The defense of liberty can't do without identity politics
February 9, 2017 12:29 PM   Subscribe

After ably re-butting claims that a backlash against political correctness was responsible for Trump's election political scientist Jacob Levy offers a broader celebration of what’s sometimes (and usually derisively) called “identity politics.

His central thesis is clear. Identity politics at its best, in other words, isn’t just a matter of being on some group’s side. It’s about fighting for political justice by drawing on the commitment that arises out of targeted injustice, and about having the intellectual resources to let us diagnose that targeted injustice. It lets us spot the majority group’s identity politics rather than treating it as the normal background state of affairs, and to recognize the oppression and injustice that it generates.

And he calls out a couple of salient examples.

If Black Lives Matter is “identity politics,” then identity politics has provided one of the most significant political mobilizations in defense of freedom in the United States in my lifetime.

The point generalizes. Until 2003, many states criminalized a variety of forms of sexual behavior between consenting adults. There were identity-neutral ways of describing the illiberal wrong of this. But the laws weren’t identity neutral in intent, and often weren’t even formally identity-neutral; they were criminal prohibitions on homosexual sexual activity that legitimized routine police harassment even when they weren’t enforced. The laws were unjust according to liberal principle, but would never have been repealed (in many states) and struck down (in the rest) without the identity-conscious political mobilization of gay and lesbian activism.

Finally, he contrasts that with another flavor of identity politics that never seems to be indentified as such.

White identity politics has moreover been a constitutive fact of the illiberal expansion of state power. The effect of some of the oldest instances of this are still with us, as is seen in the recent struggle over placing the Dakota Access Pipeline on lands that were reserved to the Sioux nation in an 1851 treaty that was subsequently violated but never voided. The effects of the decades-long white welfare state and the redistributive subsidizing of white wealth accumulation through housing policy are very much still with us in the wealth gap between whites and blacks, to say nothing of the enduring effects of racially discriminatory housing and urban policy on the shape of American cities. But the most currently politically salient effect of white identity politics as a source of state power is the combination of policing, imprisonment, crime policy, and drug policy.
posted by layceepee (51 comments total) 41 users marked this as a favorite
 
This stuff is stupid. There's two different senses of identity politics in use today, at least. One means any discussion of minority or women's concerns at all, and is useless, and the other is rooted not in cultural anthropology studies, but in the clinical field of psychology and isn't about "identity" in that first sense at all, but about how the human brain seems to work. That second usage is important because there are psychologically manipulative tricks unscrupulous politicians and marketers can use to exploit the human psychology of identity to manipulate their feelings and behaviors. That's the only identity politics anybody should be trying to expunge, but there's not enough precision, clarity, and nuance in our popular debates and discourses to allow for the discussion to shed any useful light.
posted by saulgoodman at 1:15 PM on February 9 [3 favorites]


I don't know, saulgoodman, the piece in the OP (hell, even just the quoted passages in the FPP) shed quite a bit of useful light on this topic for me.
posted by AceRock at 1:20 PM on February 9 [1 favorite]


I'm still not even seeing anybody discussing the real meat of the subject though: the cognitive processes involved in creating the sense of a coherent identity in humans is the issue. Pols consciously and unconsciously use tricks that exploit these cognitive processes. No matter where you stand on social justice and identity in the political sense, the science of how human psychology works and can be exploited to play with voters emotions in ways they can't control is what I think needs more light shone on it.
posted by saulgoodman at 1:25 PM on February 9 [1 favorite]


I'm a bit confused - is the first link (the article from Reason) the one that was supposed to have been re-butted? It seems more coherent, and more keeping in line with my experiences, than the main article.
posted by kanewai at 1:26 PM on February 9 [1 favorite]


Xtian White Males have been practicing (and winning from) Identity Politics in this country since its founding and just have little Special Snowflake hissy fits when anybody else tries to do the same.
posted by oneswellfoop at 1:26 PM on February 9 [22 favorites]


They're still the ones winning it is the problem. Because they don't care.
posted by saulgoodman at 1:36 PM on February 9


They're winning because they're still in the majority, and, as it relates to the election, because they happen to be the majority in a handful of winner-take-all states.

