The ‘Bernie’s Mittens are White Privilege’ Essay Shows Liberals, Not Leftists, Have Gone Crazy

by Keaton Weiss

For a brief few days after the inauguration, it seemed as though the country actually had been unified. Not by Biden’s speech, or the pageantry, or the poetry, but by the virally memed image of Bernie Sanders, sitting by himself in his winter jacket and giant mittens, with his cheap blue mask on crooked, arms and legs crossed. His attire and attitude reflected the opinion that yeah, electing this asshole was probably necessary, but man, is this some bullshit. This is a mainstream opinion in America, as post-election polling shows that even a vast majority of Biden voters are more thankful to have ousted Trump than to have elected Biden.

And so of course, the politician who embodied the dominant sentiment amongst the general public would steal the show, as opposed to the vapid pomp and circumstance that was everything else. Everyone, it seemed, even many on the Right, were delighted by Bernie’s wardrobe and demeanor, creating and posting their own Bernie memes and inviting each other to share a good laugh.

By now, Bernie supporters have come to wait for the other shoe to drop whenever he gets any positive press, and this week, we finally heard from the one faction of the American electorate who found no joy or comfort in his mittens, his coat, his mask, or his posture – the humorless Blue MAGA liberal wokescolds.

These are the people who really were smitten by Michelle’s burgundy coat, and Joe’s “presidential” speech, and who embraced this moment as a genuine “triumph of democracy.” They loved the orchestra, and the poetry recital, and the video of George Bush, Bill Clinton, and Barack Obama bonding over their shared reverence for the “peaceful transfer of power.” To these people, Bernie’s get-up was a disturbance – a glitch in the matrix that, for an instant, threatened to snap them out of their blue pill (pun intended) reality.

One of these unfortunate people is Ingrid Seyer-Ochi, a high school teacher who saw Bernie’s presentation as a display of “white privilege.” In her essay published on January 30th by the San Francisco Chronicle, she paints precisely the picture I speak of, describing hers and her classes’ view of the inauguration as follows:

“We took in the meaning of the day, the vulnerability of democracy, the power of ritual, traditions and the peaceful transition of power.

We talked about gender and the possible meanings of the attire chosen by Vice President Kamala Harris, Dr. Jill Biden, the Biden grandchildren, Michelle Obama, Amanda Gorman and others. We referenced the female warriors inspiring these women, the colors of their educational degrees and their monochromatic ensembles of pure power.”

But then, of course, like a splash of cold water to the face:

“And there, across all of our news and social media feeds, was Bernie: Bernie memes, Bernie sweatshirts, endless love for Bernie. I puzzled and fumed as an individual as I strove to be my best possible teacher. What did I see? What did I think my students should see? A wealthy, incredibly well-educated and -privileged white man, showing up for perhaps the most important ritual of the decade, in a puffy jacket and huge mittens.”

Before we go any further, there’s much to be gleaned from these two excerpts. The most revealing words amongst them: “pure power.” Pure power seems to be the fixation of mainstream liberals, who see power itself as the ultimate goal, especially when such power is secured by race and gender groups who are underrepresented in government. How they obtain that power, and how they wield it, are distant secondary and tertiary concerns.

Here, Seyer-Ochi saw Michelle Obama, Jill Biden, and Kamala Harris as symbols of this “pure power,” and therefore, it was their “monochromatic” wardrobe ensembles that should have been the talk of the nation in the days and weeks following the ceremony. When Bernie, in his Vermonter ski jacket and handmade mittens, with his mysterious manilla envelope and paper receipt in hand, won the day, she “puzzled and fumed,” and she “thought her students” should do the same.

And then, the conclusion:

“I am beyond puzzled as to why so many are loving the images of Bernie and his gloves. Sweet, yes, the gloves, knit by an educator. So “Bernie.”

Not so sweet? The blindness I see, of so many (Bernie included), to the privileges Bernie represents. I don’t know many poor, or working class, or female, or struggling-to-be-taken-seriously folk who would show up at the inauguration of our 46th president dressed like Bernie. Unless those same folk had privilege. Which they don’t.

The absurdity of her argument is truly a wonder to behold.

The very reason people responded so favorably to the image of Bernie on his chair is precisely because it represented the underprivileged person who never in a million years would dream of scoring an invite to a presidential inauguration. The fact that he showed up looking like “struggling-to-be-taken-seriously folk” was exactly the point. The vast majority of Americans, who aren’t so deranged as to be moved to tears by Michelle Obama’s golden belt buckle, got a kick out of seeing someone in the audience who dressed just as they do when they make a grocery run.

Another irony of her thesis: she implies that Bernie takes for granted that he’ll be taken seriously no matter what, yet most liberals like her don’t take Bernie seriously, and never will. If I were an identity politics-obsessed liberal myself, I think I could make a pretty strong case that there’s a fair amount of anti-semitism in the liberal class’ dismissive categorization of Bernie Sanders as a “stubborn,” “loud,” “finger-waving” socialist who’s unelectable in a national race. That aside, the establishment liberal media’s treatment of Bernie ranges from indifference to contempt, as he himself understands (Seyer-Ochi even employs a dismissive tone in her article, i.e, So ‘Bernie’). The main point, though, is that the way Bernie presented himself at the inauguration has nothing to do with how he wishes to be perceived, but rather, is a fitting metaphor for how most Americans perceived the event itself.

Of course, this was an insult to liberals who were invested in viewing this inauguration through rose-tinted glasses. These are the same people who share articles about the Bidens’ dogs, unironically promise to get more sleep now that Biden is president, and whose admiration for Biden’s press secretary Jen Psaki is just downright fucking creepy. They had been desperately and anxiously anticipating January 20, 2021 since November 9, 2016. To them, this was a glorious day whose memory should be cherished until the end of time, not soiled by the image of a curmudgeonly old man like Bernie, who many of them blame for Trump’s victory in the first place.

Personally, I love that Ingrid Seyer-Ochi is so upset that Bernie ruined the inauguration for her, and I love that she felt compelled to embarrass herself and liberals like her in front of the entire country by writing such an insipid and transparently fatuous op-ed. I love that the San Francisco Chronicle debased itself by printing it. Because the article proves something I’ve been saying since the first Bernie campaign in 2016: that liberals, not leftists, are the ones who have lost their minds in their obsession with identity politics. In this case, as has been the case several times over the past five years, America’s furthest Left candidate, and his Left supporters, have been targeted by identity politics-crazed liberals, whose actual material agenda is anything but “Left.”

