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