The specter of identity politics is haunting the left. It shows up at teary-eyed election parties in Berkeley, debates over craft beers in Williamsburg and the editorial pages of the big opinion shaper papers.
No less an icon of the left than Bernie Sanders has been grumbling that his movement needs to reconnect with working people again. He even tentatively denounced identity politics. “It is not good enough for somebody to say, ‘I’m a woman, vote for me.’” Bernie bears a grudge. That’s obvious. But the old Socialist has a history of spouting the old Socialist working class denunciations of immigration.
Bernie is really arguing that the Democrats ought to emphasize class more and race less. Similar left-wing squeaks have popped up in a handful of editorials. But they aren’t likely to travel very far.
The Democrats are losing the Rust Belt, just like they lost the South, because they have become an urban political machine. Identity politics is just urban organizing with a lot of left-wing lipstick on top. Bernie’s state is 95% white. Even Burlington hovers somewhere in the high eighties. Bernie can only organize around class because a coalition of minorities wouldn’t get him to the nearest post office.
Identity politics beat Bernie in the Democratic primaries. But it might have cost Hillary the election. And now Trump is in a position to end the Democrats by cutting their immigration lifeline. The Dems have burned their bridges with the working class by gambling everything that they have on demographic change. If they change doesn’t materialize, then they are trapped at the dead end of a short alley.
That’s the big problem the Democrats face. Identity politics with its hysterical outbursts of rage and specialized vocabulary of victimhood (privilege, victim-blaming, microaggressions) is toxic nationally, but dominates the academic and big city political populations that are its base. The Obama coalitions of millennial college leftists and disaffected minorities are passion voters whose turnout is unreliable and when they don’t turn out, then the aspirations of the Dems become sand castles with a storm coming in.
Democrats went into this election convinced that the tide of demographic change was on their side. That tide depends heavily on immigration. If Trump secures the border, deports illegal aliens and revamps immigration to serve national interests, then the Democrats lose their demographic future.
And they realize it. They’ve gambled their political future on immigration. If immigration can’t deliver the demographic changes that the left touted, then they will become a minority party.
The left used to oppose immigration. The Socialist Party inveighed against, "the immigration of strikebreakers and contract laborers, and the mass importation of workers from foreign countries brought about by the employing classes for the purpose of weakening the organization of American labor, and lowering the standard of life of American workers.”
But the left shifted away from working class regions and toward urban areas. Its political organizing was no longer based on experiences rallying coal miners or fruit pickers, but bullying college students. Identity politics was ideal for big campuses where identity coalitions were even more powerful than in big cities. Voter turnout is laughably light. Those who do vote are more likely to carry political agendas.
Under Obama, campus politics went national. The Dems made the final shift from class to culture war. When Hillary first ran for the White House, she could juggle the traditional three races appeal. This time around she had to incoherently appeal to a bewildering range of angry identity groups.
The Obama coalition ran on passion politics. The minority half of the coalition needed someone representative. The campus half wanted hip inspiration. Hillary Clinton couldn’t deliver either one.
But the lessons of her defeat aren’t lost on Democrats aspiring to higher office. Paying lip service to diversity is no longer enough. The only way to ensure minority turnout in national elections might be to have a minority politician at the top of the ticket. The future would belong to the Obama clones.
Bernie certainly understands the implications of that even if some Democrats don’t. He could very well be the last white male with a serious shot of entering the White House as a Democrat. And he’s strongly hinting that he would like to run again in 2020. That’s why he has to question identity politics.
Class over race means Bernie could still become the Dem nominee. Race over class could lock him out.
That’s also why Obama has reassured Dems that identity politics will eventually pay off, even if there might be the occasional setback along the way. Nevertheless the country will still be transformed. Bernie however has questioned whether a permanent Democratic majority would even be possible.
Without the prospect of a permanent majority through mass migration on the horizon, the Democrats have to consider abandoning identity politics and returning to tried and true class warfare.
But a retreat from identity politics may not even be possible.
Intersectionality is worlds away from the old racial pandering. The culture of identity outrage dominates left-wing messaging. The opposition to Trump leans heavily on victim politics rather than class. We are incessantly lectured on all the Muslim and illegal alien kiddies who go to bed crying because of him. This performance of passive aggressive victimhood has only disgusted even more of the country.
