Identity politics then and now

I have been incredibly embarrassed by the fact that so many women (a) are voting for Hillary just because she’s a woman and (b) were more likely to vote for her because she cried.  It makes me want to hand in my gender identity card.  Are women really so stupid that they can’t rise above their self-involved narcissism and look at the candidates’ actual qualities — his or her experiences, policy beliefs, abilities, etc?  Apparently they are.  It’s just humiliating to share the same chromosomes with these females.

What’s interesting about this narrow, anti-intellectual, anti-knowledge mindset, a political approach that actually confers no practical benefit on the person holding it, is that it tends to parallel the identity politics viewpoint that German fascism took (as distinguished from Italian Fascism, which did not have a racial natural outgrowth of fascism).  I was lucky enough yesterday to get hold of Goldberg’s book Liberal Fascism: The Secret History of the American Left, From Mussolini to the Politics of Meaning, and the subject of identity politics keeps cropping up over and over again as he looks at the politics of the Left.  He’s very careful not to call today’s Leftists Nazis — and he means it when he says it — but he does note points of congruence between American identity politics and Nazi-style fascism:

For most of his career, Mussolini considered anti-Semitism a silly distraction and, later, a necessary sop to his overbearing German patron.  Jews could be good socialists or fascists if they thought and behaved like good socialists or fascists.  Because Hitler thought explicitly in terms of what we would today call identity politics, Jews were irredeemably Jews, no matter how well they spoke German.  His allegiance, like that of all practitioners of identity politics, was to the iron cage of immutable identity.  (p. 62.)

The same can, of course, be said for the way in which liberals approach identity — and it goes a long way to explaining the current explosion or racial and sexist argument emanating from the Left right now.  To people on the Left, blacks are nothing more than black — it is the prism through which everything is filtered.  Women are solely women, although it becomes problematic when women also happen to be black.  Gays are defined by their sexuality, and nothing more (which is why, once they’ve figured out their sexuality, it becomes imperative to teach them how to live like good little gays).  Once you’re gay or black or female, you can never again be a doctor or a lawyer or a truck driver or a manager.  You are a gay lawyer, or a female truck driver, or a black manager.   So what are you to do, as a good liberal, when you’ve got two oppressed people vying for the Presidency?

On the Right, we ask what is their experience?   What are their skills?  What policies do they advocate?  Are they effective people?  Are they reasonably honest?  Will they advance American interests in security and economic matters?  Who are their associates?  On the Left they ask, is he black enough?  Is she female enough?  Is he black but the wrong type of black (Sidney Poitier instead of Malcolm X or Martin Luther King)?  Is she female, but not sufficiently in touch with her femininity?  Interesting questions all to the racist or feminist, BUT WHAT DO THEY HAVE TO DO WITH GOVERNING THE COUNTY?

Incidentally, as regards labels, Goldberg discusses one other aspect of labeling that emanates from the Left and that has always bewildered me.   Now I finally get it.  Some history first — my own history, I mean.  I grew up as a good Democrat, reviling the right.  The only thing is, I wasn’t really sure what right wing ideas were, other than hatred of blacks and poor people.  As I got more sophisticated, I got more confused.  I figured out that Democratic welfare policies tended to keep people mired in poverty, which can be an “I like the poor” platform only if you add “I like them so much that I aim to keep them that way in perpetuity.”  I also learned that it was the Democrats (and aren’t they the Left?) who hated blacks, at least during the seminal civil rights era.  I also figured out that famous figures labeled as right wing fascists, such as Father Coughlin, the famous radio priest, spouted socialists ideas, including the end of capitalism and private property.  These ideas are, of course, Marxist, and I don’t think anyone argues Marx’s Leftist qualifications.  Goldberg explains it all.  He begins by giving a bit of Coughlin’s history, as well as his relationship to the White House, which ended with the White House fearfully sloughing him off when he went too far:

So how did Coughlin [whose Leftist bona fides Goldberg spent pages establishing] suddenly become a right-winger?  When did he become persona non grata in the eyes of liberal intellectuals?  On this the historical record is abundantly clear:  liberals started to call Coughlin a right-winger when he moved further to the left.

This isn’t nearly as contradictory as it sounds.  Coughlin became a villian in late 1934 almost solely because he had decided that FDR wasn’t radical enough.  FDR’s less than fully national-socialist policies sapped Couglin’s patience — as didhis reluctance to make the priest his personal Rasputin.  (p. 141.)

The liberals’ treatment of Coughlin (and Huey Long) set the template for liberal name calling ever after.  Thus, after describing Coughlin’s fall from liberal grace, Goldberg adds:

This returns us to one of the most infuriating distortions of American political debate.  In the 1930s, what defined a “right-winter” was almost exclusively opposition to Franklin Roosevelt and the New Deal.  The muckraking journalist J.T. Flynn, for example, is often labeled a leading light of the Old Right for no other reason than that he was a relentless FDR critic and a member of American First (indeed, he was one of the most articulate voices decrying the incipient fascism of the New Deal).  But Flynn was no classical liberal.  He had been a left-leaning columnist for the New Republic for much of the 1930s, and he denounced Roosevelt of moving in what he considered a rightward direction.  As for his isolationism, he considered himself a fellow traveler with Norman Thomas, head of the American Socialist Party, Charles Beard, and John Dewey.  (p. 143.)

In other words, beginning in the 1930s, the pejorative label “right wing” didn’t describe a person’s position on the political spectrum at all.  Instead, it simply meant that the person was advocating policies that New Dealers, Socialists, and Liberal Fascists* didn’t like.  And, in the same spirit of name calling, “fascist” is whatever  these same people really don’t like, wherever it falls on the political spectrum.  Now I get it.

__________________________________

*Please read Goldberg’s book to understand why “Liberal Fascist” is not a smear term a la Bushitler or Hitllary, but is instead a historically accurate term (which H.G. Wells coined) to describe a specific nationalist, totalitarian approach to socialist politics.

7 Responses

  1. It’s OK, Book. Your friends here know that you haven’t been Oprahfied.

  2. In other words, beginning in the 1930s, the pejorative label “right wing” didn’t describe a person’s position on the political spectrum at all.

    To the Left’s socialist utopia group feelers, the spectrum is that of a triangle. On their left they have Communism and on their right, they have Fascism.

    So you have Democratic Socialism, Communism, and National Socialism, the triangle of death.

    So it makes perfect sense to the left to call fascists right wing. Whether they be too Leftist or Bush.

    Also, given the fact that the Nazis betrayed the Left, both Socialism and Communism, they are calling fascists synonymous with traitor. This is also why they call neo-cons Trotskyites because Trotsky was assassinated by Stalin, the true heir of Communism. Thus Trotsky became a traitor to the revolution that must be destroyed, just as classical liberals that go into the conservative orbit become neo-cons and are thus also villified in the same manner.

  3. Hi BW,
    I’m sorry, but its been a long day. I haven’t read all the posts on the gender issue. But don’t ever turn in your gender card. A strong woman and a strong man (Don Q) are all it takes.
    Hiillary and all the libs (of each superficial sex) have long ago forgotten the strength of the marvelous difference.
    We will go forward. They will devolve into silly putty.
    Al

  4. [...] consternation that women on the Left could support Hillary Clinton solely on grounds of her gender, Bookworm notes that identity politics –idea that a person’s innate factional qualities (race, [...]

  5. I’ve got a copy of Every Man a King (Long’s autobio) but have never gotten around to reading it. Now I might. Also, I never trusted All the King’s Men. (Could never finish that either.)

  6. [...] Bookworm Room, “Identity Politics Then and Now” [...]

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