Saturday, November 26, 2016

Resources on the "Identity Politics" Discussion: "When the Alt-Left Says 'Identity Politics,' What They Actually Mean Is 'Civil Rights'"

As Dean Barker says in retweeting Yashar's tweet above, "Economic anxiety."

Here are some hot-off-the-presses resources for you on the "identity politics" conversation that has unfolded following the vote of 8 in 10 white evangelicals, 6 in 10 white Catholics, and 3 in 5 Mormons for Donald Trump. As I've noted, soon after the election, leading lay Catholic commentators began shopping around charges that the Democrats lost this election because of their infatuation with "identity politics" and their refusal to listen to the "real" concerns (economic and not cultural ones, one assumes) of idealized white working-class voters — who never, it seems, choose white identity above all other considerations as they make their political and cultural choices.

As I've noted in the past several days, one can arrive at this morally obtuse and astonishingly self-serving (when the lay Catholic intellectual establishment in the U.S. is overwhelmingly white, middle-class or affluent, and heterosexual) analysis of an election in which racism (and misogyny, xenophobia, and homophobia) played a key role only if one pretends that the voices of those on the margins of society do not count. And that issues like racism do not deserve serious consideration as Catholics talk about the most pressing moral challenges of our society at present, or that racism does not deserve to be named as a serious moral evil when there's abortion to be considered — an evil that trumps all other evils . . . .

The "pro-life" ethic has become a moral shell game for lay Catholic intellectual leaders in the U.S., allowing them to profess an entirely sentimentalized (since who defends killing babies?) ethic of respect for life while this Catholic group simply shrugs its shoulders at what living and breathing post-birth members of minority communities in the U.S. have to say about political and moral matters. And while it assumes an entirely unmerited position of moral superiority due to its commitment to fetal life, even as it pretends that the voices of real post-birth human beings who have been consigned to the margins of church and society merit no attention at all in "pro-life" Catholic conversations . . . .

The result of this stultifying, smug parochialism on the part of the lay Catholic intellectual leaders of American Catholicism has been to create an intellectually impoverished and morally deprived  — impoverished and deprived in the extreme —American Catholic community which imagines it can be adequately Catholic while ignoring the serious threat that those it elects through its "pro-life" votes pose to living and breathing human beings on the margins of society who deserve every bit as much pro-life consideration as zygotes do.

Here's African-American political commentator and writer, Marcus Johnson — the kind of voice American Catholic intellectuals sorely need to hear if they expect their "pro-life" ethic to be credible, but to which they refuse to listen— on what the attack on identity politics by the alt-left really means:

Typically, "identity politics" has been used as a put-down by the alt-left. By now, almost everyone has heard the insult: "She was engaging in identity politics, and not focusing on the real issues." But what are the real issues" that identity politics "distract" us from? Generally, those who use identity politics as a deriding term want the left to focus on class instead of issues that pertain to the identities of marginalized people. 
When the alt-left says "identity politics," what they actually mean is "civil rights." They want marginalized groups to stop fighting for civil rights because that would upset poor white people who might otherwise vote Democratic, if not for minorities and women pushing their issues. Unequivocally, this is a call for white supremacy. Telling minorities or other marginalized groups that their issues are "distractions," and that they must be subservient to the issues of white men is a path that leads right back to 1950s America. It certainly isn’t a path that leads to equality or racial justice.

Paul Krugman yesterday in New York Times in a similar vein: 

For let's be serious here: You can't explain the votes of places like Clay County* as a response to disagreements about trade policy. The only way to make sense of what happened is to see the vote as an expression of, well, identity politics — some combination of white resentment at what voters see as favoritism toward nonwhites (even though it isn't) and anger on the part of the less educated at liberal elites whom they imagine look down on them. 
To be honest, I don't fully understand this resentment. In particular, I don't know why imagined liberal disdain inspires so much more anger than the very real disdain of conservatives who see the poverty of places like eastern Kentucky as a sign of the personal and moral inadequacy of their residents. 

Brandon Tensley, Michael C. Richardson, and Rejane Frederick on how the election of Barack Obama created a "white-lash against a changing country" that has placed Donald Trump in the White House and his party in total control of the federal government:  

This wasn't an election. It was an exposure. . . . 
Barack Obama's presidency offered a glimmer of hope that the country was ready for a long-overdue reckoning with this pain. But last week's election and its aftermath say the exact opposite: After having had a black man in the White House for seven-plus years, white Americans pulled rank. Or as CNN's Van Jones put it, the election results were "a white-lash against a changing country."

