The Great Progressive Betrayal

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Much of the post-election hand-wringing about Democrats driving typically liberal voters into the hands of a Trump-led Republican Party has focused on where that effect was most pronounced: Hispanics in Florida and Texas. But that shouldn’t obscure the other glaring indicators of left-wing hypocrisy and the constituencies suffering because of it.

As conservatives have increasingly rallied for the reopening of our economy, liberals have been the loudest advocates for keeping it closed, no matter the cost. The most harmful aspects of the lockdowns fly in the face of science, making the suffering they cause unnecessary. That they do so knowingly makes the policies cruel as well.

Last week, my local food pantry served 884 families. Every week for the past three weeks, it had 100 more families than the week before coming to collect a box of processed food and produce from the county and donations. Before the pandemic, the same pantry served 80 to 100 families a month. Now, the distributions are weekly instead of monthly, and serving 10 times as many families. The recipients of the aid, according to officials at the pantry, are usually immigrant families, often newly jobless service workers. The response to COVID-19 of closing every restaurant and office has left them out of a job, and because of their immigration status, most didn’t even receive the initial stimulus checks — $1,200 that was supposed to make up for a lost job for six months and counting never even landed in their bank accounts.

Early in October, Democratic House Speaker Nancy Pelosi blocked a GOP bill aimed at alleviating some of the financial destruction of the lockdowns. CNBC reported at the time:

The GOP tried to advance its bill, similar to one Democrats opposed last month.

The measure failed in a 51-44 party-line vote, falling short of the 60 votes needed.

The stalemate in the Senate extends months of gridlock on Capitol Hill as millions of Americans, trying to afford food and housing and keep their businesses open, await more federal aid during an economic crisis. Election-year politics have jarred the legislative process as new Covid-19 infections in the U.S. reach levels unseen in weeks.

Republicans in Congress argue Democrats have reached for an expensive wish list filled with many provisions unrelated to the crisis. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., has said Democrats are engaging in “all-or-nothing obstruction” as they hold out for a comprehensive deal worth about $2 trillion.

Given the choice between helping suffering families and playing chicken trying to pass a pork-filled bill, Pelosi chose the latter.

Then there’s the glaring gap between the rhetoric of women’s rights and economic empowerment and the reality.

In September alone, 1 million women left the workforce. It’s not a mystery why: With schools closed or running on an abbreviated in-person schedule since the spring, America’s mothers are stretched too thin. While teachers unions across the country have held their districts hostage, parents have had to step into the gap. Parents of school-aged children are responsible for all of their children’s needs at every moment of the day: physical, emotional, and educational. Mothers able to work from home did so the majority of the spring and summer, with the hope that life would return to a semblance of normal in the fall. They held out hope that they could begin working full-time again without distractions, even if it was still at home. But come September, that hope was dashed. Of course, the mothers who left the workforce were those who could afford to do so, those with a partner able to pick up the slack financially. And once again, liberals remained silent. As women left the workforce in droves and single and lower-income mothers faced an impossible situation, there was nary an outcry against the unions that have worked relentlessly not for the well-being and best interests of their students and their families, but for the right of their teachers to work remotely indefinitely.

Women were already bearing a lot of the economic brunt of the pandemic itself. “Female-dominated industries, including healthcare, education, elder care, service, and hospitality, have been among the hardest hit by the COVID-induced recession,” Time reported in October. “When the pandemic first overwhelmed the U.S. in March and April, hospitals began furloughing nurses and medical assistants who primarily worked on elective procedures. Daycares, struggling with plummeting enrollment and skyrocketing overhead costs, laid off 250,000-plus workers. By April, 72% of housekeepers had reported being abandoned by all their clients. Restaurants, which lost all their dine-in business overnight, laid off their servers — 70% of which are women.”

But job loss is only part of it. “Many women are leaving the workforce not because their jobs have vanished but because their support systems have,” the article continued, pointing to remote schooling and the closure of daycare centers.

That leads us to the unequal effect this arrangement has on less-well-off children and teenagers.

