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Identity Politics Gave Us President Trump; More Identity Politics Will Not Make Things Better

Identity politics cultists created Donald Trump, President-Elect Edition, and from much of their subsequent complaining they haven’t learned a single thing from their mistake

Blogger and polemicist Phil Hendren is in unsparing mood as he takes the identity politics Left to task for their role in provoking the alleged “whitelash” which confounded the opinion polls and made Donald Trump president-elect of the United States last Tuesday.

Hendren’s critique is worth quoting at length, as he writes:

Of course, the political earthquakes have been followed in each case with a sentimental reaction that is both odd and downright scarier than the actual earthquake. This has been coupled with a lack of self-awareness by the losing side.

Be it Brexit or Trump we’ve seen knee-jerk reactions that ponder upon whether democracy is such a great idea after all. Amazingly we have idiots screaming about fascism whilst simultaneously suggesting that something be done about the pesky plebs that voted one way or the other.

They moan about bigotry whilst suggesting that the franchise be removed from certain people who are not suitably intelligent or are too old to be trusted with a vote - call me old-fashioned but that is bigotry right there.

You listen to analysts who say they are “just reporting the data” that tell you Trump scored well with “white males without a college degree”. Has there ever been a more obvious coded dog whistle for “stupid white trash”?

The same thing happened in Britain after the Brexit vote. People started arguing that it was those with less education that voted Leave, the implication being that the stupid unenlightened were to blame.

It astounds me that, as the hand-wringing goes on, there persists, even in defeat, a complete and total contempt for some part of the electorate by the chattering class and the elite.

Don’t they get it? Do they really not see that it is precisely that attitude toward the great unwashed that has caused them to lose? Don’t they also realise that they’re witnessing the ultimate end game of their own orthodoxies?

For the past 20 years, the dominant orthodoxy in the West has revolved around the politics of Identity. We’ve been constantly reminded that humanity should be pigeonholed into groups based on race, gender, sexuality or the Other.

The elephant in the room of this orthodoxy has been the marginalisation of the considered dominant social identity, be it so-called ‘cis-gender’ (essentially a pejorative for someone who’s gender identity is in line with their biology) ; heterosexuals; or good old whitey - aka ‘the oppressor’.

Is it any wonder that these groups have reacted by taking on the clothes of Identity Politics themselves? Anyone that claims to be shocked or disgusted by this development is, to put it as bluntly as I can, a fucking idiot.

If you constantly dehumanise people by making them the sum of arbitrary labels, and then you push the view that each of these groups is structurally disadvantaged by the oppressor then you inevitably structurally disadvantage the oppressor who begins to feel, rightly or wrongly, oppressed.

It isn’t fucking rocket science.

The vote for Brexit and the vote for Trump do not represent some sort of uprising of white supremacy, or the normalisation of misogyny and racism. They represent the inevitable consequence of this misanthropic orthodoxy that has infected the chattering class, the Academy and the elites.

Did I vote for Brexit? No, I was a reluctant (and regretful) Remainer. Would I have voted for Trump? Hell no. He’s an illiberal social authoritarian that supports ridiculous left wing protectionism, but I get why people did.

Until the elite and chattering “enlightened” class begin to realise that they’ve created this. That they are to blame for it, these political earthquakes will keep on coming.

My emphasis in bold.

As an anti-Trump conservative watching the reaction to Trump’s election with amazement and concern, I am absolutely stunned by the lack of introspection and self-awareness displayed by much of the Left.

As I have already noted, Donald Trump supporters propelled their man to the White House largely by following the proven playbook of the leftist Social Justice Warriors, and they were able to do so because of the pervasive victimhood culture which has been nurtured and aggravated in America by a succession of cynical politicians and activists.

