14 December 2021

The politicizing of everyday things

This is, probably, my final attempt at constructive criticism on the political front.  The agenda and mentality of a major part of the left is dooming the Democratic party to near-certain defeat in future national elections, or at least saddling it with a crippling, self-inflicted, and completely unnecessary disadvantage.  Because the Republicans have become so dangerous, this problem represents a grave threat to the country.  But to deal with the threat, the broader left must understand it clearly.  And remember that what matters is not how someone thinks the voters should act and feel, but how they actually do act and feel.

It's beginning to dawn on at least the more reality-dwelling elements of the activist left that "wokeness" is a serious problem for the Democrats when it comes to winning mainstream voters.  As I put it back in July while expressing my own sense of alienation and repulsion from the political left, what I mean by "wokeness" is:

.....bullshit like men in women's sports and men in women's prisons (and bathrooms) and defunding the police and "cancel culture doesn't exist" (while countless innocent people's lives are being ruined by it) and puberty blockers for kids and "silence is violence but vandalism isn't" and Israel-bashing and gun-grabbing and Karen-calling and "reparations" and 847 fake gender identities and negativity about "whiteness" and eroding support for free speech.....

I could have gone on and on, but you get the idea.  Superficially it seems baffling that such issues could actually sway the votes of large numbers of people.  Surely the dangerous stances of the Republicans -- Trump's lies about the election being stolen, the threat to abortion rights, the failure to condemn the January 6 insurrection, etc -- are obviously much bigger issues?  The stupidest element of the left will reflexively dismiss the issues I cite here as "Republican talking points" being pushed by the media to sway the dumb, easily-manipulated masses -- and that kind of attitude is itself a big part of the problem I'm talking about.  These issues resonate strongly with a lot of people.  That's why Republicans talk about them -- they're winning issues for their side.  So why do they strike such a chord?

I think a big part of the problem is that the issues the left is wrong about impinge on everyday life in ways that the issues the right is wrong about generally don't.  Most people are not very engaged with politics, seeing it as a distant, Byzantine, and rather dull game among elites, but they are sensitive to things that could directly affect their own lives in negative ways.

For example, I repeatedly see comments around the net along the lines of "the women I know say they'll never vote for the Democrats again" because Democrats are identified with policies which allow men to use women's public bathrooms, changing rooms, and other facilities (as in the Wi Spa incident).  I haven't seen any polling about this, but it seems clear that the phenomenon is real and non-trivial in extent.  At first, this seems astonishing.  Shouldn't these women be more turned off by the Republicans' threat to abortion rights than by relatively lesser issues like this?

But think again.  How often might the average woman expect to be in need of an abortion?  Once or twice in a lifetime, perhaps.  It's a vital freedom, but the issue arises only in rare emergencies.  Now, how often might the average woman expect to need to use a restroom or changing room in a public place like a department store or grocery store?  Once or twice a month, perhaps, maybe more.  It's part of everyday life.  Given that the presence of a man in a women's restroom normally registers as a potential danger (and in many cases is a real danger), the sudden spread of policies which allow this to happen constitutes a threatening intrusion of ideology into the world of everyday things.  It's an immediate, urgent problem in a way that the abortion issue is not.

Similarly, Trump's lies about the election being stolen are objectively a serious matter, but they likely don't seem as alarming or extraordinary to the average person as the politically-engaged element would expect.  The average person thinks of politics as a crooked and cynical game in which politicians lie and cheat all the time anyway, and the claims and counterclaims about the election have no apparent direct impact on their personal lives.  The cover-up and media lies and distortions about (as an example) the Loudoun county rape scandal are much more immediate and alarming, because many ordinary people have children (or have close friends who do), and the spectacle of a girl being raped at school, followed by school authorities covering it up and threatening her father for refusing to shut up about it, provokes a degree of outrage that no political lie or scandal can ever match.  In Virginia, where the Loudoun county scandal happened and was widely known, there's little doubt that it played a role in the Democratic rout last month.

