Jesse Singal points out that most black Virginians want Gov. Ralph “Blackface” Northam to stay in office (58 percent — more support than Northam has among whites). Most Latinos don’t want to be called “Latinx”. Only nine percent of Native Americans want the Washington Redskins to change their name. This signals that progressives have a class problem. Excerpts:
But at the same time, if you’re a progressive who is calling for the Washington football team to change its name, or for Ralph Northam to resign, because of the harm that football team name and that governor did to marginalized people, it should feel very weird that the actual groups most affected mostly disagree with you, no? Or if it doesn’t feel weird, why doesn’t it feel weird? What does it mean to say you hold an opinion out of a desire to protect a given group when members of that group say, in polling, they don’t require your protection on that particular issue?
The broader problem here is that progressive political elites have a bit of a class problem. They know how to speak the language of their fellow college-educated politicians and journalists and nonprofit-founders, who tend to have more progressive politics than just about everyone else, but sometimes stumble when it comes to their attempts to appeal to more blue-collar groups. That this is true when it comes to the white working class is a truism at this point, albeit a complicated one without an obvious solution — conservative whites in the U.S. are, on average, so conservative that it’s hard to argue in good faith a different progressive communication strategy could sway anything but a tiny subset of them. But what’s less appreciated and more rarely discussed is the extent to which this class problem extends to non-elite blacks, Latinos, and members of other minority groups, who are sometimes taken for granted simply because they vote so solidly Democratic.
Anyway, on more specific issues like the Northam controversy, the key point here stands: Two very different questions — What are the views of members of marginalized groups? and What are the views of elite exemplars of marginalized groups whose opinions I am exposed to on cable news or on Twitter? — are being conflated by many people. And that’s a problem.
Remember back during the Kavanaugh controversy, how so many progressives were sure that every woman in America would be on Christine Blasey Ford’s side? It never seemed to occur to them that women have sons, husbands, fathers, and brothers, and they would fear for a world in which they could be professionally and personally destroyed by a false accusation.