As Hendren rightly notes, if you atomise society into “separate but equal” identity groups based on race, gender or sexuality, you inevitably spark an arms race of perceived oppression and claims of vulnerability which far exceed the actual real oppression which may still exist. Grievance group is pitched against grievance group in the battle of public sympathy, with only one constant – that “cisgender” white men are always portrayed at the top of the Hierarchy of Oppression, always cast as the villains – whether they live in a New York condominium with gold-plated elevators or an Appalachian trailer park on the outskirts of a town being ravaged by crystal meth and heroin addiction.

I’ve warned about this before, in the context of the oppressive climate faced by young conservatives on college campuses, pointing out that it will not be long before those with conservative views tire of being bullied, censored and portrayed as “hateful” by the social justice mob which the tacit consent of spineless university administrators, and begin to use the same language of vulnerability and victimhood to elicit public sympathy for their own plight. Conservatives see other “identity groups” taking this approach and winning their battles to silence criticism and elevate themselves to a privileged, untouchable position on campus, and already we signs of some harried conservatives adopting the same approach.

So it is outside the university campus too, in wider society. Many millions of decent, non-racist and non-sexist people, often (but not exclusively) white, have been told increasingly stridently that questioning open borders or very recent new norms around gender identity and sexuality is tantamount to “hate” – that they are, in fact, bigots. Leftist identity politics cultists have increasingly deployed the nuclear option accusations of racism, sexism and homophobia against anybody who displays the slightest hesitation in embracing their worldview, leaving no way to distinguish and flag genuinely racist, sexist or homophobic opinions or actions when they occur.

And now we face the worst-case scenario, a white working class which sees other minority groups claiming vulnerability and oppression to demand sympathy and claim perks, and which has decided to think of itself as an oppressed minority group too. A very large, very powerful minority group, as it turns out.

We even get an eerily prescient prophecy that this will come to pass in a 2008 essay by Mark Schmitt in Prospect Magazine, written six months prior to the election of Barack Obama in his battle against John McCain.

Schmitt suggests:

That leaves Republicans with a single alternative, one that’s embodied in the slogan of McCain’s first general-election advertisement: “The American President Americans Are Waiting For.” It’s the politics of identity–not necessarily racial or ethnic identity but identity as an American. The blog FiveThirtyEight.com, which has been gathering all sorts of data relevant to the Electoral College vote, recently noted a fascinating demographic fact: About 7 percent of people refuse to answer the Census questions about ethnic origin and instead write in “American.” Those defiant Americans are overwhelmingly found in the states and counties that turned away from the Democratic Party in 2000 and 2004–the Appalachian belt running from West Virginia through Kentucky, Tennessee, and southern Ohio–which are also the counties where Barack Obama has done worst in the primaries.

David Frum calls explicitly for this brand of identity politics, declaring that while the Republican Party’s issue positions have evolved over the years, “there is one thing that has never changed: Republicans have always been the party of American democratic nationhood,” whereas Democrats “attract those who felt themselves in some way marginal to the American experience: … intellectuals, Catholics, Jews, blacks, feminists, gays–people who identify with the ‘pluribus’ in the nation’s motto, ‘e pluribus unum.’” In case it’s not clear, in Frum’s Latin, “pluribus” means “parasites,” and he tells us helpfully, “As the nation weakens, Democrats grow stronger.”

In Frum’s book, this ugly bit of identity politics is carefully nestled within thousands of words about policy. And this is how the code is supposed to work. The GOP’s attack on “liberals” was always an attack on people not quite like “Americans”–secular, cosmopolitan, educated, egalitarian.

[..]

Traditionally, the phrase “identity politics” has referred to the Democratic coalition’s caucuses, interest groups, and competitive claims of wrongs to be righted and rights to be granted. Identity politics on the left, according to this very conventional wisdom, opened the door to an alternative politics of national identity on the right. And yet in 2008, the Democratic presidential nomination battle between an African American and a woman has not exacerbated left identity politics but brought it to a peaceful close. Obama is not Jesse Jackson; Hillary Clinton is not former Rep. Pat Schroeder. He chose to campaign on national reconciliation, she on bread-and-butter economics and her expertise on military affairs. Whereas McCain–a man whose known positions on the war and on the economy are deeply unpopular, whose other positions are endlessly shifting, whose party and ideology are rejected–is recast entirely in terms of his biography, his honor, his character, his American-ness.

