Pennsylvania House Speaker Joanna McClinton, D-Philadelphia (Photo by Amanda Mustard for the Pennsylvania Capital-Star).
A man entered an Atlanta nail salon last week shouting for everybody to get down.
In an instant, the quiet store was now in the middle of a robbery. He brandished a concealed weapon as he screamed for money. Lurching around the shop, he moved within inches of patron’s faces demanding they empty their pockets and give him everything.
Without a word, everyone in the salon decided that this was actually an attempted robbery, and his attempt was pathetic. Not a single person flinched. One woman refused to move, the owner casually took a call, and another woman stepped outside as if this sloppy felony was simply not her vibe.
The body language of the wannabe thief slowly shifts from aggressive to confused. His weapon, now suspiciously looking like a finger gun in a purse, dejectedly falls to his side. Left with no other choice, the man leaves with somehow less than he came in with, his pride shattered on the floor.
In less than 40 seconds, the robber had earned himself millions—of views. The surveillance video has been viewed 15.6 million times on Instagram and 20.8 million times on TikTok.
Never bet against some sweet shared schadenfreude.
The indifferent reaction from the patrons of the salon is indicative of a collective exhaustion we all have been feeling. Give you all of my what? Money? In this economy?
Comedian and political commentator Hasan Minhaj recently interviewed former President Barack Obama and gave voice to this exhaustion.
“I feel that the times that we’re living through right now are bleak and the way that they’ve never felt before… it just seems more insane than ever,” he said. “Congress is insane, Voldemort is running again, you got corruption in the Supreme Court, Roe V. Wade, book bans, trans bills, culture wars, mass shootings, climate change, and now everybody’s wondering if they’re going to be replaced by AI.”
In the lead up to the 2023 elections and eventually the circus that is 2024, I think it is important to admit that progressives need to shift. If Democrats simply blow the dust off the tried-and-true playbook of elections, they will be doing voters a disservice.
Minhaj agrees, saying that we have outgrown the normal progressive talking points, and the antidote is balancing factual accuracy with emotional honesty.
“There are these moments of emotional honesty where there’s such deep resonance because the American public feels gaslit and lied to… I think progressives sometimes can be factually accurate but emotionally dishonest,” he said.
What does political emotional honesty look like? Discernment.
Channel the women of the nail salon. See that fool for what he is: a mediocre man cosplaying as a bank robber waving a fanny pack begging for validation and failing.
U.S. Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg is great at this.
On CNN, Buttigieg was asked to comment on Republican presidential candidate Ron DeSantis’s since-deleted campaign video disparaging the LGBTQ+ community by showing clips of the Florida governor spliced between shots of hyper-masculine men, psychopathic characters, Brad Pitt, Top Gun, and others.
Buttigieg, of course, answered succinctly with policy points but not before being blunt.
“I’m going to leave aside the strangeness of trying to prove your manhood by putting up a video that splices images of you in between oiled up shirtless bodybuilders and just get to the bigger issue,” he remarked.
Minhaj advocates for getting the occasional technical foul. Don’t go silently, point out the absurdity, call it what it is, validate the emotions we are all feeling.
Some Democrats in the Pennsylvania House of Representatives exemplify this.
State House Joanna McClinton, D-Philadelphia, pulls no punches, her voice echoing throughout the chamber carrying the message that the Democrats get stuff done. State Rep. Malcolm Kenyatta, also of Philadelphia, unapologetically called out Republican colleagues who openly laughed after voting to cut funding to Pennsylvania colleges.
Former state Rep. Brian Sims, D-Philadelphia, famously dismissed the booing of his political counterparts by stating, “Your boos mean nothing to me. I’ve seen what you cheer for.”
Starving for a meal
The solution is more than just yanking the Overton Window to the left. It is finally speaking to voters with unfiltered honesty. U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., flat-out saying billionaires should not exist serves as a soothing balance to Mike Pence admitting he doesn’t think the rich should pay their fair share.
California’s Democratic Gov. Gavin Newsom’s proposed 28th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution to address mass shootings is the antithesis of “thoughts and prayers.”
Roe V. Wade fell because conservatives were relentless. Progressives need this energy too. The public is starving for a meal after nearly a decade of frenetic junk food headlines, and too often progressives respond by handing them a recipe.
A run-of-the mill progressive candidate would get just as much attention in that nail salon as the thief. If you are a Democrat whose voice still shakes even after decades of being in power, step aside.
If you are an old guard progressive who is being lapped by newly elected millennials and Gen Zers, gracefully bow out. The time has come and gone for elected Democrats to be placeholders, rank and file, a solid blue vote severely lacking in force and imagination.
The time for fun and games is over.
To quote an emotionally honest Beto O’Rourke, “It may be funny to you, [expletive deleted], but it’s not funny to me.”
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