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Barone: Sorry, progressives, America isn’t intersectional

By Michael Barone - National Columnist | Aug 1, 2022

Barone

America isn’t intersectional. That’s something the left-wingers who call themselves progressives have been learning, painfully, over the past 18 months.

You may well ask, what is intersectionality? It’s a label that hasn’t caught on with the general public that stands for a set of ideas, concocted by people convinced they know how to eliminate injustice. Here’s the summary by the Center for Intersectional Justice: “We believe that all forms of injustices are interconnected and that they should be addressed simultaneously. Social justice can only be achieved if protective laws and policies are truly inclusive and reach everyone. We promote inter- and intra-community solidarity and reject any form of divisive politics.”

Of course they’re engaged in “divisive politics” with the many people who don’t share their views — and, to an uncomfortable extent, with each other. It turns out that some groups that consider themselves victims have goals that conflict with other such groups.

It turns out a diverse society — and America, from its colonial beginnings, has always been a diverse society — is sometimes and in some respects just too diverse. And when you try to advance all good things at once, you run into problems.

Consider the big economic plans of the incoming Biden administration just 18 months ago. First on the congressional plate was the multitrillion-dollar stimulus bill, built on top of the somewhat smaller bill signed by the outgoing President Donald Trump in December.

The bill funneled money to victims of COVID restrictions, locked out of their jobs, and to those who weren’t, on the theory that government transfers in a nation with a progressive income tax system always help those with lower incomes.

Unfortunately (and unexpectedly), this huge transfer, from lenders and the future taxpayers who will presumably pay them back to citizens, generally seems to have sparked the worst inflation since the late 1970s. That, in turn, undermined support for the Biden administration’s Build Back Better plan (the name, like a 1987 Biden presidential campaign speech, was plagiarized), and it could never muster 50 Democratic votes in the Senate.

BBB was intentionally intersectional, laced with provisions “that would have moved the United States closer to a European-style social safety net,” according to a sympathetic Washington Post columnist. But the world is not intersectional. Substantial sections of the bill, as well as inflation, made it unpassable in a very closely divided Congress.

Similarly, high gasoline prices increase the opposition to policies designed to shut down the fossil fuel industries. And with violent crime increasing, suddenly, even the supposed beneficiaries turn against proposals to defund the police.

Democratic cities that defunded the police — New York, San Francisco, Chicago, Minneapolis — are scampering back to funding them again, just as intersectional-minded progressives are noticing sharp declines in Democratic support from Hispanic and Asian people, whom they have delighted in characterizing as part of a BIPOC (Black, indigenous, people of color) ascending toward an intersectional national majority.

The BIPOC category is pure intersectionalism, based on the theory that white Americans always have and always will treat those classified as people of color the same way. But this theory quickly runs up against nonintersectional facts.

The historical experiences of Black Americans, many Black history scholars and Black voters will tell you accurately, have been unique. That’s one — perhaps the only — thing the New York Times’ 1619 Project got right.

The Census bureaucrats who created the Hispanic and Asian categories half a century ago may have imagined that white people would subject them to the same kind of enforced discrimination and disenfranchisement that white Southerners subjected Black people to a century ago.

But that simply hasn’t happened. Frequent intermarriage, upward social mobility and, to almost everyone’s surprise, Republican-ward political movement among Hispanic people in the Trump era have made mincemeat of the theory that Hispanic people would share the views of Black people. So has the opposition to racial quotas and preferences and progressive policing and prosecution politics among voters classified as Asian.

BIPOC Americans aren’t acting as a single bloc dedicated to intersectionality. How many voters think of themselves as BIPOC?

Eleven score and 14 years ago, James Madison, in Federalist 10, argued that in a large and culturally diverse nation, political factions, even with temporary majorities, would have difficulty imposing measures regarded as tyrannical or unwise. It turns out that today’s America, like Madison’s, isn’t intersectional.

Michael Barone is a senior political analyst for the Washington Examiner, resident fellow at the American Enterprise Institute and longtime co-author of The Almanac of American Politics.

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