The reality is that our nation is still racially segregated. And it’s segregated in ways that limit our opportunities to learn about each other’s life experiences, even if our laws do not formally segregate our nation as they once did. This means that some live in a world in which they rarely encounter the conditions that bring harm to others everyday; others can’t escape those very conditions.
….The places where we live affect not only our access to resources, but also who we meet, interact with and become friends with. And because our neighborhoods are so segregated, our social networks are also siloed — about three-quarters of white Americans don’t have any nonwhite friends, according to a 2014 survey from PRRI. The nature of segregation in the U.S. means that we only end up seeing and learning about what our own groups experience, making it hard to understand the lives of people outside of our own group.
This explains, in part, why Americans have such a hard time understanding just how unequal our nation is, and moreover, the racialized nature of that inequality. For example, if you ask Americans about racial wealth gaps, you’ll find that they severely underestimate those gaps; according to a 2019 paper from a team of psychologists, Americans think the Black-white wealth gap is 40 to 80 percent smaller than it actually is.
Regarding racial inequality in the U.S., Lewis notes that “There is a mountain of evidence documenting its manifestation in education, health, criminal justice, employment and many other domains. And there are experts who have devoted their careers to studying how the structure, culture and politics of American society (re)produce inequality, as well as pathways for disrupting those cycles.” Further, Lewis argues, “if we want to disrupt long-standing patterns of racial inequality, our best course of action as a country might be to rely on that evidence and expertise instead of trying to convince people that the disparities exist, as it will always be hard for people to see inequality if it doesn’t bring harm to their own lives.”
Stephen Wolf at Daily Kos Elections has a good summary (fair and balanced!) of Manchin’s proposed voting rights compromise. Well worth reading.
“While Manchin’s latest demands are likely to disappoint Democrats and democracy reformers who have called for as wide-ranging a bill as possible, Democrats hold little leverage over the West Virginia senator, whose vote is essential to overcome both GOP procedural obstruction and opposition to reform on the underlying merits. Manchin’s move to detail changes that could win his vote is a key first step toward reaching some sort of compromise that could one day pass Congress…”
“After immigration at the southern border dipped during the coronavirus pandemic, the surge of migrants in 2021 has already surpassed recent records. Some have critiqued the Biden administration for quickly rolling back Trump administration policies without providing additional shelter capacity for arriving children. This episode of ABC’s Examined explores how the situation at the border is changing, and what the Biden administration could do to address the crisis.”
The Democratic Party, by and large, relies on corporate mainstream media to do its messaging work and is then constantly furious when this strategy fails or backfires. Especially in Congress, leadership designs its strategy around trying to get a certain kind of coverage in the mainstream press; Democrats schedule votes intended to fail in order to create news stories about Republican intransigence, for example, and perform oversight hearings primarily in order to get particular members on television news. Given the average age of Democratic leadership, many of them probably learned or honed this strategy back when Americans watched one of three evening news broadcasts and read their municipality’s largest paper daily.
And this messaging strategy still does have some effect on non-Fox cable news coverage (in many congressional offices, as in many bad airport bars, cable news is on all day), but the limitations of the approach reveal themselves in every Media Matters bulletin, every complaint about how The New York Times has “framed” some issue, every frustrated tweet about Sunday talk shows featuring panels made up of Republicans on the one side and nonpartisan pundits on the other. The corporate media is not as implacably hostile to mainstream liberalism as it is to the left, but neither is it liberalism’s reliable ally.
Conservatives, on the other hand, simply tell their supporters whatever message they wish to convey through their expansive and organized propaganda networks. It is important to note that the official Republican Party does not lead this process. In fact, the party at this point is led by the propaganda network (parts of which are in turn captured by their increasingly rabid audiences). Conservatives can argue about whether this development has been “good” for those in the party actually interested in conservative policy goals. But no one can really deny the political success of the operation. It has kept the GOP relevant—and kept conservatives solidly in control of the party—even when actual conservative governance has regularly led to catastrophe, scandal, and failure.
