The New White Moderate: Political Coercion, Liberalism, and the Failed Electoral Strategy
A democracy is not just being “allowed” to “choose” your representatives, but having representatives that actually align with peoples material interests.
Folks need to marshal their rage toward building a sustainable movement of people power.”
There’s a Jacobin article circling around titled, “Where Do We Go After Last Night’s Defeat?” published a day after Bernie Sanders’ defeat on March 11th, 2020. The author writes, “the bad news is that the Democratic Party isn’t going anywhere. The good news is that today’s common sense political demands are, almost unthinkably, democratic socialist ones.” The article goes on to rant about what the author describes as an almost undefeatable nature of the Democratic Establishment, in the historical context, as a justification for being reluctant to look outside of the realm of the two-party system for solutions to our current reality. While also implying Sanders’ movement, or rather moment, won the “battle of ideas,” as if that’s something worthy of being bragged about. As if winning the “battle of ideas” has ever fed an empty stomach, or liberated anyone. Further proving Sanders’ moment has widely led to a miseducation of socialist ideals, in which the article displays such a lack of understanding of what socialism actually entails, beyond mild liberal reforms. But, throughout the entirety of the article the author provides the perfect encapsulation of self-congratulatory American chauvinism, symbolism, and unearned arrogance, largely present on all sides of the electoral political spectrum.
The author entirely credits what he refers to as “five years of “Sandersism” for the “genuine leap forward in politics in the United States, a leap that dwarfs the past half-century of liberal stupidity and backwardness.” Unknowingly and unapologetically depicting the vast disconnect present between Sanders’ moment and electoral canvassing and colonized people and our organizing and movement efforts. Which precisely demonstrates why national electoral canvassing, specifically as it relates to bourgeois elections, cannot be categorized as “working class” organizing or movements when it is systemically disconnected from and neglects the most marginalized amongst us. The author continues the braggadocious tone to make a note about how “in five years, we’ve moved forward fifty” -- entirely neglecting to mention how state political repression and mass media anti-communist smearing following Black radical movements and uprisings in the last 60 years or so, affected the political psyche of millions of people. But also how movements and moments, such as Black Lives Matter, #NoDAPL, and others, took place within the last 5 years and were instrumental in the shift in public discourse and moving politicians, including Bernie Sanders, further left (even if only performatively), with regard to racial and economic justice and state violence.
“The author provides the perfect encapsulation of self-congratulatory American chauvinism, symbolism, and unearned arrogance.”
The entire article is an overly wordy manifesto and reeks of liberal idealism and exceptionalism while complacently lecturing us on how our material reality is bad but not bad enough that we’re somehow above or incapable of continuing to accept our social and political subjugation through being patient and waiting for the next election cycle just to vote for the next seemingly progressive politician(s) on the Democratic Party ticket. There is no emphasis on local grassroots organizing, beyond the electorate, that is already being done by non-white people who receive little-to-no support from the white moderates masquerading as “allies” and “progressives,” who entirely physically and materially neglect organizers until it’s time to convince us to vote for their preferred candidate. The author tells us we should “reject” the “fantasy that now is the time we all throw ourselves into third-party work or militant protest activity” and that “there is nowhere for us to go.” And I must ask, who is this “us” he speaks of? C.L.R. James once wrote, “What Negro, particularly below the Mason-Dixon line, believes that the bourgeois state is a state above all classes, serving the needs of all the people? They may not formulate their belief in Marxist terms, but their experience drives them to reject this shibboleth [principle] of bourgeois democracy.” The entire article reads of an individual, who is not only merely a product of a widespread culture that lacks political imagination beyond liberal idealizations, but has not intellectually or politically struggled with persons of the Black race before, at least not ones who are poor. The author is clearly not from the same hue as the colonized and oppressed people, in desperate material need of far more than even what his beloved Democratic Party is willing to offer, on their best day. But what’s fascinating is just how confident the author is throughout the entirety of the piece with his shit-eating and ramming the politics of electoralism down our throats, despite the disappointing losses by the most popular progressive politician in America, in back-to-back elections to morally and politically inferior candidates. I pondered on the possibility that maybe this article wasn’t written for me, or us, as in non-white people—but its “colorblind” and race neutral approach, clearly depicts otherwise. However, even the worst of what the white american community has to offer is undeserving of such a disturbingly bleak and imperious political outlook.
