The case against reparations 4

It is surely true to say that no matter who you are or where you come from, you have ancestors who were slaves and ancestors who owned slaves.

That alone is an argument against the idea that, on the grounds of an ancestral debt, people living now who do not and never have owned slaves, owe reparations to other people living now who are not and never have been slaves.

Yet a number of Americans – all Democratic Socialists, in a range of skin colors, some of them male but awfully sorry about it – who want to be president of the United States, are considering a policy of paying reparations to descendants of black slaves who were brought to America from Africa.

Those who are for it do not stipulate who will pay the reparations. All American tax-payers, including the descendants of slaves? All white American tax-payers? All Americans who have some white ancestors? Or only the descendants of slave owners?

Coleman Hughes, an undergraduate philosophy student at Columbia University, has written an article at Quillette which asks all the right questions about reparations, and gives all the right answers. It is a brilliant piece of lucid argument.

Coleman Hughes

In 2014, Ta-Nehisi Coates was catapulted to intellectual stardom by a lengthy Atlantic polemic entitled The Case for Reparations. The essay was an impassioned plea for Americans to grapple with the role of slavery, Jim Crow, and redlining in the creation of the wealth gap between blacks and whites, and it provoked a wide range of reactions. Some left-wing commentators swallowed Coates’s thesis whole, while others agreed in theory but objected that reparations are not a practical answer to legitimate grievances. The Right, for the most part, rejected the case both in theory and practice.

Although the piece polarized opinion, one fact was universally agreed upon: reparations would not be entering mainstream politics anytime soon. According to Coates’s critics, there was no way that a policy so unethical and so unpopular would gain traction. According to his fans, it was not the ethics of the policy but rather the complacency of whites—specifically, their stubborn refusal to acknowledge historical racism—that prevented reparations from receiving the consideration it merited. Coates himself, as recently as 2017, lamented that the idea of reparations was “roundly dismissed as crazy” and “remained far outside the borders of American politics”.

In the past month, we’ve all been proven wrong. Senators Elizabeth Warren and Kamala Harris have both endorsed the idea, and House speaker Nancy Pelosi has voiced support for proposals to study the effects of historical racism and suggest ways to compensate the descendants of slaves. These people are not on the margins of American politics. Most polls have Harris and Warren sitting in third and fourth place, respectively, in the race for the 2020 Democratic presidential nomination, and Pelosi is two heart attacks away from the presidency.

Let me pre-empt an objection: neither Harris nor Warren has endorsed a race-specific program of reparations. Indeed Harris has made it clear that what she’s calling “reparations” is really just an income-based policy by another name. The package of policies hasn’t changed; only the label on the package has. So who cares?

In electoral politics, however, it is precisely the label that matters. Given that there’s nothing about her policies that requires Harris to slap the “reparations” label onto them, her decision to employ it suggests that it now has such positive connotations on the Left that she can’t reject the label without paying a political price. Five years ago, Coates, his fans, and his critics more or less agreed that it would be political suicide for a candidate to so much as utter the word “reparations” in an approving tone of voice. Now, we have a candidate like Harris who seems to think it’s political suicide not to. The Overton window has shifted.

In one sense, Coates should be celebrating. He, more than anyone, is responsible for the reintroduction of reparations into the public sphere. Most writers can only dream of having such influence. But in another sense, his victory is a pyrrhic one. That is, the very adoption of reparations by mainstream politicians throws doubt on the core message of Coates’s work. In his 2017 essay collection, We Were Eight Years in Power, Coates argued that racism is not merely“a tumor that could be isolated and removed from the body of America,” but “a pervasive system both native and essential to that body”; white supremacy is “so foundational to this country” that it will likely not be destroyed in this generation, the next, “or perhaps ever”; it is “a force so fundamental to America that it is difficult to imagine the country without it”.

Now ask yourself: How likely is it that a country matching Coates’s description would find itself with major presidential contenders proposing reparations for slavery, and not immediately plummeting in the polls? The challenge for Coates and his admirers, then, is to reconcile the following claims:

1. America remains a fundamentally white supremacist nation.

2. Presidential contenders are competing for the favor of a good portion of the American electorate partly by signaling how much they care about, and wish to redress, historical racism.

You can say (1) or you can say (2) but you can’t say them both at the same time without surrendering to incoherence. Coates himself has recognized this contradiction, albeit indirectly. “Why do white people like what I write?” he asked [italics in original] in We Were Eight Years in Power. He continued:

“The question would eventually overshadow the work, or maybe it would just feel like it did. Either way, there was a lesson in this: God might not save me, but neither would defiance. How do you defy a power that insists on claiming you? What does the story you tell matter, if the world is set upon hearing a different one?” [italics mine]

In Coates’s mind, the fact that so many white people love his work suggests that they do not fully understand it, that they are “hearing a different” story to the one he is telling. But a more parsimonious explanation is readily available: white progressives’ reading comprehension is fine and they genuinely love his message. This should be unsurprising since white progressives are now more “woke” than blacks themselves. For example, white progressives are significantly more likely than black people to agree that “racial discrimination is the main reason why blacks can’t get ahead”.

This presents a problem for Coates. If you believe, as he does, that the political Left “would much rather be talking about the class struggles” that appeal to “the working white masses” than “racist struggles,” then it must be jarring to realize that the very same, allegedly race-averse Left is the reason that your heavily race-themed books sit atop the New York Times bestseller list week after week. Coates’s ideology, in this sense, falls victim to its own success.

But a pyrrhic victory is a kind of victory nonetheless, and so, partly thanks to Coates, we must have the reparations debate once again.

First, a note on the framing of the debate: Virtually everyone who is against reparations is in favor of policies aimed at helping the poor. The debate, therefore, is not between reparations and doing nothing for black people, but between policy based on genealogy and policy based on socioeconomics. Accordingly, the burden on each side is not to show that its proposal is better than nothing—that would be easy. The burden on each side is to show that its preferred rationale for policy (either genealogy or socioeconomics) is better than the rationale proposed by the other side. And, framed as such, reparations for slavery is a losing argument.

For starters, an ancestral connection to slavery is a far less reliable predictor of privation than a low income. There are tens of millions of descendants of American slaves and many millions of them are doing just fine. As Kevin Williamson put it: “Some blacks are born into college-educated, well-off households, and some whites are born to heroin-addicted single mothers, and even the totality of racial crimes throughout American history does not mean that one of these things matters and one does not.”

Williamson’s observation holds not only between blacks and whites but between different black ethnic groups as well. Somali-Americans, for example, have lower per-capita incomes than native-born black Americans. Yet they would not see a dime from reparations, since they have no connection to American slavery. But should it matter why Somali immigrants are poorer than black American natives? Insofar as there is a reparations policy that would benefit the poor, should Somali immigrants be denied those benefits because they are poor for the wrong historical reasons? The idea can only be taken seriously by those who value symbolic justice for the dead over tangible justice for the living.

We can either direct resources toward the individuals who most need them, or we can direct them toward the socioeconomically-diverse members of historical victim groups. But we cannot direct the same resources in both directions at once. In 2019, “black” and “poor” are not synonyms. Every racial group in America contains millions of people who are struggling and millions of people who are not, and if any debt is owed, it is to the former.

Secondly, the case for reparations relies on the intellectually lazy assumption that the problems facing low-income blacks today are a part of the legacy of slavery. For most problems, however, the timelines don’t match up. Black teen unemployment, for instance, was virtually identical to white teen unemployment (in many years it was lower) until the mid-1950s, when, as Thomas Sowell observed in Discrimination and Disparities, successive minimum wage hikes and other macroeconomic forces artificially increased the price of unskilled labor to employers—a burden that fell hardest on black teens. Not only did problems like high youth unemployment and fatherless homes not appear in earnest until a century after the abolition of slavery, but similar patterns of social breakdown have since been observed in other groups that have no recent history of oppression to blame it on, such as the rise of single-parent homes in the white working class.

Nevertheless, there is a sense nowadays that history affects blacks to such a unique degree that it places us in a fundamentally different category from other groups. David Brooks, a New York Times columnist and a recent convert to the cause of reparations, recently explained that “while there have been many types of discrimination in our history”, the black experience is “unique and different” because it involves “a moral injury that simply isn’t there for other groups”.

I’m highly skeptical of the blacks-are-unique argument. For one thing, it’s not true that blacks have inherited psychological trauma from historical racism. Though the budding field of epigenetics is sometimes used to justify this claim, a recent New York Times article poured cold water on the hypothesis: “The research in epigenetics falls well short of demonstrating that past human cruelties affect our physiology today.” (For what it’s worth, this accords with my own experience. If there is a heritable psychological injury associated with being the descendant of slaves, I’ve yet to notice it.) 

But more importantly, if humans really carried the burden of history in our psyches, then all of us, regardless of race, would be carrying very heavy burdens indeed. Although American intellectuals speak of slavery as if it were a uniquely American phenomenon, it is actually an institution that was practiced in one form or another by nearly every major society since the dawn of civilization. As the Harvard sociologist Orlando Patterson wrote in his massive study, Slavery and Social Death:

‘There is nothing notably peculiar about the institution of slavery. It has existed from before the dawn of human history right down to the twentieth century, in the most primitive human societies and in the most civilized. There is no region on earth that has not at some time harbored the institution. Probably there is no group of people whose ancestors were not at one time slaves or slaveholders.”

And that’s to say nothing of the traumas of war, poverty, and starvation that would show up abundantly in all of our ancestral histories if we were to look. Unless blacks are somehow exempt from the principles governing human psychology, the mental effects of historical racism have not been passed down through the generations. Yes, in the narrow context of American history, blacks have been uniquely mistreated. But in the wider context of world history, black Americans are hardly unique and should not be treated as such.

Finally, the framing of the reparations debate presupposes that America has done nothing meaningful by way of compensation for black people. But in many ways, America has already paid reparations. True, we haven’t literally handed a check to every descendant of slaves, but many reparations proponents had less literal forms of payment in mind to begin with.

Some reparations advocates, for instance, have proposed race-conscious policies instead of cash payments. On that front, we’ve done quite a bit. Consider, as if for the first time, the fact that the U.S. college admissions system is heavily skewed in favor of black applicants and has been for decades. In 2009, the Princeton sociologist Thomas Espenshade found that Asians and whites had to score 450 and 310 SAT points higher than blacks, respectively, to have the same odds of being admitted into elite universities. (The entire test, at the time of the study, was out of 1600 points.)

Racial preferences extend into the job market as well. Last September, the New York Times reported on an ethnically South Asian television writer who “had been told on a few occasions that she lost out on jobs because the showrunner wanted a black writer.” The article passed without fanfare, probably because such racial preferences—or “diversity and inclusion” programs—pervade so many sectors of the U.S. labor market that any particular story doesn’t seem newsworthy at all.

Furthermore, many government agencies are required to allocate a higher percentage of their contracts to businesses owned by racial minorities than they otherwise would based on economic considerations alone. Such “set-aside” programs exist at the federal level as well as in at least 38 states—in Connecticut at least 25 percent of government contracts with small businesses must legally be given to a minority business enterprise (MBE), and New York has established a 30 percent target for contracts with MBEs. One indication of the size of this racial advantage is that, for decades, white business owners have been fraudulently claiming minority status, sometimes risking jail time, in order to increase their odds of capturing these lucrative government contracts. (A white man from Seattle is currently suing both the state of Washington and the federal government for rejecting his claim to own an MBE given his four percent African ancestry.)

My point is not that these race-conscious policies have repaid the debt of slavery; my point is that no policy ever could. For this reason I reject the appeasement-based case for reparations occasionally made by conservatives—namely, that we should pay reparations so that we can finally stop talking about racism once and for all. Common sense dictates that when you reward a certain behavior you tend to get more of it, not less. Reparations, therefore, would not, and could not, function as “hush money.” Reparations would instead function as a kind of subsidy for activism, an incentive for the living to continue appropriating grievances that rightfully belong to the dead.

Some reparations advocates, however, are less focused on tangible dispensations to begin with. Instead they see reparations as a spiritual or symbolic task. Coates, for example, defines reparations primarily as a “national reckoning that would lead to spiritual renewal” and a “full acceptance of our collective biography and its consequences”—and only secondarily as the payment of cash as compensation. How has America done on the soul-searching front? As Coates would have it, not very well. For him, the belief occupying mainstream America is that “a robbery spanning generations could somehow be ameliorated while never acknowledging the scope of the crime.”

By my lights, however, we’ve done quite a bit of symbolic acknowledging. For over 40 years we’ve dedicated the month of February to remembering black history; Martin Luther King Jr. has had a national holiday in his name for almost as long; more or less every prominent liberal arts college in the country has an African-American studies department and many have black student housing; both chambers of Congress have independently apologized for slavery and Jim Crow; and just last month the Senate passed a bill that made lynching a federal crime, despite the fact that lynching was already illegal (because it’s murder), has not been a serious problem for at least half a century, and was already the subject of a formal apology by the Senate back in 2005.

If this all amounts to nothing—that is, to a non-acknowledgement of historical racism—then I’m left wondering what would or could qualify as something. The problem with the case for spiritual reparations is its vagueness. What, precisely, is a “national reckoning” and how will we know when we’ve completed it? The trick behind such arguments, whether intentional or not, is to specify the debt owed to black Americans in just enough detail to make it sound reasonable, while at the same time describing the debt with just enough vagueness to ensure that it can never decisively be repaid.

At bottom, the reparations debate is a debate about the relationship between history and ethics, between the past and the Good. On one side are those who believe that the Good means using policy to correct for the asymmetric racial power relations that ruled America for most of its history. And on the other side are those who believe that the Good means using policy to increase human flourishing as much as possible, for as many as possible, in the present.

Both visions of the Good—the group-based vision and the individualist vision—require the payment of reparations to individuals (and/or their immediate family members) who themselves suffered atrocities at the hands of the state. I therefore strongly approve of the reparations paid to Holocaust survivors, victims of internment during World War II, and victims of the Tuskegee experiments, to name just a few examples. Where the two visions depart is on the question of whether reparations should be paid to poorly-defined groups containing millions of people whose relationship to the initial crime is several generations removed, and therefore nothing like, say, the relationship of a Holocaust survivor to the Holocaust.

Among the fallacies of the group-based vision is the conceit that we are capable of accurately assessing, and correcting for, the imbalances of history to begin with. If we can’t even manage to consistently serve justice for crimes committed between individuals in the present, it defies belief to think that we can serve justice for crimes committed between entire groups of people before living memory—to think, in other words, that we can look at the past, neatly split humanity into plaintiff groups and defendant groups, and litigate history’s largest crimes in the court of public opinion.

If we are going to have a national reckoning, it must be of a different type than the one suggested by Coates. It must be a national reckoning that uncouples the past and the Good. Such a reckoning would not entail forgetting our history, but rather liberating our sense of ethics from the shackles of our checkered past. We cannot change our history. But the possibility of a just society depends on our willingness to change how we relate to it.


 

Gynocracy, dark and strict 13

There really are millions of Americans who want to be cared for by government like little children.They will vote in November 2018 for Democratic Socialist Party candidates who promise to give them free health care, free college education, free housing heated and lighted by solar energy, free abortions, a guaranteed minimum income, and free humiliation if you are a white male.

But no freedom.

Few will have the governing power, the parental power. Only a dozen or so non-white dominatrices.

The Mothers.

Female (or self-identified as female) persons who want to organize and control everyone.

They might include Kamala Harris and Maxine Waters, but not Nancy Pelosi or Elizabeth Warren. Sorry, you last two ladies, but you are too white, too Caucasian, even if you have a tiny bit of something darker in your DNA.

The Mothers will open the southern border of the United States and invite the populations of Central and South America to come and live here.

Matthew Boyle writes at Breitbart:

As the Democrats drift further leftward into openly embracing socialism, House Majority Leader Rep. Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) warns the political battle ahead of the midterm elections just two weeks from now is no longer a traditional partisan battle. Instead it is one where the country must confront and reject extreme ideas from the left.

McCarthy said:

The debate today is different than the one we had before with Republicans versus Democrats on the size of what government can be … It’s no longer Republicans versus the Democrats, it’s America versus socialism. The movement in this Democratic Party [is] toward clear socialism, that’s what they’re doing on healthcare – government-run, it’s all government telling you what to do and when to do it instead of unshackling and unleashing the great powers of liberty and freedom.

With the latest caravan of thousands of prospective illegal aliens streaming from Central America through Mexico to the U.S. border right now, McCarthy said, people in the United States “should be upset because in Congress we had put a bill on the floor for immigration reform that would deal with this and end catch-and-release and not one Democrat voted for it”.

McCarthy has put forward legislation that would fully fund President Donald Trump’s planned border wall along the U.S. border with Mexico.

“It’s very simple,” McCarthy said of his bill, which is titled Build the Wall, Enforce the Law, and would fully fund the border wall and include enforcement measures like Kate’s Law and blocking sanctuary cities among others.

It would fully fund the wall. You’re watching individuals try to come and just cross the Rio Grande, and not have any wall there and just move across. But what it also does is say “enforce the law”. Think about the MS-13 gang members that will be a part of this caravan, or those who are smuggling [the opioid] fentanyl. This increases the ability to send them back, a bill that we voted on before, but it also deals with sanctuary cities who are a magnet for bringing people in and I just heard a report where they were interviewing some people in the caravan and they have been deported three, four, five times and now they’re coming back through. We know what happens there, with Kate’s Law we need it and why we need it, but then it also goes through and makes sure we’re supporting ICE. If anyone has not been to the border and spent some time with Border Patrol, you don’t understand the challenge that you have when you have a lawless society and no protection along that southern border. That’s why I put the bill in …

McCarthy predicted the midterm election is very much, in addition to a bigger picture battle of ideas between those who believe in America and those who believe in socialism, a referendum on immigration policy.

He has been blocked particularly by Nancy Pelosi, who still has some power of influence though she seems to be rapidly losing her marbles.

There has never been a more clear contrast for two weeks from now. Think of this: If the Democrats … take the majority inside Congress, Nancy Pelosi will become the Speaker. Look at just two of the bills that I put on the floor recently. One, going through and supporting ICE. More than 170 Democrats voted against that or voted “present”. Or what about what we’re finding in these very liberal-controlled cities like San Francisco that allows illegals to vote in their school board races? Well, I put condemning that on the floor a resolution, 140 Democrats voted against condemning it or “present”. This is the city, and the person who represents this city is Nancy Pelosi, she would become Speaker. So what would she try to do with the rest of our election laws throughout? There is encouragement [from Democrats] of who’s coming through in this caravan, of making this happen. I mean, here we had a bill that was put on the floor that would deal with our security along the border but also fix our immigration system but not one Democrat would vote for it because Pelosi would not allow them to even though it was a common sense bill that actually put us in a new place for this country. This is what the contrast is about in just two weeks.

The Democratic Socialists believe that almost all the migrants slogging towards the US border will vote for them. Eventually. Or even immediately and illegally in the forthcoming November elections if they make it here in time.

About that, they may be right.

The morbid Democratic Party 5

Left-leaning Time, taking a view from the left – so a softer one than would a cold observer from Mars – diagnoses causes of morbidity in the Democratic Party. And prescribes no cure. 

In its habitual irritating style, packing in irrelevant detail, it narrates and asserts:

Like virtually all Democrats, Tim Ryan is no fan of Donald Trump. But as he [Tim Ryan] speeds through his northeastern Ohio district in a silver Chevy Suburban, the eight-term Congressman sounds almost as frustrated with his own party. Popping fistfuls of almonds in the backseat, Ryan gripes about its fixation on divisive issues and its “demonization” of business owners. Ryan, 44, was briefly considered for the role of Hillary Clinton’s running mate last year. Now he sounds ready to brawl with his political kin. “We’re going to have a fight,” Ryan says. “There’s no question about it.”

That fight has already begun, though you’d be forgiven for missing it. On the surface, the Democratic Party has been united and energized by its shared disgust for Trump. But dig an inch deeper and it’s clear that the party is divided, split on issues including free trade, health care, foreign affairs and Wall Street. They even disagree over the political wisdom of doing deals with Trump.

Every party cast out of power endures a period of soul-searching. But the Democrats’ dilemma was unimaginable even a year ago, when Clinton seemed to be coasting toward the White House and demographic change fueled dreams of a permanent national majority. Now, eight months into the Trump presidency, the party looks to face its toughest odds since Ronald Reagan won 49 states in 1984.

The Democrats are in their deepest congressional rut since the class of 1946 was elected, and hold the fewest governors’ mansions–15–since 1922. Of the 98 partisan legislatures in the U.S., Republicans control 67. During Barack Obama’s presidency, Democrats lost 970 seats in state legislatures, leaving the party’s bench almost bare. The median age of their congressional leadership is 67, and many of the obvious early presidential front runners will be in their 70s by the 2020 election.

Meanwhile, there’s still no sign the Democrats have learned the lessons of the last one. “I’ve tried to learn from my own mistakes. There are plenty,” Clinton writes in her campaign memoir What Happened. The book, released on Sept. 12, casts blame on Russia, the FBI and the candidate herself, but never quite finds a satisfying answer to the titular question. Even if it did, these days the party seems to prize ideological purity over Clintonian pragmatism. “There is no confusion about what we Democrats are against. The only disagreement,” says strategist Neil Sroka, “is what we’re for.”

Which leaves the party confronting a puzzle. The momentum may be on the left, but picking up the 24 seats required to retake the House, and the three states needed for control of the Senate, will mean luring back blue collar workers in places like Ryan’s Mahoning Valley district, where the steel plants are shells of their former selves, small businesses are boarded up and payday lenders seem to be on every corner. This used to be a Democratic stronghold, but Trump won three of the five counties in Ryan’s district. If Democrats don’t refine their pitch to alienated white voters, Trump could win re-election with ease. “The resistance can only be part of it,” Ryan says. “We have to be on the offense too.”

It’s not clear who has the influence or inclination to spearhead that shift. Senate minority leader Chuck Schumer and House minority leader Nancy Pelosi are seasoned dealmakers who can raise Brink’s trucks full of cash. Their Sept. 6 pact with Trump, which pushed back a pair of fiscal showdowns and delivered hurricane relief money to storm-stricken southeastern Texas, was hailed as a fleecing by the Democrats. After a dinner of Chinese food in the Blue Room of the White House a week later, the pair said they had reached a tentative agreement with Trump to sidestep the Justice Department’s rollback of an Obama-era program that helped young immigrants who were in the country illegally. But among the grassroots, any agreement with the President is viewed as cause for suspicion. When Schumer dared to back a handful of Trump’s Cabinet picks earlier this year, activists protested outside his Brooklyn apartment, hoisting signs with slogans like Grow a spine, Chuck. In her San Francisco district on Sept. 18, Pelosi was shouted down by activists who were angry that her proposed immigration deal with Trump did not cover more people.

For all these challenges, the party’s time in the wilderness could prove to be an opportunity. … But before the party comes together, first it has to banish the furies that threaten to tear it apart.

The counterpoint to Ryan’s call for moderation could be found onstage in August in a Hyatt ballroom in Atlanta. Senator Elizabeth Warren, the former Harvard Law School professor and consumer advocate, had come to deliver a battle cry to 1,000 grassroots activists. “The Democratic Party isn’t going back to the days of welfare reform and the crime bill,” she said in not-at-all-veiled criticism of President Bill Clinton’s mid-’90s strategy to peel off Republican votes. “We are not a wing of today’s Democratic Party,” Warren declared to her fellow liberals. “We are the heart and soul of today’s Democratic Party.”

Warren is clearly thinking of running for President in 2020. If she does, a crowd will be waiting to cheer her on: a year ago, under pressure from supporters of insurgent Senator Bernie Sanders, the Democrats adopted the most progressive platform in their history, which called for free college for families earning $125,000 or less and Medicare options for Americans as young as 55. This march to the left has become a sprint since Clinton’s defeat.

Groups that support abortion rights have stopped offering polite silence to Democrats who disagree. Others are demanding jail time for bank executives. Small-dollar donors are goading progressive groups to advance liberal policies and challenge lawmakers who balk. A group of prominent liberal Democrats, including some 2020 hopefuls, are pushing a national single-payer health care plan – even though its strongest backers acknowledge that it has zero chance of becoming law in this Republican-controlled Congress. Representative Luis Gutiérrez of Illinois threatened on Sept. 8 that Democrats may shut down the government in December if Congress doesn’t provide a pathway for undocumented immigrants to become citizens. “Running on progressive values,” strategist Adam Green told a candidates’ training session in Washington this summer, “is how Democrats will win.” …

Efforts to mend the rifts of the 2016 election have fallen flat. Earlier this year, the Democratic National Committee (DNC) launched a national tour with Sanders and newly minted party chairman Tom Perez, who was elected in February. Things didn’t go well. When Sanders thanked Perez at rallies, his so-called Bernie bros heckled the new chairman. The attempt at unity was a footnote within a month. “The current model and the current strategy of the Democratic Party is an absolute failure,” declared Sanders, who plans to seek a third term in the Senate next year as an independent.

Activists aligned with Sanders are working to mount primary challenges against centrist Democrats. Our Revolution, a group that rose from the ashes of Sanders’ presidential campaign, led a protest in August outside the DNC, demanding a more liberal platform. Party staffers tried handing out snacks and bottles of water, but the hospitality did little to defuse the tension. “They tried to seduce us with doughnuts,” said former Ohio state senator Nina Turner, a protest organizer.

Some of the grievances hinge on strategy as much as substance. Kamala Harris, the popular junior Senator from California, backs Sanders’ health plan and won an endorsement from Warren during her election last year. But as California’s former top cop, Harris declined to prosecute bankers, including Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin, for their role in the 2008 financial crisis. She also spent part of her summer raising cash in the tony precincts of the Hamptons. As a result, Sanders allies say she’s a Wall Street shill. “Follow the money,” says Nomiki Konst, a Sanders supporter who serves on the DNC panel tasked with forging postelection unity.

No one waits on the horizon to broker a peace. The DNC has been hollowed out, first by Obama’s neglect and then by a Clinton campaign that raided its talent. Now it is trying to play catch-up, sending $10,000 a month to each state party to help add bodies and channel activists’ energy into permanent organizations. But the party is still $3.5 million in the red, and Republicans are outraising it by a margin of roughly 2 to 1. Meanwhile, Perez is serving as a visiting fellow at Brown University, where he teaches a course called Governance and Leadership in Challenging Times.

Schumer says the party lost the White House in 2016 because it had a “namby-pamby” message on the economy. He’s not risking that again, working with members from both chambers on an aggressive, worker-focused message. The blueprint, dubbed “A Better Deal”, has Warren’s fingerprints all over it, calling for a national $15-per-hour minimum wage and cheaper drugs, colleges and child care. “The focus starts on economic issues,” Schumer said. “That’s where the American people are hurting.” …

Governing in Washington these days is “the most frustrating thing I’ve ever done,” complains Senator Joe Manchin, a West Virginia Democrat. “Most of my life, there was about 20% on the right fringe and the left fringe, but 60% in the middle, where common sense would prevail. Now I’m thinking 40% on each fringe.”

Part of the problem is that red states are getting redder, while blue states are growing ever more blue. Consider West Virginia, where Manchin is still popular from his days as governor. When Bill Clinton ran for President in 1992, he carried 42 of the state’s 55 counties. That number climbed to 43 four years later. But by 2000, West Virginia residents were sour on Democratic trade policies that many saw as costing them coal and steel jobs. Al Gore won 13 counties that year, and John Kerry took just nine in 2004. It’s little wonder that during Manchin’s first campaign for Senate, in 2010, he cut an ad that showed him firing a rifle at an Obama-backed environmental bill. Obama would go on to lose all 55 counties in 2012–a feat Hillary Clinton repeated.

Democrats still outnumber Republicans in West Virginia by 12 percentage points [according to heavily Democrat-weighted polls -ed].  These Democrats, however, don’t want to hear about NFL players protesting during the national anthem or the latest in the ongoing investigation into Trump’s alleged ties to Moscow. They care far less about Black Lives Matter than keeping their checking accounts in the black. Add in the 21% of West Virginians who say they don’t identify with either party, and it’s a dangerous proposition for candidates like Manchin to parrot talking points from MSNBC. It’s not that he’s a squish on cultural issues; it’s that he’d rather talk about lifting the economy in his state, where 18% live in poverty.

The Democrats’ focus on identity politics is one reason Manchin suggested, half-heartedly, that he doesn’t care if he wins another term next year. “The Washington Democrats’ mentality has been more urban,” he says. “They forgot about rural America and rural states. They don’t want you to tell them about their bathrooms or their bedrooms or all this other stuff we’re trying to control.”

Some say another problem is Pelosi. The first female House speaker and a legendary vote wrangler, she was widely, if wrongly, blamed for a series of special-election defeats in the spring, even though Democrats fared far better than usual in places like Kansas and Georgia. A special election in June became less about the candidates than about the specter of Pelosi, whom Republicans cast as a puppet mistress for the Democratic nominee. … [Tim] Ryan’s long-shot bid to replace her as House Democratic leader won [only] 63 votes last year.

Part of Ryan’s pitch has been to put away the pitchforks and modulate the tone. “We cannot be a party that is hostile to business. We need those businesspeople to hire our people, who just want a shot,” Ryan fumes. “We can be business-friendly and still be progressive.” And while it puts him at odds with some peers, such arguments have also won him some unlikely fans. “The smart guys in the Democratic Party, they understand what’s going on. [Ohio Democratic Senator] Sherrod Brown gets this. Tim Ryan gets this.” Trump’s former chief strategist Stephen Bannon told 60 Minutes’ Charlie Rose in an interview that aired on Sept. 10. “The only question before us: Is it going to be a left-wing populism or a right-wing populism?” …

One only needs to look at the shuttered mom-and-pop businesses dotting Ryan’s district to see why voters were inclined to listen to Trump’s promises. Which is why Ryan is pushing plans to bring high-speed Internet to the farming communities and to recruit tech giants to the cheap real estate in local cities and towns.

On a Friday in late July, Ryan was padding through the Basilica of Our Lady of Mount Carmel’s annual Italian festival in Youngstown. Simmering red sauce was heaped on polenta, and elephant ears layered with powdered sugar were matched with mostaccioli showered with ground Parmesan from plastic tubes. It was a throwback to a time when church socials defined communities. “These are my peeps,” Ryan says to no one in particular as voters swarm him. …

If Ryan has bigger ambitions to lead, he is not alone. A shadow campaign for the 2020 nomination is quietly taking shape in early-nominating states like Iowa and New Hampshire. Some of the most interesting names are unfamiliar ones. Senator Jeff Merkley of Oregon and Pete Buttigieg, the mayor of South Bend, Ind., visited Iowa in early September to check in. Jason Kander, the former Missouri secretary of state who is viewed as a rising party star, recruited a Sanders aide to stake out territory in Iowa and has announced plans to open offices for his voting-rights group in five states. …

“We have the next generation of Democratic leaders. We need to lift them up in the public eye,” says Stephanie Schriock, president of Emily’s List, a group dedicated to electing women who support abortion rights. “This is not a party of one leader. It’s just not.”

Back in Youngstown, you can see the wheels spinning in Ryan’s head. He sees a role for a Midwesterner who can connect with the working-class voters who took comfort in Trump’s rage. Indeed, he thinks the Democrats’ future depends on it. “We can get the party back on track,” Ryan says as his SUV rolls away from a meeting with Ohio union chiefs. “Someone’s going to figure this out. Someone needs to.”

Now to take a view – not from disinterested Mars but – from the conservative Right.

What we see is a party riven by irreconcilable contradictions.

Its leaders are not just old but out of touch with the rising generation of “progressives”. Who will represent the women in pink pussy hats who cheer Hamas-supporting Linda Sarsour more enthusiastically than they did Hillary Clinton? The thousands of possible voters of all colors and ethnicities who march with Black Lives Matter and call for the killing of cops? The black students who are demanding black-only living quarters and graduation ceremonies in their colleges? And those – mostly white – who appear in black clothes and hoods and masks to set fires and smash windows and clobber Trump supporters in the name of “anti-fascism”?  The opponents of free speech?  The loud decriers – black brown and white – of “white privilege”? The SJWs – social justice warriors – who want guaranteed free everything from housing and meals to surgery and university, from condoms and marijuana to Teslas and abortions?

How will the lions of feminism lie down with the lambs of the burkha?

How will the Muslims who hate the Jews even more than they hate everyone else reconcile with Debbie Wasserman Schultz and Bernie Sanders?

How will those rising “progressives” who want free stuff but hate whitey, accept the leadership of the only one offering it: Bernie? Whether as Democrat or Independent, would he be voted for by the free-goodies multitude who remain uncontaminated by knowledge of economics  – as an old white man?

How will the Congressional Party thrive when its House minority leader, Nancy Pelosi, has declined all the way into her rapidly advancing senile dementia?

What store of riches will it plunder when it has taxed the rich into poverty?

How will it light, cool, warm, transport the people and keep their iPhones active on wind-power?

How will it use, and to what end, a House, a Senate, a White House, or any seat of government if it concedes to its strengthening lobby for the abolition of national borders?

How will it survive long enough to say “I told you so” when breathing driving manufacturing humans and flatulent cows heat up the planet to an unbearable extra degree or two in a hundred years’ time, if it allows Iran to become a nuclear power in a mere ten years or so?

Speed on, Tim Ryan, in your silver Chevy Suburban, popping fistfuls of almonds, to your Italian festivals; pad through basilicas; heap simmering red sauce on polenta, match elephant ears layered with powdered sugar with mostaccioli showered with ground Parmesan from plastic tubes!

Way to go – to political oblivion?