My Delgado Endorsement (Part 2)

So that’s the endorsement.  Now, as promised, comes the self-critique which being applicable to myself is by definition of no general interest.  That said, it is worth discussing in that my specific circumstances are fairly typical in at least one important respect of my rough cultural, social and economic class.  In particular, those in our class position have a particular set of privileges and among these is being able to make political choices and to publicly express them without too much concern for the consequences of doing so. These include, as some of us have chosen, radical politics.

It is, of course, never easy to make sacrifices-to take positions which challenge those with real economic, social and political power which is what if means to be a radical, after all. However, it is much easier to do so if one has resources which can cushion their impact. By resources I mean that in the most material sense, namely, access to capital: not income but accumulated wealth-both personal and family-which can be drawn on if, for example, one is fired from one’s job due to expressing one’s political beliefs, or isn’t hired in the first place. Of course, no one likes living on the margins, but the cost of being a “luftmensch” can be born by those with resources. Those who don’t have these can’t make the sacrifice and will rarely make it.

That brings me back to Delgado-a more or less perfect exemplar of the multicultural meritocratic class which reached its zenith in the Obama administration. I don’t know anything specific about Delgado’s personal finances aside from his near mid six figure Akin Gump salary is somewhat misleading. Yes, it puts him in the upper 1% of the income distribution. But it is quite likely that his personal wealth is nowhere near that. He has only been working for a few years, and likely much of this income went to living expenses in New York City where he had previously resided, paying off student loans (Obama and his wife didn’t discharge these until well into his presidency), and a down payment on his upstate home.

It’s easy for those like myself who got into the housing market early, payed nothing for our college educations, have some family money to fall back on etc. to pass judgement on those like Delgado for the choice he made to, and here goes the phrase, *sell out* by taking a job defending white collar crooks for Akin Gump. But selling out for him and those in his position isn’t really a choice-it was more or less a necessity. Not taking a high income job when it is available to you means the kind of sacrifice which is almost unimaginable to folks like me and we have no business passing judgement on those who do.

And here comes the other phrase lurking in the background now needing to be invoked: white skin privilege. I’ve written plenty about the cynicism with which neoliberal operatives have weaponized this phrase, as we saw most notably in the Bernie bro smears of 2016. But while rejecting the use to which it is put, there is a sense in which any thinking person needs to recognize its substance. While plenty of differences between the races are superficial and others cynically ginned up by neoliberals, there is one difference, which can’t be explained away, which is to say a gap, namely a “wealth gap.” And we can put numbers on it. It is the difference between $95,261 for white families versus $11,030 for African Americans.

I don’t know where Delgado’s family registers with respect to these figures. I would guess it would be on the upper end given that both his parents had unionized jobs in Schenectady for some years and were able to buy a home. But even with a six figure bank account, Delgado would be in no position to depart from the straight and narrow path to success which really means not so much comfort but a basic standard of living in the waning years of the neoliberal epoch. For those on the wrong side of the white privilege equation, it means even less.

None of this should be read as a defense of either Delgado’s campaign coalition or his politics which I view with just as much suspicion as ever. Rather it is an explanation for why we can expect to be disappointed by him.

Our politics needs to be based on an understanding of the actual forces and constraints which dictate the choices of those who enter into politics.

Once we have it we will still have every right to be disappointed by their inevitable sells outs to the corporate establishment.

But we shouldn’t be surprised.

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