Saturday, November 14, 2020

Matt Yglesias Leaves Vox

Based on what I'd been reading by Yglesias, it didn't seem like he could possibly last much longer. And he didn't. He was a bright light in the swamp of identity politics, pedestrian analysis and thinly-disguised advocacy that the "explainer" site Vox has, alas, become. But now he's outta there! Seems like a good move to me.
He gave an interview to Conor Friedersdorf of The Atlantic that's well worth a look. Yglesias explains some of the reasons behind his departure and his concerns for the unfortunate direction many in the left and left-leaning media have taken.
"In our interview, Yglesias explained why pushing back against the “dominant sensibility” in digital journalism is important to him. He said he believes that certain voguish positions are substantively wrong—for instance, abolishing or defunding police—and that such arguments, as well as rhetorical fights over terms like Latinx, alienate many people from progressive politics and the Democratic Party.
“There’s been endless talk since the election about House Democrats being mad at the ‘Squad,’ and others saying, ‘What do you want, for activists to just not exist? For there to be no left-wing members of Congress?’” Yglesias told me. “But there’s a dynamic where there’s media people who really elevated the profile of [Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez] and a couple of other members way above their actual numerical standing.”
Many outlets, he argued, are missing something important. “The people making the media are young college graduates in big cities, and that kind of politics makes a lot of sense to them,” he said. “And we keep seeing that older people, and working-class people of all races and ethnicities, just don’t share that entire worldview. It’s important to me to be in a position to step outside that dynamic … That was challenging as someone who was a founder of a media outlet but not a manager of it.”
There is more in the first entry on Yglesias' new Substack site (free for now but I urge you to subscribe).
"The US Senate is a completely absurd institution...That being said unless progressives are going to overthrow the government in a revolution (and they’re not), they need to deal with reality....
[T]he broad reality [is]that in order to obtain and wield political power, Democrats need to embrace candidates who are less reflective of the progressive worldview of young college graduates, and they need to run them in states that are less right-wing than Alabama or Montana....
Trump’s victory in 2016 involved a significant number of people who voted for Barack Obama in 2008 and 2012 flipping to Trump.
Those voters were predominantly white people with no college degree who lived in the north and were not religious (southern and religiously observant non-college whites having gone GOP in earlier cycles)....Now words are just words and people can use them however they want. And certainly you can describe the cultural attitude of Obama/Trump vote-switchers as “racism” if you want to (certainly Trump himself said plenty of racist stuff and there are plenty of examples of Trump fans saying racist stuff and of racists praising Trump). The practical rhetorical function of that choice, however, was the anathematize the idea of trying to cater to their cultural attitudes at all even though whatever you want to say about those attitudes they were compatible with voting twice for a Black president.
In 2020, Democrats saw the slippage extend to non-white voters with no college degree. Once the extent of the slippage with, for example, Hispanic voters became clear we began to get headlines like “How Democrats Missed Trump’s Appeal to Latino Voters” from Jennifer Medina at the New York Times...The problem wasn’t that nobody saw it, it’s that there was intense desire not to discuss it. That issue started with Hispanic Democrats and Democratic Latin politics pros themselves, who would raise the issue but almost exclusively in terms of calling for more “investment” because they wanted to be good intersectional citizens and not acknowledge that there might be flaws in Democrats’ actual message.
When Trump did clear outreach to Black and Latino voters at the Republican National Convention, many people in newsrooms across America insisted that it was just a bankshot effort to reassure white suburbanites because they were so invested in a particular image of Trumpism as a form of white supremacist politics. Even after the election some of my former colleagues at Vox are arguing that we shouldn’t talk about his gains with voters of color. That Trump does racist stuff is not necessarily dispositive for everyone. As one Black guy I know from the neighborhood told me years ago “White people act like he’s the first racist in politics.” The truth is Democrats have started burrowing-in on a very particular style of politics that simply has a limited range of appeal.
I don’t want to say that use of the term “Latinx” is the reason anyone voted for Trump, but I thought this exchange between Joy Reid and Rep. Ruben Gallego was telling.
Reid: Ruben, honest question, how do we as a party improve our work with the LatinX community across the country as well as we've done in AZ? Its so frustrating to see so many republican LatinX voters, but I know its on people like me to help convince them dems are the place to be.
Gallego: First start by not using the term Latinx. Second we have to be in front of them year round not just election years. That is what we did in AZ.
Reid: [C]an you elaborate on this a bit more? I was under the impression that this was the preferred term...
It’s striking here that Reid sincerely does not realize that this is a term made up in academic and activist circles to assuage feminist and gender non-conforming concerns, not a term that is used by Hispanic people.
As she says, she is aware that in her own community it would be considered very off-putting to not use the community’s own preferred term. And yet Reid hosts a prime time MSNBC show — she’s a source of political information for a lot of highly engaged liberals. What you have is basically a closed circle between activists, Reid, and Reid’s audience in which everyone is projecting a concern (the Spanish language’s use of grammatical gender is problematic) that is very remote from the concerns of people in the Rio Grande Valley.
It would be silly to say that this word is the reason about 10 percent of the Hispanic vote flipped to Trump. But it’s emblematic of a dynamic through which Democrats have increasingly gotten themselves sucked into a vortex of highbrow cultural politics that first alienated non-college white voters but then in 2020 started alienating some Hispanic and Black ones too.
It would be silly to say that this word is the reason about 10 percent of the Hispanic vote flipped to Trump. But it’s emblematic of a dynamic through which Democrats have increasingly gotten themselves sucked into a vortex of highbrow cultural politics that first alienated non-college white voters but then in 2020 started alienating some Hispanic and Black ones too....
It’s [hard] to tell mainstream Democrats that they need to trim their sails and appeal to voters who are a click or two to the right of the median voter because of unfair maps....This is an even more bitter pill for the people who staff campaigns and run progressive non-profits. The college grad bubble effect makes it hard for this population (people like me!) to even see where the median voter is. People working in progressive politics at all levels could probably improve their decision-making by just sticking a post-it on their monitors that says:
Most voters are over 50
Most voters didn’t graduate college
The electoral map is even more biased toward older non-college voters"
No wonder Yglesias had to get out of Vox! I'm surprised he lasted as long as he did. But I'm glad to have him out of there and promoting what I shall call "no bullshit progressivism". We need as much of that as we can get!

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