I hope that independents and conservatives who have swallowed the establishment propaganda that the “Left” has gone crazy, will take note of this op-ed, and realize that it’s the centrist liberal establishment Democrats and their media allies like whichever imbeciles at the Chronicle who thought this piece was worth printing, who have gone utterly insane both in their lust for power and their seething hatred for anyone who challenges it, which includes Bernie Sanders and the actual, real-life Left.

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Chris Smalls on Building a Labor Movement Against the World’s Most Powerful Company

Christian Smalls was a supervisor at Amazon’s JFK/Staten Island warehouse until Spring of 2020, at the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic. When he noticed workers had been falling ill on the job with severe flu-like symptoms, he approached his local HR department to inquire about workplace protection measures against Covid-19.

As he describes it, the company was unresponsive, merely giving employees the option to stay home without pay if they felt unsafe at the warehouse. Upon returning to work, Smalls noticed a visibly sick worker who, when he approached her, informed him she had gotten a Covid test. He sent her home, and hours later, a meeting between supervisors and managers, and learned of another positive case in the building two weeks prior. Upper management instructed Smalls not to alert the other employees, for fear of “causing a panic.”

That was Smalls’ last day on the clock at Amazon. After that, he took it upon himself to start organizing his fellow employees, who held a protest on March 30 outside the warehouse. Hours later, Smalls was fired.

His story got national press, and he was therefore the subject of a smear campaign orchestrated at the highest levels of Amazon, including Jeff Bezos himself, as well as former Obama press secretary Jay Carney, now senior VP at Amazon, who tweeted the following in response to Bernie Sanders’ criticism of their handling of Smalls’ case:

The irony, which makes this Tweet especially Orwellian, is that Smalls’ protest was specifically designed to achieve a safer workplace environment. To then fire him on the grounds that he “repeatedly violat[ed] social distancing rules” is beyond absurd.

After being fired, Smalls became a full time activist and labor organizer, whose efforts continue to this day. He’s appeared on numerous podcasts, television shows, and online programs, and has been interviewed by dozens of major publications about his journey thus far and the path forward.

He founded the Congress of Essential Workers, who have organized several direct actions over the past year, and whose campaign continues in 2021. He also hosts the Issa Smalls World YouTube show and podcast.

He recently joined us on our podcast to discuss his journey, the upcoming Amazon union vote in Brimingham, Alabama, and the challenges and opportunities of building a 21st century labor movement. Listen to our full conversation by clicking the player below:

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Photo: Michael Nagle, Getty Images

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Traders of the World, Unite: Reddit, GameStop, and What Comes Next

The “short sell” is a somewhat common practice on Wall Street. It’s a technique in which an investor will borrow a stock and instantly sell it at the market price, in the hopes that when the stock is due to be returned, it will have declined in value. At that point, the borrower buys the stock for the reduced price, and the transaction is completed. The difference between the market price at the time the stock was borrowed, and the lower price at the time it was returned, is the investor’s profit.

Of course, this technique involves betting on companies to fail, and encouraging divestment from the stocks being shorted. Hedge funders recently attempted such a scheme with GameStop, a struggling brick and mortar video game retailer, but were thwarted when a motley crew of Reddit users decided to defy the short sellers by banding together and collectively inflating the value of the stock.

Because there is technically no limit to how much a stock’s value can increase, the potential losses incurred from attempting to short-sell are infinite. The larger the stock grows in value, the more the short-sellers lose. In this case, they’ve lost billions.

For many years, retail investors have speculated on what might happen if they all banded together and bought the same heavily shorted stocks, at the same exact time. But it wasn’t until the pandemic created a perfect storm of millions of new, young, social media savvy investors with lots of time on their hands, that it became an actionable plan. “Operation GameStop,” if you will, was a proof of concept. The tactic was then applied to other heavily shorted stocks like Bed Bath and Beyond, Blackberry, Nokia, and AMC.

But it wasn’t long before the empire struck back.

First, on Wednesday afternoon, TD Ameritrade raised its margin requirements for trading several stocks, including Gamestop and AMC. Then the next morning, Robin Hood went a step further, banning the trade of those specific stocks on their platform. Subsequently, Robin Hood began removing any stock targeted by the unruly mobs, as soon as it began to gain momentum.

Meanwhile, the financial press has been losing its mind, apparently terribly concerned about stock manipulation, now that isn’t respectable billionaires, but the hoi polloi, doing the manipulating. It didn’t take long for the notoriously anti-regulation denizens of Wall Street to begin calling for new regulations, specifically aimed at shutting down the retail investors who are targeting short sellers. Even newly appointed Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen took notice, offering words of condolence and promises of regulatory scrutiny to the now butt hurt fat cats who make up her core constituency.

Reddit was also not immune from the wrath of the Wall Streets titan’s, with Wall Street Bets, the forum that started it all, going private in fear of attracting anymore attention from the people who really run things around here.

And if half of that was Greek to you, don’t worry, we’ve got you covered. Russell Dobular, aka “The Socialist Day Trader,” and Keaton Weiss are here to break it all down on episode 104 of the Due Dissidence podcast. Click the player below to hear the full conversation:

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Photo: Michael M. Santiago, Getty Images

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Centrist Liberals Are More Hostile To Class Politics Than Right Wing Populists

by Keaton Weiss

Last summer, Nathan Robinson reviewed Krystal Ball’s and Saagar Enjeti’s book, A Populist’s Guide to 2020. He criticized the authors for overstating the compatibility of Left and Right wing populism, stating that Right wing populism is more or less “just fascism,” and that the Left should confront supposed Right wing populists, rather than court them and seek common ground with them.

This sparked a debate on the Left which was recently revived when Jimmy Dore did a video on a Boogaloo Boys member named Magnus Panvidya, who, despite his alignment with the ostensibly far Right group, seemed to speak fondly of Antifa and Black Lives Matter, and lamented the corporate takeover of the U.S. government. Jimmy later interviewed Magnus on his show, a move criticized by subsequent guest Jerry White, a socialist organizer, who appeared on the program moments after Magnus’ segment ended.