Pareene conceeds “Liberals shouldn’t (and couldn’t) recreate the right-wing messaging operation, not least because their voters, and the voters they need to reach, consume media very differently from the conservative base.” However, notes Pareene, “liberals—normal, mainstream, Pod Save America–listening, Barack Obama–voting liberals—need to learn to get their message directly to people instead of trying to wrangle NPR and The New York Times into covering the news in a way favorable to Democrats.” In addition, Pareene adds:
Some political science professors summarized a recent research experiment in Politico Magazine earlier this month. Alexander Coppock, Donald P. Green, and Ethan Porter “conducted a series of randomized experiments to test whether parties can win over new loyalists” with ads that promoted a party rather than a particular candidate. What they found was that, with repeat exposure, “people changed their partisan identification ever so slightly after seeing the ads,” and that “higher doses of party-promoting ads” could influence people’s voting decisions and feelings about Donald Trump. “Partisan identity is usually understood as a root cause of political behavior,” the political scientists wrote. “By moving it, we also appear to have moved real-world political decisions.”
In the world of American political communications, ads promoting a party are a novelty. The researchers concluded that “both parties could benefit from producing the kinds of ads we tested,” and it’s true that neither party currently does this with conventional TV advertising. But while these political scientists framed their experiments as part of a novel ad strategy, what they were really doing was directly exposing people to particular political messages that had been designed to influence their political affinities—and even their identities. There is already language to describe what that kind of messaging is. These political scientists independently invented party propaganda, exposed Americans to it, and discovered that it can be effective, especially with constant exposure. Conservatives don’t need to learn to do this: It’s how their movement sustains itself.
Pareene notes further, “Amusingly, the top-shelf political ad professionals the political scientists hired to make the ads were “flummoxed by the request,” because no one had ever before asked them to create messaging designed to promote the Democratic Party or to convince people to associate themselves with it. Despite how familiar American liberals are with the power of propaganda when yielded by the right, it has seemingly never occurred to the most powerful of them to do any propagandizing on behalf of their own causes and party!”
Put another way, should Democrats put more effort into promoting their party? They could hardly do less. Perhaps experimenting with the concept in a few swing districts could shed some light on the potential of the approach as a grand strategy.
Joe Manchin is taking a lot of flack these days and I get why. If only he was not the actually-existing Joe Manchin from the actually-existing conservative state of West Virginia but instead some other Joe Manchin from some other, much more liberal, West Virginia! The Democrats’ job would certainly be a lot easier.
But this is all a bit silly isn’t it? In reality, the Democrats are damn lucky to have Manchin. They and any chance of large-scale progressive legislation would be dead without him. As political scientist Hans Noel noted in the Post:
“[I]t should be possible for Democrats to hold two thoughts at once about the West Virginia politician: First, what he is doing is lamentable, damaging to the party’s goals. But second, his presence in the Senate is a gift to the Democratic Party. Having a Democratic senator in 2021 in a state like West Virginia — where neither Hillary Clinton nor Biden could crack 30 percent of the vote — is a remarkable bit of good fortune.
Had Manchin not won reelection in 2018, his seat would be held by West Virginia Attorney General Patrick Morrisey (R). This is the Morrisey who joined Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton’s lawsuit that sought to overturn the results in four states where Trump lost; so probably not, to put it mildly, someone whom Democrats could persuade to back the For the People Act. More importantly, all else remaining the same, had Morrisey won, Democrats would be in the minority in the Senate, and Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R.-Ky.) would be setting the body’s agenda, as majority leader.
But perhaps West Virginia needn’t have chosen between Manchin and someone like Morrisey in the first place. What if Democrats ran and nominated someone more liberal, or at least more likely to vote with Democrats, in Manchin’s next primary?
