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The Curse Of Intersectionality

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s Green New Deal has been pretty widely mocked as an example of pie-in-the-sky progressivist policy thinking. Leaving aside the wildly unworkable stuff relating directly to energy and the environment, notice small print stuff, like the item on page 5 of the GND FAQ c [1]alling for ending and repairing “historic oppression of frontline and vulnerable communities.” Got that? If you don’t want to be forced to rent a room to transgendered tenants, then you must want the planet to burn. 

Robby Soave of Reason points out that the Green New Deal requires subsidizing lazy bums. [2] Look at the last line of this section of the GND FAQ:

 

Soave writes:

Why would the left include a provision about subsidizing the lifestyle of lazy people in its climate change manifesto? Because that’s what intersectionality requires.

As I explain my forthcoming book, PANIC ATTACK: Young Radicals in the Age of Trump (pre-order it here [3]), intersectionality is a philosophical framework that has come to completely dominate progressive activist thinking in the 30 years since the sociologist Kimberle Crenshaw first coined it. An intersectional progressive recognizes that racism, and sexism, and homophobia, and transphobia, and age-ism, and classism, and so on, are separate-but-related phenomena. To ignore just one of these sources of oppression is to fail intersectionality; the seriously social-justice minded must treat all of these issues as equally important and confront them en masse.

Intersectionality — that’s exactly it. Liberal Jonathan Chait criticizes the plan as wildly unrealistic, and points out that even as an expression of blue-sky liberalism, it leaves out some basic things that are necessary to meaningfully reducing carbon emissions: building more nuclear power plants, increasing population density, cap-and-trade policies. Chait:

How to explain this curious lack of ambition? Simple: All these things divide progressive activists. Some of the most committed environmentalists got involved in the movement in the 1970s, before climate change was a major issue but when the left identified nuclear power with the Cold War and Three Mile Island. This mind-set shaped the thinking of enough environmentalists that their allies in the movement feel compelled to respect them despite overwhelming evidence that nuclear power, which does not emit greenhouse gasses, needs to fill some of the void left by phasing out fossil fuels. Likewise, many leftists regard relaxed [4] restrictions on development and carbon caps, as unacceptably market-based. So those policies are out.

The operating principle behind the Green New Deal is a no-enemies-to-the-left spirit of fostering unity among every faction of the progressive movement. Thus, at the same time, the plan avoids taking stances that are absolutely vital to reduce carbon emissions, it embraces policies that have nothing to do with climate change whatsoever.

More Chait:

Sean McElwee, a socialist organizer with a penchant for colorfully  [5]threatening [6] to destroy his enemies, designed the Green New Deal as a framework to encompass every maximal demand of the left. “The Green New Deal is what it means to be progressive. Clean air, clean water, decarbonizing, green jobs, a just transition, and environmental justice are what it means to a progressive,” he tells Vox. “By definition that means politicians who don’t support those goals aren’t progressive. We need to hold that line. Get on the GND train or choo-choo, motherf**ker, we’re going to go right past you.”

On page two of the GND FAQ, they talk about eliminating “farting cows”(a environmental methane source) and airplanes as the longterm goal. I’m not making this up. No planes, no cows.

Guess which of the Democratic presidential contenders (or those expected to announce soon) have signed on to the Green New Deal choo-choo?  [7]

Bernie Sanders

Kamala Harris

Kirsten Gillibrand

Cory Booker

Elizabeth Warren

Amy Klobuchar

Julian Castro

Tulsi Gabbard

Some of you readers say I’m a crackpot for conflating the Social Justice Warrior cultural agenda with economic socialism. The Green New Deal proposal demonstrates why in practical political terms, you cannot separate them. The doctrine of intersectionality will not let them.

https://platform.twitter.com/widgets.js [9]

I agree that we need more pro-environment government laws and policies. I agree that the government needs to do something about strengthening the social safety net, income inequality, and strengthening the stability of the working class. I am somewhat to the left of the GOP on these issues. But if you think the Democratic Party as it exists today, post-Hillary and post-Obama, is going to let its standard-bearer vacillate the least bit from every maximal demand of the Left, you’re dreaming. It’s not right-wingers like me who are trying to smear socialism by attaching every crackpot thing the cultural left embraces to an economic program; it’s left-wing activists. One Millennial reader of this blog who works in DC Democratic circles told me last year that the militant activists really are driving this bus.

