Read: Warren’s new electability argument
Yet Virginia Heffernan argued in the Los Angeles Times that by denying Warren’s account of their private conversation, Sanders “only enacted the sexism he was at pains to deny … Warren won … She didn’t let Sanders get away with denying he’s sexist Tuesday night. Instead, she checkmated him into proving it.”
Bloomberg could hardly ask for a better rhetorical environment. As Trump showed, no one benefits from a cultural fixation on microaggressions more than serial macroaggressors, whose bad deeds shrink in seeming significance among endless callouts.
The takeaway here is not that racism or sexism can be discussed only in their most egregious incarnations. A healthy public discourse should accommodate constructive criticism directed at venial sins. But too often, criticism touching race or gender is aimed at destroying alleged sinners rather than at improving society, and framed in maximalist terms for political or rhetorical advantage. As a result, the electorate grows less able to distinguish between transgressions as trivial as well-intentioned but poorly chosen words and as serious as civil-rights abrogations.
That no one is perfect on issues of race and gender is perhaps true. That anything short of perfection is attacked with the same vitriol and ferocity as malfeasance is a problem for Democrats, because when everything is problematic, nothing is.
The politics that result are more dangerous for the least powerful, because as much effort is expended “protecting” them from clumsy words as from proponents of institutionalized state violence.
Derek Thompson: Why men vote for Republicans, and women vote for Democrats
My colleague John McWhorter, with whom I often agree, adroitly captured the awfulness of stop-and-frisk in an article last week, but argued that beating Trump is too important to treat that policy as disqualifying. “What black Americans want by overwhelming margins is for a moral and intelligent candidate to replace Donald Trump,” he wrote, “and fetishizing wokeness above all other concerns may be antithetical to that paramount goal.” In my estimation, “fetishizing wokeness” is when a commentator turns on Buttigieg’s candidacy, as one observer did in the Los Angeles Times, because Buttigieg once attempted political outreach to Tea Partiers, demanded the resignation of a black police chief who broke wiretapping laws, and put out a list of people who endorsed his Douglass Plan for Black America that was roughly 40 percent white.
In contrast, Bloomberg’s policies did not merely violate an “up-to-the-minute” woke test predicated on purity politics that no one can satisfy. Stop-and-frisk is the stuff of police states.
McWhorter went on:
For some, stop-and-frisk is a deal-breaker. Note how modern—up-to-the minute, even—it seems to disqualify Bloomberg for one mistake on race, even if he would govern better than Trump has in all ways. It’s straight from the woke playbook. Freezing out the former mayor would also be a kind of atonement for the left’s having let pass Hillary Clinton’s “superpredator” comment in the 1990s. Atonement is the operative word here. To shout down Bloomberg because of that one policy would constitute a strain of anti-racism that has all the characteristics of religion rather than rationality.
To me, considering Bloomberg disqualified in a Democratic primary is a rational response to his record, not a religious one, because he long pursued and defended abhorrent policies. In addition to failing the woke test, he fails the treating people of all races with equal dignity test, the upholding civil rights test, the adhering to the Constitution test, and the authoritarian test. Our era’s woke rhetoric makes it hard for even keen observers to discern how relatively awful his record was and the threat he still poses if elected. And that is a strike against it.