The idea, also at the center of Clinton’s statement is that economics and *isms are somehow separate things. Because I am sometimes willfully obtuse on Twitter, it’s not always clear when it’s genuine, like when I answered the paraphrased rhetorical question earnestly. When asked now, I answer with variations of, ‘well, kinda.’ Although it’s not meant for genuine inquiry Clinton’s rhetorical question has offered a useful mirror for critiquing the arguments of “leftists” who are now making the point she had. These people, who swear they support Medicare for All, raising the minimum wage, and free public college and university also criticize these policies for not addressing racial disparities. On looking closely at these assertions it becomes clear that these people either don’t understand what racism is or are not actually interested in combating it as they criticize
A progressive independent publisher I follow posted the following on Christmas Eve.
The responses to the post were illuminating for some and a degree of validation for me. I have garnered a reputation for being something of an asshole. The reason is that I go after bad arguments regardless of whether they come from a supposed nemesis or ally. There’s a saying in the Black community which is generally helpful in this era of anonymous online avatars, “all skin folk ain’t kinfolk.” People will say that they believe in universal healthcare or combating racism but will then argue a position with a strategy that suggests the opposite goal. I make specific rhetorical choices when I think someone is being dishonest. I sometimes get stuck on pointing out the contradiction, seeing continued discussion on a broken foundation as pointless; I’m not willing to just “agree to disagree” on something that’s so foundational for me. The responses were validating because although over 900 people took the survey without problem a minority were starting to offer the wide variety of dishonest positions I’d been arguing against in such a concentration that patterns were starting to clearly emerge. It wasn’t just me anymore. What became clear is that:
- some people don’t understand that many people now and throughout the history of this world have had to decide between speaking up for their dignity and survival
- according to some white people the most devastating aspect of systemic racism for Black people is how racist whites feel about us
- “leftists” like liberals, who also believe in Identity Politics, think you should listen to Black people until they advocate against the preferred failed strategy, then they’re probably racist
- most “leftists” don’t realize that the Identity Politics they advocate has been a failure for the left over the last 40+ yeas and a boon for the right
- many who say they are leftists are not
Many of the angry respondents were reacting to the idea that there is a choice to be made between addressing “race” and “class” and the idea that they are separable. The irony is that their position is that they are separable. You can’t discuss race and class, have a position that we must deal with both race and
Not every single person employing this internally conflicted argument is doing it dishonestly. Many people conflate systemic racism and personal bias. While personal bias is natural, systemic racism is the result of codified law that makes use of that bias to ensure the continued concentration of wealth. Looking at our history it becomes clear that what we call white supremacy is actually
I risk being told I’m ignoring the needs of other identities by centering race. I do that deliberately, but the questions I ask about race work when discussing other identities as well. As long as our discussion of identity stays focused on the ideas that have the most social capital, I’m not really supposed to share or have feelings about what women or the trans community might need. I’d suggest that if fulfilling the needs of the trans community is dependent solely on trans advocates those needs will never be met. I know this may be controversial, but noting that trans people are indeed people, I think they need food, water, and shelter; they need autonomy and agency. I’m not trying to ‘cisplain’ this, it’s something I suspected that law professor Dean Spade reflected on in a recent episode of the Citations Needed podcast. The episode was focused on trans rights and the dismissal of identity politics. Spade makes an important point that the mainstreaming of trans politics and the backlash over the bathroom bills have negative effects on trans people already vulnerable especially to state violence. Much of the mainstream identity based advocacy isn’t focused on the the things trans people who are especially vulnerable to poverty say they need themselves. I don’t think I should have to know every detailed need of the trans community to want everyone who identifies as trans to have safety, agency, and autonomy. More important, it’s clear to me that advocating for policies with the political possibility of passing that increase the safety, agency and autonomy of every individual who identifies as trans, is advocating for myself.
This is the problem with talking about identity politics in the abstract. I question the form of anti-racism that has white people trying to convince me that white people are so racist I need to be constantly aware of their bias; or trans advocacy that has me policing every possible bit of transphobia in myself and others. I suppose that we can expend energy doing these things but it’s worth asking in service of what? How do these actions help to pass universal healthcare in the US or build a global movement to rapidly lower carbon emissions; or even lower racism and transphobia? They don’t. The argument over identity politics and the importance of calling out bias is a distraction that has nothing to do with this political moment beyond stalling progress. For the first time in the history of polling a majority of voters support the idea of universal healthcare and support the idea of addressing carbon emissions. This is a critical moment that requires a rapid realignment of our economic goals and political will that centers human need over short term profit.
While the platform that Bernie Sanders has advocated since the primary against Clinton is inadequate to the depth of our need it represents a crucial step in this realignment. His platform is the only one that completely rejects the neoliberal framing of the public/private partnership that usually means public risk for private profit. Medicare for All costs less than our current system while offering full coverage because it doesn’t need to produce increasing profits. The fact that private profits play no part in his platform is the reason that centrist advocacy groups like Third Way are already paying for advertisements against him in swing states. They would rather lose to Trump again than have Bernie win. It’s fascinating watching people suggest that the strategy of threading the needle between voter need and donor forbearance that turned Trump into an incumbent will somehow work this time. The
I think there are criteria for defeating an incumbent president, offering popular policy that meets broad need by a trusted advocate is a good place to start. Medicare for All is popular because Bernie Sanders has spent the last three years touring the country advocating for it because he believes in universal healthcare. Although, he has not yet officially announced, I believe he’s the only possible nominee who will be positioned to defeat Trump because even the people who hate his platform believe he’s dedicated to getting it passed; they’re spending millions before he’s declared because they know he means what he says. I’m not interested in arguing about the value of identity politics anymore, it’s a waste of time that has nothing to do with my goals. It has been great for white identity politics. End of story. I will, however, be happy to discuss best paths to passing Medicare for All and stopping permanent climate collapse. I think both rely on defeating Trump. We need someone interested in transforming our politics, who recognizes the path to meeting the current challenge is so narrow and barely existent as to be focused solely on it, while meeting this criteria:
- has a vision Biden, Harris. Gillabrand, Booker, Warren (?), Sanders
- has an affirmative agenda Biden, Harris. Gillabrand, Booker, Warren (?), Sanders
- is a credible advocate of that agenda Biden, Harris. Gillabrand, Booker, Warren (?), Sanders
- is capable of driving a narrative Biden, Harris. Gillabrand, Booker, Warren, Sanders
- isn’t reactionary Biden, Harris. Gillabrand, Booker, Warren, Sanders
- is capable of speaking to Trump voters with something like compassion Sanders
- and someone that Trump can’t go to the left of Biden, Harris. Gillabrand, Booker, Warren (?), Sanders
- Voted against the Defense budget Biden, Harris. Gillabrand, Booker, Warren, Sanders
If Bernie Sanders doesn’t declare, we need to draft him.
Originally published at The Bastard’s Last Stand on January 4th.]]>