Friday, June 17, 2022

Rate that Apology, Part 11: Lizzo

I will confess: I don't know much about Lizzo. But my wife is a fan -- she actually saw Lizzo in concert years ago before she was even the headlining act (she was opening for Haim at a show in Berkeley). So I have a cool wife, even if I remain a very nerdy husband.

Anyway. One of the songs in Lizzo's recently released album uses the word "spaz" in a somewhat unfriendly fashion, a slang for from being freaked out or uncontrollable ("I’m a spaz/ I’m about to knock somebody out/ Yo, where my best friend?/ She the only one I know to talk me off the deep end."). She was criticized by members of the disability community, who contended that "spaz" was an ableist slur. Here's her apology:

It’s been brought to my attention that there is a harmful word in my new song “GRRRLS”. Let me make one thing clear: I never want to promote derogatory language. As a fat Black woman in America, I’ve had many hurtful words used against me so I understand the power words can have (whether intentionally or in my case, unintentionally). I’m proud to say there’s a new version of GRRRLS with a lyric change. This is the result of me listening and taking action. As an influential artist I’m dedicated to being part of the change I’ve been waiting to see in the world. Xoxo, Lizzo.

This is, I think, superb. Seriously, it's a model. It is contrite in a way that is proportionate to the harm caused. While it gives some mitigating context (e.g., that the harm was unintentional), it is not primarily framed as an apologia, nor does it suggest that good intentions are the be-all-end-all of the relevant analysis. It takes responsibility and commits to a tangible action item that will ameliorate the wrong caused. It's hard to imagine what more one could ask for. Great work, Lizzo!

And on that note: one nice thing to observe here is that, as the linked article notes, Lizzo's apology seems to have been well-received.  She has not been "canceled"; it seems that most of her critics are satisfied with the response she made. Certainly, it helps that Lizzo has a broad base of goodwill she can draw upon -- most of her fans are not looking for an excuse to exile her from polite society. Nonetheless, it is notable that the histrionic cries that cancel culture is naught but a bloodthirsty mob out to destroy lives without possibility of redemption doesn't seem to be borne out. If you actually take the complaints seriously and respond in a way that shows you're taking responsibility, people will appreciate that.

Grade: 10/10

Wednesday, June 15, 2022

Why Is Democratic Support Amongst Latinos Crumbling?

Republican Mayra Flores won a special election for a heavily Latino Texas House seat on Tuesday, turning a historically blue seat red for the first time in over a century. While redistricting means that the seat will likely elect a Democrat in the fall, Flores' victory is the apex of a trend where Democratic performance has crumbled in the historically-blue Rio Grande Valley.

What is causing this trend? I'll dispense with one no doubt popular hot take -- the whole "Latinx" thing. No, it's not popular amongst the broader Latino community. But also, no, it's almost certainly not driving a major vote shift given how few Latino Americans have even heard of the term.

That said, something is clearly in the air. It seems evident that many Democrats just assumed that Trumpist rabble-rousing about immigration would permanently turn off the Latino community and send them (further) into the arms of the Democratic Party. That maybe led to some coasting, which is now coming back to bite Team Blue. But that still doesn't offer a positive explanation about what issue areas are driving the Latino vote today -- especially when it seems that the Republican Party's political extremism, and ties to White nationalism, is growing more pronounced.

Of course, one can fairly observe that "the Latino vote" is an amalgamation of several different political collectives who hardly share identical interests or perspectives. Mexican-Americans in the Rio Grande Valley have many differences from Puerto Rican voters in New York or Cuban-Americans in Miami. But even if we cast a more focused lens, concentrating on places like the Rio Grande Valley, I think the puzzle remains (and I'd also ask whether there is, right now, a substantial subsector of the Latino population which is currently moving in a more Democratic direction? If not, then it seems there is a problem here that is occurring across cohorts).

Likewise, it has long been known that many Latino Americans are socially more conservative than the median American Democrat. But that's always been true, raising a "why now" question. Is this a backlash against (perceived or real) excesses amongst progressives in socially liberal policy? I know everyone likes to blame "the Squad" for everything, and I think that's a temptation to be resisted, but at least it's a hypothesis that needs to be explored. Nonetheless, I doubt that's the only valid explanation on offer, and I'm interested in hearing others.

The Debate Link Reaches Legal Adulthood

Happy eighteenth birthday to The Debate Link! I started this endeavor in 2004, just after graduating high school. Now it's 18, and I'm 36 -- meaning that I've been blogging for half of my entire life.

There's a sobering thought. Anyway, happy birthday! To many more!

Tuesday, June 14, 2022

Why Hasn't AIPAC Endorsed Marjorie Taylor Greene?

AIPAC's much-criticized decision to endorse a slew of Republican insurrectionists has been the talk of the pro-Israel town over the past few months. AIPAC's tweet today praising top Trumpist leader Elise Stefanik -- just a few days after one of Stefanik's prize House recruits came under fire for (checks notes) praising Hitler -- is par for the course. AIPAC's defense has always been straightforward: we do not care what any politician says or does on any issue but Israel. Insurrection, antisemitism, bigotry, corruption -- it all takes a back seat. AIPAC is laser-focused on one thing only, and that's Israel policy.

But here's my question: If that's true, why hasn't AIPAC endorsed Marjorie Taylor Greene?

Greene is a fanatic, a bigot, an antisemite, and a certified loon. But I would be surprised if her policy on Israel is meaningfully distinct from that of any other far-right House Republican. So what explains AIPAC's hesitance?

It's obviously not a sudden bout of scruples. It's a calculation -- Greene is someone they don't want to associate with because of her extreme views on issues other than Israel. Which is correct -- they shouldn't associate with her. But having made that judgment, it is entirely reasonable to note that the implied corollary -- that other bigots, extremists, and haters are people they are willing to associate with. It's not a single-minded focus on Israel. They making broader judgments. And they can be justly criticized for them.