Wednesday, January 30, 2019

ANIS SHIVANI - Time to give up on identity politics: It's dragging the progressive agenda down

Identity politics has only served to disempower the left and fuel the rise of white nationalism. Can we move on?

The Democratic Party was able to use identity politics to pretend it was still a left and radical party, when it was really a party of the right. It does not care about poor or working class people, and promotes neoliberalism and the faux meritocracy as something that's suppose to be progressive. Identity Politics has triggered an identity politics political backlash on the right, so now we have the alt. right. 

To me, it's a non issue, and I couldn't imagine George Galloway getting worked up about transgender toilets. 
I realize that everything I’m saying here has a sense of futility about it, because when an entire generation is indoctrinated in a certain way of thinking, only a catastrophe of the first order can compel people to reconsider; we are certainly not at that point yet, and we may never get there. But for what it’s worth, let me mention some key points about why I think identity politics, wherever it has manifested, has been absolutely devastating to the cause of liberty.
  1. It privileges culture, instead of politics. My first point is that when you fight for identity, you’re giving up politics in favor of culture. And that’s exactly where neoliberalism wants you, fighting for your culture (or what you imagine is your culture), rather than the arena of policies, where the real consequences occur. You may gain some recognition of your identity, but you may also have to pay the price of losing everything else that makes life worth living.
In many American cities, as in mine, the fight is on for transgender bathrooms, even as local government leaders, who often fit the bill where identity politics is concerned, have worked closely with supercapitalists to gentrify the urban centers, leading to the mass eviction of working people who created the interesting cultural realities in the first place. You can have your bathrooms, but gay people can’t live where they want to. During the Obama years, a crisis of affordable housing arose all over the country, which has gotten little attention because that is a policy discussion not suited to identity politics.
The 2016 election was the ultimate crash of identity politics, of course, played out to the maximum on both sides. The irrational "alt-right," based on white identity politics, had it out with the irrational alt-left, by which I mean not what neoliberal Democrats and Trump mean by it, but exactly the opposite: The identity politics-driven official Democratic Party messaging, which relies on magic and charisma and delusional thinking to bring about racial harmony, just as the "alt-right" does on the other side.
What could be a greater indictment of identity politics than the utter hollowing-out of the Democratic Party, its rank electoral defeat at every level of government, which began in earnest with Bill Clinton’s commitment to neoliberalism in 1991-1992, going hand in hand with identity politics of a kind that had little patience with actual poor people? That period is especially revealing, because Clinton went out of his way, as he would during his entire administration, to celebrate identity politics for the right people, namely, those who are good capitalists, doing everything he could to suggest, by way of policies, that the unreformable poor were no longer welcome in the party.
The result is the evisceration of the Democrats as a party with even a rhetorical claim to the working class, as it has become a club for egotistical, self-branding urbanites who pay lip service to identity politics while having no sympathy for real wealth redistribution. This loss of even the semblance of a liberal policy framework in the domestic and international arenas continued apace during the Obama administration. Obama was immune to liberal criticism, because he fit the identity politics matrix so perfectly. He may have ruthlessly deported millions of people, kept in place and strengthened the entire extra-constitutional surveillance apparatus, and escalated illegal drone attacks and assassinations, but the color of his skin provided immunity from real criticism.
  1. Not only politics, but economics is taken out of the equation. It’s astonishing, even after living under the principles of neoliberalism for around 40 years, how few liberals, even activists, are able to define our economic system with any sense of accuracy. They keep acting as if the fight is still on between the old New Deal liberalism (laissez-faire economics slightly moderated by some half-hearted welfare programs) and a right that wants to shred those welfare mechanisms. In fact, both parties are committed to slightly different versions of neoliberalism, and their transformation proceeded apace with the rise of identity politics. Politics was freed to take its course, because culture became the site of contestation, and this meant an unobstructed opportunity to redefine economics to the benefit of the elites.
Consider that in the last election, the contest became mostly about Hillary Clinton’s personality — she’s a woman, therefore I must be with her — versus Donald Trump’s personality — he’s a misogynist, therefore I must oppose him. Hillary Clinton’s neoliberalism, reflected in over 30 years of policy commitments, got little attention from the media, just as the economic dimensions of Trump’s proposals got barely any attention.
In the popular imagination, Ronald Reagan, Bill Clinton, George W. Bush and their successors continue to be judged according to personality — that is to say, by how they fit into the scale of values we know as identity politics. Bush and Trump’s personal idiocy is treated as a mental illness, because they are supposedly not capable of grasping the rules of polite (i.e., identity politics-driven) discourse. Although Bush, with his regained linguistic facility, is well on his way to rehabilitation by the identity politics crowd. The economic dimension of their policies is vastly under-analyzed and indeed of little interest to the younger generations. (Or really to anyone else.)
Liberals seem to be trying to cure racism at the metaphysical level — in people’s hearts and souls — instead of limiting politics to where it should be limited, i.e., the arena of democratic policymaking. But this can only come about when politics becomes again the explicit target of attention, so that obstacles to democracy — from gerrymandering to money in politics, from voting machine unreliability to widespread disenfranchisement — can be overcome.
What identity politics has done is to take the shine off the political process itself. This is more than a consequence of identity politics. It is because identity politics has garnered so much attention that political reform, which needs to be ongoing and consistent, has stalled for nearly 30 years. Instead of campaign finance reform of the McCain-Feingold brand, which sought to make a little advance toward taking money out of politics, we went, during the period of identity politics' ascendancy, to the total capitulation of politics to money. The same process has held true in every arena of policymaking. Even issues like climate change are framed in cultural terms — i.e., as identity politics, because today culture cannot be spoken of without being defined by identity politics — and therefore overwhelmed by paralysis.
The Salon


