Tuesday, November 13, 2018

Problem Of A Different Sort

Two days after the mid-terms, the Daily Beast reported

“I think he’s a fantastic politician in the best sense of the word,” (Bernie) Sanders said of Gillum. “He stuck to his guns in terms of a progressive agenda. I think he ran a great campaign. And he had to take on some of the most blatant and ugly racism that we have seen in many, many years. And yet he came within a whisker of winning.”

However, Sanders conceded also "I think you know there are a lot of white folks out there who are not necessarily racist who felt uncomfortable for the first time in their lives about whether or not they wanted to vote for an African-American."

Having failed to label multitudes of white voters as "racist," the naughty Senator brought down upon himself a torrent of Twitter criticism, including "not feeling comfortable voting for a black person because they’re black indeed means that person is racist;" "Folks have to stop excusing racism/sexism as a means of normalization in hopes not to hurt the perpetrators feelings;" and "What do you call a person who is uncomfortable voting for a Black person? A RACIST."

In response to a fellow tweeting out a January, 2015 Washington Post article entitled "Sherrod Brown: Why aren't progressives begging him to run for president?"Jill Filipovic ( though right about this and this), unaware of the buzz surrounding senators Kamala Harris and Amy Klobuchar, contends

No shade to Sherrod, but can we see more of these articles about women (especially the many qualified women of color on the Dem bench) and more discussion of female candidates as presidential hopefuls? The midterms showed us who votes Dem, and it's not white men.

Then in equal parts disturbing and predictable

Nancy Pelosi is making gender a central part of her bid to reclaim the speaker’s gavel — leaning hard into the pitch that Democrats cannot oust the only woman at their leadership table following a historic election for women.

In addition to arguing she’s the best qualified for the job, the California Democrat and her allies are also framing a Pelosi victory as a matter of protecting political progress for women at a critical moment. Push her out, and men may take over the party at a time when more than 100 women are heading to Capitol Hill and after female voters have been thoroughly alienated by President Donald Trump. Embrace her, and she’ll prioritize legislation empowering women on issues ranging from equal pay to anti-harassment legislation.

This sentiment, assessing an individual's value on the basis of the inherited characteristics of race and gender, is pervasive but all too infrequently acknowledged. This past Monday, Slate's Jordan Weissman wrote that newly re-elected Ohio senator Sherrod Brown

isn’t the only candidate who needs to make this sort of tough calculation. Instead of running for president, Beto O’Rourke could try to go after Texas Sen. John Cornyn’s seat in 2020. Montana Governor Steve Bullock might be interested in the Oval Office. But he might be be more useful taking on on Republican Sen. Steve Daines. West Virginia’s Richard Ojeda, who went so far as to announce his presidential bid on Monday after losing his House bid last week, might do better to try to knock off Sen. Shelley Moore Capito. But with Brown, the tension is a bit more clear, both because he’s such a compelling presidential candidate on paper, and because winning the presidency would actually guarantee that his Senate seat flipped, rather than simply remain in Republican hands.

There are also other reasons why Brown might not be an ideal Democratic standard bearer. He’s loudly sided with Trump on trade issues, which may be a big part of his secret to winning in Ohio, but might not play well with progressive primary voters who loathe pretty much all things about the administration. And while his Republican opponent failed to make much of an old domestic abuse allegation, that issue could play awkwardly on the national stage. (The issue involve some nonspecific accusations made by Brown’s ex-wife during their divorce in the 1980s. She has since become one of his most vocal political supporters, and cut a TV ad for him this year after Republicans tried to revive abuse claim during the campaign).

But ultimately, the question hanging over Brown isn’t whether he’s a good candidate, or even a great one. It’s whether he’s so much better than the other 2020 contenders that it would be worth waving his Senate seat goodbye.

Nonetheless, were Brown to be nominated and elected, he would be president, a rather more important office than senator.  Were he not elected- or not even nominated- he would remain a US Senator, no harm done.

Moreover, Weissman's inclusion of Richard Ojeda, now holding no political office, and of Beto O'Rourke, now holding no political office after his defeat by Ted Cruz, suggests that his concern may be motivated by more than concern of Brown's seat being taken by a Republican. 

It may be that Weissman is feeling a touch of that sentiment held by Filipovic, some Pelosi supporters, and members of the Twittersphere who find Bernie Sanders is insufficiently critical of voters who vote against a black candidate.

Sherrod Brown is a white male.  No Democrat (or Republican), and that includes an estimable senator from the nation's heartland, can be elected President without first being nominated for the office. While Weissman's article is entitled "The Really Obvious Problem With Sherrod Brown Running for President," the really obvious problem for Brown is demographic, and one he is powerless to change.

Following the 2016 elections, Senator Sanders asserted

It is not good enough for somebody to say "I'm a woman, vote for me." No, that's not good enough. What we need is a woman who has the guts to stand up to Wall Street, to the insurance companies, to the  drug companies, to the fossil fuel industry. In other words, one of the struggles that you're going to see in the Democratic Party is whether we go beyond identity politics.

"Crushing truths perish from being acknowledged," Albert Camus once noted. Whether the Party goes beyond "identity politics," it shouldn't be prohibitively difficult for the left and journalists (such as Weissman) sympathetic to a Democratic agenda to concede, openly and clearly, the role that gender and race play in the Party.

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