Thursday, December 1, 2016

Simon Jenkins - Blame the identity apostles – they led us down this path to populism // Insurgent Notes: We’re Tempted to Say We Told You So, But We Won’t

I have no tribe. I have no comfort blanket, no default button that enables me to join the prevailing hysteria and cry in unison, “Of course, it’s all the fault of X.” Meanwhile we everywhere see the familiar landscape clouding over. There are new partings of the ways, disoriented soldiers wandering the battlefield, licking wounds. The liberal centre cannot hold. It cries with Yeats, “What rough beast, its hour come round at last, / Slouches towards Bethlehem to be born?”

I confess I find all this somehow exhilarating. Cliches of left and right have lost all meaning, and institutions their certainty. Even in France and Italy, European union is falling from grace. A rightwing US president wins an election by appealing to the left. In Britain, Ukip can plausibly claim to be supplanting Labour. A Tory prime minister attacks capitalism, while Labour supports Trident. Small wonder Castro gave up and died. Conventional wisdom holds that it is the “centre left” that has lost the plot. The howls that greeted Brexit, Donald Trump and Europe’s new right are those of liberals tossed from the moral high ground they thought they owned. Worse, their evictors were not the familiar bogeys of wealth and privilege, but an oppressed underclass that had the effrontery to refer to a “liberal establishment elite”.

Paul Krugman, field-marshal of an American left, stood last week on his battered tank, the New York Times, and wailed of Trump’s voters: “I don’t fully understand this resentment.” Why don’t the poor blame the conservatives? He had to assume the answer lay in the new Great Explanation, the politics of “identity liberalism”. He is right. It is 20 years since the philosopher Richard Rorty predicted that a Trump-like “strong man” would emerge to express how “badly educated Americans feel about having their manners dictated to them by college graduates”.

This prediction has now gone viral. Likewise, the historian Arthur Schlesinger warned that a rising campus intolerance, of “offence crimes” and “political correctness”, would endanger America’s national glue, its collective liberal consciousness. The latest guru on the “what Trump means” circuit is the US political psychologist Jonathan Haidt. Conversing with Nick Clegg at an Intelligence Squared event in London last week, he was asked over and again the Krugman question: “Why did poor people vote rightwing?” The answer was simple. There is no longer a “right wing”, or a left. There are nations and there are tribes within nations, both growing ever more assertive… read more:
https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2016/dec/01/blame-trump-brexit-identity-liberalism

One of the comments to the above:
Simon, you’re a curious, questing commentator, willing to inhabit unfamiliar arguments and casts of mind. It keeps your writing fresh. However, with this piece I believe you have fallen under the spell of those who have learned something from groups who have actually been oppressed, and are playing the victim, saying “us poor white folks, who previously ruled the roost, are now unfairly attacked and demonised by those nasty educated liberals”.  When two women every week are killed by their men, women are still the real oppressed group.  When unarmed black men are gunned down habitually by police, it is the black men, not the white cops who are oppressed.  When people elevate “political correctness” as Public Enemy Number One, for no other reason than that it cramps their racist, bigoted style, we should have no sympathy.

Insurgent Notes: We’re Tempted to Say We Told You So, But We Won’t
Donald Trump will be the next president. What was unthinkable has become all too real. We anticipated as much in the editorial in our last issue, which we encourage people to read still.
Hillary Clinton could win the popular vote by more than 2 million, once all the votes have come in. As we write this, the margin is just over 1 million. Thus, this was not exactly a mandate for Trump. The country is no more or less divided than it was before Election Day. Trump starts out by being viewed as illegitimate by a large mass of people, evidenced by the protests that have occurred across the country and the proliferation of plans for various kinds of popular defense of individuals who may become most vulnerable if some of his schemes are hatched.

Trump’s promises to the workers who voted for him will not materialize to any important extent; in our view, that’s where a real opening might occur. Seventeen percent of the people voting for Trump had supported Sanders before. One hundred million did not vote—the majority party of nonvoters. We don’t know nearly as much as we should about why they don’t show up. It’s our best guess that they are simply too busy dealing with the realities of everyday life—working too long, taking care of kids before and after work, falling in and out of love, going in and out of jail, taking care of sick and elderly family members and relatives, dealing with hard episodes of dependence on drugs of various kinds, combatting the demons that lead all too many to suicide. It’s hard to imagine that too many of them didn’t vote because they thought that things were just fine the way they were. In all likelihood, they almost certainly thought that the outcome of the election wouldn’t matter all that much.

We have heard from a friend who has followed the hard right for years that many people attracted to it could, alternatively, be attracted to a consistent vision of an alternative to capitalist society, which up till now has not existed. They will not, however, be attracted to a defense of the existing state of affairs—no matter how dressed up in liberal notions of understanding, tolerance and opportunity. As a West Virginia friend wrote: “Racism was the icing on the ‘fuck you’ cake.” We think that’s right, and a reason not to despair too much. It will be necessary to defend all those who are attacked... 

One of the comments to the above:
Insurgent Notes writes:  “There are people in the Hillary camp who are our enemies, and there are people in the Trump camp who are our potential allies, if a proper strategic (?)outreach is developed. From the beginning we must reject the phony “left-right” spectrum defined by mainstream politics, the media, etc., and orient to “recombining” the forces across the spectrum against our enemies in both camps.” When, pray tell, does this process commence, and where and how does it commence?

I’ve only been reading your online publication for a short while, and while I haven’t read each and every doc here I keep bumping up against the same thing I always see with ultra-leftists and/or fringe leftists in the United States — (in other parts of the world it is sometimes different) — lots of grand pontificating about the Big Issues– some of it, like the title of this piece, surprisingly smug — and no evidence of some kind of real world attempts to apply these perspectives in a manner of direct relevance and transparent clarity among mainstream working class and poor people.

Can you point to some immediate suggestions or examples of where your current, or people on some similar wave length, are acting on these perspectives? In the here and now? If you don’t think this is happening, can you suggest when it will start — and who is going to start it? Best of luck.