The Acceleration of Identity Liberalism

Rod Dreher’s piece on “The Left’s Identity Politics Poison” provides some examples of how Identity Politics is causing the Left to ‘eat their own’, so to speak. He points to “The Left’s Toxic Identity Obsession”, a JAPCAT article in Commentary written by Noah Rothman, the latter of whom writes:

Take, for example, the so-called “Women’s March” that will descend on Washington D.C. to protest the inauguration of Donald Trump on January 21. The masses gathered in opposition to Trump will create the appearance of unity, but a closer examination of the coalition united by their antipathy for the incoming administration paints a portrait of a movement at war with itself.

The Women’s March will be short at least one formerly eager participant who told the New York Times she canceled her trip to Washington D.C. after reading a volunteer organizer’s Facebook post who “advised ‘white allies’ to listen more and talk less.” The Times noted that racial tensions within the organization extend to the organizational level. A Louisiana coordinator resigned her volunteer role due to a lack of diversity in leadership positions. The decision to change the name of a satellite march based in Nashville yielded to a caustic debate over whether the event had become hostile to white participants.

The racial divisions within the liberal movement extend beyond this organizational activity. The Times details how prospective marchers were consumed by a debate over whether white women who are also rape victims are as deserving of sympathy as are victimized women of color due to the perceived “privilege” afforded members of the majority race. March organizer Linda Sarsour described how women could be united in the fight for equal pay, but white women should understand they continue to earn more than their black and Latina counterparts.

You can’t make this stuff up. Rothman concludes:

These are secret handshakes designed to enforce exclusivity. This is not the stuff that makes for a broad-based political movement, but that is not the point. The left allowed itself to be consumed by the myth that a racially diversifying America would provide liberals with an enduring majority. In embracing this fiction, the far left’s most committed identitarians have erected a noxious racial hierarchy. Members of the identity-first left don’t seem to see how their obsession with hereditary traits has stolen from them personal agency and collective political potency. Perhaps they haven’t noticed it yet. They will soon enough.

Shortly after the election, Mark Lilla (who is himself a liberal) wrote a much-talked-about, opinion piece in the NYT titled “The End of Identity Liberalism”, which is referenced by both Dreher and Rothman in their recent pieces. I figured I would revisit Lilla’s piece to see what the most up-voted comments are. Ranking #1 and #2 are the following:

Julie R Washington/Michigan November 18, 2016: 

I’m already tired of the lectures about how we should try to understand the pain of the white rural voter. I live in the most conservative town in America, McBain MI. Let me tell you what I’ve learned living liberal in rural America. The farmers, who are attached to the Government by the hip, think the EPA is going to ride around in 4 wheelers in putting them out of business because of a puddle in their driveway. They actually believe that liberals will take their guns away. The day before the election, the front page of our local paper did not separate the candidates by issues but by their stance on abortion. Teenage girls here have kids before they get out of high school. Lest you think any Dem could get elected here, let me disabuse you of that notion. The only time there’s a dem on the ballot here is for national elections. Everything from the SC to dog catcher is run by Republicans and they wouldn’t vote for a Dem if his name was Jesus Christ. Oh, and let me add that I’ve been getting death threats and misogynist hate mail for nearly 20 years. Pastors here preach Obama is the anti-Christ and their religion is under siege. Dems are never going to crack the rural nut of fake news, religion and tribalism at least in my rural area. This is a different breed of people, closed minded, insular and uncurious about anything beyond the town limits.

Sara New York November 18, 2016: 

This article is insulting to people who are not cisgendered, heterosexual white men. Identity is not something which can be quietly set aside in pursuit of common goals, since historically those goals were set by and for white men; women, people of color, members of the LGBT community are seeking to rebalance a society which both intentionally and unintentionally excluded their interests for centuries. Moreover, identity informs key political questions, which may start as attempts to address specific groups’ concerns but can broaden into affecting much larger groups. For example, the push to protect the rights of migrant workers, many of whom are undocumented, is not a simple issue of immigrant identity, but can lead to higher wages and better employment protections for all workers. Promoting women’s equality in the workforce can lead to greater access to childcare resources and expanded parental and family leave for all workers.

I also dispute the argument that liberals are responsible for promoting identity politics. President-elect Trump’s campaign trafficked heavily in Islamaphobia and xenophobia, he was endorsed by the KKK, and has since selected the white supremacist Steve Bannon as a member of his administration. We don’t want to keep defending reproductive rights, gender identity, racial equality and religious freedom and yet, these rights are constantly under attack. Ask conservatives to abandon the identity politics of white Christians and then we’ll talk.

PREDICTION: NYT readers, and, by extension, liberal elites in D.C. and elsewhere, will not change one iota when it comes to condescension towards Middle America, nor when it comes to the spiral inertia that is Identity Politics tribalism. In fact, they will simply quadruple down on both. This will, in turn, only expand and strengthen the Alt Right, which is Identity Politics Tribalism for White People.

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