Author: Camilo Gómez

My main interests are history, politics, international relations, film and music. Twitter: @camilomgn

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.

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Liberalism After Obama

With the Obama presidency coming to an end, much of the energy that might have been devoted to analyzing his legacy has been diverted by Donald Trump. But how can one make a fair analysis of a polarizing figure in American politics?

Speaking for myself, as someone of the left with libertarian tendencies, it’s difficult to have much sympathy to the man, however a lot of criticism coming from the GOP is sadly too partisan and unthoughtful. I think from the left the criticism is fairly more interesting, CounterPunch is an outlet that continuously had denounce Obama for his liberal interventionism, the bank bailout, the crony capitalism of the Export-Import Bank and even the corporatism of Obamacare. Recently progressive journalist Jeremy Scahill attacked Obama over drone killing. But one has to wonder where the progressive discontent with Obama comes from.

Allow me to suggest the hopes of the progressives were too high — but they were also misled. Back in 2008, Ralph Nader argued rightly that in a lot of issues John Edwards was actually more progressive than Obama, but the symbolism of the first black president trumped any real discussion of who Obama really was. Matt Gonzalez, a former Green Party councilman of San Francisco that was the vice presidential candidate for Ralph Nader argued that Obama was far from the pacifist some on both right and left try to portray.

On the right the thing is more complex. While some argue racism, the main reason is partisanship — liberals hated Bush every bit as much as conservatives hate Obama. Let me be clear, there were racists and white supremacists of different kinds that were against Obama from the get go but in general the reaction was more than just against Obama, it was against a country changing demographically — Obama was a symbol but not the cause.  

While the radical left and average conservative were fierce critics of Obama, the world seemed to like him more than Bush. Obama recovered the image of America but was far from being the new JFK. The Kennedy years gave American liberalism an identity, the Obama years failed to do so. A government that supposedly signified the victory of the McGovern coalition was closer to the neocon foreign policy than the thoughtful realism of the late South Dakota Senator.

The foreign policy of Obama enabled a Cheney-lite candidate like Hillary to have an easy time becoming the next candidate for the Democratic Party. He was less hawkish than Hillary but was far from being a dove, liberal interventionists and other warmongers were very influential in his government and are going to be even more if Hillary gets elected. Even Sanders who calls himself a socialist is very much a military Keynesian and even supports drone killing.

The popularity of socialism among the young makes one wonder what these could mean for the American left. Without major socialist figures, the next leaders of the Democratic Party will probably identify themselves as FDR Democrats embracing New Deal liberalism — plus identity politics, but nothing revolutionary.  

Obama would still be in high regard within the base of his party and is a useful tool for the party. A Hillary presidency would preserve his legacy in a better way, Trump would try to undo what he has done including his major foreign policy victory in the Iran deal. Sanders is still a mystery because if he is successful he would replace a lot of Obama’s major policies including Obamacare.

Back to the real question of what Obama means for liberalism: seems to be more a symbolic image than a revolutionary change, he represents the victory of identity politics. That being said Obama is by far one of the smartest politicians of the last time, a charismatic leader that gave hope to a generation. Liberalism after him could be more populist in the line of Sanders but at the same time more hawkish in the line of Hillary. I still wonder if Russ Feingold could run in the future for president, it seems like he will be re-elected to the Senate. His mix of civil libertarianism and foreign policy restraint seem to be ideal to form a broad coalition. Another thoughtful leader for the future could be Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard who bravely fought against the Clintonite establishment. Tim Canova who is running to unseat corporatist Debbie Wasserman Schultz represent the new generation of insurgents.

You can love him or hate him, Obama had marked a time of extreme polarization. He hasn’t shaped the Democratic Party in the way some thought he would and he had united the GOP against him. He knows that the future is unknown and that his legacy depends on the future, but he did his best. And while he didn’t exactly deliver the change people think he would bring, he changed the image of America in radical way.

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Graveyard of elephants

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The GOP is in Civil War, as Rod Dreher says. There are few possibilities of a Trump victory as pointed out by Noah Millman, he will lose against Hillary Clinton and against Bernie Sanders he would probably perform even more poorly. So is there a hope. For those who read The American Conservative the permanent mantra of Pat Buchanan is that Trump would win against Hillary because he is populist. I think there are a lot of flaws in that declaration, Jesse Walker shows that the term populist had been used for a long time for very different political characters, just like some people seem Trump as a populist, liberals and some independents seem him as a demagogue. Even those on the left who could recognize him as a populist probably would prefer to throw their support behind Sanders who in a general election would accuse Trump of being a millionaire who wants to simply buy the election. While I consider myself a proud anti-imperialist, despite the efforts of Pat Buchanan and Ron Paul, few people consider foreign policy their main priority. Even if Trump probably would be less hawkish than Hillary, his defeat is almost a ccertainty. So what could happen to the future of Republican Party?

