Does It Matter That Blacks Oppose Marriage Equality?

David Masciotra has a piece at Salon about why white working class people are bad and should not be sympathized with. It’s not particularly well-written and drags on forever, but the basic point is that white working class people are racist and so they should not be sympathized with. The payoff paragraph comes near the end:

The demographics and culture of America are steadily becoming more civil, decent and communal for blacks, Latinos and gays, because of the improvements in ethics among younger people, and because of the shaming of bigots. Knowing is a major factor in the continual enhancement and expansion of American freedom. Those who oppose that expansion – anti-gay, anti-black and anti-women weirdoes – are increasingly unwelcome in civil society, and it is the weight of shame that silences the bigots who are obstinate. It is the tool of shame that declaws and neuters them.

The best tactic of defeat for Donald Trump is to shame his supporters, not sympathize with them. If support for Trump, or anyone with such ignorance and hatred at the center of his vision for the United States, invites public embarrassment, supporters will begin to cower. If they cower, they lose.

Liberals push this argument out from time to time, but it’s not consistently applied. If being a “bigot” on some topic should disqualify a group from sympathy on other topics, then liberals should also apparently have little sympathy for Blacks. After all, the great majority of Blacks do not support gay marriage and are thus, in Masciotra’s words, “anti-gay weirdos.”

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One of the most interesting elements of the march towards gay marriage was watching liberals navigate this thorny fact, especially in the aftermath of California’s Proposition 8 in 2008, where the initial exit polls showed 70% of Blacks voting against gay marriage. If my memory serves me right, immediately after the Proposition 8 vote, there were some murmurs about how Blacks were impeding gay equality, but mostly liberals were extremely insistent upon saying we shouldn’t go down that road, and even those who did initially express disdain for how Blacks voted quickly walked it back or pivoted towards focusing on other demographic groups like the olds.

Alternatively, when the topic has been brought up, I’ve seen liberals emphasize (as is true) that Black people are not a monolith. Many support gay marriage. Many oppose it. The upshot of this is supposed to be that it’s kind of unfair (as seems true) to paint them all with the anti-gay-marriage brush just because that describes the majority of them. But obviously this same analysis is true of white working class people, many of whom are anti-racist liberals and leftists even if the majority of them are not.

As far as I know, nobody has argued that liberals shouldn’t sympathize with the plight of Blacks more generally just because most of them were and still are against gay marriage (and even acted on that opposition at the ballot box). Yet this is precisely the tact many liberals seem to take when it comes to the plight of working class Whites just because most of them are racist (and of course the idea that self-styled coastal cosmopolitan Whites aren’t racist is a joke, but we can leave that aside here).

So this leaves us with an interesting question. If a group’s bigotry in one area disqualifies them from sympathy on things they are seriously harmed by, then why are poor and working class Whites disqualified from sympathy while Blacks are not? I have my theories, but I am interested in what the “fuck the white working class” contingent has to say on this matter.

In my view, the fact that a group of people have failings in certain areas (even severe failings) doesn’t mean that you should refuse to sympathize with them in areas where they are genuinely oppressed. But if you want to go down that path, as many liberals seem to when it comes to lower class whites, then why would you stop at lower class whites? Why not refuse sympathy for every other group that can be shown to hold certain bad views?

The NY Primary Punditry Shows How Yet Again Nobody Cares About Process

The story is supposed to be that Republicans like to suppress the vote and Democrats don’t. I’ve long suspected this story to be false. The real story is that basically everyone likes to suppress the votes of people they don’t like and abhors suppressing the votes of people they do like. This is not to say that everyone would endorse literally any measure to suppress disfavored voters, including explicit laws categorically suppressing entire groups from voting. It’s just to say that most would endorse measures that reduce the voter turnout of their opponents, provided those measures have at least some kind of halfway plausible-sounding justification.

I have long suspected this to be the reality, given that I don’t believe anyone is significantly motivated by abstract procedural fairness. The New York primary provided an excellent natural experiment to test this theory and, at least among the pundit class I follow, the theory has been majorly confirmed. New York has party registration primary rules that are believed to have made it so that many people who wanted to vote for Bernie Sanders couldn’t. If you wanted to create a model for predicting which pundits thought the rules were OK and which didn’t, your best bet would have been to base the model entirely on whether a pundit supports Hillary Clinton or Bernie Sanders. Almost to a person, the pro-Hillary pundits thought the rules were OK and the pro-Bernie pundits did not.

