Wednesday, June 24, 2020

Ross Goes Bannon

Via Medium.

Monsignor Ross Douthat, Apostolic Nuncio to 42nd Street, deeply concerned about the Democrats, as always, and showing some weird sentimental attachment to Bernie Sanders and the politics of class struggle ("The Second Defeat of Bernie Sanders"):

Three months ago, Bernie Sanders lost his chance at the Democratic nomination, after a brief moment in which his socialist revolution seemed poised to raze the bastions of neoliberal power. But the developments of the last month, the George Floyd protests and their cultural repercussions, may prove the more significant defeat for the Sanders cause. In the winter he merely lost a presidential nomination; in the summer he may be losing the battle for the future of the left.

It's the usual story of the Democrats abandoning the "working class" and economic issues in favor of "elites" with their "social" concerns, except Douthat's refusal to believe that the working class has any black and brown people in it, or women, for whom racism and sexism are in fact serious economic issues, is getting really deafening at the moment:

the promise of Sandersism was that the transformation need not be permanent: A left that recovered the language of class struggle, that disentangled liberal politics from faculty-lounge elitism and neoliberal economics, could rally a silent majority against plutocracy and win.

The 2016 Sanders primary campaign, which won white, working-class voters who had been drifting from the Democrats, seemed to vindicate this argument.

Only to those who didn't know how to read the data; as Jeff Stein pointed out at Vox after The Times and The Atlantic hailed Sanders's victory in the West Virginia primary, May 2016, there was no "white working class" voting for Sanders. The Sanders primary voters were a cohort of young white people with small incomes or no income at all because they were young—because they had barely embarked on their careers or were still in school, both in West Virginia and, as Matt Grossmann and Alan Abramowitz found, in the most dramatic case of a Sanders victory, in Michigan—they looked like a "white working class" if you just looked at the race and incomes,
But under [these] criteria, the white working class also includes a large group of young people and enrolled students who will soon join the middle or upper class and aren't necessarily facing any real material deprivation. (A junior at Harvard with a job lined up on Wall Street may have an income of $0 right now, but she's hardly destitute.).... "the image of Bernie-supporting older poor people who've lost their factory jobs to trade is not supported," Grossmann says. "I'm least supportive of the idea that there's a population of white, older workers who lost their jobs and are now supporting Sanders. There's very little evidence of that."
Similarly, Abramowitz ran a multivariate analysis to help figure out this question. Abramowitz looked at a large survey data set and asked: What forms of identity actually predict support for Bernie Sanders or Hillary Clinton?
"It was age, and beyond that nothing mattered. Maybe ideology mattered a little bit," he said. Income was not a factor.
(Of course, as Slate's Jamelle Bouie has pointed out repeatedly, the white working class does not reflect the working class overall. And according to a Washington Post analysis in late April, Clinton has won among all households earning less than $50,000 by an 11-point margin.)
So the idea that something different happened when Sanders lost this year—

The 2020 Sanders campaign, however, made it look more dubious, by illustrating the core challenge facing a socialist revolution: Its most passionate supporters — highly educated, economically disappointed urbanites — aren’t natural coalition partners for a Rust Belt populism, and the more they tugged Sanders toward the cultural left, the easier it was for Joe Biden to win blue-collar votes, leaving Sanders leading an ideological faction rather than a broader working-class insurgency. 

—is basically nonsensical. If Biden won more easily than Clinton did in 2016, it's because the actual, multiracial working class, led by black women, was better organized and more motivated, and they selected Biden over Sanders not because of any nostalgia about lunchpails and assembly lines, but because (a) they were certain Biden could win against the horror of another Trump victory and (b) they were certain Biden would listen to their preoccupations instead of getting lost in airy fantasies of revolution.

And, once again, intersectionality concerns are economic concerns: white men make more money and have better benefits than black men and women or white women across the board, better housing and access to medical care, though many miss out on the advantages because of the cultural problem of not wanting to go to college—
Though advocates complain that few in higher education are doing enough to keep those men who do get there from leaving, there’s consensus that men’s reluctance to enroll in the first place isn’t necessarily the colleges’ fault. The problem has its origins as early as primary school, only to be fueled later on by economic forces that discourage men from believing a degree is worth the time and money. (Jon Marcus, The Atlantic, October 2017)
And the issue of police misconduct is an economic issue too: mistreatment of young black men is deeply destructive to the ability of the whole black community to thrive; imprisoning them interferes with marriage and stable family formation and all the things David Brooks likes to worry about.

The wider awareness of growing inequality brings these things increasingly to the fore, and leads to a Democratic coalition that isn't less "left" than the Sanders camp, just less doctrinaire and more results-focused, and of course more diverse as well, as a consequence of its incorporating the existing working class instead of Douthat's Tory imagining of what a working class might look like. It's the urgency of these problems, of income and wealth inequality, and all their specific ramifications, that pushes the coalition further "left" every quadrennium regardless of the nominee.

Douthat affects to doubt that, suggesting that the Democratic coalition is too indebted to corporate capitalism to embark on any real change:

the likely endgame of all this turbulence is the redistribution of elite jobs, the upward circulation of the more racially diverse younger generation, the abolition of perceived impediments to the management of elite diversity (adieu, SAT) and the inculcation of a new elite language whose academic style will delineate the professional class more decisively from the unenlightened proles below. (With the possible long-run consequence that not only the white working class but also some minority voters will drift toward whatever remains of political conservatism once Trump is finished with it.)

Yes, serious critics of structural racism have an agenda for economic as well as cultural reform. But that agenda isn’t what’s being advanced: Chuck Schumer will take a knee in kente cloth, but he isn’t likely to pass a major reparations bill, the white liberals buying up the works of Ibram X. Kendi aren’t going to abandon private schools or bus their kids to minority neighborhoods. And in five years, it’s more likely that 2020’s legacy will be a cadre of permanently empowered commissars getting people fired for unwise Twitter likes rather than any dramatic interracial wealth redistribution.

I wouldn't count on that 100% if I were him. Biden himself has announced an interest in reparations for slavery, private schools continue to support a tiny minority (about eight times as many children attend public schools, and believe me, not all the private school parents are "liberal" Kendi readers. (Douthat obviously knows a lot more private school parents than I do, so maybe I'm wrong, but I don't think so—however many liberal celebrities he may have heard of, the elite as a group is conservative by nature, having the power and anxious to conserve it.) Dealing with the consequences of the ongoing Trump depression will call for more radical remedies rather than less, as has been recognized; like 1933, 2021 will be a year for very ambitious government, whether Ross understands that or not. But government's not going into cancel culture, Ross, nor are your bosses, if that's what you're worried about.

What he's really doing, I'm starting to think, is signaled in the parenthesis of the first of the above paragraphs—actual Bannonism—post-Trumpian Bannonism, or white populism, with all this idiotic talk about elites running the left, which might as well be an international Jewish conspiracy: trying to construct a replacement for the old coalition of tax evaders and anti-abortion activists, he's got this fantasy of recruiting lunchpail conservatism, for less educated white men who feel despised and maybe some "drifting" minority members as well (but he's not committed to them other than as a threat) into his own melancholy ideology. He's not contacting such people through a column in The Times, I don't suppose. 

I'm afraid he may be trying to get the attention of disaffected rightwing Berners like the Bruenigs, Taibbi, Greenwald, and the rest of that fraternity, beckoning them into fascism and a trahison des clercs. Or he may be just musing in that horrible lizard way, but he really gives me the creeps.

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