Liberals Are Starting To Reject Leftist Identity Politics. Time To Unite Against It.
(The Daily Wire/Hamilton) With Donald Trump’s victory and with both congressional houses belonging to the Republicans, most Americans lost faith in the Democrats to lead the country with their current message. Ever since Obama won decisively relying heavily on manipulating identity politics to form a new coalition, the Democrats thought they could rely on targeting specific groups of people for the next few decades. In doing so, they stopped preaching a unifying message that would apply to all Americans and left a considerable voting bloc in the rearview. This contradicted Bill Clinton’s message of a post Cold War America with new frontiers on foreign policy and the economy that successfully won him two terms in the 1990s.
Many academics, Democratic politicians, and other assorted liberal voices emerged from the electoral train wreck offering a new vision for the direction of both the party and American liberalism. For example, Prof. Mark Lilla of Columbia University wrote an article in The New York Times aptly titled “The End of Identity Liberalism.” In his own words:
[T]he fixation on diversity in our schools and in the press has produced a generation of liberals and progressives narcissistically unaware of conditions outside their self-defined groups, and indifferent to the task of reaching out to Americans in every walk of life. At a very young age our children are being encouraged to talk about their individual identities, even before they have them. By the time they reach college many assume that diversity discourse exhausts political discourse, and have shockingly little to say about such perennial questions as class, war, the economy and the common good. In large part this is because of high school history curriculums, which anachronistically project the identity politics of today back onto the past, creating a distorted picture of the major forces and individuals that shaped our country.
Lilla further argued that identity politics turned off a considerable amount of the electorate since it solely relies on differences between Americans rather than things that bond us together. As he pointed out, Ronald Reagan and Bill Clinton used such messaging in order to win their respective elections. He also stated that the “whitelashing” argument that both the media and other leftists relied on to explain Trump’s victory “absolves liberals of not recognizing how their own obsession with diversity has encouraged white, rural, religious Americans to think of themselves as a disadvantaged group whose identity is being threatened or ignored.”
This reasoning does not solely exist within liberal academia, but also within the political establishment. Last week, self-professed “democratic socialist” Bernie Sanders also denounced the Democratic Party’s reliance on identity politics. In a comment that nonchalantly dug at Hillary Clinton, Sanders said:
It’s not good enough for someone to say, ‘I’m a woman! Vote for me!’ No, that’s not good enough. What we need is a woman who has the guts to stand up to Wall Street, to the insurance companies, to the drug companies, to the fossil fuel industry.
Sanders insinuated that the party should focus more on policy and explain why their policies would benefit all Americans rather than specifically targeting certain groups and leaving others behind. While it may seem ironic that a staunch leftist like Sanders would denounce a major segment of his base supporters, he took the Democrats to task for failing to make the arguments it desperately needed to counter Donald Trump’s broad policy prescriptions that he said were on behalf of all Americans. While most Democratic politicians have not explicitly stated it, Tim Ryan’s attempt to oust Nancy Pelosi highlighted a growing desire within the party establishment to try new tactics. According to The Hill:
A chorus of Democrats has voiced deep concerns in recent days that the party is losing working-class, Rust Belt voters — the same demographic that launched Trump to surprise victories in states like Michigan and Wisconsin. Empowering leaders from those states — and not just from the coasts — would go a long way toward winning back that electorate, many lawmakers say.
Clearly, many Democrats understand that their current approach failed them not only in federal elections, but also in state elections. With the Republicans controlling 33 governorships and 32 state legislatures, Republicans have not had this much control across the country for almost a century. The Democrats realize that in order to make the case that they care about all Americans and not a select few groups, identity politics have to either be grossly minimized in its electoral strategy or eliminated for good.
As one can expect, the regressive left is furious about it. After Sanders took identity politics to task, many leftists slammed Sanders, arguing that Sanders believes that “racism is good.” In addition, leftists like Tariq Nasheed desperately need identity politics to be mainstreamed if they wish to remain relevant for years to come. Even Michelle Goldberg of Slate argued (under false premises no less) that backing away from identity politics would constitute “going back on defending the tenuous gains of women and people of color, or foregrounding their demands for full equality.” In the midst of a civil war amongst differing factions of the Democratic Party, we should expect to see the regressive left double-down on identity politics, their sophomoric name-calling, and their illiberal, economically detrimental, and quasi-fascistic policies.
Now is the time for conservatives to join our liberal friends in combating the illiberal leftists who poisoned discourse over the past decade.
Dave Rubin, the host of The Rubin Report, emerged as the most important voice of classical liberalism in our current discourse today. On the day after the election, he wrote the following tweet:
After all this if we have a clean transition of power, and liberals and conservative realize we aren't enemies, the future will be bright.
— Dave Rubin (@RubinReport) November 9, 2016
He is 100% correct. Over the past three weeks, more moderate liberals have denounced the regressive left and identity politics than I personally saw in the past two and a half years. I have had the privilege of aligning with many of my close liberal friends in embracing a message of unity in this new era of American politics. Along with our shared desire to challenge the regressive left, we also share the same interest in holding Donald Trump’s feet to the fire when he crosses the line. The future of American discourse relies on principled liberals and conservatives holding the radicals accountable for their objectively disgusting tactics and views while having important conversations on policy.
No, this is not going to be an easy fight. However, fighting for freedom has never been a cakewalk; we should not back down in the face of a despicable enemy who threatens freedom for their own tribalist purposes.