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The inexplicable division on the left

The party is eating itself alive

%28Courtesy+of+Senator+Chuck+Schumer+Facebook+Page%29
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The inexplicable division on the left

(Courtesy of Senator Chuck Schumer Facebook Page)

(Courtesy of Senator Chuck Schumer Facebook Page)

(Courtesy of Senator Chuck Schumer Facebook Page)

(Courtesy of Senator Chuck Schumer Facebook Page)

By Edridge D’Souza, Collegian Columnist

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I’ve often been accused of being a leftist. While I consider myself closer to the center-right side of neoliberal, appearing further left is unavoidable when half the news cycle is dominated by a particularly disastrous right-wing presidency. However, while there’s truly no shortage of examples for how this administration blunders its most basic tasks and exposes itself to unnecessary scandal, one thing that has consistently baffled me throughout the Trump era is the left’s complete unpreparedness to respond effectively to any of it.

Generally, many people on the left and center view Trump and his administration as dangerous, whether to the environment, to our international alliances or even to the basic notion of democracy. In the face of such sentiment, one would expect the opposition party to focus its message more. Now there is a common target that could unite the far-left, progressives, liberals, moderates, centrists and even disillusioned conservatives. A more competent version of the Democrats would have a unified message in what should have been an extremely easy presidency to oppose.

Yet, just like in 2016, we see that people on the left are more interested in fighting amongst themselves than in unifying a message. For instance, shortly after Trump’s inauguration, the widespread Women’s Marches gained popularity on social media and appealed to the millennial demographic. Yet, as these protests spread, so did some outright divisive ideas. A viral photo of a Black woman holding a sign reading “Don’t forget: white women voted for Trump” made its way around social media, and as I saw the photo shared across Facebook, commenters from the “woke” crowd brought up generalized grievances toward white women. These people directed their frustrations at “Becky,” the Platonic ideal of a white woman deemed not-sufficiently-woke.

I’m not going to address the statistical fallacies that it takes to make the claim that white women supported Trump in 2016 and are somehow culpable for his presidency. I won’t address the idea that the word “Becky” has started to be used as a sort of racial epithet that somehow allows the user to turn nakedly misogynistic statements into progressive-approved ones. I also won’t address the fact that such rhetoric reflects a collective mentality that reduces people to their social and ethnic groups, removing the capacity to judge people’s behavior as individuals. What I will say is that, even from a value-neutral perspective, pointlessly divisive rhetoric like this is the reason Democrats keep losing elections.

Yes, the idea of intersectionality means that different marginalized groups may be affected in different and complex ways depending on their circumstances. That idea is widely accepted among academicians. And in an academic context, these nuances can be fully explored to the level of seriousness they deserve.

Social media is not academia though. On social media, political messages are spread by people who have a vested interest in the outcome. The spread of the viral Women’s March photo indicates that people sharing it were more concerned with signaling their progressive political status to their peers than they were with actually solving any issues; if they were, perhaps the image would have been accompanied with some concrete examples of policies to unify the movement, rather than some vague and miasmic notion that white women are not to be trusted, without any further explanation.

Knowing what we know now about social media campaigns, it would seem almost foolish to assume that this sort of internal division wasn’t also being pushed by outside forces that want to cause division. Russian bots have been found voicing extreme rhetoric on both sides of the aisle, with the intention of capitalizing on existing divides within the U.S. to sow civil discord. While there is no specific evidence linking Russian interference to that particular New York Times photo, it is not hard to conceive that the spread of such images can only benefit people who want to see America fail.

Once again, my criticisms here are not of substance but of branding. Perhaps one can believe that factors like systematic racism warrant a more in-depth exploration of how white people’s voices are represented among intersectional social movements. This is a valid concern. But even among the extremes of the left, it should be apparent that rhetoric that demonizes entire demographic groups will divide people more than it will unite them, and will also alienate potential supporters. It almost seems specifically engineered for the purpose of preventing an otherwise-unified voting bloc from having a concerted message.

