Matt Bruenig wrote a very interesting article recently, Demonizing, Not Engaging. In it, he highlighted an interesting inconsistency among liberal pundits. The African American community is overall quite homophobic. The white working class is overall quite racist. Yet liberals pundits have decided the best thing is to engage and find common ground with the African American community. They mostly want to demonize the white working class as hopeless racists. Why is this?
Bruenig presents one idea from Emmett Rensin: it’s all about who is likely to vote Democratic. African Americans are part of the Democratic coalition and the white working class is not. But this strikes me as question begging. If the liberal pundit class vilified the African American community, the Democratic Party would quickly see its coalition shrink by one. We are still left with the question of why it is that the pundit class finds it so easy to vilify the white working class.
I think the issue is quite simple: shared bigotry. Although I’m sure that liberal pundits are as racist as anyone else, explicit racism has been taboo long enough that there really is no liberal pundit who has to feel queasy about having made racist statements — or even have much of a memory thinking explicitly racist thoughts.
But being in favor of same sex marriage is really quite a new thing. So even if a liberal pundit has long been in favor of equal rights for members of the LGBT community, they no doubt have many friends who have only recently seen the light. For example: their friends Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton. Thus, it just doesn’t seem as much a sin to be anti-gay as to be anti-black.
All of this is quite understandable. The reason I find it troublesome is that it is part of a broader tendency among pundits of all stripes to be nothing more than representatives of their classes. This is why the Democratic Party managed to degenerate into what was once considered a conservative economic stance. The Democratic Party’s main claim to liberalism is on social policy.
A great example of this is on MSNBC where economic liberalism is relegated to the sidelines. There’s Chris Hayes when he can sneak it into his show in his desperate attemp to keep his job. And there is “crazy uncle” Ed who seems about six decades out of touch with MSNBC‘s sense of itself: young, urbane, and The Economist reading!
We on the left like to laugh at the fact that the Republican Party doesn’t do much to reach out to any groups but the white working class, religious conservatives, and the affluent. But the truth is that the Democratic Party has the same problem — just with different groups. And it is reflected in the liberal pundits and all those involved in what Bruenig calls The Discourse. Clearly, there are those who push back against this — most notably Thomas Frank. Although in this election cycle, people like Frank seem particularly marginalized as any criticism of Hillary Clinton or the Democratic Party is seen as an attack on liberalism itself.
Liberals should try to make common cause with the white working class. I try, as I have written about a lot. It’s frustrating to see weeks of conversations go to waste because of one inflammatory Fox News segment. But it is worth doing. Note, however, that liberals don’t in general reach out to the black community on same sex marriage; they just accept. When it comes to the white working class, they just reject. And this just happens to align with the upper class sensibilities of the Democratic Party and its apologists.