Tag Archives: left-wing

An anthropologist looks at the empty identity politics of America’s Left

Summary: Here is the last chapter of anthropologist Maximilian Forte’s series about America’s New Victorianism. It explains many of the otherwise baffling aspects of Campaign 2016. This essay is worth a ton of journalists’ reporting about the sound bite circus that dominates the news.

Queen Victoria and family by Franz Xaver Winterhalter (1846)

Queen Victoria and family by Franz Xaver Winterhalter (1846). It could be a modern campaign portrait.

The Working Class, Identity Politics and New Victorian History

Against the Labouring Classes: Identity Politics in the New Victorian Age.
By Maximilian C. Forte. Part 4 of 4.
From Zero Anthropology.
Reposted with his generous permission.

The New Victorianism serves to not only divert politics into issues of morality and identity, it works to obfuscate the bases of increasing inequality. Focusing on the Democratic Party, and its abandonment of the working class over the past forty years, Adolph Reed Jr. (professor of political science at the University of Pennsylvania) would appear to have seen from early on how these issues are linked — though he does not use the phrase “New Victorianism,” he describes it in other words. Speaking of Democrats and liberals in general, he wrote of,

“their capacity for high-minded fervor for the emptiest and sappiest platitudes; their tendencies to make a fetish of procedure over substance and to look for technical fixes to political problems; their ability to screen out the mounting carnage in the cities they inhabit as they seek pleasant venues for ingesting good coffee and scones; their propensity for aestheticizing other people’s oppression and calling that activism; their reflex to wring their hands and look constipated in the face of conflict; and, most of all, their spinelessness and undependability in crises”.

— “Liberals, I Do Despise” by Adolph Reed, Jr. in The Village Voice, 12 November 1996.

Twenty years ago he criticized “their refusal to face up to the class realities of American politics” and how liberals “avoid any linkage of inequality with corporations’ use of public policy to drive down living standards and enhance their plunder”. Instead, when it comes to the marginalized within the US they opt for a maudlin “save-the-babies politics” that demonizes working-class parents, much the same way that the right-wing has done. He concluded that liberal politics are “motivated by the desire for proximity to the ruling class and a belief in the basic legitimacy of its power and prerogative. It is a politics which, despite all its idealist puffery and feigned nobility, will sell out any allies or egalitarian objectives in pursuit of gaining the Prince’s ear” (Reed, 1996).

Reed’s critique later expanded beyond the confines of the Democratic party, moving to include left activists and the labour movement, raising an issue that I recently touched upon when I wrote that, “it now seems clear that every single sector and shade of the US left has made some sort of peace with neoliberalism, with the basic structure of the status quo, from which their hopes hang even if by the thinnest of humanitarian, cosmopolitan and reformist threads”. This is how Reed argued the point…

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Does Donald Trump have a perverted attraction to Ivanka? Details of a smear.

Summary: Having failed to convince a majority of America that Donald Trump is Hitler, a racist fascist, they turn to a vile smear — that he has perverted fantasies about his daughter, Ivanka. It’s typical of them to prefer smears rather than dealing with the vital issues that Trump has raised. Here are their accusations and the evidence they cite. You decide.

Trump and Ivanka

The polls show a virtual tie between Clinton and Trump is perhaps explained by the Democrats’ odd reluctance to debate Trump on his positions (here and here), especially globalization, mass immigration, and our foreign wars. Instead they devise memes that only a leftist can love. Trump is a racist (like all who disagree with them). He’s Hitler (ditto). He aspires to be Putin. And now, a new low even for the Left, they say he has a perverted sexual attraction to his daughter, Ivanka.

These accusations play well on the Left (as similar smears do on the Right). But will they change any minds? Decades of indiscriminate overuse by the Left have eroded away their force. I hope this doesn’t become another chapter in my “why the Left loses” series (see them listed below).

Is Trump a pervert?

Daily Kos was at the forefront of this story with their Jan 17 article: “Forget About ‘Socialist’. ‘Creepy’ & ‘Elitist’ Are Much Tougher Labels To Overcome.” by “mstoner” — “So, let look at two labels you could apply to our most likely general election opponent; Donald ‘Creepy’ & ‘Elitist’ Trump.” It’s the usual Daily Kos mish-mash. Here’s the basis for the allegations that Trump is a pervert with incestuous fantasies. First, on “The View” (6 March 2006) Trump said…

“I don’t think Ivanka would do that {pose for Playboy}, although she does have a very nice figure. I’ve said if Ivanka weren’t my daughter, perhaps I’d be dating her.”

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The Left calls Trump a “fascist”, ignoring the many experts who disagree

Summary: Trump brings dark elements into Campaign 2016, and the Left responds with hypocrisy, misinformation, and anti-intellectualism — seeking to short-circuit the proper debates of the election. There are no angels in US politics.