Weak leadership from officials like Chuck Schumer have led to a Democratic branding strategy that essentially amounts to “sit back and just quietly take it.” The mainstream opposition party is under attack from the right by Republicans setting the narrative of the media cycle, as well as from the left by progressives who inexplicably seem more concerned with showing off their ideological purity than with unifying against a common adversary. Just like with the 2016 primaries (and later in the general election), people who agree with each other on the vast majority of issues will let perfect be the enemy of good.

The American left is unique in its ability to take a situation that seems straightforward and massively mishandle it. The Democrats lost the presidency to a historically unpopular candidate due to weak brand messaging as well as factional infighting, and it almost seems like they want it to happen again. When the president has never yet had above a 50 percent approval rate, a shrewder opposition party would have no issue at all defining a unified narrative and clear policy platform.

This lack of unity reflects that people on the left should focus on their commonalities if they ever want to win again. This strategy worked in the midterms when candidates tried to reconcile the divisions between factions of the big-tent party. The left wing is great at eating itself alive, but if it ever wants to survive, it needs to do absolutely anything else, at least for a few minutes at a time. While I can’t say I agree with the Trump-era GOP on many issues, I can give them credit where it’s due: at least they know how to win.

Edridge D’Souza is a Collegian columnist and can be reached at [email protected]

3 Comments

3 Responses to “The inexplicable division on the left”

  1. Hailey on December 12th, 2018 5:46 pm

    I really think you should reconsider centering an article about the lack of unity behind Democrats being the fault of people like a single random black woman at a protest–who you consider to be as insidious as a “Russian bot”–not pandering to the 53% of white women voters who voted for Trump. Is your idea of organizing writing an article about how a black woman having a sign is thoroughly divisive? Do you think white women who saw this sign, regardless of how they voted, projected then said “f it, I’m going alt-right now” would ever be valuable allies that the left should try to unite?

    Also, do you not identify as a man? Why do you care how women use a term coined by a woman to describe women who put their proximity to whiteness before their identities as women? effectively putting down people of color, not just other women?

    The losses of the Democratic party are not on people like her, they are on the Democratic party for largely failing to represent the interests of the poor and working class and plenty of people of color. Remember, Standing Rock happened under Obama, ICE continued under Obama, Ferguson happened under Obama, Flint happened under Obama, Libya happened under Obama, need I go on. Who are the victims there? White women can go worry about a sign if that is where their priorities lay. You and rest of the op-ed contributors who constantly criticize people who don’t feel represented by America’s “democracy” are chauvinist, classist, and out of touch.

  2. Sitting Bull on December 13th, 2018 1:24 pm

    Have you considered that people on the left are just plainly dumb? And how about the fact that most are not concerned at all with the greater good, but rather focused 100% on “victory” for whatever their petty little cause happens to be? Given that these truisms are the primary traits that tenuously bind the American left, is it any wonder that the blind are leading the blind? Thinking people can see that while they may disagree with Trump or Republicans on individual social issues, those issues are secondary and relatively unimportant as compared to the existential issues posed by illegal immigration, Chinese hegemony, criminal regimes all over the world, cyber warfare, disease, infrastructure, etc.

  3. NITZAKHON on December 14th, 2018 7:59 am

    @sitting bull:

    You need to realize that Leftists are missionaries. They believe – can I get a “Heil Marx!”? – they can create a one-world Socialist utopia. They believe with Marxianic Zeal that all peoples and cultures are the same, and that that America can withstand an unlimited stream of third-world cultural immigration by people who have no vested interest or stake in American culture and values.

    Of course, you never see people streaming out of America to go to Honduras? Why? Could it be a… “sh!thole” country? Look at the shark-infested waters between Cuba and Florida. It’s not like it’s a 50-50 flow. It’s not 80-20. It’s not 90-10. And it’s not 99-1. People come here for the Rule of Law – something Leftists are desperate to overturn (e.g., their Inquisition of President Trump to overturn the 2016 election).

If you want a picture to show with your comment, go get a gravatar.




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