One caveat: I would have said the same thing about the GOP prior to Trump. The party’s factions litmus-tested everybody to death. Along came Trump and blew that system sky-high. Trump was a black swan, though. I suppose a black swan could fly into the Democratic picture too — after Trump, to be realistic is to allow for the impossible — but I don’t think it’s going to happen.

Assuming that a GND endorser gets the Democratic nomination, it’s going to be awesome to see Trump lay into him or her for opposing farting cows, airplanes, and “oppression,” and backing subsidies for layabouts for the sake of saving the planet.

Some of y’all hate my talking about the political meaning of the Fog City Pack, freaky San Francisco gay dudes who pretend like they’re dogs  [10], but I’m telling you, intersectionality means that weirdos like that will be humping the party’s leg insatiably and unshakably. #FogCityDemocrats.

UPDATE: Ross Douthat’s new column starts like this: [11]

The first major policy intervention from Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, the noted social-media personality and future dictator-for-life of the Americas (I believe she’s also a congresswoman of some sort), is a quite-extraordinary document: a blueprint for fighting climate change that manages to confirm every conservative critique of liberal environmental activism, every Republican suspicion of what global-warming alarm is really all about.

The core conservative suspicion is that when liberals talk about the dire threat of global warming, they’re actually seizing opportunistically on the issue to justify, well, #fullsocialism — the seizure of the economy’s commanding heights in order to implement the most left-wing possible agenda.

A conventional liberal, up until now, would dismiss that belief as simply paranoid, the product of Fox News feedback loops and the science-denying fever swamps. But the Green New Deal that Ocasio-Cortez and Massachusetts Senator Edward Markey are sponsoring — and that four leading Democratic contenders for the presidency have already endorsed — responds by saying: Yes, that’s absolutely correct.

Read the whole thing.  [11]

The Douthat column reminded me of something I should have brought up earlier. Do y’all know why the Yellow Vests protests started in France? They were a spontaneous movement by non-urban French people who hated the proposed gasoline tax that the Macron government wanted to impose as part of its green agenda. The people quite rightly understood that this tax would fall heaviest on rural and suburban people — not the urban centers, where wealth and power are concentrated. The politics of fighting global warming are very, very difficult. The fact that they’re difficult do not make the scientific facts about planetary temperatures and rising oceans go away. But nobody has figured out how, in a democracy, to compel masses of people to accept a costlier life and a lower standard of living for the sake of something that they experience as an abstraction. I feel that whenever I talk to a progressive about this stuff, they believe that if we can just vote the Republicans out of office, the political problems of fighting global warming will be easy to solve.

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171 Comments To "The Curse Of Intersectionality"

#1 Comment By JonF On February 10, 2019 @ 6:16 pm

Re: Stalin, the BETRAYER of the revolution re-criminalized it.

He also criminalized homosexuality, including lesbianism for the first time in Russian history.

#2 Comment By JonF On February 10, 2019 @ 6:19 pm

Re: Socialism is only possible, I think, in a relatively homogeneous culture.

Canada is not “Socialist” by literal definition, but is one of the US Left’s main models for what they want– and Canada is a very diverse society. in some ways more so than we are: a larger fraction of the population is foreign born, there’s stronger protections for and favorable treatment of the “First Nations” and of course Canada was from its inception composed of both French and English ethnicities.

#3 Comment By JonF On February 10, 2019 @ 6:26 pm

Re: the most recent polling I’ve seen is that even though more Americans describe themselves as “independent,” the reality is that most independents lean very strongly towards one party or the other

I’m one of those independents, and I’ll suggest here that people like me, on both sides, find something highly objectionable in the party they favor and so they’re unwilling to be associated with it, but still vote for many of its candidates because they find even more to detest in the other party. Though people like me will occasionally cross over and vote for the other guy hen circumstances are right (as with my vote for Larry Hogan, R, Gov-MD last fall)

#4 Comment By Mark B. On February 10, 2019 @ 6:31 pm

@ CF

I am glad you are shocked by that, it means I am not alone.

#5 Comment By Mark B. On February 10, 2019 @ 6:47 pm

@ Connecticut Farmer

I get your general point (I think), together with the fine and funny post from Sam M (ask Grover…)but I feel the need to share with you my opinion that clean air en water is the least what the richest and most powerfull nation on the planet should provide for it’s citizens. It’s a actually a no-brainer to me. That you use that as an example of impossible objectives by the AOC crowd confirmes my worst suspicions of what life in the US can be like if you are (working) poor (and cannot buy your way to clean air en water for instance).