Some on the Left agree with Robinson and White that seeking partnership with Right wing populists is a non-starter, while others feel Left and Right populists ought to engage each other and seek common ground on certain issues. Which side of the debate one finds themself on depends to a large extent on their perception of class struggle. Those who interpret it as a “top vs. bottom” conflict would be more inclined to partner with those of a different political ideology, feeling their common class interests transcend their political differences. To those for whom ideological divides supersede class positions, such a partnership is deemed both unfeasible and undesirable.

While Leftists’ trepidation on this question is understandable, those in the latter camp who dismiss and disparage the idea of constructive Left-Right populist dialogue are badly misguided in their assessment.

First, we as Leftists should establish that in order to grow our power and influence, we have to grow our numbers. There simply aren’t enough of us in the country right now for Left politics to be taken seriously in mainstream circles. Many Leftists like to delude themselves with the notion that our policy program is already sufficiently popular, and that we need only to galvanize this already existing public support and organize it into a potent political force. If this were true, then we could perhaps afford to simply dismiss Right wing populists as our opponents, because we’d have the numbers necessary to defeat them.

For better or worse, however, this is not the case. Despite strong polling numbers for social democratic programs like Medicare For All, the term “socialism” still carries with it a great deal of baggage, and is viewed negatively by a convincing majority of Americans. As much as we may wish this wasn’t the case, it is. And so we have significant work to do in growing our numbers before we can hope to have any real influence in national politics.

Once we accept that we aren’t yet popular enough, we must ask ourselves to whom we can appeal in order to boost our popularity. This is where questions of “top vs. bottom” and “Left vs. Right” become rather messy. Because the problem is this: the closer you get to the political center, the less of a “top vs. bottom” analysis you’ll find.

Centrist Democrats and Republicans both subscribe to a neoliberal economic philosophy, the very purpose of which is to erase class consciousness from political discourse. Therefore, there is no support for class struggle campaigns to be extracted from establishment-adjacent centrist liberals or conservatives.

Populist Right wingers might disagree with Leftists ideologically, but there is at least a common acknowledgment of the permanent power imbalance between elite institutions (both private and public) and ordinary people. Centrists deny the existence of such a thing, not because they don’t believe it, but because their political ideology explicitly demands that they deny it.

Leftists who still believe that centrist liberals are persuadable on this point are sorely mistaken. Liberals’ aversion to class politics is not an innocent misunderstanding that can be rectified through persuasion. It is part and parcel of their core belief system, as reflected in their political rhetoric, the media they consume, and the candidates they support. To them, class politics is classism – it’s a form of prejudice, which, like all other forms of prejudice, undermines the market-based meritocracy which they aspire to perfect.

A relevant microcosm of this key difference between Right wing populists and centrist liberals is the current debate over online censorship. Right wing populists and Leftists recognize the danger of the concentrated powers of discourse management, because Right wing populists and Leftists broadly acknowledge the perils of concentrated power. Centrist liberals, on the other hand, cheer on the censorship, offering the defense that the giant tech companies doing the censoring are privately owned and can therefore act as they wish, and that constitutional norms ought not apply. Nowhere in the liberals’ position is an analysis of any power imbalance whatsoever. This same ludicrous denial manifests itself in their embrace of neoliberal economics, making partnership with such people utterly impossible. They are staunchly and consciously committed to rejecting not just our arguments, but the very premises on which our arguments are based.

Apply this same dynamic to the ongoing struggle between labor and capital, which is a central, if not the central, concern of any movement with legitimate claims of being “Left” in nature. The populist Right winger sees the deterioration of American manufacturing jobs and prescribes as part of a solution draconian border enforcement to keep out competing workers. As Leftists, we believe that in a capitalist society, capital is power, and those with amassed capital, ie, concentrated power, will always wield it to benefit themselves at the expense of the many, and that immigrants are merely a scapegoat for the failures of capitalism itself. Is this a difficult idea to sell to to a populist Right winger? Yes, it probably is. But try making a similar anticapitalist argument to an Obama-worshipping #resistance liberal who insists that the solution to globalization is education, and that high wage blue collar jobs are never coming back, and that the plight of undereducated people is both inevitable and irreversible. You’ll very quickly realize that the former lift is in fact the lighter one. Because in that case, there at least exists the shared recognition that blue collar wages are too low, and that they can and must be raised. The liberal, once again, refuses to accept this very premise.

Of course, none of this is to say that compromises can be made with the Right on issues of civil rights, gender and racial equality, humane immigration policy, etc.. Obviously, overt and committed white supremacists are never to be reasoned with – but that’s not who we’re talking about. Saagar Enjeti is not a white supremacist. Neither is Magnus Panvidya, assuming he honestly represented his views on Jimmy Dore’s show. Engagement with people like them, I promise, is no less fruitful than with centrist liberals. So if you believe, as you should, that the Left must start growing its ranks by winning people over with convincing arguments, the populist Right is at least as fertile a ground as the liberal center, if not much more.

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The Oligarchy’s Assault on Free Speech Has Arrived Ahead of Schedule

The alliance between the liberal establishment and big tech has so been long entrenched that it’s difficult to discern where one ends and the other begins. It became obvious in the aftermath of Donald Trump’s 2016 election victory that this amorphous yet coordinated power structure would stop at nothing to ensure that such a thing could not and would not ever happen again. 

The perpetuation of Russiagate, the burying of independent media, and the dragging of Mark Zuckerberg into Congress to try and browbeat him into even further submission, illustrate this strategy. The political party and its media allies, which have spent the past five years parroting each others’ talking points about what a grave threat Trump poses to our constitutional norms, were simultaneously and systematically undermining the First Amendment using every tool at their disposal, from media propaganda, to cultural signaling, to congressional hearings about the need for outlets like Facebook and Twitter to crack down harder upon certain content they deem unfit for dissemination.

Given all of this, it makes sense to assume that the incoming Biden administration would kick these efforts into overdrive in an attempt to revert the public discourse back to its pre-internet era, where only well-established and well-funded outlets could widely propagate news and opinion. However, the events of January 6th have accelerated this mission into, if you will, “warp speed.”

In the days following the riot, we’ve already seen radical action taken by these aforementioned tech platforms against those they deem suspicious and threatening. This of course includes the president himself, who is now permanently suspended from both Facebook and Twitter.

