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The Perils of Identity Politics

Somebody as consistently wrong about Trump as I was doesn’t really have the right to say “I told you so,” but I’m going to do it anyway, with respect to something I’ve been saying for a long time to liberals.

Let us examine a characteristic liberal reaction this morning, this one courtesy of Miss L.V. Anderson, a white, female editor at Slate. [2]Excerpt:

According to CNN [3], 53 percent of white female voters voted for Donald Trump. Fifty-three percent. More than half of white women voted for the man who bragged about committing sexual assault on tape, who said he would appoint Supreme Court justices who would overturn Roe v. Wade [4], who has promised to undo legislation that has afforded health insurance [5] to millions of uninsured Americans, whose parental leave plan [6] is a joke, who has spent his campaign dehumanizing nonwhite people, who has spent 30-plus years in the public eye reducing women to their sexual attributes. More than half of white women looked at the first viable female candidate for the presidency, a wildly competent and overqualified career public servant, and said, “Trump that bitch.”

What leads a woman to vote for a man who has made it very clear that he believes she is subhuman? Self-loathing. Hypocrisy. And, of course, a racist view of the world that privileges white supremacy over every other issue.

If you want to know one reason why Trump won, look no further than the analysis of Miss L.V. Anderson, though not for the reason that she thinks. Miss Anderson does not trouble herself to understand why 53 percent of white female voters would choose Trump over Clinton. For her, the explanation of self-hatred, hypocrisy, and racism suffice. They always do with trite liberals like her (for a much more realistic explanation, read liberal Thomas Frank [7]).

Notice, though, that Miss Anderson does not fault these white women for voting according to identity politics. She only faults them for choosing the “wrong” identity: their race, not their sex.

Joan Walsh of The Nation, echoing Nate Cohn of the NYT’s data analysis unit, writes: [8]

Here is the scary truth: This is the election in which a vocal minority of white people began to see themselves as a minority, and to act as a self-conscious minority group, with interests that are separate from those of other ethnicities. White Republicans have voted that way before, but with more subtlety. Trump traded the party’s dog whistles for a bullhorn. The white nationalists who emerged to cheer him on were just a fraction of his support, but the worldview they articulate resonated with many Trump voters, even if they weren’t quite ready to articulate it.

Let’s say for the sake of argument that this is true (and it may well be, I dunno). If so, on what grounds do liberals argue against it? It is they who for decades have made a fetish of identity politics, of arguing that identity inheres in groups, not in individuals and their ideas. Identity politics are liberal politics. It usually passes itself off under the sham euphemism “diversity,” but it’s almost entirely about privileging females, non-whites, non-heterosexuals, and other members of the Non-Deplorable-American community, and calling it virtue. It’s the kind of thing that convinces a black female Yale student from a privileged background that she is a victim because of the color of her skin, and that some toothless white Appalachian man on disability is an oppressor, because of his. When you give yourself and your political party over entirely to left-wing identity politics, issues of class become invisible to you, and you end up forgetting that you ever knew people like the white working-class and rural people of the Rust Belt. You lose elections that way.

I do not like identity politics. I believe it is dangerous, especially in a pluralistic democracy like ours. But look, if that’s how the left is going to rig the system, then it should not be surprised when white people get tired of it, and decide to play by the same hardball rules.

Look at this:

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How precious. These academic liberals are opening a self-pleasure “self-care and dialogue space” for the multicultural (read: not white), the queer and trans folks, and the women, all for them to come together and gripe. Now, do you think the University of Minnesota would in a million years create a “self-care and dialogue” space for poor or working class non-gay white kids, or for conservative Christian students feeling upset over the election results? Please. For one, they shouldn’t; it ought to be humiliating that a university coddles its adult students like this, whatever their politics. But for another, these white kids aren’t even on their radar — and if they are, it’s as the Enemy. Because of identity politics.

I got a lot wrong in the Trump campaign, but I got this, from November 6, 2015, quite right, in a post called “Why Trump Matters.” [9]Excerpts, this first one from a NYT report at the time:

Something startling is happening to middle-aged white Americans. Unlike every other age group, unlike every other racial and ethnic group, unlike their counterparts in other rich countries, death rates in this group have been rising, not falling.

That finding was reported Monday by two Princeton economists, Angus Deaton, who last month won the 2015 Nobel Memorial Prize in Economic Science [10], and Anne Case. Analyzing health and mortality data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and from other sources, they concluded that rising annual death rates among this group are being driven not by the big killers like heart disease and diabetes [11] but by an epidemic of suicides and afflictions stemming from substance abuse [12]alcoholic liver disease [13] and overdoses of heroin and prescription opioids.

The analysis by Dr. Deaton and Dr. Case may offer the most rigorous evidence to date of both the causes and implications of a development that has been puzzling demographers in recent years: the declining health and fortunes of poorly educated American whites. In middle age, they are dying at such a high rate that they are increasing the death rate for the entire group of middle-aged white Americans, Dr. Deaton and Dr. Case found.