#6 Comment By Siarlys Jenkins On February 10, 2019 @ 10:14 pm

Somehow I missed the Larry Hogan got re-elected in Maryland. Serves the Dems right for nominating Jealous. They should have nominated Reshearn Baker.

Stalin banned abortion, and homosexuality, because he was worried about having sufficient cannon fodder to fight a war with. Obviously he thought he could defer it a little longer than proved possible. But it probably improved the demographic recovery after the slaughter of WW II.

#7 Comment By Fran Macadam On February 10, 2019 @ 11:13 pm

“Canada is not ‘Socialist by literal definition, but is one of the US Left’s main models for what they want”

17% national sales tax, even on insurance. A rebellion brewing over the “carbon price” (tax) doubling of the price of energy by a Macron-style Davos jetting Canadian Prime Minister. A fealty to neoliberal economics that serves the equivalent of Wall Street banksters, Totonto’s Bay Street. A massive real estate bubble with ordinary homes now in the million dollar range. Complete subservience to war policies designed in Washington and Tel Aviv, the heavy hand of its own national security deep state. Full SJW woke in social policy – Christian educational institutions dis-accredited.

Russia the scapegoat villain causing anything that goes wrong.

Yes, just what the American leftists dream of!

(As far as First Nations go, the late multicultural arrivals have no knowledge of what went on during the conquests, have no concern or responsibility for their redress, and serve in numerous numbers in the government, unlike First Nations members.)

#8 Comment By Fran Macadam On February 10, 2019 @ 11:30 pm

” there’s stronger protections for and favorable treatment of the “First Nations” and of course Canada was from its inception composed of both French and English ethnicities.”

America was composed of multiple ethnicities, including the French, in colonial times. Recall, New York was once New Amsterdam, still prominent in Dutch at the time of Washington Irving. There was even at one time a question of whether German or English would be the official language.

That Canada has treated its Indians more favorably is hardly the case. There are massive reparations going on for its particularly egregious residential school scandals and the forced removal of entire populations of Inuit up to the recent era.

The U.S. Supreme Court determined sovereignty of tribal governments as actual nations. The Canadian government extends its sovereignty over First Nations as akin to municipalities. The United States upheld the Jay Treaty, which guarantees legal residence, work and travel to all Indians in Canada and the United States. Canada abrogated this treaty, denying the reciprocity required.

Thirty years ago, the province of Ontario, Canada, still denied the right of naming children according to native language, reserving that “privilege” only to immigrants.

It was Canada that resisted being taken before the United Nations for its egregious discrimination against Indian women, who had been stripped of their legal native status on the basis of their sex. That was a uniquely Canadian discrimination.

#9 Comment By cka2nd On February 11, 2019 @ 8:23 am

dx says: “As I mentioned a few posts back it is a book that was basically orthodox for both the Trotskyists and the Stalinists (as you know having come out of the FSP).”

FSP’s best theoretical work was done applying Lenin’s theory along with Richard and Clara Fraser’s theory of revolutionary integration to a separate analysis of the question of whether the black, Chicano, American Indian and Asian-American struggles were fundamentally national or racial in character, and they determined that the only one that could be characterized as a struggle for national liberation was that of the American Indian nations. The others were best classified as racial struggles. Unfortunately, there application of Lenin’s theory to the question of independence for Quebec

dx says: “One way that this set of arguments was received though was that ‘national liberation’ became something of a template for viewing pretty much all struggles of the oppressed that were not traditional class struggles.”

Sure, with the Maoists basically considering all people of color in the US to be oppressed nations (black, Native American, Latino, and I think the various individual Asian groups, although they were very active in Asian/Pacific-American organizing across national boundaries), and therefore each ghetto and neighborhood could be considered a piece of the black or Chinese-American nation, etc., etc. And, of course, there was the historical “Black Belt” nationalism of some elements in the black community, which extended all the way into the 80’s and 90’s (WABC-TV’s Gil Noble, the host of the very fine “Like It Is” weekly black community news show, believed in the need for a Black nation across the South’s Black Belt) and probably has some adherents today.

dx says: “While I no longer really have a dog in that argument I will note that I think that the more I examine the historical record of nationalism, whether of the imperialist nations or of oppressed nations, more disasterous the record seems to me, which makes me generally suspicious of all nationalist movements. Having said that the nation state may be the only possible remaining basis for opposing the rule of globalized capital. Not sure where that leaves us but I put it out there.”

