Happy New Year From The Transom!
A resolution, and Biden's race politics problem
Entering the New Year with optimism after two good days of gambling on football — though that barely missed Michigan-Alabama under hurt! — let’s resolve to go through the coming crazy election year with our heads screwed on straight. Everything seems pretty clear at this point, but there’s always the unanticipated wrinkle. But we should absolutely expect a lot of people around us to lose their minds. So: Don’t be like this!
Hispanic Leaders Warn Biden WH
President Joe Biden is heading into 2024 with concerning numbers among Hispanic voters: A new USA Today/Suffolk survey shows him trailing Donald Trump by five percentage points, with many reluctant to back either candidate. While it’s an especially rough poll, others have also shown him struggling to match his 2020 numbers with a key swath of the Democratic base — and Hispanic leaders say they’re seeing the same problems on the ground.
“It’s a matador red flag flying out there — the Hispanic vote is totally up for grabs,” Domingo Garcia, national president of the League of United Latin American Citizens, told Semafor. “[Trump’s] cutting the margins. And in battleground states like Arizona, Nevada, Wisconsin, that can be a big difference.”
Conversations with leaders of Hispanic groups and political consultants in both parties underscored Biden’s difficult path forward. His challenges with Hispanic voters are not dissimilar to his problems with the broader electorate: Dissatisfaction over inflation, concerns about record-high border crossings, and lack of excitement over his policy accomplishments. And even as he works to shore up border security with a potential bipartisan deal in Congress, members of his own party warn he could also lose support in November if an agreement ends up being perceived as overly hostile to immigrant communities.
Garcia told Semafor that the “fear of a second Trump presidency” and the prospect of dramatically stepped-up deportations remains an asset for Biden, especially with women. But the president still hasn’t figured out how to package his presidency in an appealing way.
“They’re lacking a core message and right now Latino voters are really concerned about economics — inflation has eaten away at their paycheck, the cost of rent… trying to buy a house seems to be more elusive than ever,” he said.
Javier Palomarez, president and CEO of the United States Hispanic Business Council — a leading advocate for Hispanic-owned firms across the U.S. — criticized the administration’s triumphal “Bidenomics” push, arguing it’s not reflective of what people on the ground are actually experiencing.
“I understand their need to create a narrative and to drive that narrative. It’s a tried and true strategy that has worked for administration after administration, campaign after campaign,” Palomarez said. “But the narrative they’re building is one that is a bit tone-deaf to what’s actually happening in the Hispanic community — and I’m not even saying that they’re incorrect.”
Palomarez added that he’s had several conversations with White House advisors heading into 2024: The discussion, according to him, is normally “a healthy debate about how they’re right and we’re wrong.”
Biden’s Weakness With Black Voters
It’s not so much that Charlamagne tha God has beef with the president.
It’s just that he thinks Joe Biden is a lousy messenger and that he lacks the basic political skills that — whatever one thinks about the guy — Donald Trump possesses.
Sitting in the second row of his black Escalade as his driver crawls through Manhattan traffic on a late October morning, the co-host of the influential “Breakfast Club” radio show said Biden and others in his circle spend too much time posturing.
Instead of thinking of better ways to play up policy achievements, he argues, Democrats rely too much on depicting former President Donald Trump as a crook.
“It’s almost like Democrats are doing this purity test. America is not pure. The people of America are not pure. We’re flawed,” he said. “I’m not looking for my politicians to be pure, … I’m looking for my politicians to be effective.”
Biden has faced similarly tough recriminations from other political luminaries. But coming from Charlamagne, it hits different. The radio host, 45, has a loyal audience of 4 million monthly listeners. He is ascendant, having taken on roles guest hosting “The Daily Show,” starting up his own podcasting empire with iHeartRadio and being inducted into the Radio Hall of Fame. He’s also reaching the very voters Biden is struggling to draw: young and Black.
And increasingly, Charlamagne’s appraisal of the Biden administration has been sour. While he anguishes at the thought of a 2020 rematch, the radio personality gives Trump props for commanding attention and selling his ideas.
