The cruelty really is the point

15 May 2022

1:10 PM

15 May 2022

1:10 PM

Earlier this week, Politico ran a piece called “Inflation’s biting. Roe’s fraying. Dems are still trying to connect with voters.” The crux of the article is that while congressional Democrats have plans to counter rising inflation, they are having a hard time selling their command of the situation to voters.

It’s no wonder. The star of the piece is Representative Katie Porter. Porter, a member of her party’s progressive wing, is portrayed as more aware of the impacts of inflation than her colleagues. The story describes an instance in which Porter had to put a package of bacon back on the shelf because, to her surprise, it was up to $9.99 per pound. (The reporter helpfully informs us that as a member of Congress, Porter earns $174,000 per year, more than double the annual pay of the average American household. What hope do the rest of us have?) Other Democrats are described as less sensitive to these realities, a perception that has been borne out by the party’s internal polling.

This detachment from voters comes straight from the top. Who could forget, for example, outgoing White House press secretary (and incoming MSNBC pundit) Jen Psaki’s widely mocked suggestion that those ticked off by the way things are going should drink a margarita or attend a kickboxing class to vent their frustrations? Let them drink Cuervo! Or the knee-slapper of a boast by the administration last Fourth of July that Americans would enjoy cookout savings of 16 cents over the prior year?

But at least the Porters and Psakis of the world are trying to connect with skeptical voters. Progressive influencers? Not so much. Political activist Amy Siskind, for example, recently expressed frustration with voter perceptions of the Biden administration’s handling of the economy. “Inflation down for the first time in 8 months, and should trend down here ahead of the election. Now what will Fox News cover? Roll out the Southern border stories,” she tweeted.

Look, I get it. Siskind is a Biden supporter. Yet while inflation might have been “down,” that only means it grew at a slightly slower rate. It is still close to the 40-year high of March. Consumer prices jumped 8.3 percent in April over the prior year, as opposed to 8.5 percent in March. This 0.3 percent price hike from March to April was the smallest rise in eight months — cold comfort for a typical voter, despite Siskind’s hopeful invocation of the election.

Then things got nasty. Ann Brenoff, formerly of HuffPo and the Los Angeles Times, replied, “And don’t forget the baby formula shortage! OMG!” Siskind quipped in return, “lol. They care a lot about that too,” following by multiple laughter emojis.

Siskind is the president of an organization called The New Agenda “dedicated to improving the lives of women and girls,” so to say this dismissive attitude towards the formula shortage is incongruous would be an understatement. If you want to abort your baby, they’re with you. Just don’t expect to feed your baby. These are the same people who like to say that “conservatives only care about babies until they are born.” They’re the same people who used to crow “The Cruelty Is The Point!” about everything Donald Trump did.

How can they reconcile this with their new, palpably cruel rhetoric? One must only throw a rock to hit an indifferent progressive. “The ‘I hate inflation’ flags are being flown from the $80k trucks that get 8 MPG,” screeched some man-child in a viral tweet that got over 43,000 likes. What that man-child doesn’t know — or doesn’t care to know — is that even those who drive fuel-efficient cars pay more for goods and services these days. His Twitter bio, naturally, displays the Ukrainian flag and identifies him as a Democrat, Hillary Clinton supporter, and “human rights advocate.” Why do people like this struggle to have at least as much empathy for their countrymen as for those in far-off nations?

It’s hard to imagine that this flippancy, or Bette Midler’s suggestion that mothers struggling to find formula simply breastfeed, or MSNBC host Stephanie Ruhle’s mockery of the objectively true idea that it is currently difficult to find appliances to buy, or Psaki’s placing blame for the formula shortage on hoarders, will endear Democrats to the voters in 2022. “You have a nice truck yet you think economic decline is bad?” is not the way to America’s heart.

Amid all this rhetorical ugliness, it is useful to pause and remember that people on the left and right both love their children and want a decent life. We just have increasingly broad differences as to how to get there. This is a gross oversimplification, but Aristotle taught that all actions, no matter how misguided, are aimed at an apparent good.

Still, it’s also useful to look at another tweet from Brenoff, the woman who guffawed at conservatives who care about formula shortages. Concerning Trump, she tweeted in 2020 that his “hate-filled rhetoric” went beyond “mere disagreement. He advocates harm toward people who matter to me. And if you aren’t trying to stop him, you are just as bad as he is.” Truer words.

Bill Zeiser is editor of RealClearPolicy.

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