Trumpkins. The establishment would face a difficult challenge if Donald Trump doesn’t get a majority of the delegates at the convention. But whether they support him or make a last attempt to stop him, they would alienate one of two groups. If they support Trump, independents might prefer the Democratic nominee whoever it is. If they support another candidate, trumpkins might feel betray and stay at home in November. What would happen after that, the establishment really hates Trump but knows that in order to win they need their supporters. However after 2016, like in the 90s with Buchanan or in 2010 with the Tea Party, the GOP would face an existential challenge. The big question is whether Trump would run in 2020.

The establishment. Trump’s rise had shown that many Republican primary voters have little interest in neoconservatism. It seems also that Israel is not a priority for conservatives, even evangelical Christians. Another Wall Street Journal editorial calling for tax cuts and open borders wouldn’t change that. There could be consequences for not heeding what were once the Buchanan supporters in the 90s or the Paul supporters in the 2000s. Being out of power so much time could have certain effects, Jon Huntsman was almost a parody of a RINO in the 2012 primary, however as one of few national figures with bipartisan appeal the GOP may trust him for a comeback.

Libertarians. On the one hand the popularity of Trump is a clear example that a majority of Republicans are not libertarians, however it also has shown that they could vote for an anti-establishment candidate. The major surprise of this election is that the one calling for getting out of NATO is Trump. The average GOP voter maybe not be a perfect anti-imperialist but don’t buy the neocon foreign policy either. So could they want the libertarian realism of Rand Paul, I doubt it. Probably Justin Amash and Thomas Massie are going to have a better chance.

Social Conservatives. They might find out the hard way that corporate America is not going to be friendly with them. Especially Hollywood and Silicon Valley differ too much from their agenda of religious freedom. I don’t think it’s surprising that corporate America could panic more from Trump than Sanders because Scandinavia had shown that corporations could survive higher taxes, when the state take care of the necessities of workers instead of them. Immigration is a subject that Trump raised but the establishment also know that corporate America wants open borders forcheap labor. It is very difficult to imagine how they would nominee in the future Cruz, Huckabee or Santorum but the real question is if they could choose Trump again.

Justin Raimondo 2020

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The unpredictable success of Donald Trump has perplexed left-wing activists and pundits who had call him a fascist. But not only people on the left, even neocons had battled him over not following their warmonger orthodoxy. Donald Trump has been awful on Muslims but good on his neutrality over Israel. The Donald has been worse on his comments on Mexicans but certainly less hawkish than every one of the remaining Republicans. If a three times married millionaire New Yorker is about to win the Republican nomination, the question is if other outsiders can win in the future.

My humble suggestion is Justin Raimondo, for whom I have a sincere admiration. As the founder and editorial director of Antiwar.com, he has been one of the most committed people to the cause of peace. His columns are really among the best material one could find about American foreign policy. As a proud anti-imperialist of the libertarian tradition, he has supported Pat Buchanan, Ralph Nader and Ron Paul. Three man that on a lot issues had disagreements but they share commitment of a Republic, not an Empire. Unlike other libertarians who he dismiss as Cosmopolitans, he came from the Old Right and remain there.

His appreciation for Trump has been misunderstood, he is not supporting him but the chaos and panic the New York millionaire is causing in neocon circles. That would be the same chaos and panic that Raimondo would cause if the he decides to be a Republican presidential candidate. He could had a base of the Ron Paul supporters and it could grow with support of voters with anti-establishment feelings.

One might wonder why I’m saying these. While the most probably thing is that Donald Trump is going to be the Republican nominee, I think he is going to lose not because the neocons are against him but for alienating minorities. So either Hillary Clinton or Bernie Sanders would be president. I hate the liberal interventionism of Clinton so I guess that Sanders would be better in foreign policy, however the Vermont has also embraced military Keynesianism. But America needs a truly anti-imperialist.

Another question that some would ask is what about Rand Paul, Justin Amash or Thomas Massie. They are by far the most libertarian in Congress but not enough. As Justin Raimondo had said in the past, the attempt of Rand Paul to appease neoconservatives had led him to nowhere. Amash and Massie could learn from Rand mistakes, however being congressmen they would be putting their seats in risk. So no better outsider than Justin Raimondo who previously ran for Congress in 1996 as a paleolibertarian challenger to Pelosi in San Francisco, he has move but still lives in California.

Raimondo style is ironic and direct, confrontational to neocons and liberal interventionists. As a Rothbardian, he would consider foreign policy his main concern and that could open the possibility of a left-right populist alliance against Empire. I don’t know if he would accept that challenge, he has done much for the cause of peace with his writings but politicians had compromise over and over again, maybe is time for a real change. Vote Raimondo 2020.

The Bernie Congress

There is group of progressives inspired by Bernie Sanders that had decided to run for Congress – that’s the topic of my CounterPunch piece today. An excerpt:

For readers of CounterPunch the candidature of Bernie Sanders has generated mixed feelings. On the one hand he has pushed for progressive policies in economic issues, on the other hand he hasn’t been as antiwar as much of the progressive community wish he had been. But he has inspired young people tired of neoliberalism and imperialism of Hillary Clinton. And not necessarily only young people, there is a list of what has been called the Bernie Congress including progressive challengers inspired by Sanders to run Democratic primaries for Congress. Some would face a relatively easy election in heavily Democratic districts while others would try to compete swing districts and others try to win even in Republican districts with a populist message.