The mortality rate for whites 45 to 54 years old with no more than a high school education increased by 134 deaths per 100,000 people from 1999 to 2014.

“It is difficult to find modern settings with survival losses of this magnitude,” wrote two Dartmouth economists, Ellen Meara and Jonathan S. Skinner, in a commentary to the Deaton-Case analysis [14] to be published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

I commented on the findings, in part:

Now, there is one more aspect to white working-class despair: dispossession. It does not take a sociologist to grasp that the tectonic social changes in American life since the 1960s have been at the very least disorienting to whites. The point to grasp here is not that we shouldn’t have had those changes; many of them were just and necessary, others, not so much. The point to grasp is that the experience of those changes may have been psychologically traumatic to certain whites who expected the world to work in a different way — a way that favored them.

Perhaps there is a comparison to be made with Russians after the collapse of the Soviet Union — which was, of course, a vastly more severe phenomenon, but I think there may be some comparison to be made, re: a people who assumed that the world was a certain way, and woke up rudely to the fact that it was not. Add to that the fact that among elites in our culture — especially academic and media elites — white working-class people are the bungholes of the universe, and, well, here we are.

And, one year and three days later, here we all are, with President-elect Donald Trump.

The American left had better wake up and realize what its obsession with identity politics is doing to it, and to the country. Many of you think the white Trump voters were motivated by nothing more than racism, because that’s how you have come to see the world. This ideological obliviousness has blinded you, as much as a related ideological obliviousness blinded the GOP establishment to the changes in its own base that prepared the way for Trump. You have no grounds on which to oppose Trump’s brand of identity politics if you insist on practicing identity politics of your own.

The Trump voters may not understand much about Leninist theory, but they can spot the “Who? Whom?” principle [15] at work a mile away — that is, the idea that the only really important question is who will be the dominator of whom. What is fascinating is that Joan Walsh really does seem to believe that left-wing identity politics are somehow universalist. It’s the craziest thing.

109 Comments (Open | Close)

109 Comments To "The Perils of Identity Politics"

#1 Comment By Janwaar Bibi On November 11, 2016 @ 9:36 am

“…it’s hard to get *worse* than slavery as it [was] practiced in the United States.”

Muslims routinely castrated male slaves, and it is estimated that more than half of their victims died either from the surgery or from infected wounds. I am not aware that castration was routinely performed on African slaves in the US.

Unlike people in the West, many Muslims still believe slavery of infidels is a great idea. I’m not talking just about ISIS, which is selling little Yazidi girls on the Internet – the New York Times reported that the Saudi religious authorities issued this fatwa a couple of years ago:

“Slavery in Islam is like a purifying machine or sauna in which those who are captured enter to wash off their dirt and then they come out clean, pure and safe, from another door.”

[16]

Arabs are selling castrated black male slaves today:

[17]

Marco Polo, who visited India during his travels, wrote that the province of Bengal in India was the biggest supplier of castrated slaved to the Muslim world during his time. It is time to call this monstrous religion to account for its crimes against humanity instead of making excuses for it.

#2 Comment By AJ On November 11, 2016 @ 10:43 am

Since Trump has won, it has become fashionable to attribute his victory to the myth of white identity politics. But this is a slur proceeding from the lines of thought of the identity politics of the Left. I personally know of no Trump voters who were moved by “white identity.” It was all #neverHillary: lies, partial birth abortion, graft and corruption. It’s a ridiculous assertion, give the voters some credit.

#3 Comment By Fran Macadam On November 11, 2016 @ 1:45 pm

“While this is partly true, it’s hard to get *worse* than slavery as it practiced in the United States.”

Slavery everywhere and always, seeks to reduce man to the level of a beast, as Frederick Douglass observed.

That said, other localities worked the men and women they considered their beasts literally to death, constantly replacing them through the massive importation of new ones.

It wasn’t so hard to abolish the transoceanic slave trade for southern plantation owners, who made the economic decision that it was more profitable to keep their stock of “beasts” healthy to preserve the value of their slave “investment” and “property.”

As “Roll, Jordan, Roll – The World the Slaves Made” by Genovese shows, further south than America, slavery degenerated into absolute genocide, without even the practical care of animal husbandry.

It doesn’t justify American or British slavery, of course, because that remains evil under every circumstance – but thank God for those who survived, to whom we all owe a debt of gratitude for our living in the world they also made – and were at last with Dr. King and his allies those who finally banished it by non-violent means.

#4 Comment By EliteCommInc. On November 11, 2016 @ 11:43 pm

“Muslims routinely castrated male slaves, and it is estimated that more than half of their victims died either from the surgery or from infected wounds. I am not aware that castration was routinely performed on African slaves in the US.”
I just saw this. Yawn.

There were Muslims who engaged in slavery. And did in engage in some unsavory behavior. There were non Muslim black africans who also engaged in slavery. No kidding.