Identity politics is tethered to outrage and therefore is inherently unstable and alienating. It’s based on a subjective experience that is deemed inaccessible to those with more “privilege” and yet it is an experience whose emotional outcomes are meant to govern our lives. It’s a selfishly anti-intellectual creed that cannot be reasoned with because it derives from the recesses of personal emotion.
It’s not an intellectual exercise, but a performance of personal suffering and outrage. And there’s no way around it without jettisoning the crust of political correctness that makes victimhood sacred. Those who suffer the most are morally superior. Their whims and wishes must dominate the Dem agenda.
An older left could have made a compelling case for the victimhood of the unemployed coal miner, but no such creature exists in campus politics where there are 63 gender identities, but no white working class. The left has defined victimhood as the alienation experienced by those who are different. There is no room for oppressed majorities, only minorities. An ideology that once defined itself by labor is far more interested in charting the erratic emotions of unstable college kids than in the real problems of working people. It can relate to the former, but not the latter.
Democrats have to choose between identity politics and the working class. Abandoning identity politics would be a painful process while abandoning the working class has proven to be painless and disastrous. But identity politics without mass migration and social transformation is unworkable. Immigration determines the future of the Democrats. This election is forcing Democrats to make a choice.
Obama’s identity politics preached that Republicans had to embrace identity politics or lose their ability to win national elections. But if the Democrats can’t sustain the rate of demographic change that they need, their lost grip on the working class white vote may lock them out of the White House.
Food for thought. Interesting and insightful.ReplyDelete
Quite impressive how you keep coming up with these deep political insights that hadn't occurred to me.
In fact there are three roads for the creeps: the old Bernie’s, the failed Obama’s and… the salami alaykum’s. I bet on the latter, they are filthy rich after all.ReplyDelete
You were terrific on Tucker Carlson last night! Hope to see much more of you in prime time. You are the best conservative writer around, only Mark Steyn and Victor Davis Hanson are even in your league. (Maybe throw on a tie next time, just a suggestion from the peanut gallery.)ReplyDelete
But let's be clear. The 'middle class' of the Democratic party is the government worker class. The 'working class' of the Democratic party is the cadre of union leaders like Richard Trumka who pout money into the Hillary campaign and don't care in the least about the rank and file.ReplyDelete
In order to appeal to the actual working class or the middle class they have to first stop destroying it.
Probably in the 60s, the left chose the sexual revolution over the needs of the working classes. My parents, who were old left and fairly puritanical in the sex department, argued against this. It has proved to be a fatal mistake.ReplyDelete
been wondering if I was the only one seeing this happen.
I'm not sure the constructs are so rigid and balanced. Seems to me the Left is ultimately mercurial and will go to wherever, whenever they sense an opportunity. Remember, "any means possible." Sure, they put a lot effort into fleshing out PC, but I expect they'd move on in a heartbeat for a better play, provided they can find one within their identity matrix.ReplyDelete
Did Trump connect with a type of person because of the type, or because of his fundamental ideation? I'd say its the latter. The Left misconstrues his appeal in identity terms because they don't know how to see the world any other way.
Non-Leftists shouldn't mistake the Left's identity constructs for reality. Moreover, non-leftists had better affirm and develop the elements of Trump's ideation--exposed in his campaign stump speeches and cabinet picks.
The Left will morph into something and come at the country again. They just haven't figured out what form of beast to take yet.
