identity politics

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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Jim Webb and #BlackLivesMatter

At first sight, Jim Webb doesn’t sound like the kind of candidate that could capture the Democratic nomination. He talks a lot about bringing disenfranchised poor whites from Appalachia into the Democratic Coalition, but for now the Democratic Party relies on a coalition of urban progressive whites and ethnic minorities. He was and still is in my opinion the biggest challenger of the status quo of American Politics, he is better than both Rand Paul and Bernie Sanders on foreign policy, but it should be said that he is a realist, not a non-interventionist, which could explain why he could sound a little hawkish with respect to Iran.

Webb was among the first to talk about criminal justice reform when he was in the Senate. There are reasons for that, most Democrats since McGovern until recently had been afraid to talk about the subject, since they were afraid to be portrayed as soft on crime, but someone like Webb who had an accomplished military record could take on these issues without being portraying as a hippie. But even with his background some advisors were afraid of Jim Webb pointing to issues like criminal justice reform in his campaign for the Senate back in 2006, now with the irruption of #BlackLivesMatter, things could be different

The problem of Jim Webb in today’s Democratic Party is not necessarily that the party has gone so far to the left. Obama opposed single-payer healthcare and supported trade deals like the TPP. The problem is that the left had become tribalist, the confrontation between Latinos and Afro-Americans over the California Democratic Senate nominee show us that very well. Jim Webb has strong record of talking about justice for minority communities, however I think he would be dismissed by #BlackLivesMatter for his cultural conservativism. This is a mistake. Both Jim Webb and conservatives like Rand Paul have been good on the issue of criminal justice reform, but liberals don’t like to give them credit.

People think that ethnic minority politicians should be the ones talking about these issues but the fact is that a lot of them have already endorsed the corporatist and militarist Hillary Clinton. I think that if Webb focused on those issues, minority Democrats and progressive whites could support him. I would never have imagine that a Secretary of the Navy in the Reagan administration could be better on those issues than a socialist like Bernie Sanders, but the fact is that political courage has characterized the political career of the former Senator. A soldier in his fight for justice started a crusade that for some had been seen as quixotic, now the entire country is talking about it.

Bernie Sanders versus the progressive left

Bernie Sanders Rally: Photo by Melissa Fossum

When Bernie Sanders made his entry into the Democratic field, few people would had imagine that he could become a real challenger to Hillary Clinton, but now he is the champion for the liberal wing of the party. Bernie Sanders, the 73 years old self-described socialist elected as an independent to the House and Senate representing Vermont, wasn’t as popular as liberal firebrand Elizabeth Warren but he had a good record of siding with the unions and bashing income inequality. So one would assume that the progressive left would be on board with him, but there are exceptions, both in and out of the party.

From the independent left their major distrust for Sanders is his foreign policy, which is relatively hawkish. The Green Party had mixed feelings about Sanders, but there were some that last year were trying to convince Bernie to run as a Green. Now the feeling is of distrust toward Sanders, most greens and independent progressives fear that an endorsement of Hillary Clinton from Bernie would siphon progressive votes into a militarist and corporatist candidate. Green Party members and allies said that Bernie Sanders isn’t Eugene Debs and they are right, but some on the Trotskyist left think otherwise. Some on the independent left might prefer the Green Party nominee Jill Stein over Sanders but still say some good things about him, while others basically called him a neocon of the left.

If people on the independent left, the Green Party or some Trotskyist outlet distrust Bernie is because he isn’t one them. But why the progressive left in the Democratic Party be against the most progressive candidate of this election cycle. The answer is #BlackLivesMatter and the recent Netroots conference prove that. Bernie Sanders is considered by black and brown liberal activists to be soft on the issue of racial inequality — that’s why they interrupted his speech. His answer that he was active in the Civil Rights movement and that he marched with MLK didn’t calm the angry crowd, neither the fact that his other answer for solving racial tensions was to speak about economics. The hashtag #BernieSoBlack mocked a campaign supposedly out of touch with racial justice topics. The criticism of Sanders has even been made about his white supporters.

I’m a socialist and for me the fight against racism is vital part of politics, but I feel deeply troubled by the attitude of the protesters. Matt Bruenig had alredy made the case that Bernie Sanders had already spoke on issues like racial justice so why are the activists so against the old socialist, but mute about Hillary Clinton, who supported the racist tough on crime legislation of his husband. I’m not by any standard a fan of Bernie, my libertarian socialist tendencies made doubt about his bureaucratic social democrat ideals, but I think than if they want to talk about racism why not to question the role of Hillary Clinton in the Libyan War which prompted a humanitarian crisis that affects mostly poor black Africans?

I was surprised to known that even the two time presidential candidate of the Socialist Party and longtime antiwar activist David McReynolds was disgusted with protesters over the Netroots event. It would be wise bring back to discussion of police unions, which Bernie Sanders and most progressives are usually in favor of. And the fact that he represents a mostly white state doesn’t excuse him from the responsibility of talking about these issues. But even with that said, Sanders is not a Nazi or any kind of racist, and if Sanders hasn’t been the best friend to black communities, is Hillary Clinton any better? She may have a more diverse campaign team, but is a staunch supporter of the racist War on Drugs.

I wonder who the black and brown liberal protesters are going to vote for, the man who had been active in the civil rights movement his entire life, or for the wife of a governor that honored the Confederate Flag. I wrote that liberal identity politics were responsible for the death of the New Left ideals of decentralism and anti-imperialism. Liberal identity politics today is a powerful ally to the neoliberal status quo, because it is very difficult to find a perfect progressive. Liberals are in large part responsible for building the racist Prison Industrial Complex, and with self-defeating strategies like those favored by some activists their cause will be lost. Stop wasting the time attacking a man relatively good on the issue of race and confront the fact that a racist Empire should be the subject in question.

Recently in an interview, Ron Paul said that Muhammed Ali inspired him, and that he would have liked to be as brave as him for resisting the draft. Ron Paul is right, Ali was a brave man but it wasn’t only his refusal of being part of the Army — he talked about an Empire abroad and at home whose victims are mostly people of color.

The Turing-Poe test

With the rise of the internet radicals and internet trolls, it would be an interesting exercise to apply the Turing test to Poe’s law. Is that person posting that stuff an idiot? Are they just pretending to be an idiot? Or is it idiots tricked into looking like even bigger idiots by a loose group of people pretending to be idiots? Because that’s exactly what happened with #EndFathersDay on twitter.

straw feminist

This prank originated on 4chan’s news and politics board, /pol/, a board known for its radicalism, offensiveness and free speech, and it’s clear that it was success. What’s more interesting is that this isn’t your typical black propaganda, because it actually fooled the people that it was satirizing into joining in. The hashtag topped twitter’s trending lists, sweeping up thousands of bona fide feminists in the apparently empowering anti-holiday frenzy. Plenty of savvier feminist tweeters pointed out that such tweets needed to stop – not because the rhetoric is fucking crazy, but because of who is originating the hashtag, since the internet is public and any group of people planning such thing will be uncovered with a little digging.

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