In and of themselves, Trump’s social media bans, as well as his record-breaking second impeachment, make sense. He personally instigated violence by pointing a crowd of people to the Capitol Building and urging them to show “strength,” after his personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani called for “trial by combat.” (As a side note, Giuliani later offered as an excuse that his choice of words was a Game of Thrones reference, as if a nod to an ultra-violent TV show about the blood-soaked pursuit of ultimate power somehow made his remarks less irresponsible.)

But the purge didn’t end there.

Brandon Straka, architect of the “Walk Away” campaign aimed at convincing people to leave the Democratic Party, tweeted on Friday that Facebook had erased all of his content, including hundreds of thousands of his followers’ testimonial videos, and banned him and his entire team from their platform. Ron Paul was temporarily blocked by Facebook from managing his own page. According to Paul, Facebook went only as far as to notify him of his page’s “repeatedly going against [their] community standards,” offering no further explanation of why disciplinary action was taken against him.

Additionally, employers are now beginning to terminate their employees upon discovery of their mere presence at the rally, whether or not they participated in any of the day’s violent activity. All of the thousands of protestors who showed up are being cavalierly branded as seditionists, insurrectionists, traitors, and domestic terrorists by the mainstream media, as well as by President-Elect Biden. Neither Biden himself nor establishment media outlets seem interested in distinguishing the intentions of those who simply gathered with signs and flags from those who violently stormed the Capitol Building.

The response from the political and media establishment to the Capitol Hill riot has been a show of force intended to communicate that, moving forward, they will be much quicker to crack down upon unsanctioned speech and outside-the-mainstream opinion. The incoming president, giants of social media and big tech, and traditional media behemoths, have all been on this same page.

The goal of all of this goes beyond thwarting further chaotic and violent riots like those of January 6th. It is to control the dissemination of thoughts and ideas so that no political movement that they fear might usher in the set of circumstances that led to the event ever takes shape in the first place. On January 20th, after four tumultuous years of Trump, we will inaugurate the epitome of a lifelong Washington institutionalist in Joe Biden. Along with Biden’s presidency will come an ongoing effort by the establishment to rebuild the Bastille such that it’s never breached again, from the right or the left, by any political figure or movement that comes without their pre-approval.

Rather than being alarmed about this, liberals seem to be cheering on this partnership between the political establishment and major media outlets and tech companies, pushing back on First Amendment concerns by repeating the “private companies” defense.

Of course, the retort that Facebook, Twitter, Amazon, and Google, are private businesses with no obligation to operate within a constitutional framework, is nothing more than a restatement of the very problem that needs solving. After all, the entire purpose of a constitution is to establish a permanent set of governing principles that serves as a check upon the government, and, in our case, to prevent, among other things, violations of individual rights. If private companies grow to the point where they have more direct control over the dissemination of speech than the government itself, then they must either be broken up so that their power is reduced (the anti-trust approach), or regulated so that their power cannot be wielded in violation of people’s free speech rights (broadly speaking, the “public utility” approach).

To argue against either of those proposals is to argue for oligarchy, which is what most liberals, and even some self-described Leftists, are doing right now. In an oligarchy, a small group exercises power over the entire country. In an oligarchy, it doesn’t matter whether that small group is comprised of business elites, public officials, or both. In an oligarchy, power is concentrated in the hands of the few, and is unaccountable to the wants and needs of the many. Whether that power is wielded by private companies or the government itself is neither here nor there.

Therefore, the “private company” defense is a red herring. It’s irrelevant that giant tech companies are privately owned, because anti-trust law and public utility regulations exist to protect the masses against exploitation by any institution of outsized power, especially private companies. That liberals would cheer this power grab is as disgraceful as it is predictable.

We recently hosted a writer, who chose to remain anonymous, for episode 103 of the Due Dissidence podcast in which we discuss these issues in further detail. To hear our full conversation, click the player below:

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Photo: Chris Kjobech

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After Rejecting Socialism for a Year, Democrats Flip the Senate by Promising People Money

by Keaton Weiss

At around this time last year, Bernie Sanders was surging in the Democratic primary polls, causing panic amongst his centrist rivals and their media mouthpieces. Op-eds abounded, sounding the alarms about Sanders’ vulnerability in the general election, largely due to his calling himself a democratic socialist. Despite winning the first three states, Sanders suffered crushing losses on Super Tuesday to Joe Biden, who Democratic voters were convinced was more “electable” due to his rejection of the socialist label.

Throughout the general election campaign, Biden took every opportunity to remind voters that he wasn’t a socialist, going as far as to boast that he “beat the socialist” in the primaries. After his narrow victory against Trump in November, pundits ascribed his win to his embrace of moderation, and urged him to govern from the center.

Fast forward to December of 2020. Two Georgia Senate runoff elections coincided with a second round of coronavirus relief negotiations. A bill was set to pass with no stimulus checks to struggling Americans, until Bernie Sanders and Josh Hawley worked across the aisle with one another to negotiate direct payments into the arrangement. Their initial goal as $1,200 per person; ultimately, the amount agreed upon was $600.

Outgoing President Trump balked at the deal, criticizing it for being too paltry, and insisted that Americans be given $2,000 each. He sounded as though he was prepared to veto the bill, throwing the process into complete chaos.

In the subsequent days, however, something changed. The polling in Georgia switched from slightly favoring the Republicans, to slightly favoring the Democrats. Enough voters realized that, because House Democrats backed Trump’s $2,000 proposal and Mitch McConnell didn’t, that they would need to elect Jon Ossoff and Raphael Warnock if they hoped to see more stimulus money, or perhaps any at all were Trump to kill this initial deal.

Recognizing that he may have singlehandedly turned the tide of the Senate runoffs against the Republican incumbents, Trump signed the $900 billion bill he threatened to veto, and the $600 direct payments were authorized for release to the American people. Still, the prospect of a $2,000 check lingered in the air. This proposal was so overwhelmingly popular that Republican candidates David Perdue and Kelly Loeffler both announced their support for it after learning of depressed turnout in Republican counties.

Then, as election day drew nearer, Democrats made their promise of $2,000 payments central to their closing argument. President-Elect Biden made the case as explicitly as possible, pledging to Georgia voters that if they elected Ossoff and Warnock, “those $2,000 checks will go out the door.”

At this writing, the day after the special election, Warnock has been declared the winner against Loeffler, and Ossoff looks on track to eke out a victory as well against Perdue.

