Saturday, December 10, 2016

What Bernie Sanders Gets Right About Identity Politics - NY Mag

...racial justice and gender equality cannot be achieved without confronting economic inequality — not when people of color and women are overrepresented among the financially disadvantaged. And it’s difficult to see how the Democratic Party will ever take aggressive action to combat inequality, unless its downscale wing becomes both larger and more class conscious.   Any discourse that encourages working-class voters to see social democratic
policies as irrelevant to their struggles does more to protect economic privilege than to promote social justice....
NY Mag, What Bernie Sanders Gets Right About Identity Politics

This NY Mag piece is one of the better ones I've read in analyzing the Bernie vs Hillary campaign vis a vis identity and class politics. (I included 2 graphics that represent both sides of the constant battle.) Under the guise of the Clinton allies criticizing Bernie for not paying attention to identity politics - and he was not artful in addressing this issue - the real undercurrent was his calls for income distribution, which given the number of Dem Party wealthy supporters, was a no-no. We can't ignore race -- I've asked white guys time and again - some who have racist ideas -- if you and Obama were walking down a street - and you are holding a bazooka - and Obama carries a briefcase - who gets stopped by cops? They just don't answer -- but this article also points out that the higher economic status black people reach, the less contact they have with the criminal justice system -- though obviously there will always be Sandra Blands whose story has been used as a battering ram. But Bernie offered a unifying economic theme and Trump walked in and stole the thunder with a divisive theme.

This captures some of the essence of the article below: Reed’s framing, Sanders’s calls for expanding the social welfare state and taking a more adversarial approach to financial regulation are less relevant to the average black family than the way the senator’s plan for free state college would undermine private, historically black colleges and universities; even though only 2 percent of black college students attend such institutions, and Sanders expressed openness to amending his proposal to accommodate such schools..... Sanders was rarely eloquent in connecting his economic message to the lived experience of black voters.
Less concerning than Clinton’s attempt to exploit this weakness, was the way her narrative was internalized and amplified by some advocates of social justice — and has, thus, outlived her campaign.
And this:
The problem with class-blind identity politics.
At a debate in February, Sanders was asked if he thought race relations would improve under his administration.
“Absolutely,” the senator replied. “Because what we will do is say, instead of giving tax breaks to millionaires, we’re going to create millions of jobs for low-income kids.”
Legal analyst and racial-justice advocate Imani Gandy derided Sanders’s answer, tweeting, “Sandra Bland HAD a goddamn job. She still ended up dead. Jobs is not the solution.”...
But her specific critique is unsatisfying for a few reasons. For one, it’s not clear why criminal-justice reform is considered a “racial issue,” while expanding federal employment or the social safety net is not: None of these reforms target racial disadvantage explicitly, but all would disproportionately benefit people of color.... And “Sandra Bland had a job” remains a favorite slogan among some advocates for racial justice. (As does the considerably more asinine “Goldman Sachs didn’t shoot Michael Brown.”)
ASIDE: [By the way -- to show you the ties between our UFT/AFT leaders and the Hillary wing of the party -- anytime the left-leaning opposition bring up income or class issues - the leadership red flags go up - literally - they redbait - there go those socialists - or maybe Bolsheviks - again - class warfare. But Bernie was about class unity and he tried to talk past an often divisive identity political argument.]

Here are some highlights I extracted but read the whole article.
[Clinton] framed Sanders’s emphasis on the importance of economic redistribution as an affront to the causes of racial, gender, and LGBT equality. “Not everything is about an economic theory, right?” Clinton asked a crowd in Nevada this past February. “If we broke up the big banks tomorrow — and I will if they deserve it, if they pose a systemic risk, I will — would that end racism?” Clinton went on to ask whether forcing Wall Street’s largest firms to separate their commercial and investment banking wings would “end sexism” and “discrimination against the LGBT community” or “make people feel more welcoming to immigrants overnight?”
Her supporters didn’t think so.
Clinton’s “single-issue” charge wasn’t grounded in Sanders’s neglect of racial and gender equality in policy terms. Rather, it referred to the greater rhetorical emphasis he placed on issues of redistribution — and the attendant implication that economic justice is a central, unifying concern for Democrats of all colors and genders. It was an objection to the politics of class solidarity.


