On Wednesday, May 13, The New York Times published yet another absolutely fucking horrible op-ed entitled “These Young Socialists Think They Have Courage. They Don’t.” The article’s main point (do I even have to tell you?) is that certain young progressives who supported Bernie Sanders in the primary are a bunch of privileged white people who are being selfish and egotistic for not sucking it up and supporting Joe Biden in the general election.
This sentiment is so banal that, in all honesty, I’m a bit exhausted even thinking about it, much less organizing my thoughts into a piece of coherent writing. But I shall do my best.
The author, Mitchell Abidor, is the editor and translator of “Down With the Law: Anarchist Individualist Writings From Early Twentieth-Century France.” No white privilege there, I’m sure. I’ll bet a lot of truckers, steel workers, and coal miners moonlight as translators of obscure European political literature. I mean, it’s hard work, but someone has to do it. He begins:
The progressive magazine The Nation published an open letter last month in which former members of the radical 1960s organization Students for a Democratic Society pleaded with a younger generation of leftists to support Joe Biden for president. The letter, titled “To the New New Left From the Old New Left,” warned that the re-election of President Trump would jeopardize “the very existence of American democracy.”
The signatories expressed fear that some supporters of Bernie Sanders, including members of the Democratic Socialists of America, would “refuse to support” Mr. Biden because they consider him “a representative of Wall Street Capital” — and therefore, in essential respects, not fundamentally better than Mr. Trump.
The letter was fair and sensible in its reasoning and right-minded in its conclusion. Given that the difference of a few thousand votes in states such as Michigan and Wisconsin might allow Mr. Trump to win a second term, a quixotic display of socialist principle in the 2020 election could have disastrous repercussions for the nation and the world.
Get the picture? The “old lefties from way back,” to quote the brilliant satiric performance art of comedian David Feldman, have written a nice letter to the naive idealistic youngsters, who are enrolling in Democratic Socialists of America by the thousands, about the virtues of compromise, and lesser-evil voting, and blah, blah, blah.
I’m sure you get where this is going, but in case you don’t, the article concludes:
“Members of the Democratic Socialists of America are largely white, largely college educated, largely American citizens. If Mr. Trump is re-elected, they could spend the next four years suffering little more than the pangs of political outrage. But millions of less fortunate people would suffer real consequences.”
Perhaps there’s a sweepstakes I don’t know about in which the five millionth person to make that exact same point wins a free car or something. And that’s about how many times I’ve heard it put that way, so Mitchell, if such a contest exists, you might just be the lucky winner. But who are some of these “less fortunate people” whose wellbeing the sensible, pragmatic “Old Left” sages are purportedly so concerned about?
Well, the following day, Politico published a piece entitled “Biden’s Latino Outreach is Under Fire: ‘I can’t tell what their strategy is.'” The article charges that the Biden campaign is making little to no effort to rally Latino support or drive Latino turnout in November. Outreach to younger progressive Latino groups like United We Dream and Make the Road Action, both of whom endorsed Bernie Sanders in the primary, has failed to include any policy commitments that would cause them to rally their members behind Biden. Bill Richardson, former New Mexico governor and Democratic super delegate, a party man to his core, hardly someone you’d expect to admit a thing like this, said, “The Trump Hispanic effort is much more active.” Jess Morales Rocketto, digital organizing director for Hillary Clinton’s 2016 campaign, went as far as to say, “I do not think that the Biden campaign thinks that Latinos are part of their path to victory.”
One source for the article was so dismayed they didn’t offer their name:
“Right now I can’t tell what their strategy is with the Latino community. I just don’t see it,” said one Latino lawmaker who requested anonymity to speak candidly. “They have a lot of people out there willing to help, but they’re not engaging many people outside of the ones who were part of their campaign originally.”
So we have two news stories, each printed within 24 hours of each other. The first, an op-ed that calls out progressives and socialists for their white privilege, claiming, without citation, by the way, that most of these young people are financially comfortable white college graduates, and American citizens, who ought to be more mindful about how their decision on election day might impact more marginalized and vulnerable communities. The second, an uncovering of how the Biden campaign is essentially forfeiting the Latino vote by not crafting a sufficiently robust policy platform or outreach operation necessary to win their support in the fall.
Only the Democrats could be so hypocritical as to chide the left flank of the party (that is, while they’re still in the party, and they won’t be for much longer) for their white privilege, while consciously failing to appeal to the largest non-white community in the country, who happen to be the most vulnerable under Donald Trump.
In fact, immigration is the main issue that blue-no-matter-who voters use to guilt Bernie-or-Busters and other #NeverBiden people into bending to their will. The point has been repeated ad infinitum that we simply must vote for the Democrat, lest Trump be allowed to perpetuate his horrific immigration policies, and that since we’re not ourselves immigrants, we’re inconsiderate for not putting ourselves in their shoes and just voting blue.
Except now we’ve got a presumptive Democratic nominee whose support among Latinos is shockingly low, especially considering his opponent. Recent polling has Biden winning a miserable 49% of Latino support, with only an additional 10% saying they were leaning towards backing him. If these numbers hold, Biden stands to win at most 59% of the Latino vote, significantly less than Clinton’s underwhelming 65% showing in 2016.
Given Biden’s own dismal history on immigration issues, his lack of outreach, and his blatant suggestion that certain immigrant activists “vote for Trump” if they’re not happy with his record, it’s quite possible that Biden will lose the 2020 election not because of stubborn self-righteous white socialists (who, by the way, live mostly in safe blue states) who refuse to vote for him at the behest of older and wiser liberals, but rather, because of his and his party’s own failings to convince the very “non-privileged” communities for whom they supposedly care so deeply that they’re in better hands under a President Biden than they are under President Trump.
Finally, and perhaps most ironically, the Democrats are now the party of privileged white people. They made a big play for them in 2016, when Chuck Schumer admitted that working class support was expendable if they could win over enough suburban Republican women. Then, in 2018, upper middle class white voters won them the House, particularly in California and the DC suburbs of Virginia, where there were several affluent “red to blue” districts. And they’re obviously who the Democrats are hoping will deliver them the White House in 2020. Comfortable suburban white voters who now pine for the bygone era of political “normalcy,” during which 63% of their fellow citizens couldn’t afford a $500 emergency, millions of people, disproportionately African American, had their homes foreclosed upon by marauding, lawless bankers, and, of course, 2.5 million immigrants were deported, are now the power base of the Democratic Party. When you read those statistics to them, they’ll almost certainly brush you off and tell you to just vote blue anyway. You know why? Because they’re privileged white people, and so those numbers don’t really mean shit to them.
Nowadays, it’s tough to be too surprised by Democratic hypocrisy. But for a party that in recent years has actively chosen to cater to affluent white suburbanites in favor of pushing universal social programs that would disproportionately benefit people of color, to nominate a candidate who is woefully unpopular among the largest and most critical non-white voting bloc in the country, and then to have the Times pump out the most insipid op-ed about how the young progressives who voted overwhelmingly for a sweeping social justice agenda need to check their privilege and vote for more of this austerity-lite horse shit on offer from the Biden campaign, is what we might call a new low.
*Photo: Meg Kinnard, AP