“Colonized and oppressed people are in desperate material need of far more than the Democratic Party is willing to offer, on their best day.”
In his famous letter from Birmingham Jail, Martin Luther King Jr. writes about the white moderate who will constantly say, “I agree with you in the goal you seek, but I can't agree with your methods of direct action" who “paternalistically feels [he] can set the timetable for another man's freedom; who lives by the myth of time and who constantly advises the Negro to wait until a more convenient season." And I ask, how is this descriptor laid out by the late great MLK regarding the white moderate in the 1960s, any different than the rhetoric displayed by liberal reformists masquerading as “leftists” in the article? By telling us we need to remain patient for the US political stratosphere to miraculously adopt a conscience and allow moderate and largely temporary reforms through the electoral approach of the Democratic establishment, you’re telling the most oppressed people that you can paternalistically set the timetable for our liberation.
The author writes that there are 12 million members of the Democratic Party, the largest membership number, of all parties in the US—as a means of emphasizing an unfounded and irrelevant point about the American people’s reliance on the party—while failing to connect the dots to the lack of alternative political options being presented for people to resort to, which leads to a coerced “support” for millions of people who consistently “vote blue.” The author deliberately fails to recognize that the US has a population of over 300 million, and it doesn’t take a mathematician to understand that there are millions upon millions of people, who are not members of the establishment and/or simply do not vote—due to disenfranchisement, socio-political status, and/or strategic disinvestment. Millions of people, largely made up of the colonized and/or racialized, who are disinvested and have long rejected the two party system and are desperately looking for an alternative, to their current social, political, and economic material realities, and instead of defeatism under the guise of electoral hopefulness within the Democratic Party. We should be proving to them that socialism, beyond the electoral and welfare statist approach that Bernie offers, could serve as that alternative.
We, in America, never truly “choose” our political representatives—the ruling class does—even with the largely performative and symbolic facade of allowing some of us to cast votes every couple of years. Sure, we’re granted the opportunity to emblematically “choose” our next plantation owner or subjector-in-chief but only after having our beliefs filtered and heavily influenced by the stranglehold American mainstream media, or rather mass propaganda machine, has on our psyche. With that, the electoral college stands as a means of allowing ruling elites to have the last say of who they want their figurehead of empire run by corporations to be—oftentimes regardless of the popular vote results. This, along with the fact that we’re constantly forced to choose between possibly slightly improving our material reality and that of those in the third world and global south countries. It’s nothing more than constant political coercion.
“We should be proving to them that socialism could serve as that alternative.”
A democracy is not just being “allowed” to “choose” your representatives, but having representatives that actually politically and morally align with its peoples material interests, with a fighting shot to win. If we can understand this illegitimate process and American hypocrisy, as the often “transporter” of democracy, we have to understand how the game is rigged from the jump—and we end up losing every time regardless of who is occupying office, as the ones with the most power and influence on electoralism and policy are oligarchs and corporations and their financial interests. So how can you, as a self-proclaimed leftist, progressive, or radical, advocate for the continued reliance on such a system that is inherently rigged against us?
The fact of the matter is: Bernie Sanders is losing. And unless something drastic happens in the coming weeks, he will not be the democratic nominee. The electoral strategy has proved, once again, to be largely ineffective as a legitimate threat to capitalist exploitation and imperialism. So, you would think the most obvious solution would be to align ourselves with organizers, movements, and ideologies that can bring about the radical shift that marginalized people need to survive, right? But no, the new white moderates, leeching on to a party that has proven time and time again that those of us who want something radically different than milquetoast neoliberal establishment candidates and politics, are not welcomed. And honestly, it’s about time we listen. This conception asserted by the author, that somehow “we’ll get ‘em next time,” despite not offering much of a historical context or substantial answer as to why we should be optimistic about this approach or how we could achieve such a thing, is not just politically naive but downright potentially fatal—especially as we approach pending human induced climate doom and deteriorating material conditions. It’s leading people into a burning building with little care for the lives that’ll be harmed and/or lost.
“The electoral strategy has proved, once again, to be largely ineffective as a legitimate threat to capitalist exploitation and imperialism.”