Some see this as hypocritical, especially since some of the pundits bending over backwards to justify the New York primary rules also, in other contexts, have been scandalized by similar rules that also suppress votes. But it’s not actually hypocritical. At all times, their views follow the consistent principle that it’s bad when voters they like are suppressed but not so bad when voters they don’t like are suppressed. A supporter of the GOP likes voter ID because of who they think it obstructs from participating. A supporter of Hillary Clinton likes New York’s primary rules because of who they think it obstructs from participating. That’s just how things go.

With that said, it is worth noting how truly stupid most of the arguments on this topic were last night. My favorite stupid argument took the form of saying “that’s not voter suppression, this is” followed by pointing to some example that the interlocutor believes is worse, such as voter ID. This sort of argument was outrageously idiotic for the obvious reason that anyone could take any modern-day example of so-called voter suppression, such as voter ID, and say “that’s not voter suppression, this is” while pointing to many examples in our recent history, including the categorical denial of the vote to women and the nearly categorical denial of the vote to black people during Jim Crow. Indeed, I have seen Republicans do just that when justifying their various voting reform efforts.

But what’s even more moronic about these kinds of arguments is that they fixate on trying to define whether voter suppression or disenfranchisement is or isn’t present, as if it’s a binary thing. In reality you can’t group things into “disenfranchisement” and “not disenfranchisement” because voter restrictions operate on a sliding scale.

Requiring no registration (or having automatic registration) will lead to more participation than requiring same-day registration, which will lead to more participation than requiring registration two weeks before, which will lead to more participation than requiring registration 6 months before, which will lead to more participation than requiring registration only in the month of February in odd-numbered years.

No voter ID will lead to more participation than weak voter ID, which will lead to more participation than moderate voter ID, which will lead to more participation than strong voter ID.

A month of early voting will lead to more participation than 2 weeks of early voting, which will lead to more participation than 3 days of early voting, which will lead to more participation than no days of early voting.

Polls being open for 24 hours on election day will lead to more participation than polls being open 12 hours, which will lead to more participation than polls being open for 6 hours, which will lead to more participation than polls being open 3 hours, which will lead to more participation than polls being open for 1 hour between 2pm and 3pm.

A poll station on every block will lead to more participation than a poll station on every other block, which will lead to more participation than a poll station in every square mile, which will lead to more participation than a poll station in every 50 square miles.

And so on and so on. There is no magical moment where the dial clicks from “not suppression” to “suppression.” Rather each particular procedural hurdle drags on voter participation at the margin.

The tricky thing about it is that for any procedural rule that drags on voter participation, there is always some kind of plausible explanation for it. Party registration is plausibly important in order to prevent would-be saboteurs (though there is not much evidence of bad-faith sabotage and committed saboteurs could still sabotage). Voter ID is plausibly important in order to prevent fraud and in fact most countries have voter ID as it is (though there is not much evidence of voter fraud and committed fraudsters could probably create fake IDs to defraud). Early voting is costly and how much early voting you allow is always arbitrary (why 10 days and not 11?). The same is true of how long polls stay open and how many polling stations you use: there are associated costs to using more and cut offs are always somewhat arbitrary.

Naturally, whether you find a plausible enough justification for a procedural rule personally persuasive will turn on whether you think that rule advantages or disadvantages your side. If you think it will help you, then that justification will ring true to your ears. If you think it won’t, then that justification will ring as hollow and pretextual. Which is fine I guess. But just know that the way you feel about the plausible explanations for procedural rules that happen to dampen the participation of voters you don’t like is also how others feel about the plausible explanations for procedural rules that happen to dampen the participation of voters you do like. The neurons are triggering in the same way.

Class and the Discourse

When it comes to accessing the mainstream media discourse, academic discourse, or any similar prominent discourse that reflects on justice and politics, poor people face a double-bind that ensures their voices are permanently erased. If you grow up poor and you remain poor, your access to any of these discussions is basically nonexistent. If you grow up poor and then become educated and established enough to access and even influence these discussions, that generally means you are not poor anymore and so your perspective on class can be dismissed on identitarian grounds.

This double-bind is not true of any other identity because no other identity disappears at the same point at which you are able to meaningfully engage in the discourse. A person of color doesn’t cease to be a person of color just because they acquire the credentials and ability to become a successful writer or academic. Nor does a woman cease to be a woman when they do so. But a poor or working class person does, in a direct material sense, cease to be poor and working class once they’ve won a professorship or a stable writing gig.

