Benjamin Studebaker

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

Tag: Justice

How the Democratic Party Can Win the South

Since Donald Trump’s election I have increasingly become interested in how the left engages with white America. The left isn’t getting enough white support. Even with over 90% of the African-American vote, alleged pedophile Roy Moore came absurdly close to winning in Alabama. This can’t just be because white Americans are racist, stupid, or evil. There has to be more to it. In the past I’ve identified many things wrong with our approach–we’re too condescending and patronising toward white voters, and too quick to blame and shame them. We don’t spend enough time talking about and emphasizing programs and policies that help all marginalized people, including poor, working, and middle class whites. But today I want to go further and discuss in detail a new way of looking at the South and at middle America more broadly–one that takes these people and their concerns seriously. If we’re willing to tell a different story about the South, or at least acknowledge a different story, and build that acknowledgement into our policy and rhetoric, I think we can make some gains.

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The Doug Jones Victory Belongs to the People of Alabama, Not Just African-Americans

In the past week there’s been a weird narrative in the media about the Alabama Senate race between Democrat Doug Jones and Republican (and alleged serial mall predator) Roy Moore. The story goes something like this: the bad white southerners were willing to vote for the scummy pedophile theocrat, but then black people showed up and saved America from Roy Moore. It’s built on two key facts–most white Alabamans voted for Moore and the overwhelming majority of black Alabamans voted for Jones:

But this seems like a bizarre and misleading way to interpret the result of this election. Here’s why. Read the rest of this entry »

Even Top Liberal Pundits Still Don’t Understand the Division in the Democratic Party

Today a friend of mine sent me a piece by Franklin Foer in The Atlantic. In the piece Foer gives some thought to what ails the Democratic Party, and he comes to a constructive conclusion–the party needs to reach out to the white working class. But the way Foer gets there troubles me. Too many liberal commentators don’t quite understand the division within the Democratic Party, even the ones who are actively trying to understand that division. Let me show you what I mean.

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The Left: Should We Be More Concerned with Distributive Inequality or Status Inequality?

Last week, Professor Jonathan Wolff gave an interesting presentation at Cambridge concerning the difference between two kinds of equality–distributive and status. Distributive equality focuses on discrete goods or benefits and how they are distributed among people. These benefits can take many forms (e.g. resources, opportunities, welfare, etc.). Status equality focuses instead on asymmetric relationships and cases in which groups of people are socially excluded or alienated. Wolff argues that we ought to pay more attention to status inequalities and less attention to distributive inequalities. Over the last few days, I’ve been pondering Wolff’s case and its connection with a broader conflict between two different forms of leftism. One is an older left wing tradition that views the economic system as the fundamental source of most forms of inequality, and the other is focused more on identity politics and pays less attention to class issues. In recent years, these two parts of leftism have found themselves more and more at odds with one another. This is dangerous–infighting within the left diminishes its ability to build broad solidaristic coalitions, making it weaker and less politically influential. So how can these two sides be appropriately reconciled, and if they cannot be reconciled, which side should we choose?

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Hate the Rioting, but Love the Rioters

Riots have erupted in Baltimore, Maryland after Freddie Gray, a 25-year old arrested for possession of a switchblade, died in custody after his neck was nearly severed. According to Baltimore’s deputy police commissioner, Jerry Rodriguez, when Gray was arrested and placed in the police van, he could talk, but when he emerged from the van, he could not breathe. Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake concedes that “it’s clear what happened inside the van”. So let’s talk about this.

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