Not Choosing is Still a Decision
The ongoing battle between the two factions of the Democratic party, Bernie’s left vs. the Obama coalition, can be boiled down to this: Whether the party should abandon its traditional focus on civil rights in an effort to court white, working class voters (WWC) or continue fighting to protecting the rights of oppressed minorities and relinquish WWC to the GOP.
Detractors object to my characterization that alt-left is against civil rights. “It doesn’t have to be a choice,” they protest, but this is convenient, self-serving, and false. There’s no middle ground between preserving the rights of minorities, or opting not to.
Protecting civil rights is either your guiding philosophy or else it’s just another negotiation point. And since dismissing the importance of active anti-racism is a large part of Bernie’s (and now the alt-left’s) problems with POC, you can understand the lack of faith in how POC would fare in those negotiation. Our party’s track record is, well, deplorable. (As an aside, it has been argued that the alt-left movement is the death throes of the last vestiges of white supremacy in our party.)
In this political climate, issues of race are at the forefront, and white voters are motivated by race just as much as POC/allies. What’s more, and this too often goes unstated, whites who are motivated by racial animus often view racial equality as a zero-sum game. Efforts to advance civil rights are commonly misconstrued as an assault on white people, an inescapable reality of racial politics.
Like voting 3rd party, rejecting this premise out of hand or pretending any economic policy is “colorblind” just helps the other side prevail. Someone with good intentions might think the goal of dismantling structural racism would be non-controversial. But that discounts the perception many whites hold that any gains for POC come out of “their” portion, that they themselves will be deprived in some way.
To be clear, this isn’t an argument for abandoning economic issues. Of course we can, and should, advocate in both arenas. But it’s more complicated than that. Dems must decide whether to continue pursuing a civil rights agenda even though the message might be off-putting to some white voters. I have faith Dems will choose to keep fighting for oppressed minorities. Not choosing is still a decision.