The Left Needs to Acknowledge Its Sexism: A Follow-Up
One of the reasons I wanted Jon Ossoff to win this week’s special election is because it would shut up the people on the alt-left who insist that the only way to win centrist/conservative districts is by running super-left-wing candidates who promise to dole out single payer like candy. Instead, his loss has led us back to the circular firing squad, and who’s their newest target? Why, former House Speaker and current House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (without whom we might not even have an ACA, but bros before hos, amirite?)
Although sensible people can agree that this is a really dumb notion, the alt-left, taking its cues from the right wing and Paganism, always needs a female sacrifice. First it was Hillary Clinton. When they couldn’t blame her, they started blaming Chelsea, because…well, because. Now, in addition to attackingKristen Gillibrand and Kamala Harris, they’re blaming Pelosi, because…LOOK! SOMEONE WITHOUT Y CHROMOSOMES!
My aim with this piece isn’t to defend Pelosi in the face of these attacks. No one is going to beat her so bad she’ll end up in a hospital on Guerrero Street, and Sane Twitter is doing an excellent job shutting this argument down. New York Magazine’s Jonathan Chait has also written an excellent piece on it right here. I’m also not going to use this piece to outline a future for the Democratic Party, not because I don’t have my own ideas on where they should go, but because it’s for another day. Instead, I wanted to talk about the fallout from my May piece, “The Left Needs to Acknowledge Its Sexism,” and how the lessons I gleamed from it can help us shut down stupid arguments and the people who make them.
When I wrote that piece, I was reacting against a status posted by a college friend named Paul (not his real name). He was a liberal from a red state and we used to hang out from time to time, talking politics, TV, and whatever campus theater we had seen or worked on. But the more I learned about him and the company he surrounded himself with, the more I moved away from him. We graduated a year apart from each other and went our separate ways.
The Bernie Sanders candidacy galvanized him, leading him to write all about hating the “neoliberal establishment,” and joining a group of socialists. Those differences in opinion could be ignored easily, but when he did choose to chime in on something I posted, he never, ever let anything go. Here’s an example of the type of argument he typically engages in, motivated by a Facebook status I posted warning liberals against attacking Obama for accepting the 400k deal from Goldman-Sachs:
Like a dog with a bone, Paul cannot give up. He aruges with people for hours, never conceding his points even when they’re easy to disprove, and only wins by exhausting his opponents. It’s very Republican of him.
When he went on his “Primary me Daddy” screed against Nancy Pelosi on May 4th, the day the House passed the first iteration of the AHCA, I’d had it up to here. He’d posted condescendingly about Hillary before, but this was the first time I’d ever seen him write something that struck me as overtly sexist. I wrote the piece here on Medium (and had it republished by The Daily Banter, where I am now a regular contributor), knowing Paul would read it and react to it, which is why I never once mentioned his real name, and, true to my word, I’m not mentioning it here, either.
My hope was that, at worst, he’d question me in a private message, where we could each have our say and talk about our behavior — I’m not above taking some criticism every now and then if it’s constructive. And maybe, just maybe, he’d promise to amend his behavior rather than just put up a wall and insist I was the one with the problem, and not him.
Instead, he posted a status about my article, saying that I had explicitly called him a sexist when I didn’t even mention him by name.
It was one of the most self-destructive things I have ever seen a person do. Since he’d deleted the Pelosi status earlier that day, nobody apart from a few people would know my article was about him, and none of my friends who commented on his status came to me to ask why I’d written something about him. But rather than ignore it, or talk to me about it offline or in a private message, he had to leak to the whole world that this was about him, if only to get some positive affirmation that he wasn’t a sexist. After I confronted him about it in a private message, he retorted that I was the only one accusing him of this. I said, “Maybe the reason I’m the only one who says this is because everyone else has given up,” and blocked his ass.
The lesson learned: in order to defeat alt-left bros who think they have all the answers, and that most of their answers involve moving our platform away from civil rights, or tearing down anyone who doesn’t think exactly like them, or refusing to accept any criticism of their demigod, Bernie Sanders, we have to let them run their mouths off. Engaging with them can be tiring, but the more they talk, and the more we question them, the more inevitably they’ll contradict themselves or step in rhetorical dog shit. Once they give us that opening, we can expose them for the frauds they are because they never let anything go (for another good example of this, read my Daily Banter editor Ben Cohen’s piece on how hack journalist Caitlin Johnstone threatened to sue us after we exposed her for who she is.)
Just keep talking, bros. We’ll be there to remove the safety net when you fall.