Benjamin Studebaker

Yet Another Attempt to Make the World a Better Place by Writing Things

Tag: Elizabeth Warren

Bernie Sanders’ Tax Returns are Irrelevant

I’ve been seeing a remarkably large number of people making the argument that because Bernie Sanders is a millionaire, he is somehow a hypocrite. This is a very strange claim. Here’s why.

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Why Elizabeth Warren is Writing Those Lefty White Papers

Have you noticed that over the past few weeks, Elizabeth Warren has been trying to outflank Bernie Sanders from the left? Wealth tax! Workers on corporate boards! Break up tech monopolies! Abolish the electoral college! Reparations for slavery! The press has dutifully been reporting on these new policy positions, with NYMag’s Eric Levitz going so far as to say:

at this point, one could even argue that he’s a smidgen to her right on economic policy

The thing is, if you look at Warren’s history, she has never been all that left-wing. She flipflops on Medicare-For-All. She supported the Republican Party until 1996. She stayed out of the 2016 primary, declining to endorse Sanders. She rejected the “democratic socialist” label, and applauded Donald Trump when he said America would never be a socialist country. In 2012, Warren ran to the right of Democratic rival Marisa DeFranco, and in her book, The Two-Income Trap, she largely ignores the interests of poor and low-income Americans, focusing heavily on the aspirational, entrepreneurial “middle class”. So why is Warren telling everybody she’s for all these flashy left-sounding things?

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Which 2020 Democrat is the Most Experienced?

Tonight I found myself looking over and old post–“Who is the Most Qualified Presidential Candidate Ever?“, from September 2016. It was shortly before the presidential election, and Americans were arguing about whether Hillary Clinton was the “most qualified” candidate in history, in the sense of “most experienced”. To answer that question, I devised a formula I thought was cute. So tonight I’ll score the 2020 Democratic nominees.

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Why Bernie Sanders Matters More Than People Think

Every time I find a way to say that there is no one like Bernie Sanders, there are people who don’t believe me. Aren’t there other candidates who support the same policies he supports now? Some of them are younger. Some of them aren’t old white guys. Why can’t it be one of them, why can’t it be someone new? Over and over, I have tried to find ways to explain that there is a real difference between Bernie Sanders and everyone else. Today, as Sanders announces his candidacy for the presidency, I’m going to try one more time.

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Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez Seems Confused About Race

I have been increasingly concerned by the way Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) talks about race. I see two principal ways people discuss racism:

  1. The Citizenship Model–people who face racial discrimination are being treated as second class citizens on arbitrary grounds, and they are entitled to the same status as other people in our society. On this model, racial oppression is a failure to recognise that citizens are entitled to equal political standing. It denies the citizenship of people of color. People with this view often speak in a universalist language, because their emphasis is on what we all have in common as citizens. It’s a critique which erodes racial distinctions, emphasising common political standing across group categories.
  2. The Group Fetishist Model–people who face racial discrimination are subject peoples who are entitled to group self-determination and therefore to their own political arrangements, separate and distinct from whites and Europeans. On this model, racial oppression is the attempt to wrongfully subject distinct groups to the same institutions. People with this view speak in a particularist language, because their emphasis is on what is different about various groups of people. It’s a critique which reinforces racial distinctions, emphasising separateness.

These two models in turn proceed from different ways of understanding what politics is. For those on the citizenship model, it is our political status as citizens which unites us. The state structures our self-conception as a people. You see this in America in the commitment to the constitution–we think of ourselves as American insofar as we are all committed to a common political project. But for those on the group fetishist model, ethnic and racial groups are primordial and pre-exist political associations. We are united not by political standing but by cultural commitments–language, cuisine, religion, ideology, ethnicity, race, you name it. So whenever two or more distinct cultural groups exist under one political framework, the group fetishist alleges that one of those groups isn’t “independent” or “self-determining”, that there’s a subjugation relationship.

Ultimately, only the citizenship model can provide the conditions under which diverse people can live together. If we recognise each other as equal citizens, we don’t have to fuss about whether we speak the same language, worship the same gods, or look the same color. We can instead work together to ensure every person enjoys equal status and the distributive benefits that go along with that. Group fetishism kills unity. It breaks us up into ever smaller factions, and it makes it difficult for those factions to collaborate.

Initially, AOC appeared to be operating on the citizen model, but increasingly she’s been moving in the group fetishist direction. The result is a confused position on race. Let me show you what I mean…

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