Consider, however, that Manchin beat Morrisey with 49.6 percent of the vote to Morrisey’s 46.3. This in a state where Biden got 29.7 percent of the presidential vote in 2020 and the Democratic challenger to Sen. Shelley Moore Capito (R) that same year got 27 percent. There’s no evidence that another Democrat could come anywhere close to Manchin’s electoral performance.”
Them’s the facts. You might not like ’em, but them’s the facts.
And it’s not like they’re getting nothing from Manchin. David Leonhardt spells out his utility on economic issues, if not on things like the voting rights bill:
“The issues that tend to unite the Democratic Party are economic issues, and Manchin is a good case study. When he breaks with his party, it is typically on issues other than economic policy.
He effectively killed the voting rights bill this week, and he voted for Brett Kavanaugh’s Supreme Court confirmation in 2018. Manchin is also well to the right of most congressional Democrats on abortion and gun policy.
Yet he has often stuck with his party on taxes, health insurance, labor unions and other pocketbook issues. Like every other Democrat in the Senate, Manchin voted against both Donald Trump’s attempts to repeal Obamacare and the 2017 Trump tax cut that was skewed heavily toward the rich. Earlier this year, Manchin voted for Biden’s $1.9 trillion virus rescue bill. Without his vote, that bill would not be law.
On all these issues — economic and otherwise — Manchin’s votes tend to reflect the majority opinion of his constituents. West Virginia is a working-class state, and American working-class voters tend to be culturally conservative and economically progressive. Polls show that most favor abortion restrictions, tight border security and well-funded police departments — as well as expanded Medicare and pre-K, a higher minimum wage, federal spending to create jobs and tax increases on the rich.
“Manchin is a pocketbook Democrat, not a social warrior,” Carl Hulse, The Times’s chief Washington correspondent, told me.
This pattern suggests that Manchin may be willing to support versions of the next two major items on Biden’s agenda: an infrastructure bill and an “American Families Plan” to expand child care, education and other areas….
If Manchin had provided the deciding vote for the voting rights bill, it arguably would have been unlike any other vote he had cast in his career. The same would not be true of a vote for the infrastructure bill or the families plan.”
Leonhardt goes on to draw the crucial lessons for the Democrats going forward:
“What about the longer term for the Democratic Party? Some Democrats are worried that the lack of a voting rights bill will doom the party to election losses starting in 2022. But that seems like an overstatement.
The voting restrictions being passed by Republican state legislators are worrisomely antidemocratic and partisan in their intent, many election experts say. And they may give Republicans an unfair advantage in very close elections. But it seems likely they will have only a modest impact, as Nate Cohn, who analyzes elections for The Times, has explained. Democrats can still win elections.
Manchin happens to be a useful guide on that topic, too. He has kept winning even as West Virginia has become deeply Republican, by appealing to the state’s culturally conservative, economically progressive majority. To varying degrees, some other Democrats from red or purple states, like Senators Sherrod Brown of Ohio and Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona, offer similar lessons. So did Obama, who fared better with working-class voters than many other Democrats.
This approach is the only evident way for Democrats to stem their losses in recent years among working-class voters — and not only among the white working class. A recent analysis of the 2020 election by three Democratic groups argued that the party lost Black, Latino and Asian American support because it did not have a sharp enough economic message. A recent poll by a Republican group found that most Latinos supported both tight border security and “traditional values centered on faith, family and freedom….
The Democrats’ problem isn’t so much Joe Manchin as it is the dearth of other senators who are as good at winning tough elections as he is.”
That’s right. You don’t like Joe Manchin? Fine. Go elect a bunch of other Senators in tough states so Democrats aren’t so dependent on him. The continuous rending of garments about his conservatism is truly pointless.