This is such an encouraging prospect for conservatives who truly believed that we were going to be locked out of the White House because of the illegal alien vote in national elections. It's still hard for me to process that the tables have been turned. It's now our duty to our heirs to solidify their future with realistic and principled strategies and policies. I was not a Trump supporter until the last two months of the campaign, and now I am waiting with bated breath to see if he can really 'drain the swamp' of the career bureaucrats who are so deeply entrenched and committed to resisting change. He and his administration are in my prayers.ReplyDelete
But there's another way to approach the issue of Dem political success and immigration, and it doesn't depend on a wall, figurative or literal. Apportionment is by total population. Evenwell tried to limit it to voting population. SCOTUS held that EITHER is constitutional and up to each State. Because the House (and so the Electoral College) are zero-sum, as long as Democrats can pack metros with illegals, seats and votes will move from rural to metro, from GOP to DNC. But if legislatures, of which we have a solid majority, vote to change apportionment in their states to voter population, the need of the DNC to pack metros with illegals will disappear. (Let's not pretend the DNC cares about illegals as anything other than pawns with which to gain power.)ReplyDelete
We have the Internet to thank for the decline of Identity Pandering effectiveness. The Muslims, Gays, Blacks, Hispanics, Natives, Handicapped, Feminists, Allergics, Hypochondriacs, Addicted, Unjustly Poor and Invaders are having difficulty elbowing to the front of the freebie line. Just as in a large poor family, there is mounting rivalry and no love lost while fighting for table scraps.ReplyDelete
While drooling College Folk have room in their capacious hearts for all these, greedy Identity Parasites defend their Entitlement Turf. One scrap tossed to one means less for every other. Scream! Riot!Pillage! Violate! Rape! Kill! And the Evening News gets very interested in the weather report.
But the Internet shows it all. Cool.
You really shouldn't be giving the Dems ideas about how to fix their party.ReplyDelete
Not that any Dems read your blog (sorry 'bout that, but you know it's true).
"The Dems have burned their bridges with the working class by gambling everything that they have on demographic change". I'm from Holland and over here some Turkish, Moroccan and Surinam people have started their own party. And the left isn't very happy about it. Let's just say that this was not supposed to happen. But I can see this happening in several Western-European countries in maybe a couple of decades. And then the left will be forced to re-invent itself. Maybe somewhere in the future, hispanics in the US will become big enough to give the Democrats the middle finger?ReplyDelete
Thank you for the article.ReplyDelete
"Democrats have to choose between identity politics and the working class. Abandoning identity politics would be a painful process while abandoning the working class has proven to be painless and disastrous."
The choice between IP and the WC is, in microcosm, the choice which Democrats, to the degree that they are members of the Left, face every day, the choice between their beliefs and reality and the facts.
Given Left wing premises, subjectivism ("Everything is opinion or
outright whim. There are no values.'), multiculturalism ('Western culture, with its emphasis on freedom and individual rights, is not vastly morally superior to vicious, primitive, enslaving third world cultures, particularly Islam.'), and political correctness ('Since in expressing one's beliefs, someone's feelings may be hurt, the government must strictly regulate, or outright abolish, freedom of speech.'), those on the Left are constantly 'stubbing their intellectual and moral toe' on the real world.
Given their choice for the leader of the DNC which the Democrats seem poised to make, I'd say they remain dedicated to their premises and have simply abandoned reality and the facts.
Excellent analysis and commentary. May the Leftists in this world always be in the minority and those who embrace freedom would always be in the majority.ReplyDelete
It never ceases to amaze me how Leftists like Michael Moore can hold up Communist Cuba and Castro's murderous regime as favorable to our system. He and others have lionized Chavez in Venezuela, among others and still prosper here in the U.S.of A, the land of freedom and free enterprise. All the leftists are fools.
Although I sympathize with what is written here, I feel that certain caveats have to be pointed out.Hillary go the plurality of popular votes. Trump did NOT draw many Obama voters to his side. Trump carried the battleground states of Michigan, Wisconsin, Pennsylvania and Florida by narrow margins. Two of the biggest states, California and New York are not even competitive for the Republicans any more and Hillary racked up a 4 million vote plurality in those two states with a total of 84 electoral votes are in the Democrat's pockets without them having to spend a nickel or do any campaigning in those states. Add the District of Columbia which is also not competitve and the D's already have 87 electoral votes in their pocket.ReplyDelete
Trump won because a significant number of Democrat/liberal-leaning people sat the election out. The Republicans can not count on that occurring again in the future.
The working class Daniel is referring to is in permanent decline because of technological advances and international industrial competition. Yes, they are still an important segment of American society but it is time to realize that it is not enough to run simply on economic issues or the argument that liberal Republicans who lost like Dewey in 1948 and McCain in 2008 and Romney
in 2012 saying that they accept the Democrati's world view, but "we will run it more efficiently" isn't going to work. The Republicans have to publicize their UNIQUE view of what America is and what it stands for beyond being merely a collection of people whose main goal in life is to maximize leisure time and entertainment (as Charles Murray pointed out). Trump's slogan was "Make America Great Again". Well, the Republicans need to spell out what that means beyond mere tinkering with economic policy.