As a for instance, while I am happy to acknowledge that Quebec, Scotland and Catalonia are honest to God nations, with the right to national self-determination, that doesn’t mean that they should actually exercise that right by seceding from Canada, the UK and Spain, respectively, especially when the leadership of the national movements have a bourgeois program (unfortunately, FSP’s position on Quebec was very poorly and shallowly thought out, with no real explanation for their arguments: “Secession will strike a blow against Canadian imperialism and English Canadian Chauvinism!” Um, how?). On the other hand, the EU is a horrible piece of business that exists to drive down wages and slash the welfare state across Europe, forcing Ukrainians to move to Poland to do the jobs of the Poles who have moved to the British Isles. Break up the EU!

#10 Comment By JonF On February 11, 2019 @ 8:30 am

Fran, that 17% sales tax is a bargain when you consider that it funds, among other things, comprehensive health insurance, of a sort that few people in the US have these days. Compare the cost of a “gold” policy on the exchanges here (which is still inferior to the Canadian coverage in many ways) to the median income. Of course many people in the US are deceived as to the true cost of their insurance since their employer pays the lion’s share of the premium and they only learn the true numbers I’d they are hit with the bill for COBRA coverage after losing their job. Even a poor policy will often cost hundreds of dollars a month.

#11 Comment By cka2nd On February 11, 2019 @ 8:31 am

Fran, you might consider that neo-liberalism has been on the march across the world for the last 40 years, and has undone much of the good that social democracy accomplished in Canada, Scandinavia, Germany, Austria, France, BeNeLux and elsewhere (Israel, included). Which is also to say say that the left, especially the reformist left in this instance, should remember that these countries were not dipped in amber and are no longer the “socialist paradises” of the 1960’s and 70’s, even if they still make the US look backwards, at times.

Thank you for the corrective (not even aimed at me!) regarding Canada’s First Nations. I was aware of some of what you wrote about, but not many of the details.

#12 Comment By Lee On February 11, 2019 @ 11:13 am

@ Fran Macadam
“It was Canada that resisted being taken before the United Nations for its egregious discrimination against Indian women, who had been stripped of their legal native status on the basis of their sex. That was a uniquely Canadian discrimination.”

For some impressively if not uniquely awful US discrimination against Indian women, google about rape and abduction statistics for women on reservations in the US. The numbers will shock you. And it is going on today.

#13 Comment By Lee On February 11, 2019 @ 11:14 am

@ Fran Macadam
I should have said “rape and abduction of Indian women on reservations *by non-Indian men NOT on reservations*”.

#14 Comment By json On February 11, 2019 @ 11:42 am

Rod said: “I agree that we need more pro-environment government laws and policies. I agree that the government needs to do something about strengthening the social safety net . . . But if you think the Democratic Party as it exists today, post-Hillary and post-Obama, is going to let its standard-bearer vacillate the least bit from every maximal demand of the Left, you’re dreaming.”

Perhaps what’s going on in the Left is what has always happened on the Right. Get the cultural warriors motivated so they will turn out and vote for the party’s economic agenda. Just use them to pass an economic agenda. The Right did that with conservative Christians; perhaps the Left is doing the same thing with intersectionality.

I believe that the powers-that-be care more about economics than culture. We are just all pawns in their game for making more money for themselves.

#15 Comment By wake On February 11, 2019 @ 11:53 am

@ thrice a viking

“I do have to wonder if the implicit assumption of this concern – that bovines are quite different from other ruminants WRY methane production – is actually true. If elephants, hippos, rhinos, giraffes, and all the way down to the smallest of that set of mammalian orders emits an equal amount of methane proportionate to their weight, then what has been accomplished really? I’ve never seen an environmentalist so much as recognize this issue, and that makes me suspicious”

you might take a look at this XKCD on land animals by mass. Effectively there are no material numbers of wild animals left. There are people, livestock of people, and pets of people.

There is also the issue that the mass of animals is far greater than in the past, due to fossil energy, fossil fertilizer, crop production and the resulting increase in animal mass.

[12]

If you want a more scientific look, this is a recent and interesting paper

[13]

I can’t find the saddest one, showing the decline in wild animal biomass since 1950, when a lot of us were either around or can think about in a tangible way

But this shows it if you think about the graph hard enough

[14]

[15]

#16 Comment By wmwa On February 11, 2019 @ 1:30 pm

“…to compel masses of people to accept a costlier life and a lower standard of living for the sake of something that they experience as an abstraction.”

Why don’t we just get the .01% to accept these two things? Do they really need private jets and the carbon footprint that goes along with that lifestyle?

Should taxpayers keep subsidizing their corn syrup because they’re too lazy to make a profit without that extra boost?

