Saturday, November 26, 2016

Protect the vulnerable: Identity politics is here to stay

Michelle Goldberg in Slate; some definitions:
Identity politics and political correctness aren’t the same thing, but they are interrelated. One situates political claims in a person’s racial and sexual status. The other tries to force a surface consensus on racial and sexual equality through taboos and speech codes.
Guilt-mongering is counter productive:
The spasms of unchained bigotry we’ve seen post-election suggest that some Trump supporters were simply longing to howl NIGGER! KIKE! CUNT! FAGGOT! Among those I spoke to, however, some felt bullied for violating more arcane speech rules they neither assented to nor understood. Social media had forced them to submit to an alien set of norms; Trump liberated them. The late cultural critic Ellen Willis might have seen this coming. “Coercion and guilt-mongering—the symbiotic weapons of authoritarian culture—inevitably provoke resistance; when the left uses these tactics it merely encourages people to confuse their most oppressive impulses with their need to be themselves, offensively honest instead of hypocritically nice,” she wrote in a 1992 essay aptly titled “Identity Crisis.” “Perversely, racism and sexism become badges of freedom rather than stigmata of repression, while the roots of domination in people’s rage and misery remain untouched.”
The political advantages of fascist culture:
Trump offers his followers the fascist bargain that Walter Benjamin described in the epilogue to The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction. “Fascism attempts to organize the newly created proletarian masses without affecting the property structure which the masses strive to eliminate,” he wrote. “Fascism sees its salvation in giving these masses not their right, but instead a chance to express themselves.” Benjamin, a Marxist, treated this as an example of false consciousness. Perhaps, however, we should pay Trump voters the courtesy of assuming that at least some of them knew what they were doing when they opted for the politics of cultural revenge delivered by a billionaire in a gold-plated airplane. The question, then, is what those of us who are the objects of this revenge should do now.
Going forward:
Certainly, Democrats should champion the interests of working people. They should struggle to expand the social safety net and defend the labor movement against conservative attempts to destroy it. They should work to preserve the gains of the Affordable Care Act, even for those Trump supporters who just voted to gut their own health care. But there can be no going back on defending the tenuous gains of women and people of color, or foregrounding their demands for full equality. They are the base of the party, the people who gave Hillary Clinton a popular vote majority but will now be ruled by a hostile minority.

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