And because shitgibbons like Robby Soave and Jon Chait are more offended by minorities and women having a voice than by the threats faced by the formerly voiceless.
posted by AceRock at 1:41 PM on February 9 [1 favorite]


I recall this fact:
2 million Black voters voted for Obama but did NOT vote at all in this past election. More white women voted for pussy grabber trump (I always use lower case for him) than for Hillary.
posted by Postroad at 1:42 PM on February 9


To pick on Soave: Example: A lot of people think there are only two genders—boy and girl. Maybe they're wrong. Maybe they should change that view. Maybe it's insensitive to the trans community. Maybe it even flies in the face of modern social psychology. But people think it. Political correctness is the social force that holds them in contempt for that, or punishes them outright.

What gets swept under the rug in these discussions is that fundamental economic issues are at stake: jobs, services, and education. To the extent that the Obama administration addressed transgender discrimination, it was prompted by a long-standing policy of military discrimination on the one hand, and conservative attempts to deny young trans people a public school education on the other. Republicans confront us now with over a dozen separate bills designed to deny trans people jobs, services, and education.

Similarly, Obergefell wasn't just about the "definition of marriage" or pretty ceremonies. It was about the rational basis for a broad spectrum of discrimination against LGBTQ people over the last 25 years. The Obama administration's actions lagged behind much of the private sector by over a decade in this area. That's hardly "relentless" advocacy.

BLM calls attention to one form of discrimination that constitutes an additional tax on black Americans, contributes to community poverty, and shortens life expectancy by a full half decade.

So I tend to agree with Levy, but I think he falls short when it comes to pointing out that real lives, dollars, and rights are at stake in this debate.

And of course, feminism, queer theory, and the civil rights movement have a ton to say about economics and class. They are hardly "siloed," just ignored on those points.
posted by CBrachyrhynchos at 1:47 PM on February 9 [23 favorites]


I don't think there's a line between "identity politics" and "politics," in reality?
posted by atoxyl at 1:54 PM on February 9 [3 favorites]


Levy presents two arguments: (1) PC backlash doesn't explain Trump's victory, and; (2) "identity politics" are necessary to identify and combat injustice.

With respect to his first argument, I think his view is too narrow. He's basically saying that Trump's margin of victory in the general election was so small, and the Republican/Democratic voting splits were so similar to the 2012 election, that it's irrational to attribute the outcome to some sweeping shift in conservative ideology. While the general election did seem to prove that the vast majority of American voters will vote along party lines no matter who the candidates are, Levy ignores the significance of Trump's victory in the primaries. The republican party had no shortage of cookie-cutter, party-line republicans to choose from, and yet they overwhelmingly flocked to strong-man who unabashedly spouted anti-PC rhetoric. This, I think, does require explanation.

With respect to his second argument, I think he's attacking a straw man. He addresses his argument to "the claim about identity politics is that it is self-undermining and so needs to be discarded, regardless of its substantive merits." If there are people out there arguing that identity politics of the kind that Levy is supporting need to be abandoned outright, I have not seen it. Richard Rorty extensively hailed the cultural victories of the identity politics in his 1996 book Achieving Our Country. But he cautioned that focusing exclusively on cultural injustice while ignoring broader economic injustice is putting the cart before the horse (my words not his). Most thinkers criticizing identity politics today seem to be echoing Rorty's view. I think most would agree that the left should continue to champion the rights of the most vulnerable members of our society, but it should not, and need not, come at the expense of the greater battle for economic justice.
posted by Dobrovolets at 1:54 PM on February 9 [9 favorites]


AceRock: over 30+ years now since I've been paying attention, the trend has been away from social justice and public policy for the vulnerable. The election just put white supremacist aligned radical right wingers in charge of the US. They literally have plans to dismantle almost the entirety of the remaining policies from the civil rights era. How are you seeing where anyone on the left has accomplished anything lasting in the last 30 years or so? Other than Obama, who refused to use appeals to his own minority identity during his campaign because he understood you don't sell things to people by making them feel bad or teaching them a painful lesson. A presidential campaign is not a teachable moment--it's a contest to see who can sell their party's candidate, an ad campaign. Yes, keep identity in politics, but let's be clear about how it works in reality when you challenge a person's sense of their identity through direct confrontation instead of indirectly or persuasively. If your goal is to win someone over, shame will never work for long, and it always causes a backlash. Political correctness has nothing to do with it. More political correctness would help, not hurt.
posted by saulgoodman at 1:59 PM on February 9 [2 favorites]


