March 18, 2021 | Reading Time: 4 minutes

‘Cultural left’ has gone mainstream

Compared to GOP king-lust, anti-racism looks all-American.

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Today, I want to pick up on a point made by Editorial Board member Issac J. Bailey. On Wednesday, Issac reflected on the gradual evolution of marriage equality, and how the Democratic Party changed along with the slow pace of that evolution. On the one hand were liberal activists, the true believers, who would not tolerate anything but real equality. On the other were centrists, the political pragmatists, who feared electoral consequences of a Democratic Party growing more aligned with the true believers.

While the centrists’ fears were justified—in 2004, the majority still preferred man-woman marriage—they drew the wrong lessons, Issac said. They said the reason John Kerry lost the election, though the United States was in the quagmire of the Iraq occupation, was because the Democratic Party did not push back hard enough against liberal activists making noise about marriage equality. Issac, with the obvious benefit of hindsight, does a great job tearing that assumption apart. The Bush campaign worked with state GOP operatives to place “traditional marriage” amendments on the ballot in a host of swing states. That drove out legions of conservative anti-gay voters. It didn’t matter much, Issac said, where the Democratic Party stood on the issue.

The “cultural left,” as some Democratic pundits call it, is no longer on the margins of the Democratic Party. More importantly, it is now the driving force behind its success.

More importantly, and this is Issac’s point, the one I want to pick up on, is that liberal activists did what needed to be done for its own sake. They did not care as much about electoral consequences. They cared most about doing the right thing. And now, given that marriage equality is legal (though not universally accepted socially), it’s clear they were right. This, Issac said, should be a lesson applied to current politics as well. “The next time you come across a centrist pundit or Democratic strategist blaming a 2020 election cycle that, for whatever reason, didn’t meet their expectations—even though Democrats held the House and took back the Senate and White House—on leftists refusing to relent on their push for true equality, ask them if Democrats should regret being tied to marriage equality in 2004 when it wasn’t as popular as it is now.”

I care a bit more than Issac does about electoral consequences.1 That’s why I think it’s important to pick up on his point. Fact is, the “cultural left,” as some Democratic pundits call it, is no longer on the margins of the Democratic Party. More importantly, it is now the driving force behind its success. Yes, there will always be concerns about “cancel culture” and “trans rights” and “defund the police” and other liberal activist priorities that poll poorly. But as Issac said, those are forces almost completely beyond the control of the “cultural left.”2 Make no mistake, though. Black Lives Matter was not coincidental to toppling a fascist demagogue who came close to bringing down the American republic. It was central. It wasn’t alone either. White anti-Trump forces merged with BLM last spring to create the biggest coalition in our nation’s history.

Here’s the tip jar!

Let me put a finer point on this. The Republican Party, as Editorial Board member María Isabel Puerta Riera wrote, is no longer a small-d democratic political party. It has ceased entirely trying to persuade the public to take its side in policy matters. Instead, it seeks taking and maintaining power in three ways. One, control of anti-majoritarian institutions, like the courts. Two, vote suppression. Three, violence. There is a growing body of evidence, María said Tuesday, showing the GOP has a paramilitary wing. Both are “bent on racial supremacy.” Both aim to install a king.

I don’t use “king” lightly. A king is the logical end-point of white supremacy. Like absolute monarchy, what animates white supremacy is the right to hereditary (or racial) rule. Donald Trump’s presidency is incoherent if not seen through the lens of absolutism. Such “rights” were so central, they flew in the face of pretty much everything about being an American, foremost equal treatment under law.3 The Republicans, by twice acquitting him, declared in essence the rule of law applies only to people who are not Republicans, by extension only to people who are not white. When Stacey Abrams organized Georgians into an anti-authoritarian, multi-racial but very Black coalition of voters, she not only flipped two Senate seats. She not only flipped the United States Senate. She flipped America away from its previous and shameful path toward despotism and toward a renewed devotion to democracy.

Anti-racism—among many things lumped together under the banner of the “cultural left,” as marriage equality used to be—is no longer the electoral millstone it once was. Indeed, in the face of a Republican Party almost totally given over to king-lust, anti-racism has emerged to become what it’s always been. Patriotic and all-American. There’s a good reason why President Joe Biden is governing now as if the “cultural left” has gone mainstream. It’s because the “cultural left” has gone mainstream.

John Stoehr

1

Though I suspect Issac would agree with me.

2

Fact is, they poll poorly because the Republicans are very good at lying about them.

3

His Senate trial was not a matter of statutory or common law, but the Constitutional is law.

John Stoehr is the editor of the Editorial Board. He writes the daily edition open and available to all. Find him @johnastoehr.

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