To hear some people tell it, the Democratic Party is overrun with far-left culture warriors preaching “identity politics” and what Kevin Drum calls “semi-insane levels of wokeness.”
No less an eminence than James Carville, the political consultant, recently sounded off on the theme to a New York Times columnist. Democrats, he warned, need to shed the image of being an “urban, coastal, arrogant party” indulging in “faculty lounge politics” and employing racialized code words like “Latinx” which no normal person of any ethnicity uses.
Do such persons exist? Absolutely. And many inhabit college liberal arts departments, where being persnickety about “gendered” language can reach near-comical levels. I’ll not soon forget being scolded from the audience at a college talk for using the word “murderess” to describe a character in my book Widow’s Web who’d committed two homicides.
So, is “murderer” an honorific, I wondered? (Indeed, I’d argue that “murderess” is a far stronger word, as it’s men that do most of the killing. Or would have argued, if the point had been worth making, which under the circumstances, it wasn’t.)
But I digress: Back to crackpot Democrats. Washington Post opinion writer Matt Bai recently published a column pronouncing himself “utterly repulsed from the mainstream of both parties”—Republicans because they’ve become “more a celebrity fan club than a political organization” that “would, if left to its own devices, destroy the foundation of the republic.”
And, Democrats because they’ve become what he calls “arbiters of language… constantly issuing Soviet-style edicts about which terms are acceptable and which aren’t…a tactic used for controlling the debate and delegitimizing critics.”
So one party’s gone fascist, while the other calls people bad names. And these things are equally objectionable?
Sounds like somebody’s been getting ugly emails.
Bai argues that by embracing the politics of racial identity, Democrats have become a sort of mirror image of white supremacists: “instead of trying to restore some obsolete notion of a White-dominated society, they seek vengeance under the guise of virtue.”
And this, in turn, means that persons like himself, indeed “the broad center of the American electorate--traditional conservatives and liberals both—no longer [have] a political home.”
To which my response is: Does this guy even read the newspapers? Because on the planet where I live, things basically work like this: Democrats reject extremists and vote them out; the other guys embrace them.
Take, for example, the single dumbest political slogan in recent American history: “Defund the Police.” Have Democrats, broadly speaking, endorsed it?
Well, President Joe Biden hasn’t. Quite the opposite. As Eric Levitz points out in New York magazine:
“Through the American Rescue Plan, Biden sent $350 billion in fiscal aid to states and cities. He then encouraged municipalities to invest those funds into expanding police departments. Nearly half of America’s 20 largest cities have followed Biden’s advice.”
In the wake of George Floyd’s murder, heavily Democratic Minneapolis put the question on the ballot. A proposal to replace the city’s police department with a “Department of Public Safety” lost decisively.
Even more reliably Democratic New York City has recently elected a new mayor: an ex-cop of the African-American persuasion who promises sterner and more efficient law enforcement everywhere he goes.
Which appears to be exactly what the Black community, broadly speaking, supports. Although most have few illusions about police brutality, it’s Black neighborhoods that bear the brunt of wild-west style shootouts in the streets between groups of armed hoodlums. Calling preachers and social workers rarely helps over the short term. Crusading lawyers on CNN denouncing everybody as racists aren’t much practical use either.
Sometimes, you’ve just got to call the cops. What’s needed aren’t fewer police officers, but more and better ones. The great majority of Democratic voters understand that.
Or consider San Francisco, Nancy Pelosi’s hometown and as loyally Democratic a constituency as exists in the USA. Voters there just removed three almost comically “woke” school board members in a recall election by margins of more than seventy percent.
Chinese-American voters in particular grew angry with a board which kept San Francisco schools closed due to Covid while schools opened successfully all across the country; which changed admissions policy at a prestigious high school from merit to a lottery (thereby removing the “prestige” part altogether); and which changed the names of schools commemorating George Washington and Abraham Lincoln, among other “racist” offenders.
‘It’s hard to escape the conclusion that a lot of San Franciscans have climbed off the woke bandwagon—or were never wholeheartedly on it” writes Gary Kamiya in The Atlantic.
In short, far from showing that Democratic voters even in liberal inner sanctums are eager to practice Carville’s feared “faculty lounge” politics, it proves the exact opposite. Maybe the party’s biggest problem isn’t so much its policies or its rank and file voters as the way people talk about it.