The Democrats elitism and obsession with identity could kill the party’s chances for revival

Florida Democratic Party President Sally Boynton Brown’s now infamous remarks on Thursday in Broward County that were first reported by the Miami New Times continued a pattern of Democratic leaders demonstrating contempt, elitism and a malicious anger toward white working class voters. For many in the party, working class white voters deserve their fate because they supported Donald Trump for President. For some like Boynton Brown, beating up on white voters is a passage to advancement in the Democratic Party’s echo chamber (see clip below).

What was thought to be a potential period of soul-searching after the 2016 election instead turned into a period where corporatist Democrats who have turned the party’s agenda and organizing mechanisms into an obsession with demographics, an acceptance of corporate influence and a rejection of progressive economic policies  doubled-down to maintain control of the party. Part of the way they maintain control and win internal battles is to play the identity card and to malign white voters.

The Democrats the post-morten establishment narrative goes after all did not lose the 2016 election – it was stolen by the white supremacist axis of Vladimir Putin (who just four years earlier the same corporatist Democrats felt wasn’t a threat and Mitt Romney was an alarmist to consider Russia this nation’s greatest security threat), Steve Bannon, Roger Stone and Donald Trump.  So the party can “continue doing what we’re doing because if democracy is safeguarded we will win.”

The echo chamber has been in stronger form than usual since November. What’s apparent is that the institutional Democratic Party has become every bit as elitist as the GOP was from the 1920’s until the 1970’s. In that period the GOP was almost a permanent national minority party even though they won occasional Presidential elections – between 1930 and 1994 they held control of the US House of Representatives for a grand total of four years, while the Democrats controlled the House for the other 60. But many of today’s Democrats at least at the institutional level lack a class consciousness, self awareness or a the degree of compassion for those less fortunate or less educated that used to be associated with the Republicans. Boynton Brown sadly isn’t a one-off or an exception to a general rule – she’s in fact a prototypical Democratic leader in her rhetoric these days, typical of those trying to maintain popularity within the bubble of Democratic Party elites.

We as progressives cannot live in our own silos anymore, we cannot demonize those with less education and worldliness than us while claiming we are tolerant. TOLERANCE MEANS TOLERANCE, FULL STOP. IT DOES NOT MEAN BEING JUDGMENTAL OR INTOLERANT BECAUSE YOU THINK YOU ARE SMARTER OR SOMEHOW MORE ENTITLED THAN THOSE YOU PUT DOWN. IT DOES NOT MEAN CALLING EVERY WHITE VOTER WHO MIGHT DISAGREE POLITICALLY WITH YOU A RACIST.

The left has become more and more intolerant in this country through the last few years toward whites at the same time as the right has created a counter-reaction that pushes racial, ethnic and gender buttons. The book “Chain Reaction” which Bill Clinton read before his 1992 Presidential run described this phenomenon as it pertained to the 1980’s, but this largely faded in the 1990’s and 2000’s.  It’s been conjured back up now by both sides when progressives should be talking about economic inequality and how it impacts people of all races, ethnicities and genders rather than basically saying if you are not a minority or a liberal white millennial we don’t want you. Again this might seem harsh but this appears to be the undertone of much of the left’s push in recent years.

Why is identity politics so dangerous?

Besides pitting ethnic groups and races against one another it allows a party to essentially stand for NOTHING. Much like the segregationist Democrats in the south prior to the 1960’s had no ideology other than “party unity” and a desire to maintain a racist social order, playing politics based on race and ethnicity compels members of said races and ethnicity to vote Democratic because it is part of their DNA – not because of any abiding principle or ideology. In reality, this isn’t much different than the southern segregationist Democrats of yesteryear or the many WASP Republicans from New England and parts of New York who continued to support and vote Republican into the 1990’s even though they were very far to the left of the national GOP. Obviously beginning in the 1990’s the two aforementioned groups realigned based on ideology.

I’d even argue the Democrats obsession with Russian influence on President Trump but seeming ignorance or tolerance of Turkish influence (which based on Michael Flynn’s payments appears to be at least at this writing more substantial in terms of HARD evidence) or Saudi Arabia is a warped kind of identity politics. It’s not dissimilar in its own way to how the Democrats from the south pushed all sorts of restrictions on the District of Colombia because it had a majority African-American population and advocated strong engagement with racist regimes in Rhodesia and South Africa while rejecting any trace of multiracial democracy. In the Democrats case, while an investigation is ongoing and badly needed into possible Russian collusion with the Trump campaign, leaders in the party seem unwilling to hit Trump’s associations with non-European Christian countries. The ties between Turkish strongman Recep Tayyip Erdoğan who has completely changed the direction of his country, turning the secular pro-western republic of Atatürk into an authoritarian theocracy in alliance with the Saudis and other radical religious states.

