No, White Dudes, We’re Not Making Culture Wars ‘Concessions’ To Bigots
Monday, Slate writer and editor Jordan Weissmann took a moment to lecture Democrats about their response to America’s ongoing free fall into an authoritarian nightmare state.
WEISSMAN: When you read a book about how American democracy is collapsing or hurtling toward civil war, and all the recommendations are basically that Congress should pass Elizabeth Warren’s agenda…I dunno man, it kind of undermines the whole rest of what came before?
Weissman’s supposed focus at Slate is “economics, politics, and public policy.” However, his tweet makes it seem as if he’s not read anything Senator Elizabeth Warren has ever written or discussed on those subjects. The nation’s growing wealth gap created conditions that were ripe for someone like Trump to exploit.
Never Trumpers have accused Democrats of trying to pass a progressive wish list when “democracy” was at stake, but it’s unclear how you maintain a healthy democracy when millions of children are in poverty, wildfires are torching homes, and a pandemic is raging. When people are desperate, they’ll either turn to politicians who promise to fix their problems or who offer someone to blame for them. The Republicans used to focus on the second half and lie about the first. Now, they don’t even bother with the other half.
Like, if we’re really on the verge of total abyss, maybe Democrats need to offer some serious concessions on culture war issues that are fueling these conflicts in return for institutional reforms? Hoping Republicans take responsibility just because doesn’t seem too wise.
It’s also unwise for Democrats to become a discount-brand Republican Party just because the current GOP is nothing more than a giant burlap sack filled with angry badgers. We’ve tried triangulation. Voters elected pro-death penalty, tough on crime “new” Democrat Bill Clinton in 1992 and Republicans gifted us with House Speaker Newt Gingrich in 1994. Gingrich’s predecessor was Robert H. Michel from Illinois, who the “new” conservatives thought was too easy-going and didn’t fight hard enough against Democrats. Sound familiar?
If Democrats concede ground to Republicans on "culture war issues” whenever Republicans nominate psychopaths, there’s zero incentive for them to stop: "Sorry, LGBTQ Americans, we’d love to defend your human dignity but we’re helpless against a Marjorie Taylor Greene/Jim Jordan ticket.”
David Weigel at the Washington Postimplied that Democrats should take the lead of noted humanitarian and deep thinker Kristi Noem. The South Dakota GOP governor signed a bill this month banning transgender girls and women from competing on female sports teams. Weigel couldn’t help but notice how popular such bigotry is right now.
Weigel later deleted his tweet because people got so touchy about it. He claims he was just being “glib” and would never seriously suggest that Democrats kick trans people out of the coalition. He was just pointing out that letting trans kids participate in sports according to their gender identity “polls badly,” and Democrats would normally cave on the issue. But he’s certain they won’t, even if he subtly reminds them of how bad the numbers are for this issue.
A majority of Americans (62%) say trans athletes should only be allowed to play on sports teams that correspond with their birth gender, while 34% say they should be able to play on teams that match their gender identity.
Brian Beutler and Oliver Willis have both commented on this: White cis male pundits and political strategists consistently suggest that Democrats retreat from GOP-initiated culture wars like cowards. How many marginalized people can Democrats “Sister Souljah" in exchange for Republicans not hitting us with our own fist? It never occurs to these moral titans that Democrats could instead fight the culture wars head on. Why are Republicans so obsessed with children’s genitals? Instead, too many remain silent while Republicans bully and demonize trans kids.
And Republicans never stop advancing in the culture wars. Republican National Committee chair Ronna (Romney) McDaniel tweeted “Happy Pride Month” last year, and Politico assumed that Republicans would lay off cis gay Americans, at least. Now, they’re pushing “Don’t Say Gay Bills.”
If you’re the party of the working-class and marginalized, you’re going to have to fight some unpopular battles. If Democrats represented people who were already powerful and fully secure in their citizenship, they’d be Republicans. We don’t need any more of those guys.
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Stephen Robinson is a writer and social kibbitzer based in Portland, Oregon. He writes make believe for Cafe Nordo, an immersive theatre space in Seattle. Once, he wrote a novel called “Mahogany Slade,” which you should read or at least buy. He's also on the board of the Portland Playhouse theatre. His son describes him as a “play typer guy."