Bernie Sanders should be seen as the compromise candidate that he truly represents. A physical embodiment of capitalism’s last hope, the “peaceful” alternative to sustain capitalism, imperialism, and pending climate doom, beyond its life expectancy and avoid addressing the actualities of what this country is, at its roots, for a couple years longer. But, it’s clear that these self-proclaimed “progressive” political figures are considered end-goal saviors, for many of these white moderates, who claim that the Bernie Sanders’ or the Elizabeth Warrens of the world are merely a means to an end. And their work will be finished if and when they succeed in electing them to the most powerful office in the world. If the DNC would not accept the mild reforms that Bernie Sanders is offering then that should tell us these gains will not be attained through the ballot.
The new white moderate bombards us with disingenuous questions such as, “what’s your solution then?” when they encounter those of us who do not vote, as if opting not to engage in the coercive nature of the logic behind lesser of two evilism every election cycle or refusing to vote for and electing the next terrorist-in-chief, is somehow more morally repugnant than the contrary. As if divesting from national electoral politics and not electing imperialists who are gonna enact terror on colonized people globally, isn’t a substantial alternative, in and of itself. The new white moderate is desperately clinging to the glimmer of hope that the Democratic Party and the United States of America, in its entirety, isn’t beyond redemption. They constantly tell themselves this because believing in the contrary would force them to reckon with not only their sense of identity, which they’ll find is inextricable with Americanism, but also with the reality that everything they think they know about their beloved country and all of its institutions and global affairs, is categorically false. The claims implied in the article that the Democratic Party is just simply incompetent, isn’t untrue, but belliting their structural issues to just that largely lets their existence as a for-profit-over-all-else political party off the hook for its crimes and implies that these issues can be fixed with merely a slight overhaul in leadership. Democrats heavily rely on the lesser of two evilism approach that we see every election cycle, it’s all they know; it’s not just incompetence. As the author notes, they are perfectly fine with masquerading as the “opposition” party to Republicans, even in the Donald Trump regime era—while resisting little-to-none of their fascist policies or acts—as long as it means disallowing even the most mildest of reforms that could potentially come from a Bernie Sanders presidency.
“Democrats heavily rely on the lesser of two evilism approach that we see every election cycle, it’s all they know.”
White moderates are no longer just raging traditional centrists, intent on maintaining the capitalist white supremacist status quo, but instead are also self-proclaimed “progressives” and “leftists” telling colonized, racialized, and oppressed people to wait our turn to begin buiding something revolutionary, something bigger than us all, while they continue underperforming and flat-out losing their electoral strategies. These new white moderates, masquerading as “progressives,” “leftists,” oftentimes even “radicals'' are very much keen on allowing the US—with their critically beloved Democratic Party at the forefront—to maintain its status as the unjust global police of the world, as long as they’re reaping the benefits of such a position through minimal “domestic” progress through welfare statism; which is why they can so easily advocate for the continued dependence on the liberal establishment. With a condescending smugness, the author writes: “And, of course, there will be some wacky proposals that promise us a shortcut to power. Sectarians will encourage everyone to funnel their rage into ill-fated third-party efforts, and some will demand an insurrection at the Democratic National Convention[...]” But what’s more “wacky” or “ill-fated” than proposing to reconcile oneself to age-old tactics that are bound to continue to fail—with little-to-no evidence that a different outcome is even remotely possible? What is more doomed than sitting on your hands while people continue dying, and allowing the rage—derived from the disappointing defeat of the most well-known and optimal American progressive politician, since FDR—and opting to store it in hopes of another electoral opportunity coming along in the future instead of taking said rage and strategically and politically putting it toward building a sustainable movement towards people power? This strategy, disguised as being optimistic, is nothing more than a politically naive and deliberately obtuse attempt at preserving the deadend that is the Democratic Party—which has historically served as a hindrance to radical movements because of its subservience to capital—and justify doing nothing and avoid actually doing something beyond door knocking and bar-hopping Jacobin book clubs.
joshua briond (i prefer name written in lower case, if possible) is a north carolina based cultural worker (writer, photographer, and organizer), member of black alliance for peace. student of (sociology + race/gender/sexuality studies). co-host of millennials are killing capitalism podcast (@makcapitalism). abolitionist, anti-imperialist, and marxist of the black radical tradition. can be found on twitter at @queersocialism.
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