Likewise, if people see their grade-school kids being indoctrinated at school with negativity about "whiteness", they will lash out via the ballot box at those they hold responsible.  Hairsplitting about whether what goes on in those schools technically constitutes "critical race theory" or not is beside the point.  Yes, I know the Republicans are using this as an excuse to go on a book-banning rampage.  That doesn't negate my point, or its likely electoral consequences.  People are just not going to get as upset about Toni Morrison being removed from the library as about their kids being taught negativity about their own race.  Not even close.

And I can't ignore the issue of guns, though the problem there is not confined to the "woke" fringe.  Like it or not, guns are an integral and deeply-valued part of the culture in vast (mostly rural) areas of the US, and the overwhelming majority of gun owners never do anything criminal or dangerous.  So long as the Democrats manifest visceral disdain and hostility toward gun culture, whole states and regions that would otherwise be winnable are off the table.

Finally, there is the oddity that the left has almost entirely taken over the role of the scowling, disapproving, uptight prig, never a popular character.  For example, around Thanksgiving this year, many left-leaning blogs marked the day with a post about the mistreatment of the Indians in American history.  Yes, that's all true and most people know about it (and the few who don't know about it aren't reading liberal blogs) -- but it exemplifies the fact that even for a national holiday amid the stresses of the pandemic, these types cannot put aside the "racism oppression privilege America is bad" stuff for a few hours and just let people be normal and enjoy something.  Everything has to be an occasion for lecturing and scolding.  Everything.  It doesn't matter whether those posts were intended that way.  They come across that way.

And speaking of the pandemic, the cases of high-ranking Democratic politicians appearing maskless at social events, when the rules they themselves have imposed require ordinary people to wear masks in comparable situations, need to come to a screeching halt, starting instantly.  I'm sure there are legitimate reasons in each case, but that doesn't matter.  It screams hypocrisy and an out-of-touch elite exempting itself from the rules it expects everybody else to follow.

I could go on endlessly, but you get the idea.  By now I'm sure much of the target audience for this post, if they've even read this far, is already working out how to brush it all off so they can get back to talking about their kind of stuff.  Sorry, but these issues do constitute a real problem, one which costs votes, probably a lot of votes.

As I mentioned in passing last month, an example of the direction I think the Democrats should be taking is provided by Lucas Kunce, the Missouri candidate for Senate, a genuine left-populist.  His issues page is all about infrastructure, economic development, healthcare, unions, education, Social Security, big-money domination of politics and the economy -- and nothing about reparations or defunding the police or the "right" of men to use the girls' bathroom or all the rest of the weird boutique nonsense that bewilders and infuriates normal people.  If the party as a whole presented itself this way (and actually was this way), we'd be unbeatable.  There's also some good advice here.

No matter how alienated I am from the left, I could never support the right in the US.  I can't accept the attacks on separation of church and state, the opposition to all concrete efforts to fight the pandemic, the denialism about global warming (and even evolution), the cowardly pandering to Trump, the Christian supremacism, the celebration of ignorance and the denigration of science and expertise, the vote suppression and broader attacks on democracy, the active support for the obscene concentration of more and more wealth in the hands of a tiny minority, and, yes, the racism, which does actually exist in some cases despite the left's ridiculous over-use of the accusation.  At this point my attitude toward the left is utilitarian and pragmatic; we need the Democrats to win elections because the only alternative is the Republicans and the Republicans are intolerable.  I've been writing about the issues dwelt on in this post because they create a substantial obstacle to the Democrats winning elections and thus objectively help the Republicans.  Right now polling looks catastrophic; what we're currently doing is not good enough.

So, via this post, I've done what little I can, using whatever limited reach this blog has, to sound the alarm and contribute something to remedying the situation (there was, of course, this and this as well).  Given that I've spent decades engaged with politics and am now exhausted and disgusted with the whole subject, to say nothing of the other issues I have to deal with in life, I believe I've done as much or more as could reasonably be expected of me.  At least I'll be able to take comfort in that, if the next few elections go as badly as I fear they will.

Comments closed.  For me this is the end of a discussion, not the beginning of one.