Matt Karp has been received the latest assignment to do intelligence-insulting PR on behalf of the Sanders campaign. It starts with an elaborate “this is the future liberals want” bit positing…California governor Malia Obama. This helpfully reminds us that Karp’s knowledge about what liberals want seems to come entirely from antiliberal irony bro twitter, the only place in the world where people talk about Maila Obama becoming a politician. The article gets far worse from there. Fortunately, the article grossly mischaracterizes an article Matt Yglesias wrote saying that a lefty economic agenda can play in the suburbs, provoking him into a thread that saves me some time:
For starters, the whole idea of a [checks notes] professor at [checks notes] Princeton lecturing others about the acceptable class composition of a political coalition is so absurd as to be hardly worth engaging with.— Matthew Yglesias (@mattyglesias) October 15, 2019
An Ivy League educated-and-employed professor calling Elizabeth Warren (the extremely rare prominent Ivy League professor who didn’t come from an elite background) a phony for teaching at Harvard is not the most consequential bad faith in the piece, but it is surely the most hilarious and shameless. And Karp doesn’t even leave it implicit; in the opening hate-wank fantasy Governor Malia’s hypothetical neoliberal plans are developed “in partnership with Harvard University” and Warren is tied to Mayor Pete as “Harvard folk, of course.” Yes, if only Warren were associated with that well-known most progressive and inclusive of the Ivies, Princeton.
The substantive arguments are, needless to say at this point, no better:
Third, to the extent that I am familiar with the other articles he offers citations to (one of which was written by me) he has wildly mischaracterized them.— Matthew “Scary Halloween Themed Pun” Yglesias (@mattyglesias) October 15, 2019
The Jacobin party line developed a few months and much worse polling for Warren ago was that Bernie had to be a vastly superior candidate because he was getting more support from African-Americans and whites without college degrees. This is no longer even remotely true:
So at this point the argument has morphed from “Sanders has a more diverse coalition” to “Warren’s greater support among African-Americans and whites without college degrees doesn’t count because she also attracts more educated professionals,” which makes less than no sense, at least assuming your goal is to win elections.
Which appears to suggest that ‘mass politics’ properly understood can only exist when it isn’t large enough to win. Look, I don’t make the rules here people.— David Watkins (@djw172) October 15, 2019
And, of course, if Sanders supporters in June really believed that the marginal diversity of your primary coalition determined how you would govern, they would have supported Biden. They didn’t, because the argument doesn’t make any sense; it was just reverse engineered to argue that Warren’s New Deal liberalism is categorically different than Bernie’s, and now that it’s been rendered inoperative they’re trying various ad hoc kludges than lack even a superficial logic.
And, finally, we inevitably get what is properly named the “Jacobin two-step”:
But then all of these structural barriers are swept away in the Sanders Administration scenario, because through the magic of assuming a can-opener Bernie has created a durable highly mobilized cross-racial working class coalition.— Matthew “Scary Halloween Themed Pun” Yglesias (@mattyglesias) October 15, 2019
Anyways … Bernie is fine!
He was a fine mayor and a fine senator and he’d be a fine nominee and a fine president.
But to enact transformational policy change, progressives need to win more senate races — there’s no secret loophole. https://t.co/nCsf3u9Mv8— Matthew “Scary Halloween Themed Pun” Yglesias (@mattyglesias) October 15, 2019
It’s worth unpacking Karp’s historical claims a bit more:
It wasn’t always this way. Even in the United States, where racism and the two-party system have always sapped working-class solidarity, politics in the mid-twentieth century was polarized firmly along class lines. From the 1930s to the 1960s, if you were a working-class voter — a mail carrier in Harlem, a miner in West Virginia, a farm laborer in New Mexico, a garment worker in Cleveland — you were very likely to vote Democrat. If you were a manager or professional outside the Solid South — from Vermont to California — you were very likely to vote Republican. At its peak, in the era of Franklin D. Roosevelt, class voting was nearly as robust in the United States as anywhere in the industrialized world.
Across the twentieth century, it was this politics of class that structured the great and lasting achievements of European social democracy, from Britain’s National Health Service to the Scandinavian welfare state. In the United States, class voting produced the political coalitions that delivered the New Deal and the Civil Rights Acts. Here, as elsewhere, the decisive energy for reform came about through working-class organization, chiefly in labor and social movements.
A few points here:
- For most of its existence, the New Deal coalition was not a genuine multiracial coalition, but a coalition in which African-Americans were subordinate partners who New Deal programs treated inequitably. When the Great Society did create a genuine multiracial coalition, working class solidarity immediately fractured. This seems important!
- Much of the New Deal coalition wasn’t even liberal, let alone social democratic. It’s kind of amazing when people trying to manufacture some huge ideological chasm between Warren and Sanders also argue that people who voted for Hubert Humphrey and James Eastland were all part of the same pro-labor coalition.
- Most importantly, note the fancy shuffling in the last paragraph designed to evade the fact that the vaunted New Deal coalition didn’t produce the policy results that Karp believes would follow as night follows day from a Bernie presidency! The vast majority of the time between 1938-1963 saw progressive changed strangled by the conservative coalition. While Britain was passing the NHS through its low-veto-point system, Truman’s proposed equivalent was stillborn, while he also failed to get even a third of either house of Congress to veto the Taft-Hartley Act. Not only could Bernie not re-assemble the New Deal coalition in the 2020 general election, it wouldn’t somehow cause the structural barriers to passing M4A and other ambitious proposals to vanish even if he could.
Anyway, if the latest Bernie campaign theory that it’s bad to have supporters who only discovered you when you signed with a major label ends up vaulting him from low double digits to the nomination, I owe David Sirota a Coke.