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On Identity Politics

by ARGeezer Tue Dec 20th, 2016 at 05:00:54 PM EST

What Those Who Studied Nazis Can Teach Us About The Strange Reaction To Donald Trump  HuPo

On election night, MSNBC's Chris Matthews had a revelation. Matthews, with a pained expression, began to piece together the basis for Hillary Clinton's pending defeat. She had failed to communicate a tough position on illegal immigration. She had supported bad trade deals. She had not renounced all of the "stupid wars."  

Her presidential rival, Donald Trump, on the other hand, had waged what Matthews called a "legitimate" campaign on these issues, a claim that seemed to stretch the bounds of legitimacy, but Matthews was not alone. In the following days and weeks, others would make similar claims implying a victory that, weeks before, had been impossible was actually inevitable ― and liberalism was largely to blame

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In a New York Times op-ed, "The End of Identity Liberalism," Mark Lilla argued that "moral panic about racial, gender and sexual identity" had "distorted liberalism's message and prevented it from becoming a unifying force capable of governing." Trump's popularity, Lilla argued, was not a consequence of a white backlash (whitelash) but rather a reaction to "the omnipresent rhetoric of identity or `political correctness.'"

And the problem with 'identity politics' is that everyone can play. All of the minority identity political agendas were blown out of the water by the simple expedient of mobilizing the now largest minority in a 'no majority' population - by a right winger. It was a disaster waiting to happen.

For more lasting success campaigns have to address the needs of all, but have to repudiate the bigotry and hate of any. Universalism is the concrete foundation for governing.  


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Zizek liberlsplains that political correctness costed Dems this election:

And even Salon.com says that feminine advancement had this effect.

Silently, it was clear to me that PC (and identity politics) can go too far and could be an easy political target - but I did not really object the progressive social-political authorities. Since no one else did either, what leadership and internal dialogue can we expected?

by das monde on Thu Dec 22nd, 2016 at 05:39:20 AM EST
It is natural for those who feel that their identity group is being and has been harmed to band together for self protection. This is what the Civil Rights movement did. But they also, especially Martin Luther King, contrasted those wrongs with the universalist ideals of the founders of the USA. And when Democratic politics came to resemble a coalition of identity politics the Clinton campaign decided they could win without significant support from the largest minority - those who self identify as white but are not rich. They still got some white votes, but not enough. They strayed too far from universalism.

"It is not necessary to have hope in order to persevere."
by ARGeezer (ARGeezer a in a circle eurotrib daught com) on Thu Dec 22nd, 2016 at 03:24:00 PM EST
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I've been saying for 30 years that this splintering would kill us, but the DLC/DNC is dependent on identity politics so it can keep avoiding addressing the consequences of its neolib economic policy.
by rifek on Sat Dec 24th, 2016 at 12:38:13 AM EST
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Objectively it looks like identity politics is an effort to be inclusive laudable on its face -if cursed by virtue-signaling- but perceived as a frivolous, Godless  luxury cared about only by those who were comfortably off, often hypocritically.

Trump's voters have seriously incoherent understanding of politics, but they knew they were right about one thing, that they were not invited to the high table of modern wealth creation, and their fate was perceptibly worsening.

The identity that was all that was left to them was not socially liberal enough to make them house pets for the Democrats, no brownie points for adopting their children.

They had become used to being ignored out in the boon docks and we're pretty OK with it as long as they could play the fringes of capitalism, farming, marketing and local real estate, a trip to Vegas every so often.

Then the bottom dropped out. Church and opioids, semi-deserted towns and trailer camps, for sale signs, self-worth crumbling and no-one caring about how to include them in the 'post-recession' party.

Hillary keening for more war. More debt, more sorrow.

Pity there wasn't a kinder, gentler alternative to the Trumpster, to at least give him a run for his money.

Oh wait...

'The history of public debt is full of irony. It rarely follows our ideas of order and justice.' Thomas Piketty

by melo (melometa4(at)gmail.com) on Sun Dec 25th, 2016 at 07:17:21 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Keening for more war, more debt, more transfer of wealth to the 1%, and more and ever higher speaking fees from GoldmanSachs is what the DLC was and is all about.  

She believed in nothing; only her skepticism kept her from being an atheist. -- Jean-Paul Sartre
by ATinNM on Sun Dec 25th, 2016 at 07:24:19 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Team Bernie: Hillary `F*cking Ignored' Us in Swing States The Daily Beast
In the final months of the brutal and chaotic 2016 campaign, there were plenty of Democratic activists freaking out about Wisconsin, Michigan, and Pennsylvania (the three states that ultimately cost the Democrats the White House) and Clinton's fatal shortcomings there. Many of them were envoys of the Sanders camp who wanted to help fix those problems, including Clinton's difficulties with the block of the mythical "white-working-class," economically anxious voters who Sanders had championed during the primaries.