Any objective analysis of polling trends, political maneuvering, and the messaging of the candidates themselves, clearly shows that the turning point of this runoff race was the introduction of direct payments into the coronavirus relief negotiations. The GOP incumbents held a small but steady lead until it was made entirely clear to Georgians that they would receive more government assistance if they voted blue.

So to recap, after an entire year of running as far and as fast from “socialism” as they possibly could, Democrats ultimately flipped the Senate by making an eleventh hour promise to redistribute funds directly into the hands of ordinary people. This past November, their moderate, mealy mouthed platitudes about “restoring the soul of the nation,” and “unity,” and “healing,” lost House seats and state legislatures, and yielded just two Senate pickups, putting their prospects of retaking the upper chamber on life support. They were on track to lose these runoffs as well, until, with just days to go in the campaign, they turned to – yes, you guessed it – socialism. And they won.

Now, with Democrats in control of the presidency, the House, and the Senate, we will undoubtedly hear ad nauseam, from the same corporate media stooges who tanked Bernie’s presidential campaign, about how Democrats secured their position by tacking to the middle, and that they must remain there if they hope to keep their majorities intact. Nothing could be further from the truth, and this Georgia race proves it.

Photo: Jonathan Ernst, Reuters

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House Progressives Won’t Have Leverage for Long, Which is Why They Must Use It Now

by Keaton Weiss

At the start of the House session (January 3), Democrats will hold the narrowest majority by either party in modern American history. It’s still unclear at this writing what the exact makeup will be at the swearing in ceremony, as one House race is still too close to call, and some members are stuck in quarantine. Jimmy Dore’s initial estimate that 15 Democrats would be needed to withhold their vote for Nancy Pelosi as Speaker of the House unless she agrees to bring Medicare For All to the floor, seems off by about a factor of 3; turns out, if current projections hold, around 5 Democratic defectors would suffice. Furthermore, conservative Democrat Elissa Slotkin has already pledged to vote against Pelosi for other reasons. Assuming she keeps her word, we’ve got one vote already that we didn’t even ask for.

However the precise math works out, it’s safe to say that the number of progressives needed to deny Pelosi the Speakership is somewhere in the mid-single digits, which gives the Squad and their allies tremendous power in the negotiation.

Still, some on the Left oppose this #forcethevote proposal. Common among people’s reservations is the issue of timing. Cenk Uygur called the idea “mistimed.” Democratic Socialists of America’s Medicare For All spokesperson Michael Lighty says “the time frame is tough.” AOC herself admitted she wants Pelosi out, but is concerned that no one is ready to replace her at the moment.

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Of course, this is all nonsense. The “timing” for this is exactly right. Even setting aside the urgency of a “which side are you on” type of reckoning on this critical issue, the political composition of the House in early 2021 creates a uniquely perfect time to at least turn the screws on Pelosi, if not vote against her outright and vow to only replace her with a pro M4A Speaker.

It’s probably safe to assume that most of #forcethevote’s detractors have some understanding of the leverage a narrow majority hands to progressive House members. But what they seemingly fail to grasp is that this narrow Democratic majority won’t last forever. In two short years, it will almost certainly be gone, one way or another.

What will probably happen in 2022 is that Democrats will get clobbered and lose the House altogether. This is what usually happens to the incumbent president’s party in midterm elections, and Democrats’ miserable down-ballot performance in 2020 indicates that their beating will likely be particularly bloody next time around. Once that happens, the Left’s leverage within the party vanishes. Any intra-party battle at that point would merely be to determine House minority leadership. There’d be literally no path toward passing any progressive legislation in that scenario, making any challenge to the party establishment far less meaningful than it would be now.

But let’s suppose for a moment that the tide turns, and, somehow, Democrats make gains in the 2022 midterms. This also compromises progressives’ leverage, because at that point, we would need more House Democrats on board with such a pressure campaign in order to make it successful.

In other words, every seat a Democrat gains in the House means one more progressive would be needed to help execute this strategy, and if the Democrats lose their majority altogether, then there is no leverage strategy of any importance anyway.

So not only has there never been a better time for this pressure campaign, it’s overwhelmingly likely that there never will be again. Now is not the time for slow and steady movement building. Now is the time to take advantage of the fleeting opportunity we have to force a showdown with party leadership, who by the way, has no claim to legitimacy to begin with.

Nancy Pelosi is consistently opposed from within her own caucus by a handful of conservative Democrats. She now faces mounting ideological opposition from her left as well. Her nationwide favorability ratings are abysmal. She represents no one besides the archetypical wealthy coastal elitists most responsible for Democrats’ branding problem and their down-ballot losses in the first place.

Therefore, even if the Squad and other progressive House members are scared of the backlash from party bosses that forcing the vote could bring upon them, they also have to realize that time is running out to avert the aforementioned disaster that awaits the Democrats in two years. Add to this the fact that Republican control of state legislatures in a post-Census year means Congressional districts are about to get re-gerrymandered even worse than they already are, and we could be looking at a Democratic Party that, past 2022, has no national relevance at all for at least the next decade. If this doesn’t create a sense of urgency for even the most Democrat-adjacent progressives, what will?

I personally feel that no matter how this #forcethevote effort plays out, the Democratic Party will remain useless at best for years to come. Democrats just this past week voted overwhelmingly to fund the Pentagon to the tune of $740 billion, despite Bernie Sanders’ effort to stall the vote until $2,000 stimulus checks got their vote on the Senate floor. To me, this looks like a party that’s broken beyond repair. But if progressives in the House who choose to work within the system want to prove me wrong, and convince me that an inside-the-party strategy is worth pursuing, now is almost certainly their best and final chance to do it.

Photo: Brittany Greeson, Getty Images

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Post-Brunch Dissident Detox Hour 9/26: AOC's "Apology," Bernie vs. CBS, Biden's Border Policies Due Dissidence

Veto-Proof Support for the Pentagon. Deadlock Over Covid Relief. No Uprising in Sight.

Over the past couple of weeks, we saw the United States Congress in lockstep agreement over the $740 billion National Defense Authorization Act renewal. The bill includes the following:

  • 93 new F-35 fighter jets to be manufactured by Lockheed Martin (even though the Pentagon only requested 79).
  • $23.4 billion to build 9 new battleships, nearly $20 billion more than the Navy asked for.
  • A second attack submarine, which the Navy also says is unnecessary.
  • $2.2 billion for increasing U.S. military presence in the Indo-Pacific region.
  • $69 billion for a “separate Pentagon war account.”