Konrad said...

“The Democratic Party was able to use identity politics to pretend it was still a left and radical party, when it was really a party of the right.”

Democrat leaders are neither right nor left. They are neoliberals.

“Right” and “Left” is for the peasants. Neoliberals use the right / left dichotomy to keep the peasants in their place. Neoliberal oligarchs fund Antifa, political correctness, and leftist militancy in order to keep the peasants bickering and divided. They support the attack on lower class males (especially white males) in order to keep them castrated. They support “gay rights” and “trans rights” for the same reason.

Meanwhile their puppets, the Social Justice Warriors, do as they are told. The puppets attack “homophobia” at home, while they bless the torture and execution of homosexuals in places like Saudi Arabia. They attack “toxic masculinity” at home, while they bless perpetual war abroad. They demand open borders, while they bless the walls in Israel, and around the mansions of the rich.

Straight white non-Jewish males (in the lower classes) are easy targets, since they don't fight back. Their cowardice makes Social Justice Warriors despise them all the more.

It’s all about keeping the peasants divided and helpless. The DNC presidential candidate for 2020 will most likely be Kamala Harris, since she is pro-war, pro-Israel, pro-Wall Street, and pro-neoliberalism. Just like Obama was before her.

The title of the article is Time to give up on identity politics: It's dragging the progressive agenda down.

Of course it is. That’s the whole purpose of identity politics.

Kaivey said...

You're right, and I don't know where to place them. They are not social conservatives, but they are still right wing hawks in every other way, that's how I see it.

Now we have the conservative anti- war movement, that's good.

Konrad said...

“They are not social conservatives, but they are still right wing hawks in every other way, that's how I see it.”

I would ask people to stop seeing things in terms of “right” and “left,” or “doves” and “hawks.”

Instead, we must see things in terms of socioeconomic class. The real battle is not between men and women, or straights and gays, or whites and blacks, or immigrants and natives. The real battle is between the rich and the rest. We all know this, but many of us indulge in identity politics in order to distract ourselves from our misery.

The Bolsheviks understood this. Men, women, whites, blacks, whatever – the Bolsheviks regarded all workers as equal in human worth, because they knew that oligarchs stoked and exploited these divisions in order to keep the peasants enslaved, just as oligarchs do today.