Trump as Hitler

Declaring their foes to be illegitimate: the Left’s first line of defense

Declaring Trump a “fascist” has became the Left’s (broadly defined) first response to the resurgence of populism, with Trump as its unlikely (and deeply flawed) vehicle. Even neoliberals like Robert Kagan joined the play in his WSJ op-ed: “This is how fascism comes to America” …

{H}ere is the other threat to liberty that Alexis de Tocqueville and the ancient philosophers warned about: that the people in a democracy, excited, angry and unconstrained, might run roughshod over even the institutions created to preserve their freedoms. As Alexander Hamilton watched the French Revolution unfold, he feared in America what he saw play out in France — that the unleashing of popular passions would lead not to greater democracy but to the arrival of a tyrant, riding to power on the shoulders of the people. This phenomenon has arisen in other democratic and quasi-democratic countries over the past century, and it has generally been called “fascism.”

Here we see a classic play of the Left: radically broadening the meaning of terms, unhinging them from their original definition for increased political utility. Racism, sexism, rape, and now fascism — all powerful terms twisted for political benefit under the assumption that the American public is too stupid to see the game. So fascism — a term with specific (if debated) characteristics — becomes “the unleashing of popular passions”. But it no longer works, after years of misuse.

This poisonous assertion echoes endlessly in the Left’s community, another demonstration of the epistemic closure afflicting left and right in America. For example see these by Jamelle Bouie, a journalist at Slate (a fount of leftist propaganda)…

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Why the Left will divorce Hillary and the new Democratic Party

Summary: Campaign 2016 is weird almost beyond belief. The oddness of the Republican-Right side has been much discussed, but less so the weirdness of the Democrat-Left. Their Party is not what it once was, and their members are not happy about the change. 2016 might spark a divorce.

Ready for Hillary

The Democratic Party is not what it was

Quietly, with little notice, the Democratic Party has evolved into something quite different than the party that brought the New Deal, the Civil Rights Movement, and so many of the Boomers’ formative events in the 1960s and 1970s.

The Left of the Berkeley Free Speech Movement (including the right to say “F***) has become the 21st Century Orwellian speech movement, inventing new prohibitions, mandating new forms of address, and declaring what can and cannot be said. For example, see “Bias Response Teams” by Robby Soave at the Daily Beast — “On a College Campus? Don’t Try to Tell a Joke”. Also see this amazing analysis by Eugene Volokh (Prof Law, UCLA) at WaPo: “You can be fined for not calling people ‘ze’ or ‘hir,’ if that’s the pronoun they demand that you use” — Excerpt…

“The NYCHRL [New York City Human Rights Law] requires employers[, landlords, and all businesses and professionals] to use an [employee’s, tenant’s, customer’s, or client’s] preferred name, pronoun and title (e.g., Ms./Mrs.) regardless of the individual’s sex assigned at birth, anatomy, gender, medical history, appearance, or the sex indicated on the individual’s identification.”

The anti-war party of 1965-1975 has become dominated by warmongers, advocating wars under our Responsibility to Protect women, children, and minorities. We destroy a secular regime in Afghanistan (& its women’s rights), then we wage war on the new regime to restore women’s rights (see more here and here). Our top warmongers flock to Hillary Clinton’s banner, ready to push America into new wars (Africom’s expansion lays the foundation for another decade or two of war).

The Democratic Party instituted broad and deep regulations of corporations from 1930 to 1976, culminating in the 1970’s Left that flirted with socialism. Now they align behind the wife of Bill the bank deregulator, recipient of massive financial support from Wall Street — in exchange for favors to be provided later. “Why Hillary Clinton’s 90s nostalgia is so dangerous” by Thomas Frank, op-ed in The Guardian — “To put the arch-deregulator in charge of an economy wrecked by financial bubbles is sheer folly.”

Since the 1930s the Democratic Party advocated stimulative economic policies to maintain full employment and raise household incomes. Now they do so only as a last resort, during recessions. Doug Henwood at Jacobin says it well in “Doom and Gloom Democrats” — “Democratic strategists are determined to discredit ambitious social agendas.” (Doug Henwood edits Left Business Observer and is the host of Behind the News. His new book is My Turn: Hillary Clinton Targets the Presidency.)

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Paul Krugman sees the tactics of the Left, with horror!

Summary: In his column today Paul Krugman makes an important observation, although he’s oddly unaware of its full significance.

Paul Krugman

Paul Krugman. Creative Commons license.

 

Paul Krugman explains “Why I Haven’t Felt The Bern” — He complains about Team Sanders.

“In each case the story runs into big trouble if you do a bit of homework; if not completely wrong, it needs a lot of qualification. But the all-purpose response to anyone who raises questions is that she or he is a member of the establishment, personally corrupt, etc.. Ad hominem attacks aren’t a final line of defense, they’re argument #1.

“…It’s about an attitude, the sense that righteousness excuses you from the need for hard thinking and that any questioning of the righteous is treason …When you see Sanders supporters going over the top about “corporate whores” and such, you’re not seeing a mysterious intrusion of bad behavior into an idealistic movement; you’re seeing the intolerance that was always just under the surface of the movement, right from the start.”

He complains about unfair tactics of the Left, the same tactics that the Left’s climate activists have used to all who challenge their apocalyptic news stories — which go far beyond anything in the IPCC’s reports. He describes them quite accurately, showing (again) that although he is a brilliant economist, he is lacks self-awareness.

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