The NDAA passed in the House with 335 votes, and later cakewalked through the Senate by a score of 84-13; sufficient margins to override President Trump’s veto.

While the nearly three-quarters-of-a-trillion dollar Pentagon spending bill enjoys veto-proof bipartisan support, the same Congress was deadlocked in a seemingly unending stalemate over whether to provide direct cash payments to ordinary Americans as part of a coronavirus relief package, and if so, for how much.

Ultimately, Congress passed a paltry $900 billion deal which included a measly $600 to most Americans, which Trump eventually signed. But now, at the president’s request, the House has voted to increase those payments to $2,000, which Mitch McConnell blocked in the Senate. McConnell since has introduced a bill that would boost direct payments to $2,000 but also repeal section 230 which shields various internet platforms from certain legal liabilities, and also create a commission to study “election integrity” issues – two extraneous Trump demands.

In other words, as Congress is united in its commitment to fund the military industrial complex, it’s hopelessly divided over how to provide minimal assistance its suffering population, and what strings ought or ought not be attached to such assistance. We’ve got bipartisan consensus around military spending, unbridgeable divides over how many crumbs to toss the peasants during a once-in-a-century crisis.

And perhaps most disturbingly, as this is going on, the American people do nothing. We simply wait to see how raw a deal we’ll eventually get out of all of this, even as the war machine gets billions of dollars more than it requested.

All of this speaks to both the political and cultural decline of America in 2020, and how the two are linked. We’ve become so accustomed to the political establishment’s disregard for the wellbeing of its people, that we don’t even bother rebelling against it anymore. Contrast this with a country like France, which, in 2018, erupted in protest over President Macron’s measures to increase fuel taxes while slashing the country’s wealth tax.

So why is America this beaten down? How did we arrive at such a position of existential malaise and weakness? Why are we so conditioned to despair in these moments, instead of rallying to each other’s aid? What explains this decline, and is it reversible?

Writer and novelist Anis Shivani suggests that all of this political and cultural decline signifies the imminent collapse of the American empire, and points to various indicators to support his argument.

One of these is the gentrification of major cities, which he likens to fortresses for the the wealthy. Elites insulating themselves from the rest of society, he cites, is a symptom of imperial collapse. Another is the stifling of unpopular speech and the co-opting of art and culture by elite institutions. This “woke culture,” Anis argues, is another ploy by the societal elites to hegemonize their imperial ideology under the guise of superficial social justice posturing.

Anis Shivani joins our special year-end podcast to explore all of these questions through both a political and cultural lens. Listen to our full conversation by clicking the player below:

Subscribe to the Due Dissidence podcast on Apple, StitcherSpotifyCastbox, Google Podcasts, or any major podcast player!

Photos: AP, Getty Images

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Post-Brunch Dissident Detox Hour 9/26: AOC's "Apology," Bernie vs. CBS, Biden's Border Policies Due Dissidence

The Democratic Party is the Problem, Not AOC or Jimmy Dore

by Keaton Weiss

David Sirota wrote a clever piece a few weeks before the November election in which he compared Trumpism to the toxic pink slime running underneath the streets of New York City in Ghostbusters II. He explains how in the movie, the slime is “the physical manifestation of negative psychological energy – hate, loathing, rage, and nihilism,” and that it causes those who come in contact with it to be overcome with these negative emotions and lash out angrily against each other.

A few months later, the Left is roiled in a bitter feud over Jimmy Dore’s effort to pressure progressive Congresspeople into forcing a Medicare For All House vote by threatening to withhold their votes from Nancy Pelosi for Speaker of the House unless she publicly promises to bring M4A to the floor. When Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez rejected this strategy, Jimmy responded by accusing her of gaslighting her base and acquiescing to party leadership. This caused numerous independent progressive media figures to come to AOC’s defense, and some to back Jimmy’s plan. To put it mildly, things got pretty nasty, pretty quickly.

Jimmy is accusing anyone who isn’t on board of being sheepdog party loyalists, and proclaims that they are “unmasking” themselves as faux progressives by not taking his side. Others in Left media are accusing Jimmy of grandstanding for clicks and subscribers and unfairly attacking fellow progressives for self-serving purposes.

Jimmy is correct that under these circumstances, there is no excuse for not pushing as hard as possible for Medicare For All. 15 million people have lost their health coverage during a pandemic that has killed over 300,000 Americans, and progressives in the House have outsized leverage thanks to the Democrats’ slim majority – if ever the question if not now, when? applied, it’s now. Jimmy is also right to challenge AOC’s honesty about why she’s not backing this push. None of her many explanations and rationalizations make much sense. Most egregiously, she claimed that the Medicare For All co-sponsor list was an adequate indicator of who in the House actually supports the policy and who doesn’t. This is patently absurd. Caucus chair Hakeem Jeffries, a sworn enemy of just about every progressive insurgent to ever run against a centrist incumbent, who played the race card against Justice Democrats by claiming they were wrongfully targeting black leaders to primary, who publicly attacked AOC’s former chief of staff Saikat Chakrabarti for similarly bullshit identity politics-related reasons, who was one of Hillary Clinton’s most vicious attack dogs against Bernie Sanders in 2016, is a co-sponsor on Pramila Jayapal’s M4A bill.

That says everything you need to know about the value of the co-sponsor list, but it’s also a testament to the value of forcing the vote. Jeffries is widely thought to be next in line for the House Speakership. He’s publicly on record as both a Medicare For All supporter (he’s a “co-sponsor”) and a staunch critic of his progressive colleagues who openly advocate for it. In other words, he’s exactly the kind of Democrat who needs to be forced into a definitive yay-or-nay-vote. If for no other reason, getting him on record would itself be good enough reason to back the #ForceTheVote effort, seeing as Jeffries is Pelosi’s likely successor if and when she ever decides to relinquish the throne.

And so, yes, it makes total sense right now for progressives to rep their base, leverage their power, and force a vote on Medicare For All. And yes, it sucks that AOC isn’t willing to do it, and it sucks that she’s not being honest about why she isn’t willing to do it.

But there’s something else at play here. This isn’t all about Jimmy Dore being pure and righteous, and AOC being corrupt and deceitful. There’s more to it than that. There’s a river of pink slime, as Sirota would put it, flowing underneath this entire conversation. That pink slime is the Democratic Party.

