Left and Right

The Many Agonies of Jacobin Magazine

By Sohrab Ahmari Compact

The afterworld haunts the latest print issue of Jacobin magazine. The theme is “The Left in Purgatory,” and the cover illustration shows Sen. Bernie Sanders and Reps. Ilhan Omar and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez on a couch in some sort of waiting room. Jacobin back issues are laid out on a table before them. In the background, a TV weatherman forecasts clouds—day after day after day of overcast skies; it is not a bright springtime for the Brooklyn left.

The issue is devoted to figuring out why leftists are undergoing a process of “dealignment” from the workers they speak for, as publisher Bhaskar Sunkara puts it in an opening column. To anyone willing to look out the window and honestly describe what he sees, the answer is obvious: Aggressive cultural liberalism doesn’t answer—but exacerbates—the crises facing wage earners. Leftists’ boutique identitarian concerns don’t concern the underclass. And the culture clashes between the two camps reflect material conflicts.

Some of the featured writers seem to appreciate this. Sunkara warns that “it is increasingly hard to argue that the fault for the left’s predicament lies with everyone else but ourselves.” And yet this acknowledgment of reality, when it happens, happens in the most elliptical, cryptic fashion possible. It’s like pulling teeth.

An interview with David Shor, the Obama data whiz who has been warning Democrats of a looming electoral disaster, is instructive. “Working-class people,” he tells Jacobin, “aren’t reactionaries. But they are much more moderate on social issues.” Take any of the day’s febrile cultural issues—biological men competing in women’s sports or gender ideology in pre-K—and what Shor calls the “moderate” position is framed as reactionary by the Jacobin left. This alienates lots of ordinary Americans (and Europeans). Shor knows this. So does Sunkara. But they have to break the news to readers gently. Very gently.


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