Democrats and the left should work to improve conditions for poor white people as well

Friday, November 5th, 2021

Nothing the internet has done, Freddie deBoer thinks, has been more powerful or consequential than the vast increase in social conformity it’s brought about:

Every incentive in 2021, every last one, pushes us to submit to the will of the crowd. Under those conditions it’s more important than ever that we remember who we are and where we came from.


Today’s “left,” in media and academia and elsewhere, has abandoned absolutely core commitments related to goals, policy, and process, and slandered anyone who hasn’t. The avatars of this tendency mostly know nothing but operate in a social culture in which one must project an aura of knowing everything, and so we have never had substantive debates about any of this stuff, nor do we have communal history enough to know who’s changed and who hasn’t. Let’s run the big changes down.

Of all of the concepts that underlie left discourse, moral universalism may be the most central and essential, though it is little discussed. Moral universalism is the simple belief that all human beings are equal in value and dignity, and deserve political, legal, and moral equality. (It does not mean, and has never meant, that all people are equal in abilities, nor is it an argument for equality of outcomes.) This might seem like a pretty banal assumption, but remember that recognizably left-wing or socialist principles were first developed during a time when literal dynastic aristocracies were assumed to be of inherently higher value than the common person, to say nothing of various bigotries tied to race, ethnicity, and gender. Moral universalism was a powerful and radical idea relative to that backdrop. It was moral universalism that demanded an end to slavery, to sexism, to caste systems, to socioeconomic inequality: Black people deserve freedom because they are people, women deserve equal rights because they are people, the poor deserve material security and comfort because they are people. This is not merely an elegant philosophical position but the basis of left political strategy; stressing common humanity, rather than fixating on demographic differences, means we can have the biggest tent imaginable. All it requires is believing that we must leave no one behind, as a movement and society.

In contrast, today’s left-of-center is rabidly attached to moral particularism, though they mostly haven’t ever really thought this through. By moral particularism I mean the entrenched and widespread notion that certain classes of people are, by dint of their identity categories, more important than others, more deserving of political action, more noble and holy. People will deny that when asked directly, but all of their rhetoric and priorities demonstrate that tacit belief. In argument after argument, liberals today try to settle matters by insisting that a given group’s greater historical oppression means that they must be “centered,” put first, their interests elevated over those of others. A commitment to moral universalism of course demands that these historical oppressions be addressed, until these groups reach the position of equality, at which point their rights will simply be defended like everyone else’s. But today’s liberal practice, if not the explicit ideology, demands that we must relentlessly prioritize some groups over others, and that spending time or energy devoted to those outside of these groups is somehow to take the side of oppression. Debates within the coalition frequently amount to people trying to insist that they are speaking on behalf of the most oppressed, and that whichever position succeeds in that contest is necessarily the righteous cause. Moral particularism not only does not advance an ethic where everyone deserves equal consideration and equally fair treatment, it actively disdains that notion and calls it fascist.

If you don’t believe me, and your Twitter account occupies any kind of progressive space, go on there and tweet “I think Democrats and the left should work to improve conditions for poor white people as well. Their suffering matters.” The notion of the left working for poor people as poor people, rather than merely as an extension of some identity frame, would be totally uncontroversial among the vast majority of left-leaning people throughout the existence of the modern political spectrum. Today? Go ahead, tweet that out, if you have a lot of liberal and leftist followers. See how that works out for you.


  1. Harry Jones says:

    Moral universalism, when you propose to put it into practice, runs smack into the Dunbar limit.

    I have a theory that it is impossible to love someone deeply without despising some other person or group. Love plays favorites by its nature. I call this lovehate.

    You can’t rally the troops without an enemy. If there is no enemy, it is necessary to invent one.

  2. Gavin Longmuir says:

    That is an interesting article by de Boer. Thanks for the link.

    De Boer’s piece reminds me of the great President Ronald Reagan’s remark: “I did not leave the Democrat Party; the Democrat Party left me.”

  3. Altitude Zero says:

    The big problem with the Left is that they are generally materialists, and there is nothing – absolutely utterly nothing – in the material world that would lead one to believe “that all human beings are equal in value and dignity, and deserve political, legal, and moral equality”. A Christian might be justified in believing that, or a Muslim, but a materialist? Show me in the book of nature where anything like that is written. Also, the assumption that “all people are equal in value and dignity” in no way leads to the belief that they should have political or legal equality, as long as you also recognize (as de Boer does) that people differ radically in ability, but never mind…

  4. Ezra says:

    The Left generally despises the poor whitey. You must be poor because you are inferior or a loser in some manner, they say. It must be so. Whitey has such opportunities and advantages over other races and nationalities. If you are a poor whitey and a failure, it is your own fault and nothing else.

    In the brave new world of the left, the Appalachian whitey will be the last and only group you can make jokes about and fun of.

  5. VXXC says:

    Actually it’s all the non-elite whites, and the circle of misery has widened well beyond Appalachia.

    The Left needs an enemy and it has one: Whites. The wrong sort of Whites, of course. Not the right sort. Don’t laugh; this works fine — against us.

    That the power on the Left is overwhelmingly White, affluent or rich, spoiled rotten, past vicious into being septic may not have yet dawned on Freddy. They are also overwhelmingly in terms of power White-Anglo-Saxon-Post-Christian Protestants.

    Freddie wasn’t paying attention when they taught the Kulak lessons in Leftie school.

    This has of course happened before in Ireland, The English Civil War, The Civil War, one Jewish fellow named Yarvin says Germany — which he calls a rebellion against global Anglo-Saxon Empire — I agree.

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