Finally, it’s not clear that Machin did such a bad thing by finally marking clear the For the People Act wasn’t going to pass. It was a quixotic and doomed approach to the problems it purported to solve. John Judis notes the profound problems with the bill and how a narrower approach to voting rights problems would be more realistic and effective:
“The Democrats — and freedom-loving Republicans and independents — should primarily be concerned with the laws that discourage normal non-pandemic era voting; and a bill that directly targeted those measures would enjoy wide popular support and could even garner some Republican support in Congress. But the For the People Act (H.R. 1), which was passed by House of Representatives in March, is not such a bill. Instead, it is an 886-page Christmas tree of progressive election measures. I am not saying Manchin is right to oppose it. I would probably favor 90 percent of the provisions. But it’s very understandable that he does and that other Democrats, in addition to every Republican, would.
These measures include, as I have described before, wide-ranging campaign finance reform, including public funding of elections, the institution of non-partisan redistricting, support for Congress being able to declare the District of Columbia a state, and a panoply of regulations that would govern state elections — elections that are supposed to be the purview of states. Many of these provisions are controversial. In West Virginia, the Association of County Clerks sent Manchin and his fellow senator, Shelley Moore Capito, a letter opposing the bill on the grounds that West Virginia was not prepared to implement many of the new regulations. Of the 54 of 55 clerks who signed the letter, 37 were Democrats….
Democrats would be better off paring down their initiative to several measures that would be readily understandable and popular — making election-day a federal holiday, for instance. And they would be even better off, as Manchin suggested, putting their weight behind the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act, which would restore the provisions of the Voting Rights Act struck down by the Supreme Court, and permit the Justice Department to block measures intended to curb minority voting. These measures are readily understandable, and would earn some Republican support, and they do address the Republican efforts to rig forthcoming elections. If this bill failed, that defeat could be used against Republican candidates in 2022 and 2024. It would portray the Republicans as captive of Trump’s bigotry and assault against democracy, and this measure’s defeat might also lead some Democrats to reconsider their opposition to filibuster reform.
As for the filibuster, the Democrats currently lack the popular support — as well as support in the Senate — for doing away entirely with the filibuster. To do that, Democrats would have to show that Republicans were using the filibuster to block measures that [are] wildly popular. The For the People Act doesn’t qualify. Nor do…most of [the] major bills that House Democrats have passed and are hoping to pass that cover gender, race, immigration, labor, and gun control.”
These are the political realities Democrats have to deal with until the situation changes. Until then though, you still have Joe Manchin–The People’s Hero!
Liberal Democrats are enraged at West Virginia Senator Joe Manchin for opposing the For the People Act and for supporting the filibuster, which would have to be overturned in order for the voting legislation, even with Manchin’s support, to get through Congress. Manchin may, however, be doing these liberal Democrats a favor in this case.
In response to setbacks in November 2020, Republican state governments are attempting to rig their election laws to favor their own candidates. Some of these measures, such as limiting voting by mail, may not favor Republicans at all. (Several of the measures counter rules that were specially designed for voting during the pandemic and may be irrelevant in 2022 and beyond.) Other measures, such as limiting polling places and times in urban areas, could depress minority voting and benefit Republicans. Still others, such as allowing state legislators to overturn popular election results, are probably unconstitutional.
The Democrats — and freedom-loving Republicans and independents — should primarily be concerned with the laws that discourage normal non-pandemic era voting; and a bill that directly targeted those measures would enjoy wide popular support and could even garner some Republican support in Congress. But the For the People Act (H.R. 1), which was passed by House of Representatives in March, is not such a bill. Instead, it is an 886-page Christmas tree of progressive election measures. I am not saying Manchin is right to oppose it. I would probably favor 90 percent of the provisions. But it’s very understandablethat he does and that other Democrats, in addition to every Republican, would.
