Identity Politics versus Identity Politics

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Last week, Rod Dreher published two thoughtful articles on Trump and identity politics. In the first, Dreher argued that Trump is the champion of white identity politics. In the second, he argues that white identity politics is a result of left-wing promotion of minority identity politics. I agree with Rod Dreher’s take – he isn’t the first to connect Trump’s rise to a nascent white identity politics movement, but he’s by far the most clear.

Dreher says that minority identity politics alienated a part of the white population, especially if they were male, straight, middle-aged and rural. This, he argues, causes an equal and opposite reaction in the form of a new identity politics that alienates minorities.

Such a phenomenon existed prior to Trump, but with him it has taken a new path. Even left-wing blogger Freddie De Boer was surprised over an Indiana job post written in Chinese. Yes, maybe De Boer was trying to make a joke, but think seriously about a middle age white jobseeker coming across something like that. That’s part of why Trump has the support that he does. Dreher puts it more precisely:

Crude as he is, Trump seems to get in ways that no other senior Republican gets is the degree to which American politics, cultural and otherwise, have become about raw racial and demographic power. I suppose you could plausibly argue that they always have been, but at least most of us tried to argue in classical liberal terms for a more fair and just society. What Trump seems to be saying is, “And look where that got you, white people.”

It’s not just economics. Demographics are the key of Trump support, such as with in Peter Thiel, whose politics are fairly more libertarian than the average Trump supporter – it’s in opposition to the culture of political correctness where he aligns with the candidate.

It’s strange to me that the devotion to PC culture and the promotion of diversity that seems to be the main goals of American liberalism is strange. I was shocked when I listen about the Gay Victory Fund a PAC that gives money to LGBT candidates, and I was shocked when I discovered that they didn’t give money to David McReynolds, the Green Party candidate for US Senate in New York despite being an icon of American radical left for being two times an openly gay presidential candidate in the Socialist Party ticket. I guess sometimes some people think partisanship is a secondary effect of identity politics. I, however, think that partisanship is the cause of identity politics.

In a bipartisan country, how can someone think beyond outside such a box? Identity politics is nothing new. The New Left was certainly more open to diversity, as exemplified by Democratic coalition that formed around George McGovern in 1972. The Southern Strategy of the GOP alienated black voters, with the payoff of winning them more white voters.

In the 90s, when Ralph Nader appeared as a presidential contender for the Green Party, people missed the opportunity to the fact that identity politics fuels neoliberalism. When Nader was critic of South Africa, Paul Krugman accused him of being a racist. When Nader was critic of Israel, Krugman accused him of being an anti-Semite. Even in a Fox News interview, when he suggested that Obama maybe an Uncle Tom, the host suggested that Nader was a white supremacist.

If a Fox News anchor is buying left-wing talking points on the matter, it’s clear that shows the country was doomed to accept group grievance politics and ethnic patronage as the norm. Nader was accused in his several runs of being dismissive of poor minorities. The funny thing is that Nader himself a minority – he’s an Arab American Orthodox Christian, but he has never made it a part of his politics platform, unlike, say, Al Sharpton.

When I say that identity politics fuels neoliberalism I’d invite the reader to look at the case of Bernie Sanders. In the Democratic primary, the liberal establishment has tried to the use the same arguments that they did with Nader, but even though he has a strong showing in very diverse states. Sanders has an appeal to some of the same supporters that Donald Trump working class whites. But unlike Nader, Sanders seems to have embraced the PC discourse on diversity.

One of the critics of Sanders’ embrace of identity politics is Glenn Loury a Professor of Economics from Brown University. Glenn is the host of The Glenn Show on Bloggingheads.tv and is a fierce critic of political correctness. Being a black liberal, however, he sounds very different than Donald Trump. He recognizes that immigration has hurt black workers, that broken families are a great source of misery for the black community, and that affirmative action deserves a critical reassessment. If he was white, he would had been accused of being something along the lines of a Nazi. Being black gives him a sort of PC teflon to such attacks, but it remains to be seen how long that will last.

I’m a Latino left-libertarian who supports open borders, women’s rights and gay rights, but even I worry that the PC machine is becoming a monster. Diversity is good, forcing such an ideology onto society bears some characteristics of totalitarianism. Free speech should be defended, and fashionable talk of tolerance should extend to the toleration of dissenting opinions. Otherwise, we could see the United States slide into something nightmarish.

(Image source)

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