Danny Cardwell's picture

    Pushed Out Of The Tent?

    Where justice is denied, where poverty is enforced, where ignorance prevails, and where any one class is made to feel that society is an organized conspiracy to oppress, rob and degrade them, neither persons nor property will be safe.

    -- Frederick Douglass

    This is my favorite quote from Frederick Douglass. It’s a divine truth; its wisdom is applicable to any epoch. Every person will have to deal with questions of justice, poverty, ignorance, and class. Douglass knew firsthand that Justice, in the form of basic freedom, ranked higher than issues connected to poverty, ignorance, or class. I struggle trying to find new ways to explain this to some of our allies on the left. The election of Donald Trump has caused some to question whether the Democratic party should continue to advocate for people who have “identities” that are problematic to electoral success. If the Democratic party is willing to eschew Justice for the sake of victory in 2018 and 2020 it will end up more fractured than it is now, and I promise, there will be no victories to show for the effort.

    When I read Hal Ginsberg’s blog and the articles he cited to ground his political and theoretical musings I was amazed at how negotiable the lived experiences of some of the Democratic party’s most loyal supporters are to some in intelligentsia. After I read all three articles I was left with a few questions. Why do so many progressives believe they have to choose between racial/social justice and economic justice? How would the Democratic party convince committed activists to move away from addressing issues of civil rights and social justice? Does this new party positioning mean the economic left and environmental left have to work harder to ignore issues involving race and gender? Why do progressives ignore the economic interests of people of color when they write about the economic hardships facing working class whites? When did progressives subscribe to the Ronald Reagan economic theory that a rising tide of working class white relief lifts all boats? For years, the left has mocked the Republican party as being the stupid party, but now we have academicians publicly admitting we probably can’t walk and chew gum at the same time.

    In one of the pieces Mr. Ginsberg cited Mark Lilla wrote, “In recent years American liberalism has slipped into a kind of moral panic about racial, gender and sexual identity that has distorted liberalism’s message and prevented it from becoming a unifying force capable of governing.” As I think back to what’s been happening over the course of the last 3 or 4 years I wonder which issues the professor would have had us stand down on. Should we have ignored the Draconian laws states like Indiana and North Carolina implemented against members of the LGBTQ community? Should we have pulled back our support for women fighting for equal pay and against state legislation designed to rollback their reproductive rights? Should we remain perfectly still the next time we’re confronted with cell phone or dash cam footage of some unarmed Black man being murdered by the police? I wish I knew the difference between moral panic and righteous indignation. I’m unable to rank sovereign identity specific issues in a way that places them below the fight against trade deals. On a side note: who had a higher net worth Eric Garner or Walter Scott? It doesn’t matter: both were murdered for the world to see and none of the officers involved were held responsible.

    Most of the articles I’ve read calling for the Democratic party to rebrand itself for 2018 have been written by people who don’t have to worry about voting precincts being closed in their communities. The authors of these strategies for the future don’t have to worry about the consequences of Planned Parenthood facilities being shuttered. I haven’t read any work produced by members of the LGBTQ community calling for the Democratic party to pull back from issues they support. Why are so many, with nothing to lose, arguing so hard for the Democratic party to abandon some of its most vulnerable constituents?

    In the second piece cited by Hal, Alex Seitz-Wald writes:

    To win back the white working class voters who populate both states, Democrats would likely need to de-prioritize policies that are either unimportant or alienating to these voters, like immigration reform, and so-called identity issues to refocus on a bread-and-butter economic message.

    There’s a tone deafness at work in his writing that I assume he isn’t even aware of: de-prioritize policies that are either unimportant or alienating… so-called identity issues. If I didn’t read this article myself I would have thought those words came from a conservative think tank. He does go on a paragraph or so later to concede there’s no guarantee that this strategy would work, but the dismissive nature of his words have already caused damage. It’s hard to form unity with people who view issues related to the life and liberty of half of their allies as something that may need to be “de-prioriorized. If this is what the smart people are saying about us in public what are the not so smart people saying in private?

