+“Joe Biden Is Problematic” | The New York Times | Charles Blow
“On Sunday, Biden made a speech on race in Birmingham commemorating the 1963 bombing at the 16th Street Baptist Church, in which he said on the issue of how racism and racial hatred affect black people:
“We know we’re not there yet. No one knows it better. My mom used to have an expression, ‘You want to understand me, walk in my shoes a mile.’ Those of us who are white try, but we can never fully, fully understand. No matter how hard we try. We’re almost, we’re almost at this next phase of progress in my view.”
Progress. That is the wall behind which white America hides, including white liberals. (Even many black leaders have absorbed and regurgitate the progress narrative.) It expects black people to swell and applaud at their effort. But, how is that a fair and legitimate expectation? Slavery, white supremacy and racism, are horrid, man-made constructs that should never have existed in the first place. Am I supposed to cheer the slow, creeping, centuries-long undoing of a thing that should never have been done?
Malcolm X was once asked if he felt that we were making progress in the country. He responded: “No. I will never say that progress is being made. If you stick a knife in my back nine inches and pull it out six inches, there’s no progress. If you pull it all the way out, that’s not progress. The progress is healing the wound that the blow made.”
I don’t even think that’s progress. That just returns the situation to a common baseline before the crime was committed.
Furthermore, it’s not what Biden says in prepared remarks that’s problematic, it’s what he says off the cuff and under pressure that to me reveal an antiquated view on racial matters and racial sensitivities.”
1) Any article worthy of a Daily DeX must have a “take” and a “meta-take.” The take is what I tell my friends and followers when I share an article with them. The meta-take is the story beyond the article’s story. It’s the big picture. A meta-take adds richness and revelation to a larger narrative. Most importantly, it decodes the persistently obscured. The take fades as the news cycle churns. A good meta-take has a long shelf life. And a great meta-take is the stuff of evergreen content. In Charles Blow’s article, the take is Joe Biden’s “liberal racism.” The meta-take is the rarely told history of how the American Left gains power by continually accelerating the pace of social and cultural change.
2) There was a time when Democratic politics was predominately class politics. At that time, labels such as “liberal,” “moderate,” “radical,” and “conservative” (there were many conservative Democrats back then) staked one’s claim on ideologies and policies that gradually pushed or forced political change along trajectories of class. Then, slowly, beginning in the early 70s as the Democratic Party, led by “Atari Democrats,” abandoned its working-class base as well as southern whites, identity politics began to disrupt class politics. Unlike class politics, and because it privileges transforming social and ideological conditions rather than material conditions, identity politics has more easily transformed the way liberal Americans think than class politics could. It is no coincidence that this shift occurred in a period from the late 60s through the early 80s of deindustrialization, economic inflation and stagnation, and an energy crisis. In the midst of economic turmoil for which moderate and centrist Democrats had few answers, radicals found that the pace of social and cultural change could be steadily increased and that Leftists doing the pushing could accumulate new forms of social power.
3) The results included the first wave political correctness in the 70s, a second wave in the 90s, and a current third wave that emerged at the midpoint of the Obama administration. Each wave propagated further from colleges, universities, and media outlets into the larger culture. Radicals have benefited most from these waves of cultural shift, while liberals, moderates, and centrists (particularly if they’re older-—this is also a generational struggle) can find themselves where Joe Biden is now—in the slow lane of social change even though their honest and long-held beliefs about increasing fairness and equality never required much change. However, this also meant that while elements of justice, fairness, and equality were extended to marginalized groups, the power dynamics among marginalized and dominant groups remained unchanged. This is the tension we hear in Joe Biden’s statement from a recent debate about social workers and record players in black homes as a corrective for generational racism. It has the same tenor and effect as Hilary Clinton’s infamous “super predators” comment.
4) Biden’s comments aren’t simply relics of a different time. They’re reminders of a liberal social and economic order that’s disintegrating because it never reinvigorated its ideologies of class and economic fairness, of which kids neck-deep in school debt while working gig jobs are a dismal and absurd result. Third-wave political correctness will rewrite the rules of that order. Culture war has always been a substitute for economic war. Third-wave PC’s critics never understood its inevitable evolution from grievance mob mentalities into a refined deliberation network for deciding who gets late capitalism’s scraps after climate change, the end of globalization, and populism’s discontents take their cut.
5) We’re just realizing what a revolutionary moment this is. However, whether third-wave PC is a viable strategy for building and consolidating political power on the Left in ways that aren’t reminders of China’s Cultural Revolution is anyone’s guess. I’m betting “No” because it clearly produces diminishing returns as people, like Joe Biden, who were once considered allies are now marginalized in ways that make it more difficult to tell who one’s true allies are.
Here’s more of what I’ve been reading:
+“The Pragmatic Roots of Biden’s Incoherence” | The New Republic
+“Debunking the Myth That ‘Identity Politics’ Is Bad for the Democratic Party” | Vox | Eric Schickler
Image Source: flickr