When "identity politics" means betting everything on supporters' felt affinity to a politician's personal background over policy vision and unifying moral/ideological commitments then yeah, it's only going to be able to take you so far. But that kind of affinity always has been and always will be a major component of politics.
posted by atoxyl at 2:04 PM on February 9


"smug, entitled, elitist, privileged leftists jumping down the throats of ordinary folks who aren't up-to-date on the latest requirements of progressive society" - it doesn't say, but I assume these smug leftists are white. This is always how these pieces frame identity politics, white people sneering at other, more PC-challenged white people, rather than POC, LGBT folk, women using our own voices and working toward our own self-determination.

If my mere existence in this movement shames people then let them be shamed.

In the spate of these thinkpieces that ran after the election, I sure didn't hear "don't abandon the battle for economic justice to focus exclusively on cultural injustice." (What is "cultural injustice," anyway? As CBrachyrynchos points out, all these things have an economic component.) I heard "shut up about reproductive rights, shut up about the internment, and let the white men talk, now." Nevertheless, I persist.
posted by sunset in snow country at 2:06 PM on February 9 [36 favorites]


Why did my former-neocon-cheerleader uncle decide he liked Bernie Sanders in 2016? Well okay, I think he has had some epiphanies about just badly all those wars were going - but maybe, just maybe, it has something to do with them both being septuagenarian Brooklyn Jews??
posted by atoxyl at 2:09 PM on February 9


he cautioned that focusing exclusively on cultural injustice while ignoring broader economic injustice is putting the cart before the horse

I have seen this argument made a lot. But to me, BLM is not concerned "exclusively on cultural injustice". Neither are activists fighting for LGBTQ rights. As Levy says, the point generalizes. Underlying the issues those who benefit from the status quo consider "exclusively cultural" are almost always economic issues. Can you really tell me that the school-to-prison pipelines, housing segregation, overpolicing, etc. really have no economic effects on the communities and the people fighting these things?
posted by AceRock at 2:11 PM on February 9 [6 favorites]


On preview, what sunset in snow country and CBrachyrynchos said
posted by AceRock at 2:25 PM on February 9


Dobrovolets: Well, it's the same argument we've seen before in a different election. That transgender rights is a common thread for most of the anti-"identity politics" thinkpieces is significant. Back in 2012 LGBTQ people were widely warned that pushing too hard on marriage equality will cost Democrats at the ballot box. Some Democrats have been saying that explicitly since the election. Now of course, when challenged those same people would say that they're not abandoning LGBTQ issues, merely advocating for a change in priority. But that's cold comfort when you've just been blamed for a Republican victory.

"This is akin to the political-correctness-run-amok problem: both (trans politics and discussions of racism) are examples of the left's horrible over-reach during the Obama years. The leftist drive to enforce a progressive social vision was relentless, and it happened too fast."

The obvious read on this statement is that trans politics moved too fast in the Obama years. But what actually happened regarding trans politics on the federal level? ENDA did not pass. Educational inclusion is in the courts and was nearly a lame-duck executive action. Military inclusion happened by an executive order that isn't likely to survive a year.

Meanwhile, Republicans have gone on a frenzy when it comes to drafting anti-trans legislative actions over the last few years. So which side of the debate has really been "relentless?"
posted by CBrachyrhynchos at 2:32 PM on February 9 [17 favorites]


In the spate of these thinkpieces that ran after the election, I sure didn't hear "don't abandon the battle for economic justice to focus exclusively on cultural injustice."

Arguably Democrats already made tremendous concessions on economic justice years ago.

I don't think it's fair to accuse activists on the ground (even most of those who tend to focus on "cultural injustice") of doing that though. As already mentioned in this thread BLM has a pretty aggressive economic justice platform.

I'm just not sure some of our current representatives in the nominally left-wing party can be trusted to fight that battle, nor e.g. the Mark Zuckerbergs.
posted by atoxyl at 2:32 PM on February 9 [5 favorites]


Can you really tell me that the school-to-prison pipelines, housing segregation, overpolicing, etc. really have no economic effects on the communities and the people fighting these things?

