Monday, June 11, 2007

Identity politics

Why is rich John Edwards a "phoney" for claiming to care about the poor when FDR who was rich wasn't? Glenn Reynolds says the answer is identity politics.

Well, John Edwards is no FDR. But the answer to Krugman's complaint is found in the post 1960s political zeitgeist. Back before identity politics, and the notion that "the personal is political," the idea of a rich guy representing poor people was entirely plausible. He could be rich, but still have ideas about poverty, and care about them. But now that we have identity politics and the like, that's impossible: If only a woman can represent women, only a black person can represent blacks, etc. -- Barbara Boxer even suggested that Condi Rice couldn't understand mothers because she was childless -- then obviously only a poor person can represent poor people. And since there are no poor people in American political office, poor people perforce go unrepresented. Thus, the "progressive" causes of identity politics and personalization mean that the progressives' key clients can't get "authentic" representation. This is probably bad for the country, but it's certainly a bed that the progressives have made for themselves.

The other problem with identity politics is that not everybody can join. Hirsi Ali can never be representative of women who grew up in Islamic countries nor can Michelle Malkin be anything but a "renegade". Identity politics is really all about a certain concept of identity. But I think the whole concept of identity politics is older than the 60s. In the 1930s it was all the rage to have "sectoral" representatives for women, youth, ethnic minorities, in all those old Soviet or Nazi state organs. Some of these may ring a bell.

HJ -- Hitler Youth (Hitlerjugend)
NS Women's Organization (Frauenschaft)
NS German Students' Bund (Deutscher Studentenbund)
NS University Teachers' Bund (Deutscher Dozentenbund)
DAF -- German Labor Front (Deutsche Arbeitsfront)
NS Public Welfare Organization (Volkswohlfahrt)
NS War Victims' Organization (Kregsopferversorgung)
NS Bund for German Technology (Bund Deutscher Technik)
German Civil Service (Reichsbund der Deutschen Beamten)
NS Physicians' Bund (Deutscher Aerztebund)
NS Teachers' Bund (Lehrerbund)
NS League of Legal Officials (Rechtswahrerbund)

Then as now, you had to have certain political attitudes to properly represent your sector in that era. Members of the White Rose underground resistance may have been young but not the Hitlerjungend kind of young.


Blogger whiskey_199 said...

And the other thing is that identity politics excludes one singular group:

Straight White Males.

Who are, as utterly predictable, expressing their own identity politics in various ways.

Much of the debate of immigration is driven in passionate intensity by the very valid suspicion that Straight White Males will be the officially discriminated group in the new Liberal Utopia of open borders. Not part of La Raza which will dominate areas that used to belong to them, and not part of the Gay, or Black, or Feminist, or Asian, or Muslim, or whatever interest group.

Hence the coded and covert expressions of Straight White Male Identity: the Flag, Patriotism, support for the troops and Military, and so on.

I'm actually shocked it took this long for the one excluded group to jump on board identity politics. And it's not going to stop either. It will only get worse.

Wretchard -- those Nazi identity groups were all subsumed under the Fascist corporatism under one leader. What characterizes today's Western Identity groups is that they are all atomic, and often leaderless. Often at odds.

6/11/2007 05:50:00 PM  
Blogger James said...

I think you are mis characterizing the nazi case. The nazis had all those groups not because they felt only a member of a particular group could represent that group but rather as their attempt to atomize the society such that there was no part of society which was not part of the nazi apparatus. No group within society which was not part of the nazis was legitimate.

6/11/2007 05:52:00 PM  
Blogger whiskey_199 said...

Exactly James.

More to the point, Edwards is hoist by the identity politics petard because, not just that he's rich and the politics say he's inauthentic, but because identity politics themselves prevent the coalition he intends.

It's clear he wants a return to the FDR type coalition. However the identity politics make that impossible. Poor and working class Blacks have mutually exclusive interests from poor and working class Whites. Affirmative Action and preferences create winers (poor and working class Blacks) and losers (poor and working class Whites). Anti-Crime initiatives create winners and losers the other way around. As seen by anti-Police protests by inner city Blacks and pro-police attitudes by their White counterparts.

NO broad-based coalition is possible in the age of identity politics. There are too many red lines and issues that are central to identity politics upon which there can be no compromise. And which form mutually exclusive interests with other other identity groups.

