13 January 2021

Gabriel Winant: “Joe Biden’s promise of a fifteen-dollar minimum wage might mean little to a given voter if everyone around thinks Biden is a pedophile and a crook, while Trump is a working-class hero. The former’s nattering about higher wages will seem duplicitous no matter how many times the campaign slogans are reiterated. But the situation is even more straightforward than this example suggests: if your experience of the world bears no residue of popular power, and no residue of that power having brought about any improvements in the quality of your and your neighbors’ lives, it is natural that such promises sound fraudulent. Even without the excessive layer of conspiracy theory and hysterical grievance, what politicians say only succeeds if it checks out against social reality as it’s lived. … The working-class majority still exists, of course, but only as an economic category — not a social one. … Sanders told us to ‘fight for someone you don’t know,’ and we did. … Thousands repeated it to someone else. But not enough thousands. Not in enough contexts where it made sense and matched the data of the world — and in particular, and most painfully, not enough of the members of the Black working class without whom American socialism is an absolutely impossible project. … Such a belief changes only when the world around its bearer changes. Fighting for someone you don’t know is a beautiful idea; fighting for someone you do know is how you win.”