Nice article, but Greenwald got his title inverted here: the party’s view of identity politics is cynical and opportunistic, and thus confusing.
A weakness in identity politics allows it to be exploited easily. People imagine that a person of “their identity” will support their interests. But in 2008, 2012, and most transparently in 2016, the Democratic Party ran women and minorities while actively purging official ranks of candidates and officials who would have attended to the issues of women and minorities. And it has doubled down on its efforts to stop progressive candidates from running from and in its ranks by preserving its bought and sold “superdelegates” and instituting new tests of “party loyalty” to exclude progressive candidates and sentiments.
It is worth pointing out that 2016 was not the peak of identity politics in America, though it may have been a recent peak. The peak came around the Civil War, but the identities in question prominently included White southerners. As of 2018, we might think to add “slaveholders,” but most White southerners supportive of slavery and its attendant bigotry were themselves relatively disenfranchised. They voted and eventually fought to support their status as “free men” not subject to slavery nor the wage slavery that was eventually thrust upon them by the Union Army.
There was all sorts of ridiculous bigotry involved, but they were also very realistically oppressed by the system that they fought to save, though perhaps not quite as much as they were by the victors after their loss.
This was and is identity politics. The efforts by oppressed Blacks and Hispanics and women and LGBT people are not identical nor symmetrical, but they are quite similar in regard to a couple very common and important errors.
- People imagine, as Madeleine Albright encourages them to do, that any female candidate will notice the problems of women and care. Confederate soldiers imagined that because their leaders were white and Southern, that they had the interests of hardscrabble North Carolina farmers in mind to some extent.
- Oppressed people often imagine that the oppression of other minorities is somehow no loss to them or not their responsibility. Whatever the responsibility, it is a loss.
These notions allowed rich plantation owners to get poor farmers fighting and dying for their ownership of other humans. Some fairly similar ideas accounted for a good deal of Donald Trump’s support in 2016, though Hillary Clinton accounted for more.
But this is also very similar to the sort of thinking that got Democrats voting against their interest for Clinton even after her rigging of the nomination process and acceptance of large scale bribes from foreign governments had been revealed, along with not inconsiderable evidence of mafia ties.
The difficulty in identity politics is not that people are concerned that they be treated fairly and with respect. It’s about time and past time that this should have occurred. The problem is that so many people imagine that this will happen by placing a few token members within an oppressive system, even by supporting that systems oppression to do so.
That lets both parties bait and switch. The Republicans have done it with Trump, though he was far from the ruling class’s first choice. The Democrats did it with Obama two times and attempted it with HRClinton.
White men have been misrepresented by white men for a long time. Supporting a racist patriarchy has not brought wealth and respect to poor white men. Supporting women and minority candidates will not bring respect to women and minorities unless–unless!–those candidates have policies that will take on and take apart the oppression that drives the system, and that is class-based, economic, and violent.