The real conflict here is between those on the Left who still feel that that the Democratic Party is an institution of some legitimacy that can and must be the vessel, if not the vehicle, for progressive change, and those who don’t. This is not, as Jimmy would have us believe, a matter of who, individually, is for real, and who isn’t. It’s a matter of who still holds out hope that the Democratic Party can be redeemed, and who thinks it’s broken beyond repair. AOC and her defenders are in the former camp; Jimmy and his, the latter.

AOC is, after all, a Democrat. She ran as a Democrat, and she serves as a Democrat. She’s great – for a Democrat – but her party affiliation and her place within the duopolistic electoral system inherently and inevitably limits the role she can play in the progressive movement. The course she chose was to work within the system, within the party, to try and affect as much change as possible. This is why, when pressed on The View about her relationship with Nancy Pelosi, she referred to her as “Mama Bear.” She did this in mid-February of 2020, two weeks before Super Tuesday, as a surrogate for the Bernie Sanders campaign. Her goal at the time was to use her appearance on that show, which caters mostly to mindless #BlueMAGA wine moms, to convince as many viewers as possible to vote for Bernie in the upcoming primaries, which were less than a month away at the time. In service of that goal, she obviously thought it best to take a more conciliatory tone towards party leadership than she’d have probably liked, so as to signal to the mainstream liberals in the audience that she and the campaign she represented weren’t overly hostile to the party they sought to lead.

I suspect she was faking her adulation for Pelosi, and given the circumstances, I don’t totally blame her. And before you scoff too loudly at that, I want you to check yourself, because during the primaries, every Bernie supporter was playing that exact same game, whether we can admit it or not. Even the most militant Bernie-or-Busters were committed to an inside-the-party strategy, which meant we needed to, one way or another, with vinegar or with honey, try and win over as many mainstream Democrats as we could in order to push our candidate over the finish line.

The difference between us in the grassroots, and politicians like AOC, is that once that campaign failed, we on the outside were free to abandon the Democratic Party altogether, whereas AOC was still bound by her position as a Democratic Congresswoman. Therefore, she remains, to this day, stuck playing yesterday’s game of trying to influence the party from within. In her estimation, in order to do that, she has to pick her battles very carefully. She doesn’t see this particular #ForceTheVote battle as winnable, which is why she isn’t fighting it. Is she wrong about that? In my opinion, she most certainly is. But does her being wrong signal a nefarious motive on her part, or a hidden loyalty to party leadership, or an affinity for status quo politics? No, it does not.

AOC’s place in the progressive movement is, for better or worse, inside the Democratic Party. Her standing in the party is her perch from which she can wield power, and she therefore feels a responsibility to protect it. Jimmy calls this “careerism,” but if she weren’t the “careerist” he says she is, she’d still be tending bar in New York, and she’d have no power to fight for her agenda, which is still essentially our agenda as progressives.

But once again, for better or worse, she is, because of her position, fully committed to fighting her fight within the Democratic Party. And because the Democratic Party is that river of toxic pink slime that poisons everything in its path, in order to work within the party, she has to lie for the party, apologize for the party, feign admiration for the corrupt party leadership, and toe the party line which says that the GOP, not the system itself, is public enemy number one.

To those of us who have given up on the Democratic Party entirely, this is very upsetting to see. It appears to us that our rising stars have been co-opted by the establishment they were elected to rebel against. So we get angry. We get bitter. Resentful. Jaded. Maybe even a bit nihilistic in the face of it all. The pink Democrat slime does its work on us. Because even as we’ve made what we thought was a clean break from the party, we can’t keep ourselves from crawling back to it, begging some of its more progressive members for help, thinking that maybe they’ll take a stand for what’s right and good and just, not realizing that however well-intentioned they are, they’re stuck on the wrong side of the equation, because they went all-in on an inside-the-system strategy that we as bloggers, podcasters, readers, and activists never did. We kept our distance from the party, whereas they infiltrated it. And now they’re mired in the slime, because they thought they could successfully detoxify the Democratic Party.

And so we on the outside don’t have to put up with any of their nonsense when they try to pull us into their delusions about how a co-sponsor list is a good enough indicator of who supports Medicare For All and who doesn’t; but we don’t have to hate them for it either. We can just see the truth for what it is: Jamaal Bowman, AOC, Rashida Tlaib, Mark Pocan, Pramila Jayapal, Ilhan Omar, and Cori Bush, are good people with good ideas and good intentions, and they can partner with us in certain instances when weaknesses in the system afford them the space to do so, but we cannot count on them for leadership, because they’ve got the toxic slime of the Democratic Party all over them.

It’s as simple as that. The party is the problem, because the party is poison. And whenever we invest too heavily in the party, or any of its functionaries, well-intentioned as they may be, as a solution to any of our problems, we get some of that poison on us. That’s how a feud like this one grows so bitter. Those of us who know the virulent toxicity of the Democratic Party are those who know better than to make this a battle of personalities. The enemy is the institution, as is always the case in any struggle for justice. We must not let our emotions cause us to lose sight of that truth.

Photo: Frank Franklin II, AP / The Young Turks

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Post-Brunch Dissident Detox Hour 9/26: AOC's "Apology," Bernie vs. CBS, Biden's Border Policies Due Dissidence

Is Despair the Hidden American Superspreader?

by Keaton Weiss

As coronavirus cases surge throughout the country and the death toll climbs by thousands per day, it seems, as widely predicted, that Americans are staring down what will likely be the darkest and deadliest winter of our lifetimes. If we stand any chance of mitigating the suffering that awaits us, we must all take it upon ourselves to take necessary safety precautions and stop the spread. Social distancing, mask wearing, and minimizing in-person contact are all tried and true methods of accomplishing this – so why aren’t more of us doing it?

By now, we’ve all heard of the COVIDIOT: the stereotypical right-wing, Gadsen flag-waving Trumpster who refuses to wear a mask because he finds being asked to do so an infringement upon his individual freedoms. Sure, these people exist, and yes, they’re a large factor in America’s failure to contain this virus. But they’re not the only factor. They can’t be; there aren’t enough of them to make them solely responsible for the staggering case numbers we’re experiencing. According to a recent HealthDay/Harris Poll cited by WebMD, over 90% of Americans say they sometimes, often, or always wear a mask when they leave their homes and cannot properly social distance, with 72% of them answering always.

