So oblivious are the subjects here to the joke that it’s hard to believe they’re not in on it, although admittedly TDS has always had a knack for finding people like that. (Or for editing them to seem that way?) I’m happy to grant Stewart et al. the benefit of the doubt and assume that this was meant as a straight-up rally-for-sanity knock on the left’s definition of “openmindedness,” but watching it made me think of Joe Klein’s piece in Time last weekend urging the Democrats to stop playing identity politics. For a very good strategic reason:
The Democratic National Committee officially recognizes 14 caucuses or “communities,” most having to do with race, gender, sexual orientation or ethnicity.
Many of these groups had a purpose in the beginning. African Americans had the ultimate historic complaint. The lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender caucus (LGBT, if you’re scoring at home) worked effectively and won the Democrats’ support for a full roster of human rights, including marriage. The women’s caucus represented perhaps the most successful civil rights movement of our lifetime. Women are moving beyond equality now toward dominance as more of them graduate from college than men–and fewer of them drop out of high school–and take their places atop major companies, government agencies and, someday soon, the presidency.
But if I’m a plain old white insurance salesman, I look at the Democratic Party and say, What’s in it for me? These feelings are clearly intensifying in this presidential campaign. They are bound to increase, perhaps dangerously, as the white electoral majority (currently about 70%) diminishes over time. If the Democratic Party truly wants to be a party of inclusion, it must reach out to those who are currently excluded from its identity politics.
Basic math: If Democrats continue to win Latinos and women decisively then the only thing theoretically stopping them from dominating national elections over the near term is white independent voters. That was the whole point of having Bubba on last night in primetime, as Jay Cost astutely noted yesterday afternoon. Klein figures that if the Democrats ease off identity politics and stop sneering at gun-toting “rednecks,” as the tolerance brigade in the clip below does, they won’t lose much by way of minority support while putting important white working-class votes in play. The strategy is simple enough; I’m just not sure Democrats can bear to try it. Take Fluke, for instance: She snagged a primetime speaking slot last night not for anything she’s accomplished but because she was insulted by Rush Limbaugh in a way that could be exploited by Democrats in pandering to women. She’s an avatar of identity-based victimization and yet the party’s brain trust simply loves her, to the point where The One himself felt compelled to phone her after Rush’s insult. Clientelism is encoded in the party’s DNA by now; if Klein wants to convince Democratic leaders to reach out to white independents, he’s more likely to get through to them by framing his pitch in clientele terms (“what can we offer them?”) than in asking them to drop the clientele approach across the board.
Anyway, fun clip, especially in light of the latest Nazi reference at the convention. I’ll leave you with this graph via Dan Amira of New York magazine, who interviewed 50 convention attendees at random. See if you can figure out a connection between the TDS segment and these results: