Demographer and statistician Steve Sailer has a piece up at Taki’s Magazine entitled “Bernie vs. Ta-Nehisi,” detailing the major split within modern progressivism between old-school Marxists and social justice warriors. Naturally, there’s a great deal of overlap between those groups, but Sailer looks at the major wedge between them: their views on race.
First, let’s define our terms here: the “old-school Marxists” like Bernie think race is a tool of the upper classes to divide the social classes. Part of this approach, as Sailer points out, is electoral pragmatism: align the have-nots against the haves, regardless of race, to maximize voters. There are more non-rich people than there are rich, so promising Medicare for all and to “soak the rich” Huey Long-style can bribe voters of all stripes.
The other side—what I’ve referred to broadly referred to as the “social justice warriors”—are the ones obsessed with race, and who see racial injustice everywhere. For Sailer, the symbolic leader of this group is racialist mediocrity Ta-Nehisi Coates, the former blogger made good because white liberals feel good about themselves when reading his rambling essays.
(I imagine it’s a sensation of righteous self-flagellation that isn’t too dangerous or life-altering for the reader: they get the sadistic satisfaction of acknowledging their own implicit bias, racism, and privilege, while feeling like they’re making a difference because they breathlessly show their support for an erudite-sounding black guy. But I digress.)
The former group wants to buy off all voters with as many publicly-funded goodies as possible; the latter wants to buy off minority voters with reparations and other publicly-funded goodies, all while chastising white voters (and gleefully awaiting the approaching day that whites are a minority, too).
Sailer, who refers to Coates as “TNC,” sums this division up succinctly:
The war between Bernie and TNC pits the old Marx-influenced left, with its hardheaded obsession with class, power, and money, against the new Coatesian left, which cares more about whether Marvel’s next movie features a black, female, or nonbinary superhero.
The rest of Sailer’s essay focuses on the obsession with racial identity and representation that dominates “Coatesian left.” It’s not enough that everyone, black or white, share in Sanders’s redistributionist schemes; rather, blacks specifically must benefit at the expense of whites as a form of payback for slavery, alleged “redlining” in during the Depression, and “institutional racism.”
Further, the Coatesian/social justice Left demands “representation,” because a black superhero will magically improve the lot of black Americans. Another Sailer quotation:
Coates’ notion that mass entertainment culture has been devoted to stereotyping black people as undeserving is, of course, absurd. But it helps explain some of his popularity in an era in which it is considered sophisticated to argue that Will Smith shouldn’t be cast as Serena and Venus Williams’ tennis dad because he’s not as dark-skinned as Idris Elba (while others argue that Smith, unlike Elba, deserves the role because he is an ADOS: American Descendant of Slaves).
Can you imagine what Socialist Senator Sanders thinks of these energies devoted to which millionaire should get richer?
Unlike Bernie, Coates is concerned with the old-fashioned comic-book virtues that appeal to 9-year-old boys: honor, status, representation, heredity, antiquity, and vengeance.
Revenge is a dish best served cold. Maybe that’s why so many prominent Democratic presidential hopefuls are reheating such a tired idea.
Neither Sanders-style Marxism or Coatesian racial grievance will repair the United States’s fractured culture, but it will be interesting to see which side wins the Left. Demographics suggest the latter will prevail over time.
Regardless, at bottom, both of these movements are redistributionist, and seek to plunder accumulated wealth and productivity to unprecedented degrees. One might be traditional Marxism and the other Cultural Marxism—but they’re both Marxism.