The notion that economic populism pedaled by Sanders is a big tent everyone can get on board, while social issues are limiting and divisive is just patently false.
Before anyone goes, why can’t the left, esp the democrats, be about both & we don’t have to choose? Well that’s what the democratic base - made up of people of color, esp black women - has always been saying, that Democratic Party needs to be both, coz we can’t just deal with economic issues while letting social issues take a back seat, because that’s how we often end up with economic inequality.
Race and gender are very much part of any economic issue yet often missing in economic policymaking; and the focus on class warfare alone isn’t fixing, doesn’t fix, and hasn’t fixed the underlying causes of our economic inequality.
Take this latest fiasco on reproductive rights as negotiable in favor of more “neutral” economic issues. Those who get less pay, not considered for certain jobs and promotions are because we have a uterus and/or are still expected to maintain traditional female roles, while trying to compete professionally under a very white and patriarchal cis male playing field. We get periods, get pregnant, are expected to raise kids, leave work early for PTA meetings, call off work when kids get sick, and/or stay home when we can’t get a baby sitter - and these are used against us to not get the same pay, get jobs, get promotions, advance in our fields at the same pace as our male counterparts, etc.
While it is true more men are taking paternity leaves and not all women get pregnant or have kids, but it’s women, regardless of what reproductive choices we make, are still the ones who get penalized economically.
So if you just advocate for equal pay and paid leave, but not have women, especially women of color, help develop the policy or at least form policies with race & gender lenses/minimum standards in mind, then you’ll create policies that speaks to and benefit mostly white, mostly male and mostly in the upper class.
Additionally, the sanders economic populism is short-sighted, which is why he often don’t get anything passed legislatively, even though they’re well, popular economic ideas.
Take also the fight for 15, which is one of his hills to die on. I applaud the unions and labor groups fighting for a living wage, and that’s what unions do, collectively fight for better pay for workers. But when you’re leadership or seeking leadership in a political party, or already an elected official, you have to have broader ideas and policies for jobs than just increasing minimum wage.
Even if we accept that the reason white working class voted for trump is solely coz of jobs, their main concern wasn’t they’re not getting $15 per hour, it’s they’re losing their jobs all together and they’re not getting them back. Yet Sanders economic populism, like Trump’s economic nationalism, has given lots of platitudes but still has no real policy answer to that.
Right now, we are also dramatically losing jobs that pay by the hour to automation, especially in retail and fast food restaurants, jobs mostly held by women and working class of color. Nothing, even platitudes, is given to address that. By the time we have $15 minimum wage, there won’t be anymore hourly jobs to take.
Economic populism that caters to white working class by default doesn’t transfer to benefit everyone else also, it in fact leaves the most vulnerable behind and keeps people of color invisible.
Sanders and any democratic leader can’t talk about jobs by paying platitudes to white working class at the expense of ignoring working class of color and women, because then they’re intentionally ignoring their own base who demand leadership that addresses and prioritize their economic concerns as well, and leadership that doesn’t treat social issues as secondary issues and in silos.