Part 2—Should he care about her: Did Professor Lilla actually mean what he seemed to say?
Back in mid-December, he spoke with Sean Illing for Vox. As we noted yesterday, we thought the remarks shown below were strange, but familiar and perhaps instructive.
Within the context of the full discussion, "these people" were, quite plainly, the white working class. For full transcript, click here:
LILLA (12/16/16): The bottom line is that we can't win [elections] without these people...Did Lilla actually mean what he seems to have said? He seems to have said that we liberals "care about," and "want to protect," a finite number of groups.
So if we care about the people we say we care about—African Americans, women, LGBT people, Latinos—if we want to protect them, symbolic victories won't do. We have to be competitive and we have to win at every level of government, and that means sucking it up and getting the votes of everyone.
Political work is only about acquiring and using power to protect the people you want to protect.
An election is not a seminar. It is not a therapy session. It is not a chance to rewrite history. An election is only about winning, and you do what you have to do. And yes, that doesn't mean you have to pander to people, but it may mean you have to be silent about certain things and get your apron dirty.
If you want to reform the American soul, become a minister. But if you're serious about politics, you have to go where the people are and find a way to reach them, and not be afraid to get dirty.
He seems to have said that we have to seek the votes of the white working class so that we can protect other groups. He seems to have said that we don't care about, or want to protect, people in the white working class. He seems to have said that we may dirty ourselves as we seek their votes.
Can that be what the professor meant? We only ask because, rather clearly, that seems to be what he said.
Briefly, let's be fair. In the vast sweep of things, very few people will note or remember the various things Lilla said in this particular exchange. That said, comments like these sound to us like an invitation to the white working class—an invitation to vote for conservatives right down the line, and never to listen to Us.
That may not be what the professor meant. That said, we liberals make remarks of this general type all the time. Once again, let's recall the unfortunate thing Candidate Clinton said:
CLINTON (9/9/16): You know, to just be grossly generalistic, you could put half of Trump’s supporters into what I call "the basket of deplorables."For transcript and tape, click here.
[APPLAUSE AND LAUGHTER]
Right? The racist, sexist, homophobic, xenophobic, Islamaphobic—you name it. And unfortunately, there are people like that. And he has lifted them up....Now some of those folks—they are irredeemable, but thankfully they are not America.
Bombs away! In fairness, Clinton said that only half of Trump's supporters belong in the "basket of deplorables" and therefore seem to be "irredeemable." In comment threads, we everyday liberals routinely say or suggest that all of Donald J. Trump's supporters should be regarded this way.
In fairness, Candidate Clinton only consigned half Those People to a place in Hell. Still, we'd also describe her remarks as an invitation to vote for the other side and never to listen to Us.
We libs can be highly censorious! On December 29, the New York Times rang out the old year with a letter from Woodbury, Minnesota—and from an all-too-familiar Salem Village of the liberal/progressive mind.
The letter writer went out of her way to say that Trump voters "may not believe they themselves are bigoted." "Every Trump voter claims to have voted for the right reasons," she also mordantly said.
Still, this writer was willing to consider no framework, experience or point of view other than her own. As with the parsons and goodies of old, she made Trump voters complicit in, and responsible for, every imaginable evil event from this moment forward—and as with the parsons and goodies of old, she was willing to imagine quite a few such events.
The Others would be fully responsible. No possible error was hers.
"Easy to be hard," the poet once thoughtfully said. We liberals frequently choose such roads, inviting The Others out.
Did Professor Lilla mean to do some such thing in his remarks to Vox? Did he really mean that we "care about" and "want to protect" African Americans, women, LGBT people and Latinos, but that we don't care about members of the white working class, in the pursuit of whom we're likely to get ourselves dirty?
On their face, we thought his remarks were unfortunate. That made us think of a person we've heard about—a woman Professor Lilla should probably want to protect.
This woman lives in Kentucky; on the downside, she seems to be from the white working class. Still, she can't afford to go to the doctor. She doesn't avail herself of free diagnostic services because she knows she couldn't afford to pay for treatment if a medical problem was found.
Sarah Kliff described that woman's plight in a different report for Vox. In his remarks to Illing, it almost sounded like the professor might be cuffing this person to the curb.
The woman in question voted for Trump; she's from the white working class. Should liberals "care about" and "want to protect" her, even in spite of that?
Tomorrow, we'll show you why we think the answer is plainly yes. We'll also discuss the ridiculous way our multimillionaire corporate liberals—and even our highest ranking professors!—keep us liberals barefoot and clueless about the powerful interests at play in matters like this.
In part because of our corporate liberals, we liberals can be amazingly dense. Once again, we suggest a theme:
Our political culture lies in ruins. The problems, in part, lie with Us.
Tomorrow: Revisiting Michael Moore's film