I used to like reading New York Times columnist Charles Blow. Then Donald Trump got elected and Blow became one of those liberals who just totally lost it. He decided that he would not let his righteous anger ever abate. He became preachy, insufferable and, for me at least, pretty much unreadable.
But I read his column the other day because I was intrigued by the headline, which read, “Democrats Continue to Struggle With Men of Color.” That’s a topic that interests me because I have this theory that Democrats can never establish an enduring majority nationally or in Wisconsin if they continue to lose male voters by overwhelming margins. That’s long been true of white guys, but now growing numbers of Black and Hispanic men are leaving the fold as well.
Blow’s piece was prompted by exit polling in the California governor’s recall election this week. Blow reports that about half of Hispanic men and a quarter of Black men voted for the recall and thus against Democratic Gov. Gavin Newsom, who nonetheless easily retained his seat in that deep blue state.
But once Blow correctly identified the problem, he blew his chance at putting his finger on the reason for it. According to Blow it’s all about men of all races defending their “privileges” under “the patriarchy.” In other words, rather than making any attempt at all to try to understand why men of color, like him, were voting against the party that purports to be their advocate, Blow just blamed the men themselves.
Later in his piece, Blow did offer a weak attempt at another explanation, suggesting that some Black men may feel that the Democrats haven’t kept their promises to improve life for African Americans. But that just doesn’t add up. If that’s the way a voter feels it’s more likely that he’ll just sit out the election rather than vote for the party that promises him nothing at all.
I do accept Blow’s analysis on one level. People are many things, not just skin color. And, so, why wouldn’t Black men identify just as much with being a man as with being Black? For that matter, Hispanic voters in general, not just men, have been migrating toward the GOP for several cycles now. That’s because they don’t just see themselves as Hispanic, but also as Catholics, business owners, etc. The Republicans might be doing a bad job of appealing to them on their racial identity but they’re connecting on religion and economics.
What Blow is doing here is shoe-horning a real problem into his world view. Because he sees the world through a lens filtered with privileged classes and the patriarchy, he sees these things wherever he looks. But in reality the Democratic Party is losing male voters because the party — and the media infrastructure that, in general terms, shares its point of view — devalues men at every opportunity.
Look at Blow’s own publication. I read the Times every day and there is much to recommend it, but you can’t miss its dominant narrative of American life. You will search in vain to find a single story that portrays men, as a group, in a positive light. And you will find no stories that do not portray women, as a group, as being anything but fierce and competent when they’re not shown to be brave victims of the patriarchy. Taken as broad categories, in the world of the New York Times all men are bad and all women are good. And that same script is followed pretty closely by NPR and PBS. Why wouldn’t men react negatively to a party that blames them for everything bad in the world and credits them with nothing?
Let me hasten to add here that I married a woman and find her to be every bit as fierce, competent and brave as the women portrayed in the New York Times. You may quote me.
You can’t fix a problem until you correctly identify its causes. Charles Blow sees the problem, but he’s not helping Democrats fix it when he just blames the victim.
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