There's been a bit of an uproar since a New York Times op-ed by long time Democratic strategist Mark Penn was published on Thursday. Penn has been roundly denounced by pretty much everyone from both the Clinton and Bernie camps for calling for the Democratic Party to return to the 1990s:
The path back to power for the Democratic Party today, as it was in the 1990s, is unquestionably to move to the center and reject the siren calls of the left, whose policies and ideas have weakened the party.
In the early 1990s, the Democrats relied on identity politics, promoted equality of outcomes instead of equality of opportunity and looked to find a government solution for every problem.
Translation: Stop supporting women's reproductive rights, LGBT equality, BLM and immigration reform, please. It's making white people uncomfortable.
What I found interesting is that even as the hard left (along with the rest of us) criticized Penn and the dwindling economically conservative left he represents, he's delivering the same message they do when it comes to who the Democrats should cater to. Both Penn and the economic inequality-obsessed fringe would very much like for all those pesky marginalized groups to go sit in the back of the bus. It's hard to focus on the important issues affecting the white working class with all these interest groups screaming about social justice and civil rights! This, by the way, is identity politics, but it's for white people so we're supposed to pretend it's not.
The difference between Penn and the fringe, of course, is that Penn would prefer for the Democrats to focus on "third way" (read as: conservative) economic politics again and the hard left would like to burn the Democratic Party to the ground. Still, they both agree that the left needs to focus on appealing to white people because they feel abandoned and put upon. You know, how all those marginalized groups have felt for the past couple of hundred years. Why can't they wait their turn? White people are having a hard time in this economy and need to be coddled!
This isn't to say white people are not actually suffering; they certainly are. At long last Republican policies have "trickled down" so even the white working class is under the same kind of stress black and Latino communities have been under for generations. But the answer is not to abandon everyone else to rush to the aid of legitimately beleaguered whites. We can tackle income inequality while still addressing institutional racism and immigration reform.
The upside here is that it's unlikely anyone will take Penn seriously. Since Hillary is not considered a "real" liberal (despite a lifetime of progressive service), her loss has not been widely seen as a refutation of progressive ideology. In this, we can be thankful that Bernie didn't run and lose to Trump (and he would have, sorry) because then voices like Penn would have been amplified a thousandfold.
Instead, we have a pleasant moment where Hillary and Bernie people can agree that Penn should find a new profession because he's badly out of touch with the Democratic base and our economic message. Now if we can just get the Bernie people, the overwhelming majority of whom are not supportive of political segregation, to get the message across to their fringe, we'd be good to go.