This year the Republican argument is reduced to its barest essence: Americans versus “pluribus,” unprotected by the politeness of issues or safer symbolism. Hence McCain’s slogan, the politics of the flag pin, the e-mails charging that Obama doesn’t salute the flag, and the attempt to associate him with the anti-American politics of 1968, when he was 7 years old. This, then, may be the ultimate high-stakes gamble for the party of confident risk-takers: Accept that everything else–ideas, competence, governance–is gone, and instead of trying to reconstruct it, as the books recommend, bet everything on the bare essentials of Republican identity politics, “The American President Americans Are Waiting For.”

“The American President Americans Are Waiting For”. “Make America Great Again”. Schmitt wasn’t too far off in his prediction of the winning message, albeit eight years later than originally planned.

Read the whole article if you have time – the foreshadowing is quite spooky.

This is in significant part why Donald Trump will be taking the presidential oath of office on 20th January 2017 – because the American Left succeeded in shattering American society into a fractured group of warring special interests and victim groups, claiming nearly all of them for its own side but leaving the largest – the white working class – to the Trump-led Republicans.

And still they don’t see it. Still they rail against the ignorant, inbred hicks with their backward, racist ways. Still they treat the plurality of Americans who voted for Donald Trump as stupid, unwitting enablers of fascism (at best) or actively hateful “deplorables” at worst, unaware that every further such comment only serves to prove to the white working class that they are indeed under attack, and that they were right to band together and vote based partly (even largely) on the solidarity of identity.

At some point, somebody fairly prominent on the American Left is going to have to wake up, reach this conclusion and then have the courage to stick their head above the parapet and urge their fellow travellers to stop their destructive course of action. With their hysterical anti-Trump rhetoric, the American Left not only obscure Donald Trump’s many real and tangible flaws, they actively feed the monster which they fear the most.

Now that the populist Right are catching up with the new rules of the game, playing the identity politics card is turning into something approaching Mutual Assured Destruction. Sure, you can do it, but pandering to the politics of identity is now all but guaranteed to provoke an equal and opposite reaction from those being singled out as oppressors. And whoever wins on any given day, the country is left more divided, more bitter and less able to knit back together with goodwill when it comes time to govern.

The American Left needs to step back from this madness. Now.

This post was originally published by the author 14 November 2016:  https://semipartisansam.com/2016/11/14/identity-politics-gave-us-president-trump-more-identity-politics-will-not-make-things-better/

About Sam Hooper

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Sam Hooper is a former management consultant turned political commentator, currently living in London with his Texan wife. Sam can usually be found somewhere online, droning on about politics, free markets, civil liberties, classical liberalism and classical music. Sam is a proud conservatarian, blogs at http://semipartisansam.com and tweets @SamHooper.

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2 comments

  1. I’m a progressive who is aware that identity politics is non progressive. I been calling into so-called progressive shows on tv and radio (c-span and WBAI ny) trying to help people understand that this type of politics hurts everyone. Whether it’s black nationalism or feminism; its wrong. I need help in doing this.

    At the same time Bernie sanders shook up things in a big way and it’s hard to see the rise of trump without understanding what bernie was about.

    Trumps win is a result of identity politics and corporate fears of bernie sanders. White men who didn’t understand bernie sanders have no where to go, but to trump.

    We need a genuine progressive movement here in the states without identity politics. It’s our ONLY hope.

  2. Wow. Amazing article. Well written and fact based. As a very conservative republican, I can say that you read us well. You also read our views on identity politics and oppression. I have hope that perhaps someday we will find common ground. You are an asset to the left. I most definitely would be willing to extend and recieve an olive branch to any opposition that is willing to meet in the middle for debate without identity politics.

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