Given that identitarianism is a generally liberal political grouping that has no real interest in class politics, this is not that big of an internal problem. But when practitioners of identitarianism run up against those who do have an interest in class politics, the contradictions create incredible havoc. This is especially so because identitarianism is so heavily intertwined with certain discourse norms demanding deference to (even bourgeois) members of various demographic groups. And the last thing someone interested in class politics should ever do is hesitate to harshly criticize any bourgeois discourse participant with bad arguments and opinions, especially when those arguments and opinions concern class issues.

The various pathologies of young women

One thing I’ve enjoyed about the Democratic primary is learning which voter demographics you can pathologize and which you can’t. It turns out that even vaguely gesturing at the idea that Black voters may be choosing incorrectly is definitely oppressive and wrong. After all, that’s the kind of stuff we usually only reserve for the disgusting poor and working class white voters. On the other hand, explicitly saying young women voters are ignorant, complacent, naive, or boy-crazy cool girls is actually fine. Used to, that was the stuff of Reddit, but believe it or not, “bitches be crazy” is an actual genre of election coverage about why young women go for Bernie.

1. Complacent

Debbie Wasserman Schultz had this to say about young women (bolded part is the question):

Do you notice a difference between young women and women our age in their excitement about Hillary Clinton? Is there a generational divide? Here’s what I see: a complacency among the generation of young women whose entire lives have been lived after Roe v. Wade was decided.

Madeleine Albright had a remarkably similar point:

“We can tell our story of how we climbed the ladder, and a lot of you younger women think it’s done,” Ms. Albright said of the broader fight for women’s equality. “It’s not done. There’s a special place in hell for women who don’t help each other!”

Albright’s move was especially funny because she had construed her famous quote in exactly the opposite manner in 2008 when she assured people that it was definitely OK to not help Sarah Palin:

Though I am flattered that Governor Palin has chosen to cite me as a source of wisdom, what I said had nothing to do with politics. This is yet another example of McCain and Palin distorting the truth, and all the more reason to remember that this campaign is not about gender, it is about which candidate has an agenda that will improve the lives of all Americans, including women.

2. Cool Girl

Gloria Steinem had this to say:

First of all, women get more radical as we get older because we experience… Men tend to get more conservative because they gain power as they age and women get more radical because they lose power as they age. It’s kind of not fair to measure most women by the standard of most men because they are going to get more activist as they grow older. And when you’re young, you’re thinking “Where are the boys? The boys are for Bernie.”

Jill Filipovic explained that Steinem was actually right and that the boy-following cool girl phenomenon is very real:

But the actual point remains lost: Not that young women only support Sanders because they want to impress boys, but that, especially among the young, “guy stuff” is cool and enviable, whereas “girl stuff” is lame, uncool, and, well, girly. In this primary, Sanders is the guy stuff. Clinton is the girl stuff.

I happen to think Filipovic’s interpretation of Steinem is wrong, but it’s worth noting that the Cool Girl theory is out there, even if it’s based on a bad reading of Steinem.

3. Sexism Misunderstanders
This is actually what Steinem was getting at in her quote. But it wasn’t just her who said it. The disturbing fact that young women have gone hard for Bernie and even harder than young men for Bernie has given rise to an entire cottage industry of bizarrely half-assed social science about why young women are ignorant of the realities of sexism.

Here is Cronin-Furman and Rapp-Hooper:

Looking around in college or grad school, it’s easy to believe that, in the United States at least, gender equality has largely been achieved. … [But] once women enter the professional world, the rosy picture of progress begins to dull. Only 15 percent of law firms’ equity partners are female. Women make up only 3 percent of hedge fund managers and 1.5 percent of CEOs of large corporations. And women only account for 37.5 percent of tenured faculty in American universities. … And at the same time that women are getting serious about their careers, many are also thinking about starting families.

These dynamics can be a rude awakening for young women who have excelled all their lives, often at institutions that have invested resources, time, and attention into recruiting promising women. They’re experiencing something we call “late-breaking sexism.” It’s the sudden realization that you don’t have the same opportunities as a man, that you will struggle to have both a family and a career, that your participation in the public sphere will always be caveated by your gender.

Since a ton of people in the country are CEOs, lawyers, hedge fund workers, and professors, this analysis definitely checks out and helps to describe an enormous swath of the US female population.

The same point was made by Poloni-Staudinger, Strachan, and Schaffner at the Washington Post. In their piece, they point to this graph to support their age-based theories:

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Then they provocatively ask:

Can this pattern help explain why younger women are less likely to support Clinton? Is it because younger women are less likely to report negative consequences of gender discrimination and motherhood?