Oligarchs and neoliberals don’t care about right and left. They only care about maintaining the gap between themselves and the 99%. They will promote any policy that maintains their power and privilege. War, peace, liberal, conservative – they don’t care. They support whatever sustains the gap between themselves and the peasants.

Class struggle has been the real struggle since the dawn of human civilization. Last night I read about ancient Greece. Except for a few brief experiments with Democracy, ancient Greek city states had a vast gulf between aristocrats and commoners. Ancient Rome was the same. Class conflict has continually occurred throughout the world, even among Asians, Africans, and Native Americans.

Left. Right. Liberals. Conservatives. Such terms are for the peasants. They are distractions; camouflage; window dressing.

“Now we have the conservative anti- war movement, that's good.”

Life is a Möbius strip. If you go far enough toward one extreme (e.g. genuine progressivism) you end up at the other extreme (e.g. genuine conservatism).

Fake liberals and fake conservatives are always at war, but real progressives and real conservatives agree on most things.

Kaivey said...

This mixes me up, because I really like this guy. He's a Christian socialist and seems very honourable. I've posted his videos here before.

Andrew Anderson said...

The real battle is between the rich and the rest. Konrad

Then note that MMT leaders would INCREASE privileges for the banks and thus for the rich, the most so-called "credit worthy."

And why since inexpensive fiat and a Citizen's Dividend allow a "loanable funds" banking model that cheats no one and has no inherent boom-bust cycle either since the money supply would never decrease unless the government were so stupid as to run budget surpluses?

Konrad said...

@ Kaivey: That’s a good video, but the speaker makes an error. He says that if the USA manages to bag Venezuela, then the Catholic Church will be swept aside in favor of trans-sexual lunacy and all the other filth that has saturated the West.

Not so. Evidently the speaker has not spent time in Latin America. He does not know Latinos.

The Catholic Church is protean. Wherever it has influence, the Church always sides with the rich, and always helps oligarchs maintain social control. During the French Revolution the starving masses opposed the nobility and the clergy. In Mexico after the Revolution of 1910-to-1920 the Catholic Church struck back in defense of the oligarchs. This eventually led to a second revolution called the Cristero War (1926-1929) which the masses won. They overthrew Church tyranny.

Brazilian leftists pushed identity politics in order to distract the masses from their poverty. Jair Bolsonaro opposed this, so that the money powers would install him as president. Now Bolsonaro has restored Church power, and he is letting Brazil go 100% neoliberal.

The Catholic Church adapts. Its stays relevant by allying with whoever has power. In 1933 the National Socialists took power in Germany. Therefore the Catholic Church allied with the Nazis (the Reichskonkordat). The Nazis agreed to leave the Catholic Church alone in return for the Church agreeing not to meddle in German politics.

The only exception I can think of is local Catholic priests who occasionally promote “liberation theology,” which favors the masses over the oligarchs. The Vatican considers such priests to be heretics.

So if the USA bags Venezuela, the Catholic Church will ally with the USA. Catholic priests will tell their “flock” that it is righteous to submit to slavery and neoliberalism. This is why the Catholic Church was outlawed in Cuba until recently.

It is true that the Zionist / liberal assault has reduced the West to a moral sewer. This occurs because the West is essentially Judaic in character. However Latin America is different. In Latin America it is the Church, not its opponents, that keeps the masses submissive.

Remember that the rich are above all the dichotomies and dualities and moralities that keep the masses bickering and helpless. If reducing a nation to a moral cesspool keeps the rich in power, then so be it. If restoring the Church to ascendancy keeps the rich in power, then so be it. War, peace, liberal, conservative -- the rich don’t care as long as they stay in power. And in Latin America they use the Church as a willing ally.

The speaker in the video does not understand this.

Kaivey said...

I'm glad you sorted it out for me, Konrad. Anyway, isn't it in Brazil that they have that massive gay pride march with transsexuals and everything. It looks terrifying, but I'm a liberal so it causes conflict in me.

Kaivey said...

It's a carnival, not a march.