A not-so-great debate: These Democrats are killing me
I keep seeing this trend of the intellectual/smart-left criticizing the 2020 democratic candidates, such as article above. I don’t remember it being this bad in 2016 or 2008, but either this year the candidates are exceptionally bad or the smart-left has much higher standards than usual. I can understand why many on the left disliked Hillary, but Bernie and Warren are checking all the correct boxes on the major issues yet these high-minded liberals are not happy. I think Josh Barrow and Matthew Yglesias , on Twitter, sorta pioneered this trend of the cranky-left, who are educated democrats who are are always criticizing the in-group. Same for John McWorter, an Associate Professor of English and Comparative Literature at Columbia University, who in his own words calls himself a ‘cranky liberal democrat’, and rose to preeminence in the early 2010s by criticizing both sides, on Twitter and writing for The Atlantic. The smart-left is is opposed preaching to the choir and banal political platitudes. It’s the left-wing equivalent as the IDW, and is composed of academics and journalists rather than politicians and activists. They are tired of the partisan attacks on Trump, which are predictable and ineffective, but rather are more concerned with nuts and bolts of policy, than belaboring the point about how bad the republicans are or how racist/sexist group-XYZ is. Maybe it’s because this lineup has too many boomers, but Buttigieg is young and he too is not immune from attack.
The smart left-left is a good niche to be in, because it allows one to gain the favor of the smart-right, who tend to have a lot of status online such as large followings on Twitter, Reddit, and YouTube, but also retain the support of the mainstream/average-IQ-left, too. The IDW, although generally a center-right intellectual movement, has many left-wing critics of Trump, such as Sam Harris and Eric Weinstein. But because they convey intellect, but also are genuinely smart (Harris has a Ph.D. degree in cognitive neuroscience, and also Dr. Weinstein, who specializes in the most complicated branch of physics of all, mathematical physics), they are able to criticize Trump and still maintain intellectual credibility and be respected by the smart-right, as opposed to being dismissed or ridiculed as an ‘SJW’, as a less intelligent Trump critic would be, even if the argument is the same or premised on the same falsehoods (such as Trump being racist, or his supporters being racist or complicit in racism). Just by virtue of being smart (or at least conveying intellect and also employing shared narratives), an argument that would otherwise be dismissed, is taken seriously. There is the understanding that if someone who is really smart believes that Trump is bad for America and racist or that socialism can work ‘in theory’, then his position must be built on a foundation of logic and reason, and therefore is a worthy opponent for debate. This works to the smart-left’s favor because they can espouse anti-Trump views, which their liberal supporters agree with, but also be respected by the smart-right as intellectual equals even if there is otherwise strong ideological dissagreement or the arguments are dubious veracity (such as Trump condoning or being complicit in racism).
But is is not just just anti-Trump stuff. Being part of the smart-left means that one can entertain all sorts of ideas, some of them possibly bad such as socialism, student loan forgiveness, single-payer, or open borders, and the push-back is civil and courteous, as opposed to when someone like AOC advocates similar ideas, who is not part of the smart-left, but the response is much more negative and uncivil. This has never made made much sense to me, because if the argument is wrong, it does not matter how smart the person espousing it is.
The smart-left have all their bases covered: the smart-right and the much of left. What about the average-IQ right? Because they tend to have much less social status as measured by social media metrics such as YouTube subscribers or Twitter followers, they are not as important. Now, true, someone like Sean Hannity has a ton of followers, but by gaining the favor of someone such as Hannity, one losses all their left-wing followers and appeal. So being part of the the smart-left means you get almost the entirety of the left but also the smart/centrist-right such as Quillete, Jordan Peterson, and others who have large followings and influence. In terms affecting the ‘national debate’ on issues such as politics, gender, political correctness, etc., someone like Dr. Peterson has way more clout and cross-aisle appeal than the likes of Limbaugh, Coulter, Hannity, or Levin. Peterson’s brand and intellectual credibility, in spite of his recent drig problem, is still stronger than ever whereas many of the aforementioned figures such as Limbaugh have been tainted by hypocrisy and scandal (Bill O’Reilly especially), and just a general lack of intellectualism in an internet climate where being smart and somewhat contrarian is more valued than ever as shown by the post-2017 meteoric assent of the IDW and the corresponding loss of influence by overtly partisan provocateurs such as Milo and others. The smart-left and smart-right, who have a lot of influence online, would much rater have their views challenged than just be spoon fed stuff they agree with along predictable ideological lines.
Shared narratives help the smart-left be endeared by the smart-right, but anyone who is smart regardless of ideology, which is why it is shared. So for example, Eric or Bret Weinstein can tweet something along the lines of “the state of political discourse today elevates anger and partisanship over reason and the issues.” Such an observation, although somewhat banal and obvious, will go massively viral, by being re-tweeted and favorited by smart people on either side of the aisle, who can relate. The smart-left can relate that although Bernie and Warren are correct on issues such as student loan forgiveness and healthcare, their appeal to tribal rhetoric is bad for democracy and a contributing factor for increased divisiveness online. The smart-right can also relate that although Trump feeds off this divisiveness, at the same time, the left is also playing by the same rules, so by not playing, Trump would be at a disadvantage, and also they can agree that social media is creating ideological echo chambers, on other side of the aisle. Accuracy should matter more than ideological conformity.