"They fucking ignored us on all these [three] battleground states [while] we were sounding the alarm for months," Nomiki Konst, a progressive activist and former Sanders surrogate who served on the 2016 Democratic National Committee platform committee, told The Daily Beast. "We kept saying to each other like, `What the fuck, why are they just blowing us off? They need these voters more than anybody.'

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"We were saying we are offering our help--nobody wanted [President] Donald Trump," Konst continued, noting that the "Bernie world" side was offering Clinton's team their plans--strategy memos, lists of hardened state organizers, timelines, data, the works--to win over certain voters in areas she ultimately lost but where Sanders had won during the primary.


It was as though the Clinton Campaign and the Sanders aides were living in different universes. Plain English was mutually unintelligible.


"It is not necessary to have hope in order to persevere."
by ARGeezer (ARGeezer a in a circle eurotrib daught com) on Thu Dec 22nd, 2016 at 03:44:18 PM EST
Dems could write a manual how to loose momentous elections. Or they may be using one. Fake news, fake elections...

Clinton did not make Asian Americans overly enthusiastic either:

Clinton's Asian American snub could have cost her Michigan

Asian Americans, after the final ballots were cast on election day, had voted for Clinton over Trump by a whopping 79% to 17% nationwide margin, according to exit polls by the nonprofit Asian American Legal Defense and Education Fund.

But there are hints that Michigan might have gone "blue" if Clinton had won a stronger and earlier endorsement from an influential national Asian American voter organization. As it turns out, Michigan's Asians favored Clinton by a 65% to 29% margin, noticeably less than the nationwide average.

[...] S.B. Woo, the president of the 80-20 National Asian American PAC, a political action committee, contends that Clinton could have pulled more Asian American votes in Michigan, as well as nationally, if she had actively pursued the group's endorsement.

Woo noted in an article posted on 80-20's website that Clinton was asked to attend 80-20's endorsement convention in August with the promise of a full endorsement if she showed up. But Clinton declined.

by das monde on Fri Dec 23rd, 2016 at 02:21:42 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I suspect that blindness may be a better explanation. People, including smart people, tend not to see what they do not understand - unless they are specifically looking for such a thing as a scientist might. People also tend not to see that which conflicts with their sense of self worth, and the Clintons and like minded Democrats had spent a political lifetime figuring out how to get money from Wall Street so they could compete politically. It is naturally difficult for them to see, and harder still to acknowledge, the damage their policies have done to large numbers of US Citizens. It is easier just to write them off as 'just' this, that or the other adverse label.

"It is not necessary to have hope in order to persevere."
by ARGeezer (ARGeezer a in a circle eurotrib daught com) on Fri Dec 23rd, 2016 at 07:36:50 PM EST
[ Parent ]
No, we understood perfectly the English coming from the Clinton campaign: "You've interfered long enough in the democratic process that will inevitably annoint Hilary.  Now shut up, get in line, and let the professionals take care of this."
by rifek on Sat Dec 24th, 2016 at 12:43:42 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Well, that was the intent of it. As to the justification, the Clintonistas have their world view and the Sanders supporters have theirs. To their credit the Sanders supporters do have a better understanding of what underlies the Clinton camp than vise versa. And the Clinton camp was/is blind about the very problems that Sanders is addressing.

"It is not necessary to have hope in order to persevere."
by ARGeezer (ARGeezer a in a circle eurotrib daught com) on Sat Dec 24th, 2016 at 01:04:53 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Wilfully blind, and more chacterially untruthful than even the Don.
Damn high bar...

'The history of public debt is full of irony. It rarely follows our ideas of order and justice.' Thomas Piketty
by melo (melometa4(at)gmail.com) on Sun Dec 25th, 2016 at 07:23:36 PM EST
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Yep, the Hillbots had an opinion, and in a free society, everyone gets to have one, but no one is entitled to have it even listened to, much less agreed with, they've been firmly entrenched on that last step since the 2008 campaign in spite of all evidence outside their echo chamber being to the contrary.  And that's why she lost.
by rifek on Tue Dec 27th, 2016 at 12:55:39 AM EST
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Democrats go into elections knowing several things:

  1. Approximately 35% of voters are dyed-in-the-wool racists and will always vote Republican

  2. The media is owned by corporate entities and therefore will never really allow someone like Sanders to have his message come across in the media, and it will also undercut politicians like Clinton who get a head of steam.