Of course not. I don't think anybody is saying that either. Eliminating racial disparities is an incredibly worthwhile goal that would bring with it collateral economic consequences for those communities affected. But lets say we achieved that, as well as full gender equality, etc. etc. But let's say while we're doing that, the richest 1% continued to get richer in relation to the other 99%. Even if the other 99% enjoy full equality with respect to each other, would we consider the work of the left over with? Or would we think that we all, collectively, were still getting the short end of the stick. To return to Rorty again:

One symptom of [the Left's] inability to do two things at once is that it has been left to scurrilous demagogues like Patrick Buchanan to take political advantage of the widening gap between rich and poor. While the Left's back was turned [fighting for cultural equality], the bourgeoisification of the white proletariat which began in World War II and continued up through the Vietnam War has been halted, and the process has gone into reverse. America is now proletarianizing its bourgeoisie, and this process is likely to culminate in a bottom-up populist revolt, of the sort Buchanan hopes to foment.

All I'm saying is that while racial/gender and all other forms of "identity" equality are worth fighting for, we should not let it distract us from broader economic issues, affecting the whole of society. We can do two things at once.
posted by Dobrovolets at 3:09 PM on February 9 [3 favorites]


CBrachyrhynchos: You are right. It is not fair to place blame for the election on those people championing the rights of marginalized groups. I don't think the LGBTQ community or BLM should ease up one bit. But the left as a whole and the democratic party specifically needs to also embrace a platform pushing for serious economic reform.
posted by Dobrovolets at 3:26 PM on February 9 [1 favorite]


The American left will continue to remain illegitimate, as champions of human rights and marginalized communities, until they in no uncertain terms reject the GWOT and attempt to hold those accountable who have and are currently committing atrocities in our name.
posted by AElfwine Evenstar at 3:44 PM on February 9


The American left will continue to remain illegitimate, as champions of human rights and marginalized communities, until they in no uncertain terms reject the GWOT and attempt to hold those accountable who have and are currently committing atrocities in our name.

What the fuck are you even talking about. Millions of people marched in the street across the US (and across the world) against the US president's misogyny and other awful attributes. Protests at airports against the Executive's unconsitutional ban on Muslims entering the US, not to mention dozen upon dozens of pro bono lawyers working to help those affected. US states governed by Democrats are suing the US Government over the ban. Elected officials are speaking out in the Senate against Trump's terrible cabinet nominations. And all of that in the last three weeks.

What else do you want? Actual civil war?
posted by His thoughts were red thoughts at 3:53 PM on February 9 [10 favorites]


What the fuck are you even talking about.

The swathe of destruction we have unleashed across the greater Middle East and all the innocent lives destroyed as a result. You people can't be arsed to march against a Democrat murdering children with drones but if a Republican wont let the refugees we created into our country suddenly we have a problem. No. The problem has been ongoing and now you want to march. I wish you luck, but I have no faith that you will continue to support human rights in the most vulnerable populations once the Democrats are back in the white house.
posted by AElfwine Evenstar at 4:07 PM on February 9 [6 favorites]


[This sidebar seems to be tangential to the thread and also likely to cause an enormous derail; please don't carry it farther. Thanks. ]
posted by restless_nomad at 4:17 PM on February 9 [1 favorite]


All I'm saying is that while racial/gender and all other forms of "identity" equality are worth fighting for, we should not let it distract us from broader economic issues, affecting the whole of society.

Well, racism and sexism DO affect the whole of society. Even in the bluntest economic terms, something like the gender pay gap is a structural sexism issue as well as an economic issue. If you deprive half of the population of wealth and the opportunities to generate more wealth, they have less to spend and you are damaging the economy in the long term. If you deny poor people effective education, you are crippling your future workforce. If you unfairly target and criminalise black people, you create a less economically productive underclass.

The economic issues and 'identity' issues (as they are incredibly dismissively termed here) are deeply intertwined. That what intersectionality recognises.

Your experience is not universal. There is a spectrum of groups, affected differently by the various layers of oppression - race, gender, culture and, yes, socio-economic class. Perhaps equality is a purely academic concept for you, 'a nice to have' rather than a priority, but I assure you it is certaintly not to those denied equal rights. Claiming that the demand for equality is a distraction from 'economic concerns', as if people asking for equal rights don't also care about and advocate for economic fairness, as if those rights aren't serious and incredibly important to the people denied them, is an incredibly tone deaf attitude.
posted by His thoughts were red thoughts at 4:47 PM on February 9 [17 favorites]


All I'm saying is that while racial/gender and all other forms of "identity" equality are worth fighting for, we should not let it distract us from broader economic issues, affecting the whole of society.