Isn't this exactly the reason the Ikhwan Lite party is importing muslums to be their new voter base? Your population replacement theory essay seemed to be proposing this -- especially for Labour in the UK.ReplyDelete
Indeed, the best conservative writer I've read, although there are a lot of very good ones, some of the older ones with a mind-boggling amount of knowledge and erudition from their lifetime of work. Sharp, incisive, seemingly original, where do you get your insights? Haven't seen them elsewhere.ReplyDelete
Having lived so long and watched the Left work its hateful ideology all over the world, I am continually surprised so many idiots continue to be fooled. As someone already commented, they are 'the beast'. They want power and control. They'll take it any way available -- by shaming and scolding the young, naive, and foolish in classrooms, the news, or themes in television's situation comedies -- or finally with their riots, anarchism, and the ultimate dictator's guns and armies. The Left are the snakes of the world and swarms of them have slithered into the Democrat's party.ReplyDelete
I have come not only to realize that you're very insightful Mr. Greenfield but also a friggin Genius! It's apparent that the Dems are only powerful today (and BTW the main reason why Obama got elected...twice) is because of the worst Senator in American History ... Ted Kennedy and his 1965 revamping of immigration AND of course the massive illegal immigration aka invasion the last 40 to 50 years or so).ReplyDelete
This is a terrific piece, Daniel, and I thank you for all your hard work. Believe me, you are making an important contribution to the preservation/restoration of our republic. Another angle which could affect the demographics of future electoral efforts by Democrats lies in the consequences of Trump’s school choice initiatives, in the capable hands of Secretary of Education designate DeVos. If minority students, finally freed from horrible schools, begin to have improved outcomes (report cards, decreased bullying for carrying their backpacks home from school, better SAT and other test scores, higher local graduation rates), their parents may find themselves more favorably disposed toward Republicans in the future, by 2018, for example. School choice could be the death knell of the Democratic plantation, as I have heard it called by some black conservatives, and force upon Democrats the Hobson’s choice of throwing over one of two of its most important and heretofore loyal constituencies—blacks, and the teachers’ unions. Actually, we don’t have to wait that long for this Democrat dilemma to manifest itself. It appears clear that the teachers’ unions and their acolytes in Congress plan to fight DeVos’ nomination tooth and nail. I certainly hope that the Trump team will not pass up the opportunity to have some African American citizens (who have been the beneficiaries of school choice) ask the Democrats at the hearings what they have against African American children that they want to deprive them of better educational opportunities? School choice is a unique wedge issue that could be fatal to the Democrat coalition, and it is such low hanging fruit that it would be criminal for the Trump team not reach up and pluck it. All we want to do is drive the final nail in the coffin of the last vestiges of the scourge of segregation, right? I know the GOP is the party of Lincoln, and the Democrats are the party of the KKK historically, but cannot Democrats at least agree to this goal? Anything you could do to remind the Trump team of this opportunity would be helpful, in my humble opinion. Keep up the excellent work!ReplyDelete
That the Democrats abandoned their historical working class base inReplyDelete
favor of a coalition of the perverts, the privileged and the parasites is
That they would then attack them is astounding.
These people are deranged.
I'm surprised to find myself in disagreement with you, Daniel. This never happens. But, alas, I think your article is about forty years too late. Identity politics will, indeed be the future for the Dems, and it is no longer contingent on further immigration. Birth rates will do the trick. Unless America is willing to engage in eugenics, we WILL be a brownish country soon. Many of the future Dems are already born. Of the children enrolled in Kindergarten in 2016 a majority were non-white European. Is there any reason to believe those children will not be voting by identity? I think it is a bit late for North America, but there is hope for Europe. And, of course, if Europe makes eugenics popular again, as it once did, it is possible that it could catch on here, but it will have to happen very, very soon.ReplyDelete
The Democrats won the presidency. What are they complaining about?ReplyDelete