a new moral majority

An aside in a recent Scott Alexander comments post caught my eye. The “this” he refers to in the first sentence is conflict theory:

The most famous example of doing this well was the Reagan coalition, where powerful business interests got to stay rich and powerful, and Moral Majority Christians got to have prayer in school or whatever. But the modern Democratic coalition works too – powerful class interests get to stay rich and powerful, and poor minorities get to have anti-racist math in school or whatever. This honestly seems like a pretty good deal for the Democrats, coalition-building-wise, and I’m not sure they can do better.

I had never thought about it in this way before, but as I become more critical of the identarian/”woke” wing of the left, this seems to ring true to me. Just as I strongly believe all of the culture war material on the right (Satanic panic, LGBT issues, euthanasia, stem cells, and above all else, abortion) has long been a convenient giveaway by economic elites in order to get everyday conservative voters to support an economic agenda that largely benefits the wealthy, I believe the same dynamic is increasingly at work on the left. These woke issues suck up a lot of time and energy and attention among progressive activists, and while they may in some ways be important, they also distract from economic issues that would be mire widely attractive to working class voters and harmful to elite interests. This kind of cultural distraction is very useful to those in power. The left would do well to re-embrace a class-focused progressivism, instead of allowing itself to fall into the trap of becoming a moral majority of the left.

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