The Mere Mention of "Privilege" Should Not End Debates

Shutting down any debate by invoking economic status is lazy and dishonest

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The Mere Mention of "Privilege" Should Not End Debates

Wonkette has earned its stripes as a wonderful source for media catharsis. Generally giving a sarcastic, feminist perspective on current events, it is a fine example of what I call the “backlash media.”

I was not surprised to see them issue a rebuttal to a recent piece I wrote for Salon titled “The Liberal Case for Donald Trump: The Lesser of Two Evils is Not At All Clear in 2016.” Their article, “Dear Salon, Set Your Dick On Fire and Eat It,” by Rebecca Schoenkopf, sought to set me straight on my privilege with a flurry of profane language, and righteous indignation. Nevertheless, I was disappointed in the lack of critical analysis in the piece — particularly the fact that my concerns about the 2020 election went unaddressed.

That said, this article is not about an election four years from now; it is about our political discourse.

There is a classic divide in left wing politics between social and economic progressives. This split manifested itself most clearly in the southern realignment. Many of Franklin D. Roosevelt’s stalwarts left the Democratic Party over the issue of civil rights.

Today, we see this divide playing out between Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton supporters. While the modern Democratic Party has brought a unity of sorts, between the two camps, that is beginning to crack. Economic progressives tend to favor Sanders while social progressives seem to lean Clinton. As the primary has gone on, the two sides have become increasingly hostile towards one another.

Many of Bernie’s supporters see Clinton as antithetical to their goals given her record. That feeling gave rise to the ‘Bernie Or Bust’ Movement which is really an effort to restore democracy to our government. In many ways, it is the product of the Occupy Movement.

On the other side, Clinton’s supporters prioritize social justice — reproductive rights, immigration reform, LGBTQ equality, etc. They do not understand why anyone would ever even consider not supporting the Democratic nominee for president in November. With that comes the assumption that “Bernie bros” don’t care about the downtrodden because they’re “privileged.”

Such is the case Wonkette makes against my article — well that, and calling out minor edits (for many of which I thank my iPhone). But the privilege argument is a misnomer in this case.

A recent study found that the collective voice of the American people has a negligible impact on public policy, while the demands of the rich have a substantial impact. Industry lobbyists, many of whom are former elected officials, literally write legislation to “regulate” their respective industries. The ‘revolving door’ is a very real concern.

It is also important to understand that the Citizens United v. FEC Supreme Court ruling is merely one aspect of our problem. The notion that money is a vehicle for speech — which is the precedent set in Buckley v. Valeo — has convoluted our campaign finance system to the point where now, neither the IRS nor the FEC can effectively regulate — especially in light of political pressures. In fact, the New York Times just published a piece on that exact problem.

The fact that our government is beholden to special interests is why we have such a problem with obstruction in Washington, and part of why change has been so incremental lately.

This situation has left us with 20 million Americans who are still either uninsured or underinsured, and millions more who are unemployed or underemployed; it has left our government on the hook for escalating drug prices; it is why we have historic levels of student loan debt; it has left thousands incarcerated in federal prisons for marijuana offenses — the majority of whom are non-whites; it has left the banks that crashed our economy bigger than ever; it is why minimum wage has not kept up with inflation; and it is why welfare remains “reformed.”

As far as Hillary Clinton is concerned, she benefits from this broken system, and has not indicated that she has any serious intention of making a change. Her campaign flouts the law and illegally coordinates with numerous super PACs. She has financial ties to nearly every horrible special interest in Washington.

Anyone who criticizes ‘Bernie Or Bust’ as a privileged position, is essentially making the argument that those issues can wait — that our broken democracy is a nebulous idea, and there are immediate problems we must deal with. I disagree with that position.

There is nothing more fundamental than the fact that our very democracy is slipping away from us — all of us, and not just straight, cis, white males. It is the most important issue we have to deal with as it impacts our ability to fight political battles.

So let’s stop calling it privileged when someone suggests that maybe the best candidates are those who don’t rely on super PACs or our broken campaign finance system. Let’s stop calling it privileged that some people do not want to elect a candidate beholden to special interests. And please, let’s stop calling it privileged that someone would prioritize fixing our government before anything else.

‘Bernie Or Bust’ people should not have to explain why democracy matters.

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