The idea that identity politics for women and various kinds of minority don't affect the whole of society is wrong. I mean, I am a straight, cisgender, nonhispanic white man. Identity politics for queer people affect me because I like queer people. Identity politics for trans people affects me because I like trans people. Repitelo for other groups.

And certainly identity politics for women matter BECAUSE WOMEN ARE A MAJORITY OF THE US.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 5:21 PM on February 9 [7 favorites]


His thoughts were red thoughts: I agree with everything you just wrote (except the part where you assume things about my experience). When I use the term "identity", I do not do so dismissively. Like Levy, I agree that "identity politics" (substitute any term you like for the struggle for equal rights), are essential in the fight for social justice. As I've said before, I don't think that the left should relent in this fight at all. I also agree, as I've stated, that racism and sexism have substantial economic effects, and that eliminating discrimination carries with it substantial economic benefits. But there is more to the struggle for economic justice, and the sooner the left embraces that fact, the better our chances of achieving progress on all fronts. I don't know why that should be a controversial position.
posted by Dobrovolets at 5:24 PM on February 9


It's controversial because it implies that social inequities which do not manifest economically are tolerable, and that correcting social injustice is a means to some other end, not an appropriate end in itself. If your conception of the ills embedded in disenfranchised identities is limited to their economic impact, you're going to miss some pretty important things.
posted by Errant at 5:44 PM on February 9 [7 favorites]


Errant: No, I did not say or imply any of those things. Correcting social injustice is an end in itself and a worthy one. It's just not the only one.
posted by Dobrovolets at 5:49 PM on February 9 [1 favorite]


But there is more to the struggle for economic justice, and the sooner the left embraces that fact, the better our chances of achieving progress on all fronts.

How is economic justice not a subset of social justice? How can you have massively inequitable distribution of wealth without some form of discrimination? How is politics based on the shared experiences of a particular economic class not a form of identity politics?
posted by layceepee at 6:01 PM on February 9 [9 favorites]


But let's say while we're doing that, the richest 1% continued to get richer in relation to the other 99%. Even if the other 99% enjoy full equality with respect to each other, would we consider the work of the left over with?

This is sort of the caricature of the neoliberal dream, right, in which POC and women and every intersectional configuration you can think of are equally represented in the 1% and capitalism is otherwise unaltered. I don't think anyone is really arguing for that, or even unintentionally working towards that when they prioritize anti-racism. Because, as others have argued up-thread, racism and economic inequality are inextricable. The mechanisms by which racism is manifested in this country *are* economic. Housing segregation, education, law enforcement, criminal justice. Fighting the injustice inherent in these things *is* fighting economic injustice.
posted by AceRock at 6:18 PM on February 9 [6 favorites]


Except that fixing racism won't fix capitalism, and fixing capitalism probably won't fix racism. They're intertwined, but there is still a conflict.
posted by Rainbo Vagrant at 6:38 PM on February 9 [3 favorites]


Using the 99/1% as a (admittedly wildly oversimplified) model, there are two problems that fall under the umbrella of economic injustice: (1) the distribution of wealth between the 1% and the 99%, and (2) the distribution of wealth among the 99%. Injustices inherent in housing segregation, education, law enforcement, criminal justice, etc, primarily impact the second category. To be abundantly clear, I agree that category (2) is a major problem and we should continue to fight it with the fire of one thousand suns.

