Tokenism is the Death of Policy and Progress

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There is a real problem on the left and within those who claim to be leftist: Tokens and tokenism. Tokenism on the left and in progressive spaces has organizers elevating people solely based on their skin tone, orientation, or other characteristic, regardless of character or ideology, and using them as a mascot for the “proper” position or stance. Rightist tokenism is the same, except there’s usually an element of assuming that the tokenized person represents their entire group or community, that the people “represented” are a monolith, and any evidence to the contrary is a conspiracy led by Marxists and/or Jews.  

Going further, there are also tokens as objects (digital or real), rather than tokens as people, used as some sort of authoritative indication that a person supports something like Medicare for all., or some other policy or position.  

One of the more commonly found of these tokens represents a group that primarily supported Andrew Yang during the 2020 Democratic primaries, and has shifted to be an indicator of support for some variation of the “Freedom Dividend”, which was Yang’s keystone policy proposal. The “blue cap” emoji has become a digital token representing the physical token that is the #YangGang blue “MATH” ballcap.

Andrew Yang made it a point to wear one of these caps wherever he campaigned during the 2020 primaries. Here’s an image of Yang on the campaign trail sporting the token: 

According to CNBC reporting during the primaries, Yang made his wearing of the cap consistent based on something a supporter told him.  

“One of my supporters said something to me — that the opposite of Donald Trump is an Asian man who likes math.” – Andrew Yang 

The fact that the hat is completely innocuous in isolation is part of what makes it such a good token to rally support with. Unfortunately, nothing truly exists in a social vacuum, isolation in that context is impossible. As such, the “MATH” hat has outlived Yang’s candidacies for DNC Presidential Nominee and  New York City Mayor.  

As mentioned before, the hat ultimately indicates that someone supports some variation of the “Freedom Dividend”, Yang’s version of a Universal Basic Income. Originally, this incredibly flawed policy traded the entire existing social safety net, from Food Stamps and Medicaid to Social Security for a once monthly payment of $1,000 per person. Of course, it was framed as a “choice” that the majority would make willingly. Given the ideological endgame of neoliberalism, once you open up a consolidation of benefits, you will inevitability see less real benefit to the people who need it most.  

(Source: – Snapshot of taken on 10/31/2019) 

Now that Yang is out of the electoral sphere, the blue cap token has become a rallying cry for those who chiefly support some form of universal basic income. As can be observed through rhetoric, many, if not all, of those who identify with the blue cap would rank a UBI as their priority policy, even at the expense of actual progress and/or more common progressive policies. 

In response to genuine attempts to inform and educate, the blue cap clique often stoops to smears, ageism, and other bad faith tactics. There is also, unfortunately, a false lionization of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. as an advocate for the UBI. This isn’t surprising as neoliberals as well as capitalists in general have manipulated the public perception of Dr. King in order to make the populace accept a white-washed, wholly pacifistic, and far less radical caricature of the man  – rather than allowing the actual character of Dr. King to shine. 

As can be seen above, a member of the blue cap clique is peddling ageism against zoomers – Gen Z, a generation that is dealt a burning planet, deteriorating social contract, and far less freedom and opportunity than prior generations while holding no institutional power. 

Here is that same account using the “Schrodinger’s government” fallacy to claim that the federal government would be unable in any circumstance to end involuntary unemployment while empowering communities but would simultaneously be able to administer a cash injection to every resident in the country, despite similar levels of effort and bureaucracy at play with either policy.  

For Emphasis: A UBI is a neoliberal trojan horse designed to entrench and empower capitalism and the elite, parasite class that consistently maximizes their profits at the expense of literally everything else. We need universal basic services, real resources and real supports guaranteed to all, not a flat cash injection without price controls. If landlords, banks, and utility monopolies know that every person in every household is getting X amount of dollars “extra” per month, why would they not take advantage and raise rent, debt, and/or utility payments by that amount simply because they can? 