For the left to overcome its infighting and realize the promise of the rainbow coalition, it will need to be on guard against this particular brand of liberalism; because an identity politics that disdains class solidarity is one that will fail the most vulnerable members of the marginalized groups it claims to represent....  the growth of the Democrats’ upscale wing has coincided with a vast increase in economic inequality.... The class divide within the Democratic Party is growing at the same time that the divide between classes in the United States is doing the same..... a Democratic Party increasingly divided between a predominately white professional class, and a largely nonwhite working class, left-wing identity politics


  1. Identity (mostly race and to a far lesser extent gender) politics have become the lifeblood of the Democratic party. The triumph of identity grievances over ideas. Without this identity focus - as offputting as it may be to so many Americans - the Democratic party coalition will whither and die. Bernie knows this.

  2. Nancy Pelosi doesn't think anyone wants the democrats to change their message. Dems still blame FBI director for their loss. Their only strategy seems to be to hope that Trump screws things up so badly that people come back to the democrats. They thought they could win by branding Trump as a racist, misogynist etc. They were wrong. And now they think they can win by once again pointing out how bad the other side is. They are so attached to the corporate teat, they can’t imagine reinventing their party and demonstrating it gives a shit about the financial security of every day working Americans. Their skulls are thick and their heels are dug in. They deserve loss after loss until none of them are left. The democrats are doing nothing to convince the Obama voters who voted for Trump in PA, OH, MI, WI to come back to the Democratic Party. The democrats haven’t convinced this white educated pro-choice, pro-labor union, pro marriage equality female New Yorker either. Still not holding my breath…but still waiting… Roseanne McCosh

    1. Actually, the latest Democratic/CNN/MSNBC/NYT blame game is Russian hackers. It know it is hard to keep up with the blame-shifting crybabies. Pelosi and her crew will blame anyone and anything (including voter machine error, systemic racism, FBI Director, Islamophobia, Homophobia, xenophobia, gender-phobia, white privilege, more racism, etc.) for the crippling Democratic eight-year losses in state houses, governors' mansions, Senate and House, the White House and (soon) the Supreme Court.

    2. Not to say Russian hackers didn't do it. Or that Putin in better off with Trump than Hillary -- but them again I'm not sure a Trump/Putin axis is not a bad thing for both countries though Europe might be screwed. I'm imagining a sphere of influence arrangement bet Russia/China and US -- like the good old days of global powers - and screw everyone else. Maybe the world is a safer place. Maybe Syria in the long run was better off with Assad. and Libya with Karafi. Who knows anymore?

  3. Norm, I'm going to read this article closely.

    I don't know how to express this forcefully enough but in a friendly way: most people of color II know and almost all LGBT people consider the phrase "identify politics" to have a demeaning, majoritarian and dismissive connotation.

    I assure you that this is not some political-correctness run amok. There is absolutely no reason to distinguish "identity politics," often otherwise known as social justice, from support for a root-and-branch approach to economic justice and a "lunch bucket" kind of demogcratic change.

    I implore everyone on the left to stop using the phrase, even if it means using another, longer way to get the point across.

    And, definitely, to stop using it as shorthand for some meaningful analysis about what went wrong last month or what needs to be done in the future.

    Finally, you are well-known for your bluntness. All fine and good, but really, "Sandra Bland as a battering ram."

    Finally, it is really possible for intelligent people of good will to hold two thoughts simultaneously in their brains: the work many of us have spent our lives doing in connection with advancing the civil liberties and social opportunities for people of color and LGBT folks can exist perfectly will together in one framework with a commitment to economic justice and change.

    I will not be embarrassed by false equivalencies about my position and what Clinton or UFT hacks may have said--and certainly don't appreciate the one-degree-of-separation by by reference to red-baiters who can't make an intelligent case for their own position.

    If this article turns out to have a more nuanced view of the entire thing than I suspect it does, feel free to let me know.

    1. Harris. The objection to the term is confusing since I've seen and heard it used in every caucus I've been in over 40 years. Name it what you want. But many on the left have seen it not as social justice but as divisive. I see you and I as white males of Jewish dissent. You add an element that separates us. I get that white male heterosexuals are now viewed as some kind of separate species that doesn't get to be included in the progressive wing or deserving of social justice. When people raise their identity above common class alignment that is exactly what is being talked about as the name we can't use as dividing not uniting people. But I'm just posting stuff for further discussion. Was Bernie not politically correct in trying to look for commonality? I think this article delves into a lot of that. But since I have not had to fight for my own social justice maybe the message echos what I used to get from some of my more colleagues. You're a white male so just shut the fuck up. And if people miss that element that goes on in small and big rooms as dividing people then they don't get the trump victory which took that element of division and drove a truck through it.


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