“Explicitly Sacrificing Most Priorities of the Left” to Get Republicans to Play Nice
A sociologist muses on who should get thrown under the bus to appeal to the GOP—but refuses to go all in
On Sunday night, Princeton Professor of Sociology Patrick Sharkey tweeted out a political theory that earned him rightful scorn—even though he was just saying the quiet part out loud.
“Possibly unpopular opinion: finding a way to create a new coalition to uphold American democracy, even if it means explicitly sacrificing most priorities of the left and advancing a few key goals of the right, should be the primary focus of elected officials from @potus on down,” Sharkey said in a since-deleted post.
The logical question of what priorities would be sacrificed followed—trans rights? climate? police reform?—but Sharkey refused to address the issue, turning instead to inane off-topic digressions and asking critics what they’d suggest.
I pushed Sharkey on the priorities point last night on Twitter and via email today, but received no clear answer. Rather, the sociology professor dissembled and claimed that he had phrased the point poorly.
“My working assumption is that if we continue on this path, progressives are sacrificing all priorities by default,” he told me this morning. “I should have phrased the question in reverse: What are the absolute central priorities that progressives must insist on if they were to go about trying to create a pro-democracy coalition that includes Republicans?”
Sharkey told me that because of the nature of the Democratic majority at the federal level progressive priorities are stalled out anyway, so the focus needs to be on making sure that Republicans coming into office share pro-democracy views.
“The idea, which I realize may not be the best one and might not work, would be to try to create a pro-democracy coalition with some Republicans rather than cede ground to the anti-democracy Republicans,” Sharkey said.
Assuming such Republicans are the Liz Cheney-Adam Kinzinger types then the policies that are going to be jettisoned are nearly every position to the left of the Tea Party. Trans rights, and even gay rights, will cease to be protected. Abortion and privacy rights are out the door. Climate action, even the woefully insufficient steps taken by the current administration, is going to be deprioritized.
This isn’t hard to figure out, nor is the posture Sharkey is taking particularly new or interesting—it’s more or less been Democratic Party orthodoxy for decades. The triangulation of the Bill Clinton era was explicitly about absorbing “sane” Republican voters; Barack Obama believed that he could change minds across the aisle by virtue of his charm and rhetoric; Joe Biden told voters just two years ago that without Trump the fever would break.
None of this has happened, none of this will ever happen. It’s useless to attempt to reach across the aisle to a group of right-wing lunatics because one or two of them reject the insurrectionist politics of the modern GOP while agreeing with everything else the party stands for.
But it’s largely an abstract debate anyway—no one of any note pushing this kind of reconciliation with the Cheney-Kinzinger types is willing to name the priorities that would need to be sacrificed in order to build such a coalition.
Speaking of right-wing entryism, tomorrow at 1pm EST I’ll be talking about conservative pundit Tulsi Gabbard, a former Democratic congresswoman, on my show. Al Jazeera’s Sana Saaeed will join me for the conversation, only on Callin.
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