But the inroads we make in those areas don't really have a significant impact on the first category, or at least not nearly significant enough. The wealthiest people in America are getting wealthier than the rest of us at an exponential rate. Their political influence is growing at a commensurate rate. If we don't start taking that problem seriously, we will compromise our ability to create the vision of America that I think most of share.
posted by Dobrovolets at 6:41 PM on February 9


I'll try again. When you say:

racism and sexism have substantial economic effects, and that eliminating discrimination carries with it substantial economic benefits. But there is more to the struggle for economic justice, and the sooner the left embraces that fact, the better our chances of achieving progress on all fronts

This phrasing makes it sound as though you value the ends of social justice in terms of their economic impact, and, further, that "there is more to economic justice" such that it is the overarching superset and true path of achieving total equality. That may not be what you mean, I can certainly believe that. But it is how this reads, and you do imply it. If you'd like to revise, please do, we're not casting anything in stone. You asked why your statements were controversial; that's why.
posted by Errant at 6:46 PM on February 9 [6 favorites]


Except that fixing racism won't fix capitalism, and fixing capitalism probably won't fix racism. They're intertwined, but there is still a conflict.

I don't know. I can't think of any way to "fix racism" that doesn't by necessity involve addressing the economic inequality produced by capitalism. Can you?
posted by AceRock at 6:53 PM on February 9 [3 favorites]


That said, I personally cannot and will not prioritize anti-capitalist work over anything else. My priorities will remain with racial justice and transgender rights. Even if focusing on those things were clearly the losing strategy, which they are not, they are vitally important to me personally, and they're the things I'm best equipped to address.

At my level, and for a lot of us in this thread, the answer is "yes-and", not either-or. Focus on your pet causes and ally with other people on theirs. You don't have to choose between them unless you're choosing strategy for an actual election campaign.

Most of us are not making strategy decisions for Democratic campaigns. Most of the people writing thinkpieces are not making strategy decisions. So talking about which one to prioritize is honestly just so much noise. some people, when they talk about identity politics being a "distraction", it really really really sounds like they just don't want to care about it anymore. Or, they don't want to pretend to care about it. And some of them really want to keep being racist in whatever economic structure they're dreaming of. That is a real thing that people do.

It just seems to me that the very real function of these discussions about identity politics is to tell people to shut up.
posted by Rainbo Vagrant at 6:55 PM on February 9 [10 favorites]


I don't know. I can't think of any way to "fix racism" that doesn't by necessity involve addressing the economic inequality produced by capitalism. Can you?

uh, yeah. to quote: "the sort of the caricature of the neoliberal dream, right, in which POC and women and every intersectional configuration you can think of are equally represented in the 1% and capitalism is otherwise unaltered"
posted by Rainbo Vagrant at 6:57 PM on February 9 [1 favorite]


and it's possible to have a racist Communist society. It's even possible to have racist discrimination without having a racial wealth gap. just to get that out of the way.
posted by Rainbo Vagrant at 6:58 PM on February 9 [3 favorites]


Well, that neoliberal caricature I described doesn't "fix racism" by any standard.
posted by AceRock at 7:10 PM on February 9 [1 favorite]


This whole argument seems to boil down to "you shouldn't fix anything for anyone unless you can fix everything for everyone".
posted by His thoughts were red thoughts at 8:05 PM on February 9 [7 favorites]


I can't favorite atoxyl's post enough.

It's also impossible to determine what would have turned the election, with margins that close, every answer is correct.

Get with your people, form affinity groups, and participate in mass action. Amendment #1, use it.
posted by eustatic at 8:53 PM on February 9


Except that fixing racism won't fix capitalism, and fixing capitalism probably won't fix racism. They're intertwined, but there is still a conflict.

I don't know. I can't think of any way to "fix racism" that doesn't by necessity involve addressing the economic inequality produced by capitalism. Can you?
posted by AceRock at 6:53 PM on February 9 [1 favorite −] Favorite added! [!]


I think the movement economists refer to this as "complimentary holism": there's oppression in the community realm, in the kinship realm, there's oppression in the class system and workplaces.

Historically, in the US, capitalism, sexism, and racism grew up together, and that history is often echoed in our present modes of oppression. So, they must usually be addressed together, or social movements will be more powerful the more modes of oppression that can be addressed at once.

I forget, but here's some discussion of the theory...

We can't pry ourselves out of the coffin without getting many of the nails out.
posted by eustatic at 9:04 PM on February 9 [1 favorite]



This whole argument seems to boil down to "you shouldn't fix anything for anyone unless you can fix everything for everyone".
posted by His thoughts were red thoughts at 8:05 PM on February 9 [1 favorite +] [!]


no, that's not it, remember that "an injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere"

people don't celebrate in each others' small victories. So they are afraid of solidarity, because it just seems like another burden. but there's joy in it.

