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Name A Communicative Register That Presents Unintuitive, Morally Burdensome Progressive Requisites



Josh Shapiro's new TV ad in his gubernatorial race shows why most Pennsylvanians think Doug Mastriano is too extreme for the state. Before getting into Mastriano's physical participation in the J-6 insurrection, the ad asks if he speaks for you. "He wants to outlaw and criminalize all abortions. 'My body; my choice,' sneers Mastriano, 'is ridiculous nonsense.' He opposes any exceptions for rape, incest or even the life of the mother. 'I don't give a way for exceptions either,' Mastriano boasted. Mastriano wants to ban gay marriage should gay marriage be legal? 'Absolutely not,' he growled. And on climate change... is global warming real? 'It is not, it's fake science.'" he avers.

AARP released a new poll this morning showing Shapiro ahead 49-46% among likely voters (ahead 55-41% among women). Among likely voters, Mastriano has just a 37% favorable rating (44% unfavorable)-- tied among independents, which, no doubt, Shapiro is trying to address with this ad.


The White House does zoom calls to "stakeholders" in order to address current issues with a wide array of people-- hundreds at a time-- who can, presumably, help them get their message out. Yesterday's non-interactive 30 minute meeting featured Kamala Harris and 3 top bureaucrats. This is what I was told they suggested if Roe gets overturned: "Cultural competences and intersectionality, including the need to protect gender-affirming surgery. Other than that there was not a single concrete plan or even an idea."


Minnesota Senator Tina Smith wasn't on the call as far as I know, but she very much does have a concrete plan. She introduced a new bill today that guarantees access to abortion pills-- like mifepristone-- in states that have not yet restricted them. There is no way the Senate Democrats can get more than 2 Republicans-- at best-- to vote for cloture once a GOP filibuster gets going on this. And would Manchin even vote with the Dems on this? Smith acknowledged that to NBC News when they asked her about it today. They reported that she was also "one of more than twenty senators, led by Democrats Elizabeth Warren and Patty Murray, who signed onto a letter demanding the Biden administration move on several executive actions, including bolstering protections for the abortion pill. The White House has signaled an openness to executive actions, but the federal government is limited in what it can do."


And that brings us to Ben Burgis' report this morning for the Daily Beast, Bernie Sanders’ Democratic Socialist Successors Are More Woke Than Progressive. First a caveat: Burgis wrote that he thinks AOC "has the right positions on the vast majority of policy issues and I’m glad that she’s in Congress." Ready for the "but," which is basically what he report was all about? He worries that "she and other young 'Berniecrats' aren’t mimicking the things that make Bernie so effective as a political communicator."


Burgis lauded Bernie's success in bringing "democratic socialism into the mainstream of the most anti-socialist country in the developed world" and noted that "in the years since he declared his first run, more self-described socialists have been elected to Congress-- Cori Bush, Jamaal Bowman, Rashida Tlaib, and of course, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. Two stories in the last few weeks tell us everything about the current state of this movement. First, Sanders took on Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham in a debate in Boston broadcast by Fox News. He was in peak form, hitting hard and keeping the focus squarely on those subjects where his message is most popular-- subjects like health care, wages, retirement savings, and the skyrocketing economic and political power of 'the billionaire class.' Second, AOC went on Instagram to criticize Democratic politicians who don’t like the term 'Latinx.' Even though only 2 percent of 'Latinx' people use the term to describe themselves and a full 40 percent of them express some level of distaste for it, the second most prominent representative of American socialism felt the need to deliver a little lecture ('in the spirit of pride month') in which she mocked politicians who are so dismissive of the need for gender-inclusive language that they think it’s a big problem to put 'that little x' in their campaign materials."


Trying to fuse his social democratic policy agenda with relentless appeals to Team Blue in the culture wars won’t give us the kind of movement that could actually win over a majority of Americans and politically realign our deeply divided country-- which is what it would take for them to enact that agenda.
Bernie has always had robustly progressive positions on social policy issues. He’s unapologetically pro-choice, for example, and he was a supporter of gay and trans rights as mayor of Burlington, Vermont, in the 1980s-- decades before Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton dropped their long-standing opposition to same-sex marriage. Ask Sanders about any of those subjects and he’ll give succinct but unambiguous answers that reflect the same moral commitment to egalitarianism that animates his economic positions. And then he’ll pivot to health care and education and raising the minimum wage.
At his best, Sanders seems to rise above the day-to-day noise of red vs. blue media narratives. In the debate with Lindsay Graham, he didn’t attack Graham as a representative of the GOP or of the conservative side of the culture war. Instead, he called him an “effective representative of the establishment.” He didn’t accuse Graham of being a racist or a transphobe. He went after him for his apparent indifference to the “poverty wages” in Graham’s home state of South Carolina.
In a recent essay for New York magazine, Sam Adler-Bell defined “wokeness” as a “communicative register” that presents “unintuitive and morally burdensome” progressive requirements “in a manner that suggests they are self-evident.” While the w-word has been used to mean many different things in recent years, there’s no denying that Adler-Bell’s definition captures a big part of why so many people find “wokeness” annoying. Think of AOC chiding Democrats for being unwilling to put “that little x” at the end of “Latin.”
Sanders is an unimpeachable progressive on social policy but his “communicative register” has never been especially woke. Two seconds into an argument about language choices, he’d be changing the subject to Medicare for All. This approach has served him well over the course of his long career. He represents a predominantly rural state with a Republican governor but he’s regularly re-elected by the kind of margins Saddam Hussein used to give himself in elections in Iraq. He started off the 2016 election as a marginal protest candidate and he ended up beating Hillary Clinton in 22 states. He won West Virginia.
...I have a hard time imagining any of the younger democratic socialists coming as close as he did to winning national power in any future election.
If AOC ran against Kamala Harris or Pete Buttigieg in 2028, I’d vote for her and hope for the best-- but I have to admit that I have a depressingly hard time imagining her actually becoming president.
Who among the young Berniecrats would have a shot? I’m not sure. What the Left badly needs is a different kind of Berniecrat-- one who actually acts like Bernie.

Burgis is in his 40s. Is that too late to grok wokeness? I'm in my 70s and recently I got some friendly criticism from a few dear friends who said the way I referred to a Black woman I met when I was 16-- virginity loss (mine) at a Greyhound station was involved-- in this post could be considered offensive, hurtful or insensitive by some readers. I'm not certain it's a matter of age per se. As my friend Spencer pointed out today, hoping to help me understand this stuff, it's an academic thing and the further someone gets from the academic world, the more the balance swings in favor of the kind of presentation Bernie makes, including, of course, the way he talks about the progressive raison d'être. On a personal level, I'm not copping out here, and certainly I am completely aware that an inability to treat someone with respect and inherent dignity make it extremely difficult to have a fruitful relationship with them-- whether as a colleague at work or as a politician drafting legislation... not to mention someone trying to write a memoir.

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