Your Grandfather’s Democratic Party

Your Grandfather’s Democratic Party

By Izzo Zwiren

This is not your father’s Republican Party.” These were the words from former Vice President Joe Biden at a campaign rally for Governor Andrew Cuomo last May. Biden went on to explain that the Trump-controlled Republican Party that he claimed centers around populism, nationalism, and its war on free trade is a far cry from the Reganism of the ‘80s. To be fair, Biden has a point. Somehow, the Republican Party seems to be putting up the illusion against big government while expanding governmental authority. Federal spending under the Republican Congress between 2016-18 increased, and now President Trump is looking to bypass Congress with the declaration of a state of emergency. (When President Obama used executive authority to bypass congress, Republicans were up in arms.)

So sadly, to an extent, Joe Biden is correct. However, there is one inconvenient truth that Democrats are facing today. This is your grandfather’s Democratic Party. By this, I refer back to the days of Jim Crow laws and even further (maybe your great-great-grandfather’s days) to slavery. A key rallying point of the Democratic Party in those days was the division they assigned to race. In the era of legal slavery, black people were considered inferior. In fact, they were only considered 3/5 of a human. In the era of Jim Crow, black people were forced to attend separate schools in an effort for white people to retain their dominance over a group of people who were now supposed to be on equal footing with them. In both eras, Southern Democrats sought to classify people by the color of their skin.

What happened next in American history is a hotly contested subject until today. Following the abolition of Jim Crow, Republicans sought to gain a stronger footing in the Democratic South, so they targeted southerners to move away from the Democrats and toward the Republicans. This is the point where historical debates begin. Democrats claim that the southern racists switched parties due to Republicans embracing racist positions. Republicans claim that the messages they were sending had nothing to do with racism, rather the economic messages they were pushing drove southern businesses (including racist business owners) into the Republican Party. So either the Republican Party changed, or the people in the South changed.

However, and here’s where the inconvenient truth comes in, no matter which side you fall on, there is one glaring hole. The Democratic Party never changed. The way they viewed people then, and even to this day, is not by principles or beliefs, but by demographics, specifically, their skin color or sometimes gender and age. But very little of the Democratic Party determines its constituency by ideals. And this is not me saying this. This is how it was classified by Nate Silver, the editor of FiveThirtyEight, an organization that analyzes election data. In his piece from earlier this year, “The 5 Corners of the 2020 Democratic Primary,” Silver divided the Democratic Party into five groups: party loyalists, the left, millennials, black voters, and Hispanic and Asian voters. Notice, only two of those groups are based on ideology, whereas 60 percent are based on demographics. Democrats don’t care about your individual ideals; they care about what social or racial group you belong to, because to them that’s a better indicator of where you stand. You’re black? You’re going to vote this way. You’re Hispanic? Asian? Young? Old? You’ll vote that way.

How much does race matter to the Democrats? Senator Bernie Sanders (who would fall into “the left” category of the Silver divisions) made sure to explain that his 2016 campaign was “too white” in an MSNBC interview in February. Even the members of the sectors that are based on ideals and not demographics understand how important racial identification is to earn Democratic support. Ideals are nice, but it won’t stop CNN from asking, “Does the Democratic Party want a 77-year-old white male as its nominee?”

It’s clear that the Democratic Party has not lost its long-standing belief that your race and ethnicity, not your ideals and principles, are what define you. They literally classify the population by the color of their skin, and not the content of their character. Yet today’s Democratic Party has taken their blatant racism and somehow managed to turn it into a positive. They do so by fully embracing the concept of “intersectionality,” which is the theory that there are multiple historically oppressed groups throughout history. A person who belongs to one group won’t have the same experience as someone who belongs to another, or multiple groups. So a black man and a white woman each belong to one oppressed group (black and women respectively), but a black woman belongs to both groups, and has historically been more oppressed than either of the other two, and would therefore have a perspective on a situation that neither of the other two can fathom. And for the most part, the Democrats have adopted this into their philosophy. Again, judging people, not by their ideals, but by their oppressed group identity.

With two glaring exceptions. The first is Asian Americans. This is apparent from a report this week from the New York Post on the racist actions of Mayor Bill de Blasio, which sought to replace 20 percent of the Asian students who qualify for New York City’s highly specialized high schools, and replace them with minority students who did not meet the criteria on the required standardized test. This comes on the heels of a similar lawsuit against Harvard University from 2018, which, as reported by the New York Times, claimed that Asians were being held to higher standards than other minority students to gain admission to the prestigious university. In both cases, since Asians are no longer considered an “oppressed people” (despite historical oppression), it seems okay to discriminate against them.

The second exception to intersectionality Democrats seem to have is the Jews. This came to light last week, when following a string of anti-Semitic statements from representative Ilhan Omar, House Democrats decided to replace a vote on an anti-Semitism resolution, which would have condemned Omar, with a resolution against all forms of bigotry. As Tablet writer Yair Rosenberg (who is almost always exactly right with his takes) pointed out, “better to not have a resolution at all than to All Lives Matter anti-Semitism.” (To his credit, Mayor de Blasio came out strong against Omar’s statements, and though I often disagree with the mayor, it is important to give credit where it is due.) Due to their success in American culture, Jews, like Asians, have been allowed to be discriminated against with little condemnation from those who prescribe to the theory of intersectionality.

As for Republicans, there are absolutely racists and bigots within the party, and they should not be given a pass just because you may or may not agree with them. However, just to demonstrate how Republicans view their constituency, I refer back to the Silver piece, which also determines the five wings of the Republican Party: moderate, establishment, Christian conservative, libertarian, and Tea Party. Literally all of them are based on ideology. The RNC plainly does not care about race. They care about beliefs. This idea does have its downfalls, as some will claim that maybe they should care about race a little more. I personally would rather be on the side that ignores race completely than the side that places it above all else.

This is not to say there aren’t certain Republican actors who are racist – there certainly are – but the party itself is not the racist one. And this isn’t to say that Democrats are looking to put black people “back in chains” (a claim made by Biden about Mitt Romney during the 2012 presidential campaign), but don’t be fooled. The fact that the DNC is divided by race shows just how much they are still like your grandfather’s Democratic Party.

Izzo Zwiren works in healthcare administration, constantly concerning himself with the state of healthcare politics. The topic of healthcare has led Izzo to become passionate about a variety of political issues affecting our country today. Aside from politics, Izzo is a fan of trivia, stand-up comedy, and the New York Giants. Izzo lives on Long Island with his wife and two adorable, hilarious daughters.