So if masking up is as effective as the science suggests (and we have no reason to believe it isn’t), and an overwhelming majority of Americans say they always wear masks in accordance with safety guidelines, then why is this virus still raging out of control? Perhaps many Americans who say they wear masks all the time, actually don’t. And perhaps these people aren’t lying when they say do. Perhaps, when they consciously perceive the threat of contracting and/or spreading the virus to be real, they pull their masks up from their chins or out of their coat pockets. Perhaps, though, they don’t experience this conscious fear of Covid very often, and so they actually wear masks far less consistently than they say they do, unwittingly contributing to the spread of the disease.

To many of us, it’s unfathomable that such large swaths of the population can walk around relatively unmoved by, and unconscious of, the chance they might become infected with the coronavirus. No event in modern history has disrupted American life more dramatically, and so, at first, it seems ludicrous to suggest that millions of Americans simply don’t pay it much attention.

But the more you think about it, the less outrageous this theory becomes. Don’t forget, the working class was never really in lockdown. Many of them are essential workers: grocers, truck drivers, warehouse employees, gas station attendants, etc. Many who aren’t essential workers either remained employed in limited capacity throughout the duration of the crisis, or returned to work once their places of business (restaurants, hair salons, etc.) reopened. They never got to hunker down and work from home off of their laptops, order delivery on GrubHub and UberEats, and consume the unending barrage of media that tells them how worried they ought to be and how diligently they must protect themselves from becoming infected. They did what most workers do everyday, pandemic or no pandemic: they get up, they go to work, they come home, have dinner, play with the kids or watch a little TV, and go to sleep.

To much of America, Covid is just another thing that’s out there in the world somewhere. Maybe near, maybe far, maybe in the house next door. But it’s somewhere out there. Out there in a world they can’t control; a world they have no say in; a world that doesn’t care about them, and never has, and never will. And so, yes, they’ll wear the mask when they have to. Sometimes they’ll wear it properly so it covers their nose and mouth. Sometimes they’ll wear it around their chin and forget about it until they’ve been reminded by someone to pull it back up over their face. And sometimes they’ll forget about it altogether, because none of what’s going on right now means as much to them as we think it ought to.

And so while it’s true that America’s failure to contain the virus has much to do with our society’s emphasis on “rugged individualism” and our lack of investment in each other’s well being, the larger problem might just be the widening gap between how we as Americans value our own lives.

Remember, deaths of despair had been on the rise for 20 years before this pandemic struck. Suicides, opioid overdoses, and alcohol-related illnesses have been sharply increasing these past two decades, particularly among those without a college degree. Mental illness is growing in occurrence and severity among those without a higher education, and chronic pain is now more widely reported among the middle-aged than the elderly.

A Pew Research study in March of 2019 found majorities of Americans feeling their country was declining in all sorts of ways. 73% said that income inequality was likely to worsen in the coming years. 59% predicted environmental deterioration. Over 80% believed that by the time they retire, Social Security will pay out reduced benefits or none at all. 37% predicted their jobs will be automated out of existence, including 47% of those without a college education. 62% believed the lower class would increase in size. 44% believed the average American family’s standard of living would worsen in the years to come, vs. only 20% who believed it would improve.

Now suppose that survey were conducted one year later, at the start of the pandemic. Where would attitudes on Covid fall in the study? The answer: somewhere. It would just be one more problem on the minds of a population so exhausted, so beaten down, and so devoid of hope and purpose, that 74 million of them would vote to re-elect the president who proved his total indifference to the immense suffering this virus has already inflicted upon the people he took an oath to protect.

The professional class liberal who went to college, got that great job they always wanted, and now earns six figures in his pajamas and has his groceries dropped at his doorstep, is as baffled by Trump’s vote total as he is by how so many people can be so carefree about Covid. This is because he lives in a completely different world than those for whom he harbors this contempt. He lives in a world where being alive means something; where we all have a stake in the outcome of this crisis; where “Build Back Better” is a mission statement, not a laugh line. He lives in a world where it’s safe to assume that everyone has some investment in their future. And so to him, this is an emergency that requires extreme, round-the-clock vigilance. We must defeat this virus now so that we can get back to our lives that have been placed on hold these past nine months.

To millions of his fellow countrymen, though, these ideas mean nothing. The existential dread that’s fallen upon the comfortable classes now that their lives’ trajectories are a tad more precarious than than they were in February is the same feeling their working class counterparts have grown accustomed to over the past 40 years, only under worse (and worsening) material conditions. Those nagging thoughts of theirs, like What if this never ends? What if this never gets better? What if my life just stops? Well, the 63% of Americans who couldn’t afford a $500 emergency before the pandemic have gotten so used to wrestling with those questions that they hardly think about them anymore.

And so their failure to wear their masks, and maintain social distancing, and sing the Happy Birthday song to themselves every time they wash their hands, is not an act of defiance or malice, but of despair. They just don’t think to do it, because it just doesn’t matter all that much to them.

And before you lecture them about why it should, and why they’re selfish for not considering the effects of their behavior, you should stop and ask yourselves if you can honestly blame them for feeling this way, or if perhaps you’re the selfish ones for insisting they take more care. After all, is it not selfish of you to perpetuate a system that renders majorities of its population so hopeless as to condemn themselves and their fellow citizens to such a bleak prognosis? Is it not selfish to try and rally this same population behind empty phrases like “we’re all in this together” when your Thai food is being brought to your door by a single mother who hasn’t slept in 20 hours and whose daughter is riding with her in the back seat while she makes her deliveries? Is it not selfish to demand the rest of the country lock itself down without any universal basic income or healthcare coverage while your livelihood remains intact via Slack and Zoom and Gmail? Is this whole societal arrangement that has so clearly benefited the few at the many’s expense not modeled on selfishness?

And so, however emotionally gratifying it may be to blame the spread of the coronavirus on those we deem inferior (the selfish, the COVIDIOTS, the anti-vaxxers, etc.), we ought to consider that despair, exhaustion, and existential malaise may be just as culpable as anything else, and that those who have fallen victim to these ills are not our inferiors, but our equals. And if we want their help in pulling us through this crisis, we must commit to them our recognition of them as such, both now, and long after this pandemic is over.

Photo: Getty Images

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Post-Brunch Dissident Detox Hour 9/26: AOC's "Apology," Bernie vs. CBS, Biden's Border Policies Due Dissidence