    To be fair, Hal attempts to thread a complicated needle that the other writers chose to ignore, but he didn’t put much meat on the bone as to how we could successfully tie the existential needs of the identity specific crowd to the economic needs of working class whites. I feel very strongly we must avoid the false solutions provided by either or propositions. Near the end of his blog Hal writes:

    To become the dominant national party again, Democrats must unite behind policies that serve the economic interests of poor, working-class, and middle-class Americans. This means fighting against every trade deal that pits fairly paid domestic workers against overseas laborers making 90% less. It also means fighting for, among other things, 1) higher taxes on the wealthy, 2) unions, 3) universal healthcare, 4) a tight safety net from birth to death, and 5) truly affordable higher education for all who are qualified. Indeed, this is so crucial for the party’s success, that it must adopt as a litmus test for its candidates a demonstrated commitment to redistribution of wealth and income down.

    He makes a great populist argument. If the only goal of the Democratic party moving forward is to put a chicken in every pot- then this paragraph is worthy of being part of the platform in 2020, but if we do all of those things and it doesn’t stop the extrajudicial murder of Black people at the hands of police, if women have lost their reproductive rights and access to healthcare, if the LGBTQ community is still facing bigoted legislation, and brown, yellow, and red people are subjected to new indignities how does dominant national party status help society’s most vulnerable?

    I see the telltale signs of the economic hardships working class whites have been enduring. Southwest Virginia has some real horror stories. Their suffering is real. We should fight against global polices that breed the poverty that causes resentment, but not at the expense of people who don't have a voice. We don't have to choose between these issues. If we are as smart as we profess to be we can figure out how to protect the voting rights of Black people in the south at the same time we help their white coworkers get raises or better jobs. I want to finish with a quote that may clean up what my inartful writing style might have messed up:

    Finally, let us understand that when we stand together, we will always win. When men and women stand together for justice, we win. When black, white and Hispanic people stand together for justice, we win.

    -- Bernie Sanders




    This is in no way an attempt to demean or belittle Hal Ginsberg. He has been a friend.  


    Thanks Danny for the kind words.  Here is my response to this question:

    "but if we do all of those things and it doesn’t stop the extrajudicial murder of Black people at the hands of police, if women have lost their reproductive rights and access to healthcare, if the LGBTQ community is still facing bigoted legislation, and brown, yellow, and red people are subjected to new indignities how does dominant national party status help society’s most vulnerable?"

    If Democrats do all these things, many white voters will become more willing to join the fight 1) against the "extrajudicial murder of Black people at the hands of police" and 2) to ensure that women regain "lost reproductive rights and access to healthcare" and 3) to push back against "bigoted legislation" and "new indignities" proposed for "brown, yellow, and red people."

    Moreover, I argue that the reason that we have been steadily losing ground in these areas is because the Democratic party has for forty years stalled in its fight for economic justice for all.

    But I agree, as does Bernie, it is not an either or proposition and I have never said that it is.  I believe just the opposite.  Just as Democrats must continue to fight for economic security for all, they must likewise ramp up in the fight against racism.  Racial justice and economic justice must be spoken of as one essential element of a great society.  For unless we have both, pretty soon, we'll have neither.

    For what it's worth Seitz-Wald aggressively backed Hillary over Bernie.  I do not know whether Lilla endorsed either over the other.

    Thanks for this thoughtful and piece, Danny. Over in Hal's thread, I talked a lot about narratives, and I would apply the same frame to the questions you raise. You're right that there is no incompatibility between the pursuit of racial/social justice and economic justice. Nor is there a serious conflict about which to prioritize--at least no more serious than the challenge of prioritizing any multifaceted political agenda. But the two distinct narratives that drive these pursuits are incompatible.

    The original progressive narrative focused on class conflict: corrupt politicians and industry titans who oppressed workers and farmers. Race has no specific place in this narrative, and in fact many of the early progressives were racists.

