Want to end injustice? Drop brunch and fight.
On January 21st of 2017, I had just gotten home from a day of marching at the Boston Women’s March and was checking social media. Hundreds of pictures were being shared — of marches, of hats, and of protest signs. Among them was one sign which encapsulated the failures of American liberalism shockingly well. It read: “If Hillary won, we’d be at brunch.”
More recently, this line of thinking has had a resurgence — but this time in support of Joe Biden:
The argument in both the sign and the tweet are the same: Donald Trump is uniquely bad and therefore requires that we pay special attention to his politics and his actions. Other Presidents would not be as bad, and therefore, we could stop paying attention to politics if they were elected — The problems with that logic are as obvious as they are severe.
Put simply: America has always been a very bad place for a very large number of people.
To the children in cages when Obama was President, Hillary’s election would have been little comfort. To the activists in the street today, the ascension of the racist 1994 crime bill’s author to the highest office in the world would not be cause for celebration — Biden has recently promised to crack down even more severely on those protesting police brutality. In the face of those realities, it would seem that only detached white liberals could expect to have their lives automatically improved by a Biden or Clinton Presidency — not because either would necessarily have better policies, but because to wealthy white Americans, Trump is a psychological trauma that attacks their idealistic view of America, rather than a threat to them or theirs.
Undocumented immigrants, trans people in states that deny them rights, black victims of police oppression, essential workers being forced to risk their lives to serve us coffee — oppressed peoples — cannot ever escape politics. Whether Obama or Clinton or Biden or Sanders or Trump is President, their lives are under constant threat by America’s systems of power.
If your landlord can kick you out on a whim, if your boss can deport you, if your parents can throw you on the street, or if your ability to survive is conditioned on the generosity of strangers, you can never go to brunch, you can never escape the realities of politics, and your salvation is something which will take more than elections to win.
So when liberals, even the most well-intentioned and caring liberals, tell us that they would be at brunch if Trump lost in 2016, they are admitting that their stated commitment to human dignity is barely skin deep.
Delusions of Mediocrity
Before her ill-fated election, Hillary herself issued a statement expressing the sentiment behind the enduring liberal failure to stand in solidarity with America’s victims: “America is already great because we are good.”
Clinton blasts Trump: 'We are great because we are good'
Hillary Clinton said Donald Trump's lewd comments about women that were exposed Friday "represents exactly who he is."…
This statement shows a catastrophic failure in Hillary’s campaign; she ceded the ground of populist criticisms of our deeply flawed country entirely to the right.
Liberals in general suffer from the same delusion — not a delusion of grandeur, but a delusion of mediocrity.
Sure, America may run torture camps, starve its children, have the worst inequality in the developed world, kill thousands by denying healthcare, fail to teach its people to read, face a gun violence epidemic, lock kids in cages, bomb foreign civilians, and have a brutally racist justice system, but at the end of the day, America is a good country.
Liberals ignore America’s flaws, ignore the suffering of the classes whose votes and abstentions gave Trump the Presidency, because they see recognizing those flaws as unpatriotic. Clinton’s line of attack above was to paint Trump as the less nationalist one for implying that America is not already great.
This is not a defense of Trump, of course — he failed to recognize most of America’s problems and resolved to worsen them once in office — but at least he didn’t insist America is already fine. He didn’t ignore the obvious fact that America is not great, nor is it good. He was able to weaponize Americans’ discontent and the gap between Democratic leadership and American experience to suppress half the population and brainwash 25% of it.
And that is why he won.
Back to Brunch
In the face of that reality, claiming that we can “go back to brunch” or “turn off the TV” if Biden wins is terrifyingly out of touch and inept as a strategy. Like it or not, the America Obama left behind is the same America that made Trump President.
The liberal failure to recognize America’s flaws in favor of a delusion of mediocrity led them to ignore criticisms from the left, settle for broken campaign promises, and nominate two centrists to challenge Trump. It has led them to treat Trump not as the culmination of decades of rightist victories and liberal failures but instead as a bad dream that, once we wake up from, we will never face again. And now it is leading them to turn their backs on the most vulnerable people — the people who have suffered, are suffering, and will suffer no matter who wins the next election.