As Democrats, our message has to be that we are in business to make life better for everyone—white, black, or anything else. Life for most people in the US is poorer, more stressful, and more uncertain than in any other developed country. That’s a fixable problem, and we’re trying to do it. It’s not easy to fight the powers that be—so it’s not pretty as a process—but we’re up for the fight. Climate fits in that picture as well. Racism has its particular challenges. But we are moving everyone up.
That message is not compatible with the current chest-beating (mostly self-appointed) about how morally superior we are to the moronic white racists. “Those people just have to get used to giving up the advantages they’ve enjoyed by being white, so they ought to suffer.” Not a great way to get elected and not what we stand for. It’s a false premise that we have to trade one group off against another.
That false premise is not just counterproductive as a message, it also leads to bad policy. It is not okay to assume that it’s fine to make the other guy suffer. In education, it is not okay to ignore kids who are successful, because they’re not the ones that count. (I can tell you about mixed classes in middle school math.) With education, as in everything else, we are in it to make things better for everyone. Fighting over insufficiently-provided resources—college slots or AP classes—is not the answer. Watering down education for the supposed benefit of the disadvantaged benefits no one. And both are distractions from the many other items (e.g. family economic stability) that are needed if we really want equality of opportunity. The objective is excellence for all.
We’re still living down “defund the police”—with columnists talking about how it is perfectly okay for mobs to trash the businesses of random people. This education stuff is if anything worse, because it turns racial progress into a threat. That may make some people happy, but it’s not productive, and it isn’t even to the advantage of the people it purports to serve.
As to what we ought to be talking about, it seems that vaccination is a marvelous metaphor for everything the Republican Party stands for. Vaccinated people don’t get sick and die; unvaccinated people do. The people cheering on the unvaccinated are largely vaccinated themselves (e.g. Murdoch and Fox people). They’re sacrificing their supporters to the task of keeping themselves in power. So they can continue to take their money–not just in taxes but in medical expenses, education expenses, and job insecurity.
There are lots of false bogeymen here. “We can’t have those benefits without tanking the economy.” “Just look at the inflation we’re already getting from the Democrats’ spending.” Virtually all the benefits of Trump tax cuts went to the ultra-rich. Virtually all of the corporate benefits went to stock buybacks instead of new investment. Virtually all of the inflation is from shortages created by continuing Covid supply issues. Just as the Obama-era Republicans kept the country poor by blocking all stimulus, the current Republicans are deliberately keeping the country poor by blocking the national recovery from Covid.
One thing that is certainly true is that our strength as a nation, both economic and military, is built on people. That means developing the capabilities of our population, spending on education and research, and getting the best and brightest from everywhere to come here. Furthermore we need to develop the infrastructure (e.g. for climate change, 5G) that the economy will need for the future. The Republican Party has proved it is ready to sacrifice all of that to profits returned to wealthy investors—and deliberately-incited divisiveness.
We need to be a nation united by policies that serve everyone. Our history was written by contributions from all levels of society, including many categories people written off both here and abroad. The divisions we have are more sown than real, so the most important message is that we are in this for all. That’s the only way forward.