From my vantage point American alignment and Trump’s business ties to Turkey and Saudi Arabia  are as serious as any dealings with Putin’s Russia. But Democrats aren’t focused on these nations at all despite Flynn’s ties to Erdoğan or Trump’s slavish obedience to Saudi Arabia’s misogynistic agenda – yes Russia is an issue but I sense it’s “safe” for Democrats in this identity politics era to tackle because it is a white European country with lots recent problems with racism particularly at soccer matches and other public events. This identity politics embrace is why Democrats find it difficult to openly state the Pulse shooting was an act of Islamic terrorism or to make the obvious link between the radical Islamist’s abroad and the radicalized evangelical Christians at home. Offending the later is fine for many Democrats but for some reason not those who may find some sympathy for the former.

The net result of an overemphasis on identity politics and maligning of working class white voters has been electoral losses for the Democrats and a Republican Party that has come to power that is far less willing to work with minority voters and groups than they were in the Bush years. As recently as 1996, Democrats carried rural areas of many southern states in a Presidential election and as recently as 2012, rural white voters in Iowa and Wisconsin favored the Democratic nominee.

As I discussed Friday, the Democrats attitude toward white working class voters can be demonstrated by the difficulty the party has had in the Wisconsin 3rd district, represented since 1996 by Democrat Ron Kind, a thoughtful and consciousness member of the House.  In 2008, President Obama won Kind’s congressional district by 20 points and in 2012 he won it by 11. In 2016, Hillary Clinton lost the district by five points, a massive reversal from the previous two elections. Kind’s district is 97% white and dotted by small and medium sized towns as well as dairy farms.

Countless examples of districts like Kind’s throughout the nation can be found. Unless Democratic leaders change their tact and act less patronizing and more respectful toward all Americans, we can continue to see the party lose elections and alienate what once were the core of Democratic base.

Boynton Brown’s comments are symptomatic of a greater problem and one that will doom the Democrats. The party has bet almost exclusively on demographics rather than ideology or policy. The Democrats are holding together a fragile coalition of minorities and white liberals based largely on fear and misunderstanding. The elites of the Democratic Party depends on this coalition to keep THEM in power internally even if it means losing elections externally. The party seems determined despite some symbolism (like letting Former Kentucky Governor Steve Beshear give the State of the Union response) to completely dehumanize poor white voters with their rhetoric. This seems designed to win internal popularity contests for leaders like Boynton Brown but just further marginalizes the Democrats from the mainstream of American public opinion.

14 comments

  1. Sally Boyton Brown is begging. How can she find POC to be her friend? Someone, PLEASE be her friend.

  2. JOSEPH KREPS · · Reply

    I’m Sally’s friend. If taking out all that’s wrong with our party on one person makes you happy go ahead. She’s tough and will make you eat your words. Sally is not the enemy. She was brought in to get Democrats elect as opposed to the previous administration. If you had been as critical of DWS, Tant, Arceneaux, and the rest of the self serving corporate cronies you would have more credibility. Sally came here to help us out of the basement. She left her home of 40 years to serve us and you and other self serving know it alls trash her. You don’t know shit about her. I am ashamed of you all.

    1. But Joe, you’re not a POC, Boyton Brown needs a black friend, and it’s her job to “shut you down” if you’re white…unless you rep for a big money interest who will write checks with lots of zeroes b/c taking their money is the only way to get them to behave. Get with the program!

    2. Boy that’s news to Tant & Arcenuaux that we were soft on them! They didn’t view it that way at all but I guess you are true arbiter of who is progressive, who cares, who is self-serving and who is effective. This is a party that’s lost 17 of the last 18 elections for governor & cabinet yet in early days of this administration is doubling-down on what got us in this mess. It’s our job like it was with past administration to cal them out for their failings. It’s also our job to be consistent and not he cheerleading for certain personalities we might like and don’t hold to the same standard as those we don’t like who have similar voting records.

  3. Jim Callahan · · Reply

    I think progressives (and specifically Bernies) make a huge mistake lumping people together as “corporatists”. There is a big difference between corporations with benefits and corporations without benefits. Corporations with benefits (healthcare / pensions / education benefits / workers on the board) on the Bismark German stakeholder model can help economic advancement of the working class. On the other hand, shareholder-only corporations (as defined by Karl Marx and MBA “Agency Theory”) have as their ONLY purpose to increase the price of the shares owned by the stockholders have as their DUTY to SCREW the taxman, supplier, worker or anyone else (neighbor, unionist, environmentalist) who gets in their way. Hillary Clinton has a stakeholder view of capitalism; Rex Tillerson has a shareholder-only view of capitalism. That is why Hillary Clinton can support Human Rights; while Rex Tillerson opposes anything that gets in the way of Exxon making money for Exxon shareholders. That’s why Trump is going to the big oil producer Saudi Arabia first and human rights in Saudi Arabia are NOT on the agenda. Hillary Clinton famously said, “Women’s Rights are Human Rights”. So, what do you think Hillary Clinton would say or do with respect to Saudi Arabia?