But none of them operated under a paradigm of equality. None of them operated under an auspices of democracy. The slavery was not rooted in color but the conquered. And among African slaves, the point was to eventually include into the greater population to increase the size.

You don’t know of runaways slaves who were castrated because running was considered a biological trait not to be passed on. It never ends the ceaseless march to universalize slavery to justify its existence here in the US. The record is clear that a number of slaves were made eunuchs to serve in households. Yawn.

Good grief, no kidding that before modern medicine scores of people died from surgery and less invasive acts of medicine.

But nothing rivals what was done by colonists across the oceans based on the meaning the applied to blackness removing tongues, legs, . . . etc. It’s sweet to cherry pick some extreme and make claim it was routine. But the documented routine of making and maintaining slaves, to include the process of seasoning in society declaring men equal —

I suggest you quit while you are behind. I am careful about context. I could dance about history and find all manner of ills people have done to each other. But under a frame of equal personage —

I appreciate the reminder why we have a long way to go. As Dr/Rev Kin discovered late in his life – a long way to go.

I guess we could et into a disussion about who did a better job of peeling skin from flesh.

#5 Comment By EliteCommInc. On November 11, 2016 @ 11:51 pm

“It is time to call this monstrous religion to account for its crimes against humanity instead of making excuses for it.”

I think before I get about holding other nations to account, I will start at home.

Good grief, nothing like n election to limit wars on faux morality to bring out those who want to engage in forcing accountability to everyone else but themselves.

I take it you want to invade India, Saudi Arabia and others whom you think are still engaged in the slave trade. Regime change by any other cause besides spreading abortion and homosexual normalcy – and slavery — NYT still playing their game.

Goodness gracious. It’s never safe to go back into the water.

#6 Comment By KD On November 12, 2016 @ 2:57 am

It funny to read socialists complaining about slavery. After all, slavery is just privatized socialism.

In the South–per Genovese–Masters had a duty cradle-to-grave to feed, shelter, cloth and provide medical care to their slaves. Further, working conditions in the American South, in terms of hours worked, labor condition, as well as food consumption (meat every day) and living conditions were better than many 19th century wage laborers.

Sure, you had to work, and it was brutal, but the same was true of Soviet communism, it was just a more centralized version of slavery.

#7 Comment By Reghan Scalgrinn On November 12, 2016 @ 11:15 am

Rod, you my have had this in mind, but it bears emphasizing. Miss L.V. Anderson was not merely wrong in her broad analysis; she was exactingly wrong in the particulars.

When white women read her description of Trump (sexual assault bragging, denouncing affordable healthcare, dehumanizing nonwhites, etc.), they’re hearing this through ears that are thoroughly cynical to a Media that has demonstrably given itself not to truth telling, but to mass manipulation. Whether any of these characterizations of Trump are true or not, these white women (and I expect most of his supporters) simply do not trust what she says. It is an obvious effort to yet again to manipulate the narrative. Why would they pause and consider if the charges are even slightly correct?

#8 Comment By Sandra Embry On November 12, 2016 @ 11:18 am

A good article, Rod. It is a shame that we cannot have a logical honest discussion over real issues anymore. I decided to vote for Trump, not because I particularly liked him, but because I had to take the best route I saw to defeat Hillary. And I am shocked and elated that she lost. But really, the more I heard Trump in the debates, the more I liked him. I find it hilarious that the women like the one in the article above, can’t really understand why women would vote for Trump instead of a woman. Well I am a woman, and I don’t like other women who want to kill partially born children and drop bombs on innocent civilians. I hope Trump lives up to the things he has promised, though I don’t expect him to. As for identity politics, this is caused by the left, I do believe. But not in only the ways mentioned. When the left decides to tell people to have fewer children, to put that mom to work outside the home, to let in all sorts of non-white immigrants, then one day, it’s only natural, the white people whose forefathers founded this nation, are going to wake up and feel that they are in the precarious position that they truly are in. Maybe they will vote accordingly from this time on. Maybe they will have more children. Maybe they will return to the greatness that certainly still lies within their very nature, and maybe they will even return to Christendom. One can only hope.

#9 Comment By Bob the Destroyer On November 18, 2016 @ 12:34 pm

Anyone want to the guess the race of the first slaveholder in the US? It was Anthony Johnson, a Black man.

Now, does anyone want to guess whether a freed Black was more likely to own slaves than a free White? Once again, freed Blacks were more likely to hold slaves.

Some of the Black Social Justice Workers today are undoubtedly the descendants of these slave-holding Blacks, complaining about oppression. Yet their ancestors profited (or tried to profit as slaves were expensive to own) from the slavery of others.

Maybe the world and human existence, including the slave trade, is not Black and White. We all need to check our assumptions. Identity politics tries to further enforce our current assumptions, and see the world as Black and White, us vs. them. This is the great evil in identity politics, and why it has been so destructive.