For a while a short-term hierarchy has held, in a sort of a Hindu caste system. But that seems to have broken down.

6/11/2007 07:10:00 PM  
Blogger Joshua said...

whiskey_199: I'm actually shocked it took this long for the one excluded group to jump on board identity politics.

I'm not so shocked. Most of us SWMs have believed, or at least hoped against all hope, that we could somehow rise above all that IP nonsense.

The trouble is that when SWMs decided not to play the IP game, the other players and the cultural elites who run the game continued to treat SWMs as though they were not only still playing, but playing dirty by putting forth the notion that race and gender don't really matter. In the zero-sum mentality of IP, not only is this notion dishonest on its face, but it also amounts to an SWM cultural power grab at the expense of other identity groups, by tempting non-SWMs to break ranks with their own IGs and weaken their solidarity.

6/11/2007 07:54:00 PM  
Blogger wretchard said...

Some might argue that the whole intent of identity politics is precisely to atomize society. The Nazis relently classified people according to their identity. You were a Jew, Gypsy, homosexual, Seventh-Day Adventist. There were no plain Germans. Their genius was to make this atomization look like something enlightened.

Compare frantic identity politics with Shakespeare's classic assertion of man's common humanity.

I am a Jew. Hath not a Jew eyes?
Hath not a Jew hands, organs, dimensions, senses, affections,
passions, fed with the same food, hurt with the same weapons,
subject to the same diseases, healed by the same means, warmed
and cooled by the same winter and summer, as a Christian is? If
you prick us, do we not bleed? If you tickle us, do we not laugh?
If you poison us, do we not die? And if you wrong us, shall we
not revenge? If we are like you in the rest, we will resemble you
in that.

How ironic that for radical Islam, not only the Jew but the infidel is portrayed as the outcast. The untermensch. Every tyranny begins by creating identities between men when they are only after all, men.

6/11/2007 08:04:00 PM  
Blogger whiskey_199 said...

Wretchard -- it had always been my understanding that the Nazis wanted to erase any civil society that was not controlled directly by the Nazi hierarchy. Hence erasing civic organizations and replacing them with Nazi ones.

It's no accident as the Marxists say, that the Masons generated so much animosity. A gathering of business, political, and other leaders outside State control! How perfectly horrid!

Joshua -- I had thought that the mark of status ("I'm so powerful I don't need to compete with IP") was what kept many SWM's from competing, because to rely on IP would mean you weren't powerful and high-status. That seemed to be the gaming strategy of the elites.

6/12/2007 02:00:00 AM  
Blogger Fitz said...

One interesting turn of phrase employed by the left is “women and people of color” – Well if you put all those on one side of the ledger - what’s left over? White males… (soon to be straight white males)

You can see the broad sides in term like “angry white males” (the angry voter) and so forth.

NO broad-based coalition is possible in the age of identity politics.

Perhaps, but that’s not to say they are not trying. The single axiom running through identity politics is the Hegelian master/slave dialectic. That is, a Marxist hope in uniting all such groups against the ruling class. (Apparently straight white males)

6/12/2007 09:47:00 AM  
Blogger Fitz said...

This is an important intro into a subject I have been hoping to post on. While the NAZI analogy does bear some fruit (they were both nationalistic socialists & Godless) the better analogy is with Marxists. (Obviously Marx is held in higher esteem for longer than Hitler)

A reading of Herbert Marcuse and Frankfurt School Marxism.

The single axiom running through identity politics is the Hegelian master/slave dialectic. That is, a Marxist hopes in uniting all such groups against the ruling class. (Apparently straight white males)

Wikipedia’s take is here.

A Small primer can be gained Here

“The forth horseman, Brandeis professor Herbert Marcuse, was the pied piper of the sixties as he fostered the development of, as Buchanan points out, "radical youth, feminists, black militants, homosexuals, the alienated, the asocial, Third World revolutionaries, all the angry voices of the persecuted 'victims' of the West." In "Eros and Civilization" Marcuse encouraged sex and drugs and introduced "polymorphous perversity" where all moral and cultural order is rejected. Marcuse coined the slogan "Make love not war" and was a cult figure on College campuses. His book "i" advocates educational dictatorship. He calls for "Repressive Tolerance" which means "intolerance against movements from the right, and toleration of movements from the left." When the left speaks of tolerance, this is what they mean.”

6/12/2007 10:11:00 AM  

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