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Democrats Have Created an “Electability” Monster | The New Republic
"“Electability” is a crock of shit. It is defined, like political “moderation,” only in terms of opposition to things people want, but are told they can’t have, ranging from antiwar politics to left-wing economic populism to even the “cultural liberalism” that is seemingly the cornerstone of the modern Democratic Party. (Back in 2004, supporting civil unions, not even marriage, for same-sex couples was a threat to a Democrat’s perceived “electability.”) While the impulse to vote according to how you think a candidate would appeal to people who don’t share your priorities might make sense in theory, practice has revealed time and time again that no one involved in electoral politics—from the pundits down to the caucus-goers—has a clue who or what Americans will actually vote for. That was supposed to be, as the political scientist Masket says, the main lesson of Trump’s election.

But Democratic voters did not teach themselves to prioritize electability over their own actual concerns. They were trained to, over many years, by party figures who over-interpreted the loss of George McGovern, or who wanted to use the fear of McGovern to maintain their power over the Democratic candidate pipeline and nomination process. “Electability” is a way to get voters to carry out a contrary agenda—not their own—while convincing them they’re being “responsible.”

And now Democratic candidates and their most loyal voters are stuck in an absurd feedback loop. The politicians campaign and govern as if they themselves don’t believe a majority of voters prefer their agenda, signaling to their most loyal voters that they must vote not for what they want, but for what they imagine their more-conservative neighbors might want. But when voters in 2016 did exactly that, and nominated the candidate they were repeatedly told was most qualified to defeat Trump in the general election, they chose a person who went on to lose to him.

How are committed, pragmatic voters supposed to react when the person sold to them as not just the most “electable” person in this particular race, but among the most “electable” people in recent political history, loses a freak election to a preening, venal huckster who was treated as a great big joke for almost the entirety of the campaign?

If “electability” previously meant “the candidate most associated with the hawkish and business-friendly wing of the party,” it now seems to have become purely and nakedly demographic. Former Clinton voters are flocking to the various white men in the race, avoiding candidates they actually might like, because they see their own affinity for those candidates as a political liability.

The Progressive Change Campaign Committee, a populist liberal PAC, polled its own members, asking why they supported their candidates of choice, and found basically an inverse relationship between which candidate’s supporters thought their pick would make the “best president” (Warren by a landslide) and which ones were motivated by their belief that their candidate is the most “electable” (Biden). As PCCC co-founder Adam Green put it: “Barely a majority of Biden’s own current supporters believe he would be the best Democratic president.”

Because of the way the “electability” question was framed in 2016, and the way it then backfired, it looks very much like the Democratic Party’s rank-and-file took from that election the lesson that “a smart and capable woman isn’t electable,” not that “an establishment fixture with a tremendous amount of political baggage who is also easily and convincingly portrayed as corrupt isn’t electable.” I’m guessing many of the people who worked very hard to elect Hillary Clinton president would like to see Warren win the Democratic nomination rather than Biden, but decades of party brass (aided by a political press that spends every single election cycle talking about the electorate like it’s still Nixon’s Silent Majority) leaning on “electability” arguments to kneecap outsider candidates is currently working against that outcome.

It is still easy to imagine the sort of Democrat who’d be happy to use the “electability” argument against a candidate like Warren. But when even someone like Harris—a member in good standing of the party establishment, a dedicated player of the “electability” game her entire career, a person whose campaign strategy from the outset seemed to be to rerun the Clinton campaign but without the Clinton baggage—struggles to gain traction with Democratic voters, it feels like the monster has turned on its creators.

Watching Joe Biden, a man who was already too out-of-step with the party and the country to win the nomination 12 years ago, claim the “electability” mantle only strengthens that feeling. No one really wants President Biden. It’s just that the “better things aren’t possible” caucus accidentally managed to convince some large portion of the Democratic electorate that they must hold their noses and vote for actively worse things.

Expecting voters to behave like pundits—asking people to vote for what expensive consultants and Sunday show guests imagine people like them might want instead of what they actually want—would be perverse even if it worked. But unless and until the Democratic electorate can be given license to support what it supports, each failure of the “electability” paradigm will only be taken as proof of the need to retreat further into learned helplessness.

If you’re not that excited to vote for Joe Biden, I promise you, your neighbor isn’t, either."
democrats  elections  politics  us  electability  kamalaharris  joebiden  hillaryclinton  berniesanders  petebuttigieg  corybooker  elizabethwarren  georgemcgovern  centrists  centrism 
may 2019 by robertogreco
Verso: Dehumanization by Deification: On Kamala Harris and "Black Women Will Save Us"
"My introduction to the politics of Kamala Harris came from the Sex Workers Outreach Project (SWOP) and other sex worker organizations and activists in the wake of the federal shutdown of Backpage’s adult section in January. Backpage was a website that a number of sex workers used to advertise and screen potential clients. The closure and federal persecution of Backpage, Rentboy.com, and other similar online spaces meant that escorts and other sex workers were denied the ability to conduct their work with the degree of safety that comes with the virtual separation of workers and their would-be clients. As a newly elected California senator, Harris praised the shutdown of the adult section; previously, as California Attorney General, Harris repeatedly sued Backpage alleging that the website was profiting in the sex trafficking (and slapping its CEO, Carl Ferrer, with a pimping charge).

Despite arguments by sex workers that the closure of online work spaces would be harmful to them, Harris, like many others, claimed to support sex workers while actively making their lives more difficult: her prosecutorial logic deliberately conflated voluntary sex work and sex trafficking in a way that was indistinguishable from the rhetorics of sex work abolitionists and sex work exclusionary feminists (SWERFs). Her carceral justifications for these criminalizations were complementary to the outright anti-poor, anti-Black, anti-queer and trans attacks from the present administration and their material implications for sex workers. Yet Harris has swiftly been elevated as a kind of progressive feminist hero injecting new life into the party purporting to stand in stark ideological opposition to the one currently dominating most of the American government.