Judis argues that “Democrats would be better off paring down their initiative to several measures that would be readily understandable and popular” and focus on passing the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act, which has more hope of bipartisan support. Some of the measures in the ‘For the People Act’ could more realistically be passed later on, along with some of the more controversial social reforms – particularly if Dems pick up some Senate and House seats in the midterm elections, and in 2024. Also,
What Democrats can pass without the threat of the filibuster are spending and taxing measures. These can be passed through a process called reconciliation. These kind of economic measures, epitomized in the Biden administration’s relief and recovery bills, are popular. So, too, was the recent Senate bill promoting an industrial policy, which won bipartisan support. In other words, the presence of the filibuster forces Democrats in the Senate and the Biden administration to focus their efforts on popular economic measures. These measures will put the party in good stead in the next elections, which Democrats must win if they don’t want whatever they accomplish in these years to be reversed or subverted. If the Democrats lose the Congress in 2022, they will be stymied.
According to a recent CBO report, the principal driver of slow growth since 2008 has been a sharp slowdown in the growth of the labor supply. As baby boomers joined the workforce, the annual increase in labor supply averaged more than 2%, peaking at 2.5% between 1974 and 1981. As late as the 1990s, annual labor-force expansion averaged 1.2%. But as the population aged and baby boomers began to retire, annual increases fell to 0.5% between 2008 and 2020, a figure that the CBO expects to fall to 0.4% in 2021-25 and 0.3% in 2026-31.
The distant future looks no brighter. The total fertility rate needed to maintain a stable population is about 2.1 children for every woman. In 2020 the U.S. rate dropped to 1.64, the latest in a long decline. The workforce of the 2030s and 2040s could be smaller than today’s, a prospect that other advanced economies are also facing, including China.
The other main driver of economic growth—output per worker—has been less predictable. Annual increases averaged 2.3% between 1950 and 1973, fell to 0.7% between 1974 and 1981, then surged to 2% in the 1990s before falling back to about 1.3% in 2001-20.
Galston argues that ” international experience suggests that there is little government can do to increase birthrates. But there is much that can be done to improve labor-force participation. Government can make it easier for women to remain in the workforce, for those formerly incarcerated to re-enter it, for young adults not bound for college to find technical training and for aging Americans to work part time if they choose, among other things.”
But Galston also sees a possible solution to America’s immigration crisis emerging from the labor supply slowdown:
Another strategy is more immigration. We have gone in the other direction in recent years, but immigration policy reforms keyed to the needs of the economy may be easier to sell to a skeptical public than an expanded version of the status quo.
However, Galston warns, “Getting America back to faster growth will take resources and focus. But if growth remains slow, Mr. Biden’s honorable effort to improve the lives of working- and middle-class families may end up hobbled by the well-known difficulties of zero-sum politics.”
Has the Most Important Part of Bidenomics Already Been “Passed”?
No, I don’t mean the American Rescue Plan though it is bound up with what I’m referring to: Bidenomics’ commitment to a full-employment, high-pressure economy. America has now had four decades or so of *not* being committed to a full employment economy and it has not gone well, generating a chronic disadvantage for labor vis a vis capital, stagnating wages, soaring inequality and slow productivity growth. Resetting American economic policy away from this disastrous course could be the most important thing Biden accomplishes as President.
“For the bulk of the past four decades, our government hasn’t merely declined to achieve full employment through public hiring; it has actively sought to keep millions of Americans perpetually unemployed.
This bipartisan consensus against full employment was rarely articulated to the public in forthright terms. During the crisis that consolidated the paradigm, policy-makers were sometimes blunt; in 1979, Fed chair Paul Volcker told Congress that in order for inflation to be brought down to a tolerable level, “the standard of living of the average American has to decline.” But as inflation became more of a historical memory than a present danger, the government’s prioritization of price stability over employment became increasingly camouflaged behind the dry technocratic verbiage of central-bank press conferences. Once decoded, the gist of this new consensus was simple enough: If unemployment falls beneath its “natural” threshold, then employers will be forced into a bidding war for scarce workers, who will then secure wages in excess of their productivity, which will force businesses to raise prices, which will lead workers to demand yet-higher wages, which will force businesses to raise prices further still, thereby setting off an inflationary spiral that will be difficult to stop. Thus, to save the economy from such destabilization, the government has to reduce economic demand — by raising interest rates, or cutting federal spending, or both — before unemployment gets too low, even if inflation is not yet apparent.