Whereas the children of the middle and upper classes have parents building pods and working around the clock to supplement insufficient remote education, the less fortunate are falling behind. In September, ProPublica’s Alec MacGillis published a chilling report about the failures of remote learning, profiling a child, Shemar, living in Baltimore with unstable adults and spotty access to the internet. MacGillis painstakingly lays out the minimal risk of infection and spread in schools and highlights how unions have, in the face of the clear science regarding school safety, nevertheless worked against reopenings, in part just because President Trump advocated for them. Given the choice between proving the president right and serving disadvantaged minority students, unions chose the latter. MacGillis closes with this devastating picture:

For the foreseeable future, Shemar would be spending his days as he had spent the spring and the summer: in a dark room, in front of a screen, with virtually no direct interaction with kids anywhere close to his own age. Sometimes the screen would hold Minecraft and Fortnite; sometimes, if he got the hang of the log-ins, it would hold Zoom.

Schools in cities such as Baltimore, though deeply imperfect, had long given children a break from such isolation — the key, as the supporters of 19th-century charity schools argued, was to get disadvantaged children out of the home and into school, every day. For the time being, in Baltimore and many other American cities, that function was on hold.

I kept thinking of something Karen Ngosso had told me about Shemar. “His story, it could be any number of kids,” she said. “There’s thousands of him. There’s millions of him.”

Not only are liberals silent in the face of this clear abuse and neglect by our society of millions of disadvantaged children, but one of the largest and most powerful arms of progressivism, the teachers unions, has actively fought against them. Perhaps most galling at this moment of educational neglect, Joe Biden has announced his intention to appoint a number of teachers union leaders to top spots at the Department of Education.

The progressive abandonment doesn’t end there. As we’ve faced lockdowns crushing small businesses, another sector is feeling the crunch: the arts. The bedrock of a major economic sector in cities across the United States, theaters have been shuttered indefinitely. In New York City, it’s projected that Broadway won’t host another show until at least May of next year. All of these employees, from musicians to actors to the service workers running the behind the scenes, are left out of work, often choosing to abandon expensive city life when there is no opening curtain on the horizon.

Of course, the lion’s share of the damage to the arts, at least in the here and now, is organic to the pandemic. I spoke with a professional, full-time classical musician in the D.C. area who, discussing the future of his industry, told me, “There’ve been a lot of think pieces asking, ‘Is classical music dying?,’ in the past, but it’s dying now! It’s dying, and we’re killing it in the name of safetyism.” He described the indefinite shutdown of symphony orchestras across the country, but also what the future holds for musicians who require regular practice and years of training. He lamented the failed attempts at conducting lessons with students over Zoom, some of whom tried to play “sitting in a La-Z-Boy chair.” As with education, the full harm of locking down children who aren’t vectors of the virus won’t be known until it’s too late to do anything about it.

Museums have been hit hard as well. I spoke to one professional working at a private foundation museum in the D.C. area whose institution is seeing 20% of the day-to-day foot traffic that it did at this same point last year, and with the three-month closure in the spring, the museum lost any hope of ticket sales for its most profitable season (which can account for up to 75% of its yearly income). His museum is lucky — donors provide a cushion — but still made deep and painful cuts in every department. Many other museums have no chance at surviving without government assistance, such as the package blocked by Pelosi. The closures don’t have to sound the death knell for many of these institutions, but Congress seems content to let them die. As with highly skilled musicians and actors moving on from their industries, trying to make ends meet in other sectors, museum employees are walking out the door with their expertise and training. He warned, “I fear that we have lost a lot of important cultural institutions and a lot of dedicated people, who don’t do what we do to get rich. That which is not saved is lost forever.”

Liberals have long been obsessed with telling people to check their privilege but are now flaunting their own. The least they can do is volunteer at a local food pantry and meet the victims of their neglect.

Bethany Mandel (@bethanyshondark) is a stay-at-home and homeschooling mother of four, editor at Ricochet.com , and contributor to the Washington Examiner’s Beltway Confidential blog.

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