by Danny Cardwell
The Democratic party's inability to move past the 2016 defeat and agree upon a cohesive message moving forward has given rise to a cottage industry of "think pieces" by racially isolated suburbanites who believe the biggest obstacle to a progressive economic agenda is social justice.
These articles get published every few weeks anywhere leftist ideas are disseminated. The theoretical underpinnings of these "progressive" screeds hinge on the faulty notion that the Democratic party could abandon issues of importance to minority communities while maintaining the same level of electoral support from these constituencies. This is a fallacy. The moment the Democratic party becomes indistinguishable from the Republican party on social issues, apathy, and disenchantment with the political process is likely to reduce minority voter turnout.
When well-meaning, albeit racially isolated, progressives reduce political matters connected to identity to an inconvenience it creates dissension where none is needed. There are factions inside progressive politics willing to wager that pushing social justice to the back burner will entice more working-class white voters to leave the Republican party. This is also a fallacy. Yes, there were Trump voters who previously supported Barack Obama, but they, like many dyed in the wool conservatives, were not waiting for more scholarly arguments about Keynesian economic policies. Donald Trump sold them the idea that he could end the era of political correctness and multiculturalism. We have to be honest about how appealing that promise was to people made uncomfortable by America's changing demographics.
The Democratic party is like a community that underwent a major expansion. The party grew big, but it didn't grow closer. The smaller our circle was, the more we identified with those inside it, but as our community/party got bigger, we found ourselves walled off from each other living in our own insular communities. Many of the authors of these types of articles suffer from living in a small circle. It's hard for some of them to understand how damaging their words are. When progressives view social justice for minority communities as secondary to the economic hardships, they share with their working-class white co-workers it diminishes the struggles they face.
Just like families have secrets, political parties also push hard truths to the side. There are progressives asking people of color and members of the LGBTQIA community to ignore systemic racism and bigotry. These allies are asking some of America's most vulnerable people to place an economic program ahead of their existence in America. This approach centers white feelings, and we have to be honest about this. Fighting for social justice is exhausting. I understand wanting to get away from these issues: especially if they haven't adversely affected you; however, none of these societal ills can fix themselves. No one would tolerate a doctor telling them that ignoring their pneumonia is a viable treatment option, yet this is how some on the left seek to remedy discrimination in our time. In many respects, these are the allies Dr. King warned us about in his "Letter from a Birmingham Jail."
The left's electoral future will be bleak if ignoring the suffering of the Democratic party's most loyal constituencies becomes an acceptable strategy. Democrats historically have horrible mid-term election participation rates. There's no need to give social activists and minority communities a reason to stay home. The Democratic party has to walk and chew gum at the same time. We have to stand strong against bigoted policies while offering progressive policies that make it easier to get access to capital, education, and healthcare. Justice for people on the underside of institutional racism, sexism and class structures isn't negotiable.