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Democrats must expel extremists if the party is to survive

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You can say whatever you want to about nextdoor.com, but one thing’s for sure: it’s an accurate reflection of what’s on people’s minds at any given time.

I value that. We need to have these conversations about important issues, especially during this pandemic. I realize that discussion can get heated, but what’s wrong with that? Lately, the number one topic in my nextdoor.com neighborhood is homelessness and the rapidly spreading tent cities that are taking over vast tracts of Oakland.

There are basically two sides: what I’ll call “pro-homeless advocates” (for want of a better term) and those who are begging the city to establish some sort of control over the camps. The advocates are essentially saying that homeless people are our unhoused brothers and sisters. They need our help, and we ought to provide them with what they need. At their most extreme, the advocates demand free housing for each of Oakland’s 4,500 homeless people, as well as healthcare, psychological counseling, job training, basic lifecare supplies and so on. The advocates never say where the money for all this should come from. Yes, they make vague sounds about raising taxes on the rich, or on corporations. They point out that America, as the richest country in the world, should be able to take care of its homeless citizens. But it seems to me that the advocates are unschooled in the realities of politics and economics. Whenever I read a comment on nextdoor.com that begins with, “Oakland should build free housing for all the homeless people,” I think: Here is a person without the slightest comprehension of how the real world functions.

The other side is those of us (me included) who want the city to do a better job managing the camps. Since our current mayor, Libby Schaaf, was elected in 2014, homelessness has spread like a plague. There are camps everywhere: in public parks, blocking sidewalks, under freeways, at intersections, next to schools. I think what especially provokes some of us is the filth accompanying the camps. The homeless advocates consistently portray all homeless people as fine, upstanding human beings who have been victimized by a capitalistic system of white patriarchy, but those of us who are living with the camps all around us see the homeless people every day, and we know that they’re not all angels. One commenter on nextdoor.com called some of them “swinishly sociopathic,” a description with which I agree. Perhaps they are suffering from mental illness, and perhaps some of them are under the influence of drugs and/or alcohol, but society has never recognized those conditions as allowing for individuals to wantonly destroy our neighborhoods. The piles of garbage and junk that are strewn everywhere in Oakland are insults to those of us who pay taxes and have tried very hard to make Oakland a safe, livable city.

The two sides—pro-homeless advocates and those who would control the camps—speak past each other. The advocates seem unable to accept the fact that there is no solution to homelessness. There is not enough money in all of Oakland to accomplish what they want, and there never will be. I should think that stark reality would be enough to make them accept some reasonable degree of camp management by the city, but no, they want no controls over the camps at all. To even suggest that campers keep their areas clean is, to the advocates, fascism, or racism, or elitism—they have a lot of “ism’s” they toss around, when they’re unable to deal with criticism on a rational basis.

As someone who keeps close track of the political and cultural pulse of Oakland, I sense that things are changing. The negatives of living here—not just the filth, but the soaring crime rate—are pushing even liberal people over to a more hard-edged realism. It’s one thing to be a Bernie Bro when you don’t have to fear for your life walking down a dark street at night, but when that fear becomes visceral, suddenly even the most ardent Bernie Bro starts wondering if “defund the police” is really a sane policy. More and more of my neighbors on nextdoor.com are openly expressing support for the police, and disgust with a Schaaf regime that is unable or unwilling to do anything to tackle Oakland’s real problems. What we get from this regime are platitudes about racial justice, not actual solutions to the things that bother real people.

As a white male, and as a gay American who has seen the viciousness of homophobia all my life, I’m proud to call myself a Democrat. The Democratic Party has always fought for the rights of minorities, and we should not allow the fact that there’s still a long way to go, to obscure the many wonderful things that Democratic legislation has accomplished, at the city, state and federal levels. I loathe the Republican Party for what it has become under trump: a cult of ignorant white supremacists, paranoids, religious fanatics and debased gun owners. It’s common knowledge lately that the Republican Party is trying to figure out its future—how it should deal with the insane people in its midst. Well, the Democratic Party is also struggling with an identity problem. Are we going to be the party that supports leftist anarchists burning down our cities and looting our stores? Are we going to be the party that insists homeless people have to right to occupy public spaces and trash them? Are we going to be the party that defunds police departments? Are we going to be the party that renames public schools named after Abraham Lincoln and George Washington because some leftist radicals think they were evil racists?

I sincerely hope not. Going down that road will lead to permanent minority status for Democrats. It will cost us control of the House of Representatives in 2022, and possibly of the Senate, as well as of the presidency in 2024. We Democrats simply have got to take more “moderate” positions with regard to the issues; the suburban women who voted Democratic in 2018 and 2020, and the Black women who gave us amazing victories last year, are not Antifa radicals. Just as the Republican Party must expunge the Marjorie Taylor Greenes from their midst, we Democrats must expel extremist elements from our party. They are not doing us any good, and are actually hindering progress toward the social justice and economic fairness we all want.

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