This official narrative obscured the class interests implicated by the government’s prioritization of low inflation over plentiful jobs. America’s wealthy have a greater material interest in price stability than they do in full employment; moderate inflation erodes the value of their bonds and cash holdings, while moderate unemployment has little adverse impact on their finances — and may even increase the value of their stocks by suppressing labor’s bargaining power. The bulk of U.S. workers, on the other hand, have a much greater interest in abundant jobs than ultralow prices. In a full-employment economy — where firms must compete for scarce labor — employers will be more likely to offer opportunities to “low skill” workers, on-the-job training to inexperienced ones, accommodations to the partially disabled, and wage increases to all. Nevertheless, policy-makers spent the bulk of the past 40 years preventing that economy from coming into being. In fact, as recently as 2015, the Fed treated preempting the mere risk of modest inflation as a higher priority than the achievement of an unemployment rate below 5 percent.”
But now, on the heels of massive fiscal support for the economy and workers, both in the latter part of the Trump administration and rapidly out of the box by the Biden administration, we seem to be getting the highly desired reset of macroeconomic policy. Joe Biden recently said in Cleveland:
“My sole measure of economic success is how working families are doing, whether they have jobs that deliver dignity. That means we have to focus on wages like we used to. When it comes to the economy we’re building, rising wages aren’t a bug; they’re a feature. We want to get — we want to get something economists call “full employment.” Instead of workers competing with each other for jobs that are scarce, we want employees to compete with each other to attract work. We want the — the companies to compete to attract workers.
That kind of competition in the market doesn’t just give workers more ability to earn a higher wage, it gives them the power to demand to be treated with dignity and respect in the workplace. And it helps ensure that America — when you walk into work, you don’t have to check your right to be treated with respect at the door. “
“Biden’s speech was remarkable for its acknowledgment of full employment’s class implications: When jobs are plentiful, workers get leverage over bosses — which is a good thing, since workers cannot reliably secure “dignity and respect in the workplace” unless they have some material power over their employers.
This was especially notable in light of the speech’s context. In recent weeks, lamentations of a “labor shortage” have filled the business press, while multiple Obama-administration economists have sounded alarms over inflation. The president’s remarks serve as a tacit rebuke to both of those criticisms. Biden suggests that a scarcity of labor isn’t a blight to be avoided, but a goal to be pursued (after all, a synonym for “labor shortage” is “a dearth of involuntarily unemployed people”). And he also signaled an allegiance to full employment and wage growth over the minimization of inflationary risk.”
“[A]s Jared Bernstein [now a key Biden economic advisor] wrote as far back as 1999, there is a reason Martin Luther King put full employment at the center of the civil rights agenda. For all the attention paid to diversity and inclusion in white-collar workplaces, the vast majority of workers have working-class jobs….Full employment lifts up people on the margins of the labor market [and] punishes discrimination…by genuinely changing the calculus about how much sense it makes to be choosy.”
In short, full employment, as Joe Biden himself might put it, is a big fucking deal.
At Mother Jones, Ari Berman and Nick Surgey report on the growing influence of Heritage Action for America in spearheading voter suppression laws in state legislatures across America. As Berman and Surgey note,
“In a private meeting last month with big-money donors, the head of a top conservative group boasted that her outfit had crafted the new voter suppression law in Georgia and was doing the same with similar bills for Republican state legislators across the country. “In some cases, we actually draft them for them,” she said, “or we have a sentinel on our behalf give them the model legislation so it has that grassroots, from-the-bottom-up type of vibe.”
The Georgia law had “eight key provisions that Heritage recommended,” Jessica Anderson, the executive director of Heritage Action for America, a sister organization of the Heritage Foundation, told the foundation’s donors at an April 22 gathering in Tucson, in a recording obtained by the watchdog group Documented and shared with Mother Jones. Those included policies severely restricting mail ballot drop boxes, preventing election officials from sending absentee ballot request forms to voters, making it easier for partisan workers to monitor the polls, preventing the collection of mail ballots, and restricting the ability of counties to accept donations from nonprofit groups seeking to aid in election administration.
