Academics and Urbanites

Booman had a very interesting post a little bit ago, addressing the issue of a divide between white progressives and non-white progressives. I might want to address that question on my own later, but for now I’m going to leave it aside and focus on a couple of other questions he hits on. First, Booman sees a fundamental divide between “academic progressives” and “urban progressives.” I wouldn’t disagree, per se, but healthcare actually seems to be an issue with little divide between those groups. But here’s how he characterizes the academics:

The progressive blogosphere is completely dominated by academic progressives. Bloggers of color tend to be just as highly educated as white bloggers. Most of the really well known progressive bloggers have advanced degrees, in law, economics, political science, or something else. They tend to be interested in the theoretical aspects of public policy, like determining what might be the ideal way to deliver affordable, accessible health care to all our citizens. That’s good. We need that. But urban and labor activists tend to work on the ground in communities of need. They are focused on giving people help right now, not on winning some epic ideological battle in Washington DC. Their idea of progress is much more mundane. Can they help Mrs. Smith keep her house? Can they can get Mr. Jones the dialysis treatment he needs? What can they do about these payday lenders? Can they negotiate slightly more pay or better benefits for their workers?

So, when it comes to something like the health care bill, you’ll see academic progressives throwing up their hands and saying that no bill should be passed if it doesn’t do x,y, and z. And they have solid reasons for saying that, reasons that are substantive both politically and policy-wise. And then you’ll see a lot of urban progressives looking at them quizzically, asking “are you out of your ever-loving tree?”

Maybe Booman and I have a different idea of who counts as “academics” in the blogosphere, but as best I can see, at least in the healthcare debate it’s not the people I would classify as such, the Ezra Kleins, Matt Yglesiases, Kevin Drums, etc., arguing that healthcare reform should be struck down because it lacks X, by and large they’ve got the same concerns Booman ascribes to the urbanites; how many uninsured people will it expand coverage to, how large will the Medicaid expansion be, will the subsidies extend to 300% or 400% of the federal poverty level, etc. I appreciate the point that urban activists tend to have more “mundane” concerns, but these are basically the same kind of concerns, just on a larger scale. But the academics seem very concerned with doing anything possible to improve the lot of working class and poor people, it’s the self-fancied activists in the netroots like Hamsher and Markos who have picked out pet provisions and decided everyone can fuck off if they don’t get their ponies.

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