Should we allow them to pay zero taxes by producing “clean” coal (see Reuters report below)?

What about the food stamps we pay for because the Waltons won’t pay a living wage (more interested in building that 10-figure net worth of theirs and enriching their shareholders)?

How about for-profit prisons? And the free labor they get from inmates? Could we shave off some money there?

Or — and here’s the ultimate — why do we allow income from rents, capital gains, enjoy such a low tax rate? Is that not subsidizing “laziness” seeing as that income isn’t tied to actual labor?

We already subsidize the lifestyles, pad the profits of the .01%. Let’s go after *their* money, not the “masses'”. Can’t they accept a sh*ttier lifestyle? Shouldn’t they?

Our politicians need to grow some serious balls and start caring about things other than money and adulation and getting elected. Sad how improbable that is.

[16]

#17 Comment By PrairieDog On February 11, 2019 @ 1:32 pm

JonF:

That 17% sales tax is a hidden tax since no one ever sees the total of the amount they pay in a year’s time. How many otherwise intelligent taxpayers have any idea of their total tax load since sales taxes and other excises are collected from them in piecemeal fashion, added to costs of purchases?

#18 Comment By Siarlys Jenkins On February 11, 2019 @ 1:54 pm

Fran, that 17% sales tax is a bargain when you consider that it funds, among other things, comprehensive health insurance, of a sort that few people in the US have these days.

F’rinstance, if I paid the full cost of the premiums for my health insurance under the ACA, it would take up three fourths of my income. Compared to that, a 17 percent sales tax is cheap. Unless you go deep in debt to go shopping, you can’t pay much more than 17 percent of your income on that sales tax.

#19 Comment By KS On February 11, 2019 @ 4:06 pm

“The politics of fighting global warming are very, very difficult. The fact that they’re difficult do not make the scientific facts about planetary temperatures and rising oceans go away. But nobody has figured out how, in a democracy, to compel masses of people to accept a costlier life and a lower standard of living for the sake of something that they experience as an abstraction. I feel that whenever I talk to a progressive about this stuff, they believe that if we can just vote the Republicans out of office, the political problems of fighting global warming will be easy to solve.”

It’s true that the concept of intersectionality has evolved into a Democratic wishlist. It’s also true as stated above that Democratic activists think that Democratic control of Congress or legislatures possible as it is not possible now: California is a good example. (Despite its manifest global warming problems, California is getting a ton done on these problems of the future, such as groundwater depletion. Were the R’s in control in the legislature, the 2014 groundwater management act no doubt would have failed.) Like Douthat, Rod sees the need for action, but derides the Democratic means as wildly overambitious. I think that’s fair, but it implicitly raises again the fundamental Tolstoyan question: What is to be done? In political terms: Will R’s do ANYTHING about global warming/climate change?

If no — and it’s pretty clear the answer is no is it not? — than the widening majority of Americans who see climate change as a real issue that requires action to avoid disastrous consequences have no choice but to look to create a new Democratic majority to take action. It’s not that climate activists see the problem as simple, IMHO, it’s that they see the impossibility of taking any action as long as R’s run the gov.

#20 Comment By Harve On February 11, 2019 @ 5:53 pm

cka2nd says:

“Fran, you might consider that neo-liberalism has been on the march across the world for the last 40 years, and has undone much of the good that social democracy accomplished…”

Quite true. If one looks at the various economic indicators they start to go south in the 1970s and get worse in the 1980s with Reagan and Thatcher leading. I wish folks would get it clear that the 1960s was the last liberal president/Congress and they crashed and burned with Vietnam. Funny how things got worse for working folks as the country became more conservative/neo-liberal/neo-conservative.

Noah, plants that use chlorophyll start sequestering carbon as soon as the cotyledons emerge – they don’t have to mature. I picked the three examples because I grow them. California has millions of eucalyptus trees. We have already picked the low hanging fruit re: energy and efficiency. Incrementalism isn’t going top cut it at this point.

#21 Comment By Siarlys Jenkins On February 11, 2019 @ 9:09 pm

But nobody has figured out how, in a democracy, to compel masses of people to accept a costlier life and a lower standard of living for the sake of something that they experience as an abstraction.

First, its no longer an abstraction. Millions of people not only feel, but recognize it in the freezing lows of spun off polar vortexes (vortices?), massive droughts, unbearably hot summers, massive forest fires, increasingly powerful tornadoes and hurricanes, and increased rainfall in areas that really didn’t need it. Second, there are ways to respond to global warming that will sustain or even modestly improve prosperity.