All of these recommendations came straight from Heritage’s list of “best practices” drafted in February. With Heritage’s help, Anderson said, Georgia became “the example for the rest of the country.”
The leaked video reveals the extent to which Heritage is leading a massive campaign to draft and pass model legislation restricting voting access, which has been swiftly adopted this year in the battleground states of Georgia, Florida, Arizona, and Iowa. It’s no coincidence that so many GOP-controlled states are rushing to pass similar pieces of legislation in such a short period of time.”
“The Biden administration’s promises to “think big” and rebuild the country seem like a major historical departure from decades of policy orthodoxy. And yet, insofar as its agenda will merely help the United States catch up to other advanced economies, its main components amount to necessary but insufficient reforms.”
He focuses particularly on the Democrats’ fundamental political problem and links it to the difficulties of the left in other advanced countries:
“[S]uch reforms are unlikely to suffice to address the Democrats’ political problem. Their challenge is that white voters without a college degree – who formed the backbone of Trump’s support – still make up 41% of the electorate. Even assuming that new voting laws in many Republican-led states do not overly suppress black turnout, the Democratic coalition of black voters and educated elites remains at the mercy of a shift in public sentiment, leaving the party without a strong enough majority in the right places to guarantee victory in the Electoral College in 2024.
The Democrats’ imperative is to recapture the white working-class voters who backed Trump in 2016 and 2020. But since Bill Clinton’s presidency in the 1990s, the party has offered left-behind workers only two solutions: education and social benefits. As The Atlantic’s Ronald Brownstein recounts, Clinton’s mantra was that, “What you learn is what you earn.” He and Barack Obama strongly believed that more and better education was the best way to deal with the labor-market upheavals brought about by digitalization and globalization. (Europeans mostly shared this philosophy, though they placed a greater emphasis on social transfers.)
But workers do not agree. They do not want to live on welfare, but nor do they want to be sent back to school. Rather, they want to keep the good jobs that have long provided them with incomes and a sense of pride. Trump won in 2016 because he understood this sentiment and exploited it to win the working-class vote in key swing states.
And it’s not just America. Everywhere one looks, the left has lost the working-class vote. In the United Kingdom, Prime Minister Boris Johnson has conquered Labour’s “Red Wall”; in France, far-right leader Marine Le Pen has emerged as the candidate of choice for a growing share of workers; and in Germany, the Social Democrats seem likely to be crushed in the September elections. As Amory Gethin, Clara Martínez-Toledano, and Thomas Piketty show in a fascinating comparative paper, the traditional cleavages that structured postwar politics have collapsed across Western democracies.
Biden clearly understands this political shift. Last month, in his first address to a joint session of Congress, he made a point of noting that nearly 90% of the jobs created by his infrastructure plan will not require a college degree. But how can his administration actually deliver good jobs?”
That’s the question. And it’s not at all clear the Biden administration has a good answer to this and, therefore, to its fundamental political problem.
After a week of efforts to equate the controversial remarks of two particular members of Congress, I pushed back a bit at New York:
It looks like House Republicans are going to deal with outrage over their perennial problem child Marjorie Taylor Greene by finding a Democrat to punish. That would be Minnesota’s Ilhan Omar, according to Politico’s Huddle:
“’I think that Ilan should receive the same type of punishment as Marjorie because if it’s good for one, it is good for another,’ Rep. Maria Salazar (R-Fla.), who voted to remove Greene from her committees, told me. ‘Anti-semitism is the same thing as anti-semitism. It’s just that Nancy is afraid …'”
There are others who want to push for Omar’s removal as well as those looking to censure her over her war crimes remarks — and a few Dems may join them.