  3. We have wildly divergent voting processes locally, many of which allow for voters to be caged or tossed off the rolls, especially in areas of high poverty. Fewer machines for voting in poor areas also creates a disincentive to vote.

Given this, Democrats have to plan accordingly:

  1. GOTV areas in areas under voting attack (the Clinton campaign didn't do this in Michigan)

  2. Tailor media messages to attract the 20% of swing voters who may/may not vote Republican. Clinton had a natural drawing card with such voters--the Detroit Auto Bailout. Instead, she fumbled when Trump talked trade during debates.

  3. Get down and dirty at the local level of battleground states--lawsuits, court challenges to voting rights, judicial appointments etc.

I don't buy this argument about identity politics. It just seems to obscure the real pressure points of the election. Those who don't like political correctness are among the 35% who are dyed-in-the-wool racists and would never vote for Democrats anyway. You don't hear much about identity politics anyway until a GOP candidate starts dog whistling and making racist comments in order to charge up that base. Bemoaning political correctness is just bemoaning when people call you on your racist bullshit.

One thing that isn't as evident in Western Europe is the role of religions in elections. In the USA, we now have Christian Dominionists who have infiltrated gov't and who don't seem to care a whit about the traditional system of American democracy, checks and balances. These people are essentially fascist, and there is strong reason to suspect that at their core, the dominant ideology is racial, and not religious at all. Religion is a cover. The KKK was a hard core Christian group.

by Upstate NY on Sat Dec 24th, 2016 at 04:20:37 PM EST
My point was that by dismissing so much of the white vote the Clinton team failed to appeal/didn't even try to appeal to a good number of white voters they could well have had vote for them. A campaign needs to craft a message that can appeal to all, but it does not have to send the same message to everyone all the time. But the various messages do need to be mutually non-contradictory.

"It is not necessary to have hope in order to persevere."
by ARGeezer (ARGeezer a in a circle eurotrib daught com) on Sat Dec 24th, 2016 at 05:03:21 PM EST
[ Parent ]
It's true that Europe doesn't have nearly as bad a fundie infestation as the US (except maybe in Poland, where there are some truly scary cults pretending to be political parties). But many of the European ugly parties are explicitly sectarian, and most of the overt chauvinism is couched in sectarian rather than ethnic terms.

They haven't managed to penetrate the deep state to anywhere near the extent they have in the US, but I suspect that it is less due to the absence of Baptist bigots and more due to a deeper cultural suspicion of public displays of piety among the non-sectarian majority. In the US you have the problem that your culture gives great latitude to public displays of piety, and pointing out that the preacher man is by any reasonable standard a frothing lunatic is not done. This cultural taboo is less pronounced in Europe, so the crazy cultists stick out more and can be purged more easily.

- Jake

Friends come and go. Enemies accumulate.

by JakeS (JangoSierra 'at' gmail 'dot' com) on Sun Dec 25th, 2016 at 08:50:16 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Identity politics is also only weakly defined and like with political correctness what exactly is demanded or denounced depends on the author.
What the left wants is a return to class politics first of all and a lot of the establishment's soul searching about identity politics reads like a frantic effort to not even think of that and instead try to just be a bit more racist. And frankly they even sucked at identity politics however you define it. What kind of crazy person believes you can pander to the classic minorities as usually used in political discourse and moderate™ Republicans simultaneously?
by generic on Tue Dec 27th, 2016 at 03:36:55 PM EST
Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy does a pretty good job analyzing Identity Politics.  

What is crucial about the "identity" of identity politics appears to be the experience of the subject, especially his or her experience of oppression and the possibility of a shared and more authentic or self-determined alternative. Thus identity politics rests on unifying claims about the meaning of politically laden experiences to diverse individuals. Sometimes the meaning attributed to a particular experience will diverge from that of its subject: thus, for example, the woman who struggles desperately to be attractive may think that she is simply trying to be a better person, rather than understanding her experience as part of the disciplining of female bodies in a patriarchal culture. Making sense of such disjunctions relies on notions such as false consciousness--the systematic mystification of the experience of the oppressed by the perspective of the dominant. Thus despite the disagreements of many defenders of identity political claims with Marxism and other radical political models, they share the view that individuals' perceptions of their own interests may be systematically distorted and must be somehow freed of their misperceptions by group-based transformation.


She believed in nothing; only her skepticism kept her from being an atheist. -- Jean-Paul Sartre
by ATinNM on Tue Dec 27th, 2016 at 08:39:44 PM EST
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