The current agitation against Nancy Pelosi epitomizes a sexist and ageist trend in our party that I want to call out in its own thread.
Here are some (not all!) dog-whistles intended to pander to stereotypes among Democratic voters:
– Fill-in-the-blank is too old.
– Fill-in-the-blank is too white.
– Fill-in-the-blank is too male (or too female, as the case may be).
I am reminded of similar dog-whistles tossed about during our recent Democratic Primary when supporters of Ayanna Pressley used phrases like “generational change”, “taking on [a] long-time incumbent”, and “credible candidate of color”.
Calling this material “identity politics” is at best a euphemism — it’s little more than a new name for straight old-fashioned pandering to prejudice and stereotypes.
78 year old legislators are not any more “tired” or less “creative” than their 20-something counterparts. The race or gender of a legislator has very little to with the policies of that legislator. Criticizing specific policy proposals or votes is great. Attacking the age, gender, race, or religion of a legislator is not. There are senile 50 year olds. There are sharp-as-a-tack 98 year olds.
A lesson that mainstream journalism had to learn way back in the 1970s was that the race of the alleged perpetrator and victim was irrelevant to a story about a crime. Headlines like “Black man rapes white woman at knifepoint” were pervasive and incredibly racist. It took years of pretty much constant pressure to replace those with something along the lines of “Woman raped at knifepoint”.
Michael Moore correctly pointed out a decade ago that something quite similar was happening with “reality” crime shows that ALWAYS feature big black men who do terrible things to often-white victims and are ALWAYS perp-walked away in cuffs. Programming like this exists because it panders to white fear of blacks. It is worth noting that white criminals who embezzle orders of magnitude more money from their victims are seldom if ever arrested and cuffed like this, and never on camera.
We saw this recently, even from otherwise respectable outlets like Washington Post, in the tragedy of Mollie Tibbetts. The immigration status of her killer should have been completely irrelevant to the crime. The story itself should not have been any different from, for example, the equally tragic killing of Lauren McCluskey.
The reason such coverage is so insidious is that it reinforces and panders to false prejudices about the targeted group. The race of an alleged criminal is relevant only when an active search for the individual is underway and authorities publish a description. The immigration status of an alleged criminal is never relevant.
In a similar vein, the age of Nancy Pelosi is not relevant to her leadership unless someone is arguing that she is senile. The longevity of Mr. Capuano in his congressional seat should not have been an issue in the primary. The race of Ms. Pelosi and Mr. Capuano should similarly not be an issue, and neither should their gender.
If Democrats want to put forward candidates for speaker who want to see different ideas and policies, that’s legitimate (even if I might disagree). Some examples include candidates who are:
– Less attached to big donors
– Less attached to big pharma
– More aggressive against the Trumpist high crimes and misdemeanors
I think we owe it to ourselves, our descendants, and humanity to put an immediate stop to our own racist, ageist, and sexist dog-whistles.