If i'm in louisiana, under the threat of the bayou bridge pipeline, should i not celebrate the successes of the standing rock sioux, under threat of the dapl pipeline?

We will likely be crushed under ETP and the trumpist kleptocracy, it seems. we will continue to fear the weather forecast, fear oil spills and rely on FEMA, because we are the oil sacrifice zone for the United States (and Russia, too, now. uf)

Should i complain if they are successful in warding off what we cannot?

Should I complain if republicans in South Carolina successfully stop oil drilling off the east coast?
posted by eustatic at 9:26 PM on February 9 [2 favorites]


See the Super Bowl Audi commercial where the nice civil thin pretty White girl is pitted against the rude fat ugly White prole. That commercial is just the tip of the iceberg. The media has been pushing that narrative for decades = thin/pretty/smart/progressive vs fat/ugly/dumb/conservative. The GOP ruthlessly exploits this, and why shouldn't they? It's just smart politics. If you were a money worshiping sociopath, you'd do the same thing.
posted by Beholder at 9:42 PM on February 9


people don't celebrate in each others' small victories.

I disagree with your basic premise.
posted by Errant at 10:42 PM on February 9 [2 favorites]


How is economic justice not a subset of social justice? How can you have massively inequitable distribution of wealth without some form of discrimination? How is politics based on the shared experiences of a particular economic class not a form of identity politics?

Well I think the meta-answer is that each of these are open-ended theory questions, but you are using them as rhetorical questions to suggest that the answers are self-evident. And that's problematic because it illustrates the gap in the conflict; when I read these two "debate" articles today, I thought that both authors were both right and both wrong about certain things, especially and particularly in demonstrating to me as a reader a grasp of their opponent's concerns as fully and accurately as possible. Just because the latter author is a Canadian academic doesn't mean he has some blind spots he didn't consider in his writing.
posted by polymodus at 3:30 AM on February 10


As a dark skinned European of mixed descent I am ambivalent towards some aspects of identity politics as they pertain to race. Part of that has to do, I think, with how a very particular US-grown discourse, with very particular connections to time and place, has been universalized in a way that does not really provide language or leeway to characterize my personal experience in the here and now. This in itself can feel like a kind of appropriation or colonization of a discourse that I would like to think pertains to me. But opening up that discussion is fraught and frankly a bit scary. There is a lot of accusatory rhetoric and smouldering resentment to overcome. (Apologies if this is a bit of a tangent)
posted by dmh at 6:08 AM on February 10 [6 favorites]


uhg...not enough liberals voted..that's why he won.
posted by judson at 7:15 AM on February 10


uhg...not enough liberals voted..that's why he won.

Yeah, and the number of people who turn out to vote is completely random and requires no explanation. Let's all just cross our fingers and hope they randomly turn out at the polls next time.
posted by Dobrovolets at 7:35 AM on February 10 [3 favorites]


(I'm strictly rationing my metafilter use.)

The current anti-transgender legislative movement strikes me as very similar to the anti-gay legislative movement of the 1990s that banned same-sex marriage in states where it didn't exist and had little hope of existing. Both were culture-war initiatives that happened in response to piecemeal progress within a small number of local jurisdictions and in a small number of open-minded private organizations. Republicans act preemptively to prevent and punish extremely limited baby steps toward equality.

So there are three things going on in Soave (who I'm picking on because he's linked, but he's representative). The first is a classic tone argument. I don't think this accurately reflects the state of LGBTQ and particularly trans activism on the ground, where accommodating cis and straight people is usually necessary for basic safety. (Echoing Levy, I acknowledge that liberal and left-wing immoderation exists, but there's an inherent bias where immoderate actions are much more visible. One can't assume that a person venting "down with cis" online is doing so elsewhere.) The second is buying into a conservative framing of the issue where the scattered successes trans activism has had in the last decade constitute a "relentless" cultural revolution. The third is that an issue represented by a single trans woman at the convention and a few words in the Democratic platform overshadows everything else about what Democrats said this year.

Certainly there's abundant room to complain about the Democratic economic platform this year. But critiquing that doesn't require using LGBTQ people--with special attention to transgender issues ---as your foil (or BLM for that matter.)
posted by CBrachyrhynchos at 8:47 AM on February 10 [7 favorites]


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