    During the civil rights era, progressives embraced an alternate narrative that focuses on race inequality and social intolerance. In this narrative, the bad guys are racist politicians and police, rednecks, misogynists, and narrow-minded fundamentalists who oppress blacks, women, LGBT, and other minorities. Economic class has no specific place in this narrative, and plenty of social progressives are affluent.

    These narratives form the frame through which people see the world, and it's difficult to embrace two at the same time. The economic justice folks are essentially saying that we need to put aside the second narrative, which alienated poor whites who see themselves as rednecks and fundamentalists, and return to the first. The racial/social justice folks are essentially saying that we need to double-down on the second narrative and wait for immigrants and millennials to swing the demographics in our favor.

    I frankly think both of these narratives are stale and wish for a grand unifying narrative that fuses economic justice with racial/social justice, but I don't know what such a narrative would look like.

    Thomas Watson was a 19th and early 20th century Southern populist.  He started out favoring black enfranchisement and a political alliance between blacks and poor whites to form a third party called the "People's Party".  Sadly, when this movement failed, he embraced racist policies and rhetoric.  Here's what he had to say early in his career:

    The white tenant lives adjoining the colored tenant. Their houses are almost equally destitute of comforts. Their living is confined to bare necessities. They are equally burdened with heavy taxes. They pay the same high rent for gulled and impoverished land. They pay the same enormous prices for farm supplies. Christmas finds them both without any satisfactory return for a year's toil. Dull and heavy and unhappy, they both start the plows again when "New Year's" passes.

    Now the People's Party says to these two men, "You are kept apart that you may be separately fleeced of your earnings. You are made to hate each other because upon that hatred is rested the keystone of the arch of financial despotism which enslaves you both. You are deceived and blinded that you may not see how this race antagonism perpetuates a monetary system which beggars both."

    This is so obviously true it is no wonder both these unhappy laborers stop to listen. No wonder they begin to realize that no change of law can benefit the white tenant which does not benefit the black one likewise; that no system which now does injustice to one of them can fail to injure both. Their every material interest is identical. The moment this becomes a conviction, mere selfishness, the mere desire to better their conditions, escape onerous taxes, avoid usurious charges, lighten their rents, or change their precarious tenements into smiling, happy homes, will drive these two men together, just as their mutually inflamed prejudices now drive them apart.

    This would seem to be a pretty powerful speech, albeit dated, in support of fusing the economic and racial/social justice movements as I think we all three urge.


    Hal, the overall message might be that at the end of the day, some white men will throw blacks under the bus. Note that some on the Left swiftly gravitated to blaming "identity politics" and shoving blacks under the bus after the 2016 election.

    It's a powerful speech and would work in say Denmark, Sweden, Australia or the UK. Oh well, it did work there 60 years or so ago.

    In America, where racism is so persistent and undying, it won't work. Now. The time may come.

    We were fortunate that the great depression brought us the New Deal, and that a hard ass President of rare ability wanting to leave a legacy and aided by exceptional black leadership pushed through the Civil Rights laws.

    If American voters cared about what the government does or realized what it could do, they wouldn't reliably vote for the Republican Party, a lying bunch of hucksters, anti-democratic obstructionists and nearly equivalent to an organized crime organization.

    We need to stay united. Need to keep working, opposing the GOP. If the GOP and Trump screw things up enough another opportunity for change may occur.

    There has to be no doubt whose side Democrats are on this time, as Hal suggests.

    The pendulum swings both ways.

    If Democrats can unite behind a strong candidate, end divisiveness, and bounce back into control in a time of discontent, change must be seized on and done fast and in its entirety, to show people what a government working for them can accomplish.

     The narrative is :bad things are bad and should be opposed.

    Economic prosperity for a greater rather than a lesser percentage of the nation does not guarantee justice and the equal application of the law to all.
    It is true that peoples' hearts are more likely to soften in good times and harden when they get bad.
    But the good opportunity is not something that just works magic by itself. Work of the more ordinary kind is required.
    This is not a game. It looks like one. Many interesting models have been made by assuming it is. But it is just you and me, sharing the same air.
    The idea of the commons may be a way to reboot the party.