Read the whole thing here to know the complete list of Sanderistas that hope to represent the progressive wing of the Democratic Party in Congress.

Time of coalitions

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These are strange times in American politics with outsiders like Trump and Sanders gaining momentum. Jeb Bush is out and Super Tuesday could complicate Hillary Clinton. How does it happen? Lefties try to blame everything on neoliberalism but the editorial of The American Conservative says that these ideology is dying. Sanders is un-reconstructed New Deal liberal who calls himself a socialist while Trump is more heterodox probably could be defined as an anti-immigrant moderate. Despite ideology, coalitions would be build thinking in November. Let’s have fun and try to guess.

The Trump Coalition. Last week big news was the endorsement of moderate governor like Chris Christie, but more recently his refusal to disavow white nationalist David Duke has been making reactions both on liberals and conservatives that think is naïve to believe that Trump doesn’t know who is David Duke and what is the Ku Klux Klan. Trump has an appeal on the former supporters of Pat Buchanan, white working class rural Americans but also on certain moderates attracted to a “Dealmaker”, he is even doing well by some polls among Hispanic Republicans. The endorsement of Jane Brewer is very significant, she was a hardliner on immigration and a supporter of Obamacare. In the general election some predict he could gain some independents and if Hillary wins maybe even some Bernie supporters. But if Sanders wins, The Donald would had a hard time, is difficult to be more anti-establishment than an old Jewish socialist.

The racist supporters of Trump coalition add to the rhetoric of its leader could alienate minority voters. The big government plans could scare libertarians. His distrust in foreign interventionism is making neocons panicking. Certainly a candidate with loyal followers and hateful enemies.

The Clinton Coalition. The victory in South Carolina shows that Hillary is strong among African-American community, but Latinos are divided and white progressives are feeling the Bern. Ideologically she is pushing her feminism in search woman voters but may not work after Steinem embracement. She was trying to focus in domestic issues rather than in foreign policy where her hawkishness is out of touch with the mostly dovish Democratic base but Bernie made some punches with her on the matter of having a War Criminal like Henry Kissinger as adviser. Neocons like her and in the case of a Trump victory in the Republican primaries they would support her.

A lot of progressives see her ties to Wall Street as distrustful. A Jewish progressive feminist like Jill Stein running as Green Party candidate could made the things difficult for Hillary and some Sanders supporters had even pledge to not support Hillary in November.

The Anti-Trump Coalition. Donors and party insiders would like us to believe that these is really strong coalition, capable of defeat the populist Trump. But I think that is too late for that, Trump is going to be the nominee. Some are trying to go third party, more explicitly a neocon third party. I wonder how much support it could get. The neocon candidate of the primary was Lindsay Graham who’s polling was an embarrassment, it’s true that candidates like Jeb Bush or Marco Rubio were also neocons but their appeal was not necessarily their foreign policy. The position of Trump about Israel is quite interesting, he says he would be neutral on Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Probably some might try to portray him as an anti-Semite but that due to his close ties with Israel that would be hard. The question of a VP could be crucial if neocons are able put one of their own in that position, however Trump has shown he is independent minded and don’t want to be push by anyone.

Some Republican congressman and maybe even some former Presidential candidates could refuse to endorse Trump. Probably even the Bush family would reject The Donald. There had been talks about the future of George P. Bush who currently holds office in Texas but if he decides to endorse Trump, he might have problems in a future, living in a state were Latinos are becoming the majority. Texas is a state where the GOP had been able to gain an important share of the Latino vote but some may find Trump too divisive to support him and emigrate to the Democratic Party. Is very difficult that George W. Bush difficult would support Trump after he accuse him of being responsible of 9/11. That a former GOP president would refuse to endorse a nominee of his own party could be signal of the end of an era.

The Sanders Coalition. While initially he was accused of attracting only male white progressives. He now is leading with young woman and making waves among the Latino community. The endorsements of current congressman are quite diverse ethnically and religiously with Keith Ellison, Raúl Grijalva, Tulsi Gabbard and Peter Welch. The endorsement of Gabbard is particularly interesting because she is of Samoan descent and of Hindu faith. She is not a progressive even by the heterodox American standards having express doubts of the Iran deal and being in the past praised by neocons, however she is the face of shifting demographic.

Some say a Sanders versus Trump race would be socialism versus fascism. America probably will choose socialism, a fascist like FDR had already been elected and even praised by Bernie. If the neocons fail go get a third party a choice between Sanders and The Donald would be tough. On the one hand, Bernie had embrace Military-Industrial Complex, especially wasteful F-35 fighter jets from Lockheed Martin which are assembled in Vermont and Trump is unpredictable, could the neocons join hands with their comrades of the Fourth International, that would been fun to watch. The same reason that maybe even some neocons feel the Bern is the one who scare progressives, Bernie says he is socialist but on foreign policy he has embraced military Keynesianism, that’s why some progressives still if he is Democratic nominee would back Jill Stein in November.