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Obsession with extreme PC behavior is a hindrance to the progressive movement

Danielle Ryan
Danielle Ryan
Danielle Ryan is an Irish freelance writer based in Dublin. Her work has appeared in Salon, The Nation, Rethinking Russia, teleSUR, RBTH, The Calvert Journal and others. Follow her on Twitter @DanielleRyanJ
Obsession with extreme PC behavior is a hindrance to the progressive movement
The progressive left needs to sort out its priorities. Is “non-gendered” language, for instance, more important than economic fairness? It’s time to decide, because failure to properly prioritize could hinder the whole movement.

Even casual observers of US domestic politics could quickly discern that while the right is more homogeneous and cohesive, the left is far more splintered. Conservatives, typically, are more willing to line up behind their chosen one, while liberals and progressives spend a disproportionate amount of time on infighting.

This can be seen in both the top echelons of the Democratic Party (Nancy Pelosi’s thinly-veiled attacks on the ‘squad,’ for example) — and among the lowest rungs (grassroots progressive activists griping at each other over the use of “gendered” language).

While polls show that Republicans are still broadly supportive of Trump (some fanatically so), there are also conservatives, disillusioned by the Trump presidency, whose votes are up for grabs, but who are no doubt put off by the increasingly alienating requirements of modern political correctness. 

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It’s not wise to put too much stock in polls a year out from the election. Nonetheless, it is reasonable to assume that Trump, having gifted a $1.5 trillion tax cut to the rich and launched an ill-advised trade war with China, will suffer some Republican defections in 2020. 

Take farmers. The farming industry supported Trump overwhelmingly in 2016. Last week, the National Farmers’ Union condemned him over his China tariffs, saying that instead of solving the industry’s problems, he has “created new ones” and is “making things worse.” Farmers are not a huge voting bloc, sure, but they are not insignificant either — and Trump spent time actively courting their votes four years ago. 

Let’s look at another group: Coal miners. “We are going to put our coal miners back to work,” candidate Trump promised. Fast-forward to 2019 and while miners employed by the newly-bankrupt Blackjewel company are owed some $5 million in back pay, Trump has been remarkably quiet. (“A tweet would be great,” one protesting worker told CNN.) Coal miners might remember that, when push came to shove, top Republicans were on the side of the company owners (i.e. the donors), not the lowly workers. 

In the right circumstances, motivated by their own economic interests, some of these people could be convinced to vote for a left-wing candidate like Bernie Sanders. After all, one in 10 Bernie supporters voted for Trump in 2016. Trump and Sanders could scarcely be more different on policy and personality, but they share some of the same appeal to disenfranchised voters.

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But, I suspect, nothing will drive an undecided coal miner away quicker than telling him that he needs to snap instead of clap — just in case anyone in the room is “prone to sensory overload.” 

Then there are the independents, who could swing either way, but certainly won’t be enticed to go left when they hear about the latest victims of “cancel culture,” the fighting over perceived “micro-aggressions,” and the attempts to batter each other into some kind of unattainable ideological purity. 

In reality, the faction on the left preoccupied with these minor issues is actually relatively small, but they garner plenty of attention. Their me-me-me mindset presumes that the world must adapt itself to every individual’s specific idiosyncrasies, rather than accepting that the reality of life sometimes requires molding yourself to fit into wider society. 

This is not to say that it’s unimportant to respect an individual’s preferences when it comes to things like using preferred pronouns — but the left needs to realize it can do all that without becoming a caricature of itself.

Readers should not construe this as an argument that Democrats ought to spend all their time worried about trying to court conservatives. In fact, the liberal establishment spends too much time doing that already. It’s why they nominate centrists like Hillary Clinton, hoping to appeal to moderate Republicans.

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The flaw in this strategy is that, in trying to capture the center, Democrats alienate many in their own base. Clinton suffered from the same “enthusiasm gap” with liberal voters in 2016 that pundits are warning Joe Biden is facing today.

If they want to win, Democrats should nominate a populist who can excite the left-wing base and appeal to disillusioned Trump voters at the same time. Progressives know this. They know Biden is not the man for the job — and they know that they are not just up against Trump, but their own party establishment, too. 

It’s time they got their priorities in order and focus on the big picture instead of minor trivialities. If they are serious about systemic change, the PC-obsessed wing of the movement needs to decide if it cares more about economic justice, Medicare-for-All and the Green New Deal more than they care about trying to outdo each other in the self-righteousness Olympics.

If they are too busy throwing stones in their own house and “canceling” each other on social media, they risk taking their eyes off the prize — and it could be fatal.

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The statements, views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of RT.

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