    The idea of the commons may be a way to reboot the party.

    Sigh.  A common ideal that helps the common well-being ... now we just have to redefine "common".  Does it still mean something to which most of us ascribe? 

    I think the commons is not an ideal so much as a shared space.

    Much of our language of class and the struggle between classes come from looking at the phenomena of drastically different forms of life and wondering if they are a part of a transaction. They are. Our economy has always been about rewarding some people with more and others with less. That will be true even if the economy is better than it is now in providing a place at the table for more of us.

    But as Marx pointed out, pursuing social ends through an instrument that came about through refining forms of exploitation may not provide the desired results. One does not have to agree with his politics to look at class as an exchange we are all making together: A transaction.

    used ta be a Dagblogger "Donal" on topic on his own blog Jan. 24:


    Donal's post is very interesting.  He urges, quoting Benjamin Studebaker, liberals to embrace white workers even when the latter evince little or no concern for anybody else.  Here's what I posted in response:

    Interesting.  You see class (I think) constructs as based as much on education and race as on economic circumstances.  So, to you white intellectuals (one class) mocking the white working-class (another class) is class war which is obviously something to be avoided.

    By contrast, I tend to view class in terms of purchasing power and personal affinities.  So, 1) adjunct professors making $30K a year and 2) hotel workers getting $15/hour without benefits in hyper-expensive big cities are or should be more closely allied politically with 3) under-employed midwest factory workers than any of them are with neoliberal corporate lawyers earning 10X more or CEOs making 300X more.

    Thus, I welcome class warfare because I want to see all who are economically insecure unite against the fat cats.


    Why should blacks embrace racists? We reject the Republicans who call us n*ggers? Why would we tolerate the slur from Democrats? We already have coalitions with working class whites, blacks, Asians, and Latinos. We won more votes than Trump? Our crowds are bigger than Trump's crowds. We are readying the battle for 2018. Democratic activists protested at the Democratic Senate enclave. The Democratic base is pushing Democratic leadership to oppose the GOP. Thus far, only Kirsten Gillibrand voted against all of Trump's cabinet nominees. Gillibrand is the only one fulfilling the desires of the base. Franken and Warren voted for the incompetent Ben Carson.

    The Carson vote from Franken and Warren hurts my mind.

     Franken and Warren , in choosing to approve  Carson sensibly distinguished among the bases for evaluation.  Carson seems a decent guy,  the sine qua non..  Certainly neither particularly qualified  for , nor necessarily apt to favor our preferred policies in , his proposed area of responsibility.But that's  not grounds for rejection. Absent an ethical objection the President-elect should be able to choose his team.


    The individual Senators set the qualifications criteria. Republicans had no problem blocking a Supreme Court nominee.

    The grounds for rejection of the sleepy neurosurgeon are his glaring incompetence in even finishing a coherent sentence.  He has no clue.  The fact that any Democrat voted in favor of him is pandering, pure and simple.

    why should they pander? E Warren?  Why did you pander when the GOP never does?  And on and on.  I wont list the panderers.

    Then let the republicans pass them. They have 52 votes in the senate. They got a gift from the last congress so democrats can't filibuster the nominees. In a pre-Obama world I might agree if democrats attempted a filibuster but things have changed. Democrats should make their voices clear. Both the direction of the policy or incompetence are good reasons to take a stand and vote no.

    I'm with you.  After the GOP refusal to respect the Obama Presidency for EIGHT years, and culminating with the refusal to even consider his Supreme Court nomination, voting for any of the incompetent cabinet nominees is just plain wrong.  

    Ben Carson is a snake oil salesman and very successful at it.  That little speech he gave about how the brain is capable of learning new things was completely insulting.  Why should a novice at government (trump)'appoint people with steep learning curves as well?  

    I am very very disappointed in every Dem who is caving in this mess.

    Give Trump enough rope and he'll hang himself. 

    Franken and Warren are properly distinguishing between appointments /policies which are evil and those that are merely dumb..Carson's appointment falls into the second category.

    The defunding of Planned Parenthood is an example of the first.

    While you wait for Trump to hang himself, how many people served by HUD are you willing to see hurt?

    Edit to add:

    We are in a place where we cannot trust Trump's cabinet nominees to tell the truth. Trump's OMB nominee did not give a direct "no" reply when the question of lying was posed at his hearing.


    ​Democrats need to oppose everybody.

    There is a contradiction between the idea of class war that you encourage and the idea of closing the American market from global deals. You would have your cake and eat it too: Unify the proletariat in one country and leave the others to rot.

    You are using an ala cartre menu in a restaurant that only serves full meals. Or as they say in Brooklyn:
    No Slices.

    The working-class in America is being strangled right now but the only oxygen they are surrendering that is going to the poor in Asia and Latin America is the amount necessary to keep the latter grinding away for 12-15 hours daily.  Nearly all the wealth that is being siphoned from American workers is going to a few million wealthy families.  If you think, as I do, that Americans need to to give up a little (or a lot) because we have so much and others have so little then you need to demand that the Americans with the most surrender some of their privileges.  It is both wrong and political suicide to insist that those who have scratched and clawed to achieve a middle-class lifestyle need to suffer so that subsistence agricultural workers can have the opportunity to slave away in sweatshops.

    I agree that we need to move to being a society where all the power is not concentrated in the hands of the most wealthy. I understand the arguments that declare that only a class war can achieve that goal. My remark was not given as an argument against the idea, only as an observation that class war has a logic of its own.

    I am unconvinced that you can invoke its methods and then suddenly opt out when things go places not intended. The "class war" logic certainly doesn't have much room for bargaining for the "Americans" you speak of. It goes something like this:

    Groupings like nations where people are citizens are just artifacts of power where the people are kept numb by the illusion of participation through systems designed to exploit the aforesaid fools.

    When I use the term "class war," I am referring to a political realignment whereby nearly all Americans who are not affluent recognize that their (and their children's) best interests lie in working together to, among many other things, raise taxes on the rich, tighten very securely the safety net, and bring jobs back to America.  As I urged in a blog here, I also am calling for a recognition that economic, racial, gender, and environmental justice are indivisible.  Without all, we will have none.  More generally, I mean that all but the very affluent recognize that, with very few exceptions, their economic interests are diametrically opposed to those of the very affluent.


    class struggle

    Also called class conflict. conflict between different classes in a community resulting from different social or economic positions and reflecting opposed interests.
    Also called class war, class warfare. (in Marxist thought) the struggle for political and economic power carried on between capitalists and workers.

    The Revolution was televised. Black Lives Matter events are multiracial. The Fight for Fifteen was multiracial. The Women's March was multiracial. The airport detainee protests seem diverse. Progressives are getting better at addressing issues as a group.

    I think your focus on the working class is on those white working class voters who supported Trump. They seem happy with what Trump is doing. 

    Trump supporters happy with his first moves


    Trump supporters are happy with immigration ban.


    Working class voters who support Trump are not going to be easily swayed to support Democrats. They rejoice when Trump bashes immigrants and the media. They don't care about a white supremacist in the security apparatus. They are willing to accept Putin as a friend. They get their enjoyment out of seeing people who don't look like them suffer. They agree with Trump that others are their enemies. We already have the majority of available voters.

    Edit to add:

    Here is more comments from coal country. They love the immigration ban.


    I am not confused about your intentions or what you have said before.

    I am a child of the middle of the twentieth century. The topics you have raised have come up before. Wars have been fought over these ideas. It is hard to talk about any of this without thinking about the suffering of untold numbers of people who suffered their parts of the argument.

    I did not bring up the distinctions I made to undermine your point of view but to show how I see them connected to other points of view.

    Trump supporters are very happy with his performance so far.


    On topic, analysis of data, by the same blogger who just did a gotcha on Sessions (found video of A.G.

    Sally Yates' confirmation hearing,  where Sessions asks her if she'd say no the the President)

    2016 Election: White Working Class and Trump Support

    Latest Comments