Another token, this one found in predominantly liberal spaces, is the “blue wave” emoji – 🌊. This token has become inherently associated with the concept of “Vote Blue No Matter Who”, the liberal adage that policy doesn’t matter, only optics – and therefore, literally anyone with a “D” next to their name would be better than Trump.  

Unfortunately for liberals, policy does matter. In fact, it is the very basis of politics.  With the recent influx of Haitian immigrants and the response via the Biden administration through its arm in the Department of Homeland Security’s (DHS) Customs and Border Patrol (CBP) of literally breaking statutory, constitutional, and international law by denying their asylum-seeking and flying them back to Haiti, Biden has now deported more immigrants in his first 9 months than Trump did in his entire 4 years.  

Biden had deported 302,000 people within his first 90 days, whereas it took Trump his full 4-year term to deport 360,000 people. Biden is on track to deport many multiples more immigrants overall in his first 4 years than Trump did, having already surpassed 597,000 confirmed deportations as compared to Trump’s total of 360,000 confirmed deportations in 4 years.  

In other words, it’s taken Biden 9 months to deport 166% as many people as it took Trump 4 years to deport.  

During the Trump era, mass resistance to the presidential agenda was popular resistance. It was fashionable for even our capitalist-controlled mass media, well most of it, to resist the optics of Trump’s policies, just as it was common for liberals to organize mass marches and protests. Liberal politicians went along with the currents against Trump at most levels of the government, even if only in optics. 

“Despite issuing a highly publicized executive order that significantly expanded the enforcement authority and leeway of ICE officers just five days after he took office, Trump has seen arrests and deportations idle, especially when compared to the peak Obama years. This is due to significant resistance from state and local jurisdictions that have limited their cooperation with ICE. Given that most ICE arrests and removals originate with local jails and state prisons, the “sanctuary” policies adopted by California, New York City, and other jurisdictions with high numbers of unauthorized immigrants have served as a significant brake on ICE enforcement.” – Muzaffar Chishti and Sarah Pierce, Migration Policy Institute 

That popular mass resistance to the presidential agenda, boosted by liberals during the Trump years, has nearly completely diminished even as Biden and Harris have continued or expanded several Trump-era policies, and added violent, aggressive, and ultimately fascist policies of their own to the mix. Of course, there are deeply committed organizers among the actual left who continue to fight the good fight. Unfortunately, the raw numbers for actions and demonstrations are no longer as readily available, because the liberals are “back at brunch.” 

The current Biden deportation statistics also mean Biden is on pace to displace more people via deportation than Obama did in Obama’s second term, and roughly as many people as Obama did in Obama’s first term. (2.1M and 3.2M, respectively for Obama) 

(Via  United We Dream | Retrieved 09/23/2021 @ ~11am Mountain) 

So far, Biden has only accelerated deportations, and the Biden/Harris administration has committed an average of 66,406 confirmed deportations per month in its first 9 months. That’s over 66,000 people violently and brutally displaced after making a perilous journey to exercise their legal right to seek asylum. Further, that legal right is codified in United States statutory law, U.S. constitutional precedent, and international laws such as the Geneva convention. To compound this, the destabilization of the Global South – including South American countries such as Haiti, Venezuela, and others is the direct result of U.S. foreign policy, such as CIA-backed coups, sanctions, and other measures carried out by the U.S. government and its allies in order to maintain its unipolar global hegemony.  

If you extrapolate Biden’s 66,000+ confirmed deportations per month and assume his administration randomly, magically, stops the acceleration of deportations, Biden and Harris are on track to violently deport an estimated 3.18 million people in their first four years as President and Vice-President, respectively. In other words, both of the Obama/Biden administrations deported many multiples more people than Trump/Pence did in their administration, and Biden/Harris are on track to carry on the Obama legacy of “Deporter-in-Chief”. 