Trump relentlessly touted — or, in some cases, gave himself outsized credit for — policies he enacted as president. He signed the First Step Act into law, which brought modest reforms to the federal criminal justice system. He pardoned rappers Lil Wayne and Kodak Black. And he sent stimulus checks, or what a lot of folks commonly refer to as “stimmies,” during the first year of the pandemic.
“Imagine you felt like you’ve never gotten anything from the government, ever. And you don’t know how politics work, you just know you just got this check in the mail, with [Trump’s] name on it,” Charlamagne said. “You will feel like he did something.”
Biden sent checks too. But Charlamagne argues that he failed to play it up the way his predecessor did.
Charlamagne doesn’t consider himself a Democrat or a Republican — a position he says allows him to call bullshit on empty campaign rhetoric politicians spew when they decide it’s time to engage Black audiences to wrangle up votes.
“In 2024, it’s a race between the cowards, the crooks and the couch,” he said, referring to Biden, Trump and the option to stay home.
Charlamagne suspects the couch will win.
Gen Z’s Radical Race Politics
Perhaps the most distinctive popular trope of the imperial vision in the latter half of the 20th century was that of American children in national costume, holding hands around the world. This was the aspirational version of “multiculturalism” that I grew up with: one in which a plurality of peoples is envisaged as coexisting happily, while embracing and enjoying one another’s differences.
Until recently, the injunction emanating from these imperial hubs was that America-aligned states should join Hands Around The World. But over time, this ideal has begun gradually to invert itself, via the justification it offers for the mass movement of people. After all, if we’re all alike, why shouldn’t people move in search of a better life? The existence of modern America is inextricable from this impulse.
In line with this, the post-Cold War era has seen one European elite after another gradually retrofit their own countries with a version of modern America’s “nation of immigrants” origin story. In the Wasp-dominated America of the 20th century, this vision was at least somewhat believable, and powered a great many commendable political aspirations. And as the periphery will always tend to lag the centre, even in the Britain of the Eighties and Nineties, Hands Around The World still seemed plausible.
But as first America, then Europe, has set out to practise what America preached, the resulting diversification has shrunk the proportion of Western populations that believe in Western-style egalitarian universalism. And in the wake of this, it’s growing ever clearer that, wherever the culture that espouses race-neutrality loses its numerical super-majority, that ideology will begin giving ground to ethnic or religious in-group preference.
For it is increasingly clear that minority ethnic groups tend not, on the whole, to dissolve their political consciousness entirely into the larger body politic. Rather, as has been evident in the United States, expat groups tend to retain an interest in the politics of their countries of origin. There’s nothing intrinsically wrong or surprising about this. But inevitably it introduces new potential fault-lines in the national conversation. So as America has diversified, one side-effect has been opening space for a broader spectrum of ethnic in-group lobbies within the corridors of power, all while undermining the Wasp doctrine of universalism.
Thus, ironically, policies rooted in the belief that all human peoples are equally capable of harmonious coexistence has helped to impel the West’s transformation into a real-life multicultural society, which is to say one increasingly governed by the politics of ethnic in-group preference. As this has accelerated, so too the American empire has begun to pivot institutionally from official colour-blindness to its inverse. And today, as evident in recent disputes over antisemitism and race-first ideologies in Ivy League universities, this worldview is so mainstream that one January 2024 Hollywood release is big-budget fantasy about African-American magicians tasked with keeping the dangerous, violent white majority quiescent, by making them feel comfortable.
At the geopolitical level, too, the shift from universalist race neutrality to race-consciousness is echoed in the fracturing of America’s large-scale universalist project: the “rules-based international order”. Since Iraq and Afghanistan took the shine off this order qua moral project, it has become markedly more contested, not least in recent outbreaks of territorial war and ethnic cleansing even at the edges of Europe. But where the new American domestic racism has elite support on the Left, the retrenchment of American internationalism finds its advocates on the new American Right. There, figures including J.D. Vance argue that the US should wind down internationalist commitments such as the war in Ukraine, and refocus on ending illegal migration via the southern border. More broadly, those jockeying to shape a putative future Republican foreign policy lean toward international restraint rather than internationalism, including arguing for an end to US defence spending in Europe.
Items of Interest
“Perseverance in almost any plan is better than fickleness and fluctuation.”
— Alexander Hamilton