    1. Fair points except for the Saudi one – given the amount of money the Clinton foundation has taken from Saudi interests and the past willingness of Clinton’s to bend to foreign campaign contributors (the quid pro quo with Lanny Dabvis being hired by the Govt. of Pakistan, then a contribution to Hillary’s 2000 Senate Campaign from Davis’ firm then Bill Clinton’s sudden decision to add a visit with Musharaf in Islamabad to his foreign farewell trip stands out) indicates to me Hillary may have spoken loudly to get attention about the plight of Saudi women and the near state of slavery they exist in, but would have carried a small stick and ultimately done business with them. Obama is the ONLY President since Carter to stand up to the Saudi’s. Bill Clinton was in their pocket even more than the Bush’s in some respects.

  4. Fisher Fleming · · Reply

    Oh boy. Has everyone seen the other video out, where this woman is saying the same nonsense, and people in the audience are openly laughing at her?

    How can this nonsense be taken seriously, by anyone, even for a moment?

    The attitudes on display here are destroying the Democratic Party.

    As far as this blog criticizing other institutional Dems with similarly Republican-in-disguise attitudes, I read this page religiously, and it most certainly does that regularly.

    Corporatist / institutional Dems are the ones making a huge mistake — imagining that identity groups are tiny little islands where you can visit, throw a few shiny beads off the ship, then sail away and serve the same wealthy interests that have driven Republican politics for decades, confident all the little identity groups will support you because you have replaced people’s real economic needs and wants with empty, divisive appeals to demographic differences.

    This is a foolish and dangerous path to tread. People are not fooled by empty pandering.

    “[I am a privileged white person who will] ‘shut white people down?'”

    This is supposed to motivate Democratic support? People believe this kind of talk is credible or effective? I threw up in my mouth a little just hearing it put forward as though it were serious.

    No one is buying this. No one will ever buy this. And no one should.

    Gah.

  5. John W Gaillard · · Reply

    Apparently she was taken pretty seriously as she was applauded for saying, “my job is to shut white people down.” Unfortunately, she didn’t start with herself. And thank God she didn’t, right? Who other than soul sister Brown from Idaho could tell us that we’ve been, “talking a lot of smack.” And who else should be in charge of “schooling white people?” I wonder if she ever apologized for this? If not, it’s mind boggling that anyone made her Executive Director, much less President, of the FDP. How would someone with this mind-set, someone who is clearly comfortable saying racist things about white people, be the President of any political organization. ?

  6. I applaud Kartik’s mention of Edsall’s outstanding book, “Chain Reaction: The Impact of Race, Rights, and Taxes on American Politics.” In 2001, I ran into him in D.C. and he said he was considering writing an updated version. I’m not sure if “Building Red America: The New Conservative Coalition and the Drive for Permanent Power,” is that follow up, but among other things he writes, Democrats have lost “a decisive majority of white voters.” It’s likely a good read, as Edsall is someone who clearly wants progressives and Democrats to do better in elections.

    Kartik’s writing about Turkey and Saudi Arabia is insightful and includes a point of view I didn’t consider. However, as our Cold War adversary which enough nuclear missiles to destroy us Russia is clearly the larger story. Russia has nearly twice the population of Turkey and nearly five times the population of Saudi Arabia. It’s GDP still dwarfs both countries as well. Turkey’s nearly complete reversal of Ataturk is deeply regrettable, especially for a NATO “ally, ” but Russia is still the larger story.

  7. […] “The Democrats Elitism and Obsession With Identity Could Kill the Party’s Chances For Revival” via Kartik Krishnayer of the Florida […]

  8. Sinclair · · Reply

    HAHAHA! “We need to have that conversation!”
    That all democrats Talk about is skin color!
    That’s why I’m in the Green Party now.

  9. […] TFS Story #2: Democrats elitism and obsession with identity could kill the party’s chances for revival. https://thefloridasqueeze.com/2017/05/20/the-democrats-elitism-and-obsession-with-identity-could-kil… […]

  10. […] TFS Story #2: Democrats elitism and obsession with identity could kill the party’s chances for revival. https://thefloridasqueeze.com/2017/05/20/the-democrats-elitism-and-obsession-with-identity-could-kil… […]

  11. […] “Besides pitting ethnic groups and races against one another it allows a party to essentially stand for NOTHING.” (I included Krishnaiger’s bold facing and capitalization. The piece is linked here.).  […]

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