Add this harsh reality to the continued lack of universal healthcare in a pandemic, the complete abandonment of the Trump-era eviction moratorium and universal student loan forbearance policies, and the rapid expansion of oil and gas permitting, it’s safe to say that the Biden/Harris administration is calculably the greater evil.  And this, of course, is before you consider the toll of the genocides Biden’s administration is funding abroad in Yemen, Syria, and elsewhere, as well as the heavy-handed drone-strike policies. 

From blaming the highly disenfranchised electorate for states taking on costs related to the 2020 election while demanding a blue wave to prevent that in the future all the way to announcing it is time to defeat the unvaccinated, liberals expose themselves as hollow partisans that take their marching orders from mainstream media. Rather than independent evaluation of the facts using evidence, liberals mill along according to the narratives of their favorite news, nightly, and other media programming. Of course, conservatives (themselves often liberal on an objective political spectrum) do the same.  

The blue wave token is chiefly responsible for the popular success of one of, if not the absolute biggest scams in the history of electoral politics- “Vote Blue No Matter Who”. It has so captured the liberal mindset that women were announcing on Twitter that “Joe Biden could rape me on Fifth Avenue and I would still vote for him” in the wake of Tara Reade’s credible sexual assault allegation against Biden. There is far more evidence supporting Tara Reade, from friends to a CNN interview between Ms. Reade’s mother and Larry King, and additional evidence, than there ever was to support Dr. Christine Blasey Ford’s allegation against now-Justice Kavanaugh. Yet, liberals supported Dr. Ford as a heroine and still actively demonize, dehumanize Ms. Reade.  

The executive branch has the power to implement universal healthcare (of sorts – by expanding the current Medicare program’s eligibility to age 0-death) in the current pandemic, thanks to section 1881A of the Social Security Act, and Congress has already vested the power to cancel all student loan debt in the hands of the President. Further, the executive branch has powers to curb or cancel all new federal permits for oil and gas exploitation, but the Biden/Harris administration has opted to open up 80,000,000 (80 million) acres of drilling in the Gulf of Mexico, projected to make at least 50,000,000,000 (50 billion) barrels of oil available over the next decade. In the face of increasingly dire warnings from the UN’s International Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), the Biden administration has argued the latest IPCC report “does not present sufficient cause” to stop drilling. 

Evidently, policy does matter – and the record, donors, and policy proposals of a candidate should all line up. If they don’t, it becomes a question of who is doing the fooling, and who is being fooled. Those answers are usually the candidate and the electorate, respectively.  

Anyone who took the time to honestly evaluate Biden’s long record in politics and in the U.S. federal government, would’ve been able to predict most, if not all, of the general strokes behind his administration’s policies. The Biden campaign had taken far more big, corporate money than the Trump campaign leading up to the 2020 general election. In other words, Biden was more heavily bought and paid for by corporate interests, including having taken more money than Trump in at least the following industries/sectors: 

  • Health  
  • Finance 
  • Tech 
  • Lobbyists 
  • Lawyers 
  • Insurance 

Biden had also done objectively more harm to the black community and immigrants to the United States, the state of American civil liberties, and brown people abroad prior to his ascension to President, than Trump could ever have done in 4 years. From the authoring of 1994 Crime Bill and the 1995 Omnibus Counterterrorism Act- the legislation that later became the 2001 Patriot Act, as well as overseeing without protest the 2012 NDAA combined with the expansion of drone warfare under President Obama, Biden is personally responsible for an incalculable toll against life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. Now that he’s been President of the United States for roughly 9 months, the only campaign promise he’s come close to honoring is “nothing will fundamentally change”. 

The diffused energy, wasteful organizing, and institutional harm done by just these three tokens (“MATH” /blue cap, red beret, & blue wave) is, frankly, incalculable and unknowable. It is time for the progressive left to move beyond such hollow and aesthetic litmus tests and organize around policies and material improvements for the working class. 

1 thought on “Tokenism is the Death of Policy and Progress”

  1. Pingback: Tokenism is the Death of Policy and Progress - Artemis Douglas

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