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Liberals, Debate

Liberals, Debate

I've noticed a disappointing trend within liberal political circles: they won't express their point of view and defend it. We're spending too much effort on process and not enough politics.

No, this isn't a cry-piece about virtually non-existent social justice warrior college students who "won't debate" on their campuses, even though that does contribute to the problem. This is actually a process piece about how the left can continue to dominate political culture.

I first put together the pattern when I read the much-awaited Sarah Jaffe opinion in the New York Times just after the SCOTUS decision on Janus titled "With Janus, the Court Deals Unions a Crushing Blow. Now What?" She's a labor journalist who provides excellent analysis on related issues. But, this piece wasn't what I expected. I thought I would read a full blast argumentative rebuttal to the decision, but instead, she wrote about how we can still organize post-Janus with weaker unions.

Mary Kay Henry of the Service Employees International Union, in a recent interview on the Laura Flanders show, said that S.E.I.U. would be endorsing candidates from now on who were committed to a $15 minimum wage and making unionizing easier, to protecting the Affordable Care Act and supporting Medicare for All, and supporting what she termed common-sense immigration reform.

But no candidate has electrified working people from coast to coast the way a wave of teacher strikes did, and though they sprang from weak unions with their backs to the wall, the labor movement can in fact think strategically about how to build and wield its power through what Ms. Henry appropriately called “disruption.” The court has decided that labor peace will no longer be traded for fees; labor can look to West Virginia for an example of what the end of labor peace looks like.

Jaffe's commentary is both enlightening, hopeful, and provided much-needed context, but it wasn't what I was expecting. Meanwhile, IDW members like Ben Shapiro and other mainstream conservatives praised the decision for easily dismissable reasons.

But they still got their surface-level talking points out there, while we didn't. Jaffe wrote for liberals who already understand why the decision was poor, while Shapiro spent an hour on his podcast talking to a broader audience of people who don't totally understand the issue.

Before I go on, I want to acknowledge a few commentators who do this really well. Sam Seder, who produces a daily two-hour podcast, and his crew, flex their debate muscles and really do argue to convince. David Pakman, Kyle Kulinski, Glenn Greenwald and the Intercept, among others, also focus on this. But imagine where we'd be if experts like Jaffe did the same.

This is why I felt like I had to outline some of the major flaws surrounding the decision, and I'm nowhere near an expert on labor law or theory. I'd love if someone else could do it.

As someone who considers himself politically informed, this isn't really a problem for me. I can defend single-payer, environmental regulations, and non-intervention quite easily. But a voter who's not as politically involved might be swayed when confronted with simplistic and facetious talking points that organizations like Fox News and The Daily Wire promote.

The only way to combat talking point culture is to gain credibility by effectively addressing and refuting them. Don't just ignore it and play to your audience. If the end goal is to accomplish serious reform, we need people and voters on our side, and that requires serious engagement with political adversaries.

The Kavanaugh nomination really elucidated this problem. I saw countless tweets about how labor rights, voting rights, and gay marriage were all at stake (and it's probably true). But it mostly stopped there. In my mind, most people don't understand how oppressive marriage inequality can be, how difficult it is to vote if you're poor, how frequent attacks on workers and job security can impact their lives, and, most importantly, why all of these things are valuable.

How do we solve this? Promote think pieces and people that get down to it, that argue why, not just how. After making a joke about the corporatocracy and how the United States operates like an oligarchyexplain what you mean and why you're correct. And read this detailing Kavanaugh's flawed understanding of labor.

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