Too much stigma, not enough persuasion

I am struck by how much attention is being paid to alleged failures of headlines seen by readers of mainstream newspapers and magazines when the much larger, more consequential problem is that mainstream journalism is not reaching large swaths of Trump voters at all. This is not entirely the fault of intellectuals in academia and journalism. Many do good work that is dismissed out of a refusal to engage with any charge of racism, or that is wrongly disparaged or lumped in with bad work in overbroad critiques of “the media” that make as much sense as someone eating a bad meal and saying, “the restaurants are awful.”

But the left has got to see its own culpability more clearly.

Insofar as the definition of “white supremacist” includes Bernie Sanders, the term is not going to retain significant stigma, or even be understood by most of America. Insofar as attempts to point that out are met, by academics on social media or opinion journalists at left-of-center outlets, with the most uncharitable, dubiously accurate construals possible, followed by disparaging insults and performative stigmatization––well, if you’re a progressive who is incapable of constructively engaging with a Mother Jones staffer, what possible hope do you have of reaching the swing voters who will decide the outcome of the 2018 midterms?