The idea of equating Omar’s complaints about unequal treatment of countries in investigating military misconduct with Greene’s comparisons of mask and vaccine requirements to the Holocaust is deeply satisfying to a lot of people. Republicans can continue their now-ancient habit of waving away extremism in their ranks by claiming it’s more prevalent on the other side of the aisle. Nervous centrist Democrats can document their nervous centrism by firing thunderbolts left and right. And most of all, accusing both parties of harboring those prone to “false equivalence” appeals to the false equivalence many Beltway media folks want to draw between Democrats and Republicans, who are engaged in the mutually assured destruction of partisan polarization.
There’s only one problem: Treating what MTG and Omar have said as equal expressions of false equivalence actually is false, as any honest evaluation of their words quickly shows. Greene bluntly compared COVID-19 precautions to the Holocaust, analogized vaccine documentation mandates to the Nazi practice of making Jews wear yellow stars, and, for good measure, said Democrats are like Nazis because they are “socialists.” Omar said this in the midst of a virtual exchange with Secretary of State Anthony Blinken over investigations of the brief but intense war between Israel and Hamas:
“’We must have the same level of accountability and justice for all victims of crimes against humanity,’ she wrote. “We have seen unthinkable atrocities committed by the U.S., Hamas, Israel, Afghanistan, and the Taliban.’”
Her point wasn’t to say the U.S., Hamas, Israel, Afghanistan, and the Taliban were equally culpable in their commission of atrocities, but that all should be equally subject to international investigation. I suppose there are superpatriots who would dispute the idea that America has ever committed “unthinkable atrocities,” though the victims of the Hiroshima and Nagasaki nuclear attacks, and of countless genocidal assaults on Native Americans, among many examples, suggest otherwise. But in any event, when challenged by Republicans and Democrats alike to make it clear she was not imputing equivalent culpability to these various nations and coalitions of fighters, Omar complied instantly:
“U.S. Rep. Ilhan Omar said Thursday that she was ‘in no way equating terrorist organizations with democratic countries with well-established judicial systems … ‘
“’To be clear: the conversation was about accountability for specific incidents regarding [International Criminal Court] cases, not a moral comparison between Hamas and the Taliban and the U.S. and Israel.’”
MTG, meanwhile, kept doubling down on her comparisons of public-health measures with the slaughter of many millions by Nazi Germany, and finally, after more than three weeks and a tour of the Holocaust Museum, she issued an apology that betrayed little understanding of the full scope of the Holocaust, and then refused to apologize for the Democrat-Nazi analogy.
Looking more broadly at the two women and their records of controversial utterances, Ilhan made an unfortunate and erroneous reference to “the Benjamins,” in a gratuitous comment about support for Israel in the United States, for which she “unequivocally” apologized:
“Anti-semitism is real and I am grateful for Jewish allies and colleagues who are educating me on the painful history of anti-semitic tropes. My intention is never to offend my constituents or Jewish Americans as a whole. We have to always be able to step back and think through criticism, just as I expect people to hear me when others attack my identity. This is why I unequivocally apologize.”
Greene lost her committee assignments earlier this year after media focus on an almost incredible blizzard of incendiary statements she made on social media before coming to Congress (barely anyone even noticed her practice of brandishing an AR-15 when discussing her enemies in campaign ads). In February, she apologized for claiming that school shootings were fake and for promoting QAnon conspiracy theories. She never apologized for happily contemplating violence against congressional Democrats (including, very specifically, Ilhan Omar) and the Speaker of the House, or for her unusually aggressive support of Trump’s electoral big lie and the effort in January to overturn the presidential election results, or for her own subscription to very weird anti-Semitic claims.
If you cannot discern a qualitative difference between Omar’s “outrages” and Greene’s, and between the speed and coherence of their clarifications and apologies, it may be time for some remedial work in logic and rhetoric. These two members of Congress aren’t alike at all, and as much as I sometimes disagree with Ilhan Omar, treating her as a left-wing MTG is lazy and just plain wrong.