Thursday, November 24, 2016

Post-Identity Dumbassery

Uncle Sam's Thanksgiving Dinner, Thomas Nast, 1869

Since the election we've had a whole bunch of pundits (and Bernie Sanders) blaming the result on "identity politics" and urging Democrats to throw their core constituencies under the bus. The worst of these may be this one, by a humanities professor named Mark Lilla:
One of the many lessons of the recent presidential election campaign and its repugnant outcome is that the age of identity liberalism must be brought to an end. Hillary Clinton was at her best and most uplifting when she spoke about American interests in world affairs and how they relate to our understanding of democracy. But when it came to life at home, she tended on the campaign trail to lose that large vision and slip into the rhetoric of diversity, calling out explicitly to African-American, Latino, L.G.B.T. and women voters at every stop. This was a strategic mistake.
He says "identity politics" have made liberals "narcissistically unaware of conditions outside their self-defined groups, and indifferent to the task of reaching out to Americans in every walk of life"--which is pretty hilarious because that description certainly applies to the willfully ignorant shitheads living in 95% white enclaves who wound up voting for Trump. His "post-identity liberalism" "would concentrate on widening its base by appealing to Americans as Americans and emphasizing the issues that affect a vast majority of them"--in other words, ignoring any issues that make white people uncomfortable. (Ixnay on the Ackblay Iveslay Attersmay.)

About halfway through, we get to this passage that gives away the game:
National politics in healthy periods is not about “difference,” it is about commonality. And it will be dominated by whoever best captures Americans’ imaginations about our shared destiny. Ronald Reagan did that very skillfully, whatever one may think of his vision. So did Bill Clinton, who took a page from Reagan’s playbook.
You can take your "commonality" and shove it up your ass, dumbfuck. Reagan harped on "welfare queens" and started his 1980 campaign in Philadelphia, Mississippi with a speech extolling "states' rights". Bill Clinton picked a fight with a prominent hip-hop artist and executed a retarded black man. That's not rejecting "identity politics"; that's practicing white identity politics. (And yes, Clinton and Reagan differed in both magnitude and relative malignancy of their white identity politics. But they both practiced it.)

And that's what Lilla is arguing for: white identity politics--a kinder gentler white identity politics, with, y'know, less cross-burning and shit. That's what all these critics of "identity politics" are arguing for, either explicitly (like Lilla) or implicitly.

(Also worth reading: Rebecca Traister on this issue. And for historical perspective, check out this piece about the cartoon at the top of this post, and a nativist parody thereof.)


Ken_L said...

I'm always amused to see thoughtful pundits emerging from the woodwork after an election, opining out of their arses. If a few hundred thousand voters had changed their minds at the last minute, we'd no doubt be reading about the crisis in the Republican Party and how essential it was for it to root white nationalism out from within its ranks if it was ever going to win another term in the White House.

If 'identity politics' is code for recognising that America is a diverse society and there are no one-size-fits-all government measures that will promote social justice for all, then liberals need to do more of it, not less. What they need to do less of - a lot less - is pointing and laughing at how funny those dopey redneck conservatives are and chortling who could ever elect idiots like that?

Unknown said...

You wouldn't be misrepresenting BS's views on the matter, would ya?

“In other words, one of the struggles that you’re going to be seeing in the Democratic Party is whether we go beyond identity politics,” he continued. “I think it’s a step forward in America if you have an African-American CEO of some major corporation. But you know what, if that guy is going to be shipping jobs out of this country, and exploiting his workers, it doesn’t mean a whole hell of a lot whether he’s black or white or Latino.”

rclz said...

Everyone has an identity, everyone. So if you walk into a republican national convention and all you see is white folks as far as the eye can see, that's white identity but you know they never call it that.

Sure I can see broadly appealing to everyone but not if it means throwing everyone who isn't a straight white male under the bus.....F'em.