Such excellent questions! But I noticed one tiny problem. The 50+ age group had the second-lowest reporting of sexism and lowest reporting of child care issues. This theory would then predict that they’d go for Bernie, but in fact they are the strongest contingent for Hillary. Womp womp.

The Sexism Misunderstander arguments tend to get the best pick up from prominent older female pundits. This article was tweeted out by Neera Tanden of CAP and Joan Walsh of the Nation, both of whom are best known for supporting the gutting of cash assistance to poor women with children (in their younger more conservative days before they got old and therefore woke!).

4. Broadly Stupid About the Welfare State
Finally, we have Hillary Clinton herself chiming in:

To her credit, Clinton’s take is presumably generalizable to all young people, not just young women. Though her depiction of social democratic welfare state politics as akin to a fine print swindle that stupid people get duped into is a tad bit unhelpful!

5. Lifecycle Arguments Are Garbage
What’s ultimately so funny about all these half-assed arguments is that they fly in the face of what we know about how political differences work across ages. These authors all explicitly or implicitly endorse the idea that people’s politics change as they age and that this accounts for the reason why, at any given moment in time, the younger people are different from the older people. Let’s call this the Lifecycle Theory.

But in actual real-life political science, the reason politics differs across ages is because different generations have different politics that they form when they are young and carry across their entire lives. This is called Generational Imprinting:

There’s reason to believe they will. Jacobson’s research is built around a well-known phenomenon in political science known as “generational imprinting” that’s been documented since the 1950s.

It’s a simple idea: Essentially, young people decide their political identities when they’re “coming of political age” — or when they first really begin paying attention to what’s going on in politics.

“Partisan identities … are adopted early in adulthood, stabilize quickly, and thereafter become highly resistant to more than transient change,” Jacobson writes in a summary of the research. “Political events and personalities have their most lasting influence during the stage in life when partisan identities are being formed.”

And you can see this imprinting pretty clearly by following a generation’s partisan self-identity as they age and noticing that it doesn’t actually change much:

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The Traditionalists were the most conservative 20 years ago and are still the most conservative now. The Baby Boomers were the next most conservative 20 years ago and are still the next most conservative now. The Millennial generation started out in youth as the most liberal and remain that way.

So the entire premise of all of this half-assed theorizing is completely bankrupt. The reason older and younger people have different politics is not generally because politics change as people age, but rather because different generations have different politics that they carry with them from young adulthood to the grave.

6. Why Would Any of These Theories Lead to Supporting Hillary?
As a final note, it’s also worth pointing out that none of these various theories ever explain why young women, once freed from whatever pathologies they have, would necessarily support Hillary. It just seems to be assumed that because the super-woke grannies support Hillary that this is the default position you would have if you weren’t otherwise fucked up in the head.

But that’s not really true. Bernie supports pay equity just as Hillary does. Bernie supports abortion rights to an even greater extent than Hillary does. The robust welfare statism advocated by Bernie is, as Rebecca Traister argues in her latest book, an enormous boon for women in general. Women get more out of public healthcare as they use more healthcare than men. Women get more out of student benefits because they go to college more than men. Women get more out of Social Security because they live longer than men. Women get more out of leave and child care benefits. And on and on. Basically every welfare benefit that’s ever been conceived of is more helpful for women than men, but Hillary has run a campaign that is aggressively against this welfare statism as being dishonest, pie-in-the-sky, and not able to solve racism and cissexism and such (see quote above for an example).

It’s not at all clear that becoming old enough to escape all the young woman pathologies would lead you to a pro-Hillary conclusion. The link between those two is somehow never explained, which is rather curious in its own right.

Ferdinand Lassalle on the Wages of Abstinence

In his 1864 book “Capital and Labor,” Ferdinand Lassalle wrote on the description of capital income as “wages of abstinence,” i.e. payment for abstaining from consumption. What he had to say is one of the funniest things ever written on the topic:

The profit of capital is the ‘wage of abstinence.’ Happy, even priceless expression! The ascetic millionaires of Europe! Like Indian penitents or pillar saints they stand on one leg, each on his column, with straining arms and pendulous body and pallid looks, holding a plate towards the people to collect the wages of their abstinence. In their midst, towering up above all his fellows, as head penitent and ascetic, the Baron Rothschild! This is the condition of Society! How could I ever so much misunderstand it!