The Corner


Progressivism, or Why the Culture War Is Turning in the Republicans’ Favor

A demonstrator holds a sign during a protest against racial inequality at Lafayette Park in Washington, D.C., June 6, 2020. (Lucas Jackson/Reuters)

On a House caucus call today, Democratic Representative Abigail Spanberger, reportedly in an agitated state, warned that Democrats “lost races we shouldn’t have lost.” She further claimed that “defund police almost cost me my race because of an attack ad. Don’t say socialism ever again. Need to get back to basics. . . . If we run this race again we will get f***ng torn apart again in 2022.”

Elsewhere, former Missouri senator Claire McCaskill had this to say: “Whether you are talking guns or . . . abortion . . . or gay marriage and rights for ‘transsexuals’ and other people who we as a party ‘look after’ and make sure they are treated fairly. As we circled the issues we left voters behind and Republicans dove in.”

I see other Democrats grousing today that their candidates in Florida and elsewhere were falsely labeled “socialist.” I’m sorry, if that’s not the message you want to send, perhaps Nancy Pelosi shouldn’t pose with a gaggle of Marxists on the cover of Rolling Stone. Perhaps Democrats should treat Bernie Sanders as a fringe crank rather than a comrade who’s just moving a tad too quickly. Maybe arguing “democratic” socialism is the good kind doesn’t quite do it for the folks in Des Moines.

What are voters in Texas supposed to make of every major presidential Democrat presidential candidate, including Joe Biden, giving their blessing to the authoritarian Green New Deal? Boy, fact-checkers had to work overtime to help Biden walk back those endorsements of fracking bans, of defunding the police, and of confiscating guns.

We may well have a president in a few months who says there are “at least three” genders. Which probably seems sane on Twitter, but less so in Jacksonville, Fla. McCaskill has already apologized for her use of the word “transsexuals.” Unlike progressive urban dwellers, one suspects the vast majority of suburban Americans have zero clue what McCaskill is sorry about. They may even believe that letting genetic boys compete with their daughters in track and field is ridiculous. They probably wouldn’t be crazy about being accused of being transphobic for taking this rational position.

Now, of course, most Americans aren’t obsessing about transgender issues when voting — if they even think about them at all. But hundreds of these woke inanities tend to add up.

The same thing goes for the identitarianism that’s now overwhelmed left-wing politics. The constant obsession with race isn’t working. We just went through an alleged racial reckoning and four years solid of liberal pundits accusing every political opponent of being a crypto-Nazi, and yet Democrats lost ground among black and Latino voters. For any useful purpose, that well is nearly dry.

There are, no doubt, some populist redistributive economic ideas that might well be popular. Minimum-wage hikes seem pretty innocuous, I imagine. Raising taxes on the wealthy is always a winner. At some point, though, a white working-class dad in suburban Pittsburgh or the Latina daughter of a Venezuelan immigrant in Miami is going to hear the tragically ludicrous ravings of Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and learn what modern progressivism is really about.

One day, maybe soon, Democrats will be rid of Donald Trump. But the hardcore progressives they welcomed into their party during the Resistance aren’t going anywhere.

These people, as Yarom Hazony has noted, believe in a Marxist ideology in which class is swapped out for wokeism but economic pseudoscience is still intact. Many mainstream reporters, some of whom spent four years championing the Squad, probably struggle to comprehend why anyone sees its views as extreme. Exit polls tell us that many other Americans do not.

But now that races are increasingly nationalized — in part, because Democrats made everything about Donald Trump — the culture war matters again. As a political matter, that war may have been a drag on Republicans in the past. It’s one they should be fighting today.


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