I like knowing people whose politics are the opposite of mine, because how else can I shore up what I believe, right?
So this guy I know, who’s a Republican based here and who runs a bank, rang up laughing after the beating the Democrats got when the Republicans won last week’s governor elections in Virginia – a state that was comfortably Democratic in last year’s presidential election.
In the background he had Elton John’s I’m Still Standing blasting and it sounded as if people were partying. Before he said anything, he sang in a drunken voice: And did you think this fool could never win? / Well look at me, I’m coming back again / Don’t you know that I’m still standing better than I ever did / Looking like a true survivor, feeling like a little kid.
I told him to shut up and calm down, pointing out to him – once again – that the US was not going in his direction, that it was becoming a minority/majority country. He pointed out to me that his sister-in-law is Latina, so he has no problem with that at all.
What he has a problem with is that the left, across the entire spectrum from moderate and progressive to beyond, don’t get one thing: that the people are tired. Tired of the slogans and the marches, and the debates: the whole thing.
They are tired of the non-delivery; tired of the infighting; tired of many highly educated and articulate folks, some in position for a long time, ruling the day.
As the former majority population in the American body politic begins to wane, watch out for racially coded politics: subtle messages to white people across the economic spectrum that they may not be the ones in charge of things any more.
And then what?
The Republican guy laughed at the slogan “Defund the Police” and the term “Critical Race Theory”. They are both phrases, he pointed out, that one of his right-wing think tanks would have paid huge money to have invented. It does not matter, he said, that the theory behind CRT is correct: that structural racism is the very basis of the United States. It does not matter that “Defund the Police” doesn’t actually mean no police at all.
What matters is that there is a base out there, a vocal and scared and manipulated one, who think: “They’re talking about me” The voting demographic labelled “White Suburban Moms” threw Donald Trump under the bus at the general election. Their vote in 2016 was not for Trump but against Hillary Clinton.
They had had enough of the activist first lady, the powerful US senator, the able secretary of state. Even though they hated Donald Trump’s “Nightmare in Las Vegas” mouth and lifestyle, they were willing to take a chance because he was not her.
Trump turned out to be cruel and stupid, so they ditched him. Joe Biden looked like a regular guy, somebody who could heal the nation.
Most of them had never heard of that great saying by Will Rogers, the big cultural icon of Depression America: “I’m not a member of any organised political party. I’m a Democrat.” But they saw it. And most important of all: they felt it.
In plain sight, like Labour here, the Democrats are tearing themselves apart. The Republican Party, with a few exceptions, is the Party of Trump. They don’t fight in public.
Now you can say that a political party with its various factions and permutations of the left is a good thing. A healthy thing. It not only stimulates debate, it might represent the people.
The way that they really are.
The problem is that the people are tired. White Suburban Moms are tired.
People of colour are tired We’re all tired.
Traditional thinking is that if you use racially coded politics, like the now governor-elect of Virginia, Glenn Youngkin did, you lose ethnic minority voters. There was no ethnic minority backlash in Virginia.
Because people are tired. Moms are tired.
Mothers of all ethnicities were the ones who did the home-schooling during the worst of the pandemic. Mothers were the ones who had to give up jobs in order to stay home and do this.
Mothers just wanted the damn schools open; they wanted to have a say in what was taught and maybe who taught there, too.
Youngkin pounced on this, defeating former governor Terry McAuliffe. The Republican won big in a state where Biden trounced Trump last year.
As I pointed out last week, this kind of revolt is typical pandemic behaviour.
England, for example, was fundamentally changed during the Black Death.
The Dems could not see that something was different, something had shifted, that things had to be done as the legacy of the faction fighting.
Joe Manchin is the senator from West Virginia, a Trump stronghold, and often cited as the most conservative Dem in the senate. Maybe he won’t be there if he decides to run again, but for now he is trying to get Dem progressives to see the Real World, the world away from largely urban centres and largely urban concerns.
The US and the UK, too, are on the cusp of major demographic change. Just as Brexit is, among other things, English nationalism for the Labour-voting working class, the Republican Party may have found a way to talk to the dwindling majority demographic.
The Dems need to see the writing on the wall and smell the coffee percolating.