Harris has also been heavily criticized for her support for civil asset forfeiture (via her 2015 sponsorship of legislation seeking to battle transnational organized crime and meth trafficking) and her office’s refusal to expand early parole programs because the state would lose part of its heavily subsidized inmate labor force (she later claimed to be “shocked” that her department’s lawyers made this argument). She also contested the appeal for gender reconstructive surgery made by an incarcerated trans woman, Michelle-Lael Norsworthy, as well as similar requests from other incarcerated trans people. Despite her bipartisan effort with Republican Senator Rand Paul to eliminate pre-trial bail, people familiar with her pre-Senate record on criminal justice are reasonably skeptical of her — particularly given her refusal to proactively investigate police shooting in San Francisco during her tenure as state attorney general — and the buzz from establishment Democrats and “progressives” that has made her a new party darling and a soft potential 2020 presidential candidate.

“Black women will save us!” has been a kind of refrain both following the presidential election (where 94% of Black women voters supported Clinton) and the emergence of Maxine Waters and Harris as congressional gadflies outspokenly challenging the Republican Party in various hearings on Capitol Hill. As with Hillary Clinton, a gendered liberal rhetoric has emerged to defend Harris, claiming that she is being criticized because “leftist bros” are resentful of and threatened by female political leadership. Liberal commentators continue to conflate the most vocal and visible contingent of Bernie Sanders supporters — “Bernie Bros” — with the entirety of the left, and use this conflation to insist on dismissing “the left” on the grounds of racism. There is no denying that whiteness is reproduced (and the labor behind that reproduction invisibilized) throughout much of the left, but even if these critiques were made in good faith, it does not make sense to erase of leftists of color if one intends to further progressive discourses.

Roqayah Chamseddine wrote incisively on this dynamic where slightly left of center [white] pundits deliberately elide non-white contributions to left movements and discourses in the name of a left-baiting centered around specific politicians (namely, Bernie Sanders). She responds to Jill Filipovic’s revisionist erasure of Black and Brown contributions to 20th century left organizing, writing that leftists of color are not acknowledged for anything outside of "the illustrations of us they use to peddle neoliberal policies, and centrist organizing tactics that are about as spineless and cartoonish as their very ideology.” These savioristic declarations that the left is exclusionary demonstrate that leftists of color are "only good enough to exist as garments — worn on occasion when they want to make it known that they are here to save us from this so-called white ideology.”

There are critiques of Kamala Harris and Hillary Clinton that simply reflect a contempt for women [of color], and those misogynies are of course unacceptable. But there is a duly irresponsible and unacceptable idea that an individual’s politics are beyond reproach because they possess a marginalized identity (or multiple ones). Just as it was warranted to criticize President Barack Obama’s defense of empire as president or LGBQT people’s homonationalist and pinkwashed participation in the police state or some white women’s embrace of white supremacy, it is both politically necessary and politically correct to make pointed critiques of a woman of color’s track record of advocating for and even embodying the carceral state. Ironically, many of these same white people — particularly liberal white women — pay lip service to “amplifying the voices of women of color," yet they, once again, erase our voices as soon as they realize that our opinions are not monolithic and we cannot be so easily objectified and dehumanized as the saviors of liberalism through empty rhetorics of representation and inclusion.

The refusal to acknowledge the violent politics of a woman of color because of her raced-gendered identity is comparably racist to a critique of woman of color that revolves solely around those identities: white supremacy, remember, knows no sectarian or ideological bounds. Dehumanization, whether through degradation or deification, reflects of bigoted regard for minoritized individuals or groups; it objectifies of the identities of women of color to suit one’s politics. It is both infantilizing and condescending to avoid holding women of color’s politics to the same standard of rigor as the white men we easily (and necessarily) critique. and rests on no meaningful understanding of hegemonic social structures. This superficial politics of representation (i.e. the idea that elevating minorities to positions of power is an unquestioned social good regardless of their politics) and a weird fetishization, rather than actual respect, for non-white womanhood.

There seems to be an irreconcilable dissonance in this white liberal logic: how can "Black women save ‘us’” if the complexity and heterogeneity of our discourses, identities, needs, and humanity are ignored to make room for our superficial insertion into and tokenization within anti-left “progressive” arguments and shallow pandering by the Democratic Party during election cycles? Beyond, once again, demonstrating the limitations of politician-centered politics, these identity-based politics of infallibility also softly seem to insinuate that women of color (and politicians of color in general) are impossibly fragile or less capable (or worthy) of receiving much-needed critique without being altogether abandoned or seen as disposable.

If we can criticize the ineffectuality of the Democratic Party, can we not also criticize the non-white figures they tap to push those same dissatisfying politics on the party’s behalf?

The role of a state attorney general is to act as the state’s premiere law enforcement officer, and in occupying this position, Harris was essentially enforcing the will of a racist and anti-poor state “justice” system (the most populous state and one of the most expansive carceral states, at that). To pretend that only white men could possibly articulate a radical critique of this political track record and trajectory is wildly disingenuous. We will surely see Kamala Harris’ name all over the news in the coming years, but more important than the political advancement of the new progressive superstar is the revelation of white liberalism’s complete inability to engage non-white women both within the public political arena and outside of it."
zoésamudzi  2017  politics  left  leftism  race  erasure  racism  kamalaharris  liberalism  policy  democrats  hillaryclinton  roqayahchamseddine  jillfilipovic  poc  progressives  progressivism 
august 2017 by robertogreco

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