Emily Smith on the fatuous claim that Americans chose Trump because they're hungry for "change":

Change isn’t what Americans wanted; it’s what they’re afraid of.

Neal Gabler on the alacrity with which liberals (ones living in coastal enclaves where they're insulated from the white working-class voters they want to romanticize) are normalizing Trump and excusing the racism (and misogyny, xenophobia, etc.) that swept him into office:**

But the media are not in the politics business, and they are not activists. They are supposedly in the information business, though many of us would say they are really in the entertainment business. And I would suggest that having foresworn it for far too long, they should now also be in the morality business. That's because alongside but separate from the political proposition, there is also a moral proposition for both the public and the press. As a moral proposition, you can't get all teary-eyed over Trump voters who feel disrespected. You can't excuse the racism, misogyny, nativism, anti-Semitism and Islamophobia because we think these all-white voters have legitimate gripes against elites or because they haven't enjoyed the economic success they feel they deserve. With apologies to Jon Stewart, these do not justify the worst effusions of human nature. Every fascist and proto-fascist movement arose from disgruntled citizens who felt dispossessed, disillusioned and disrespected. You can read Daniel Goldhagen's Hitler's Willing Executioners for evidence. Of course, the media must attempt to understand and explain. That is part of their job. But they must not legitimize the cruelty, and they must not normalize this election, which is precisely what they are doing. They must treat it as the aberration it is: an unprecedented and, one hopes, singular moment when angry white Americans loosed their ugliness and turned on their fellow Americans.

Matthew Dodrill on the moral and theological issues that are really at stake as morally vacuous Christian commentators provide cover for Trump and those who elected him with their attacks on identity politics — what's at stake is the essence of the gospel:

The election of Donald Trump to the presidency of the United States is a moment of reckoning for white Christianity. According to the exit polls, approximately 81 percent of white evangelicals voted for a man whose campaign was fueled by demagoguery, Islamaphobia, the exploitation of racial animus, and the criminalization of his political opponent. 
Trump has incited violence at his rallies, expressed desire to commit war crimes, and re-inserted coded racial language into the social lexicon ('law and order'). He denies the reality of climate change, flirts with the idea of forcing Muslims to register, plans to deport undocumented immigrants by the millions, and picked a running mate whose hostility toward the LGBTQ community is stunning. He effectively promised to hand over "all these kingdoms" if evangelicals fell down and worshipped him, and they chose a mighty lion over the peaceable lamb whose power is manifested in weakness. 
Back in July, episcopal priest and theologian Fleming Rutledge claimed that the status confessionis was upon us. She was right. This Latin term, often associated with the Confessing Church's opposition to the Third Reich, describes a moment during which the essence of the Gospel is at stake. 

Michelle Goldberg on a recurring finding of those documenting why Trump voters chose him — Trumpists are reporting that they have felt "shamed" on social media throughout the Obama years, when they vented their racism, misogyny, etc., and received pushback from family members and others in their social media circles:

If you haven't lived through a cultural backlash before, you will be stunned by how quickly and how profoundly the intellectual weather can change. And none of us has lived through a backlash as severe as the one we're facing. 
Before we get to that, though, let's start with the part of the analysis that's true. Over the course of the presidential campaign, I attended Trump rallies in the Northeast, the South, and the Midwest. Among the dozens of Trump supporters I interviewed, not one mentioned NAFTA, but many—perhaps most—complained about political correctness. Again and again, people told me how much they resented not being able to speak their minds, though none of them wanted to articulate what exactly they were holding in. They said they hated being shamed on social media, though they usually didn't want to say what they had been shamed for. 
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.

In what moral universe should the man in the video at the head of this posting not be shamed, and resoundingly so? 

*Clay County, Kentucky, is one of the poorest counties in the U.S., a Kentucky county that just voted 87% for the candidate promising to end the healthcare coverage its residents, who are about 94% white, had just received under the Affordable Care Act. From 2013 to 2016, the uninsured rate in the county fell from 27% to 10%.

**I shared part of this Gabler excerpt in a posting yesterday.

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