Columbia professor Mark Lilla argues in the NYT “One of the many lessons of the recent presidential election campaign and its repugnant outcome is that the age of identity liberalism must be brought to an end.”
A convenient liberal interpretation of the recent presidential election would have it that Mr. Trump won in large part because he managed to transform economic disadvantage into racial rage — the “whitelash” thesis. This is convenient because it sanctions a conviction of moral superiority and allows liberals to ignore what those voters said were their overriding concerns. It also encourages the fantasy that the Republican right is doomed to demographic extinction in the long run — which means liberals have only to wait for the country to fall into their laps. The surprisingly high percentage of the Latino vote that went to Mr. Trump should remind us that the longer ethnic groups are here in this country, the more politically diverse they become.
An alternate interpretation is that while 2016 may indeed mark the end of “identity liberalism,” or at least its decline despite capturing a majority of votes (thanks, Electoral College!), it also marks the success of “identity conservativism” after the victory of an explicitly racist and sexist candidate. (As a point of reference with respect to Latinos, an estimated 79 percent voted for Clinton). In other words, the biggest identity group exploited an explicitly anti-democratic system it created to cling to power.
What do you think?
Please stop promoting your posts with the phrase “bumped for glory.” At least correct it to “bumped for ego gratification.”
As the most recent post by an editor it would have appeared at the top of the feed by default. I also don’t know why it bothers you so much. He’s an editor; he can do what he wants.
if you believe ownership entitles you to public masturbation then we are in different worlds.
The owner of a newspaper has been able to print front page editorials at his or her option for as long as newspapers have had owners.
Does anyone else remember the immediate and complete reversal on the editorial page of the Globe about casinos after John Henry bought the rag? Having a legal right to do something is not the same as making the correct decision.
I remember all too well, and it’s a part of why I canceled my subscription to the Boston Globe. I think the owner is entitled to do that, and I am correspondingly entitled to cancel my subscription and ignore further utterances from said owner.
I’m saying only that an editorial is, by construction, an opinion piece. Putting an editorial on the front page is, in my view, a legitimate expression of opinion. In my view, the question of whether or not we agree with the opinion is different from whether or not it is appropriate to put that opinion on the front page.
I believe that ownership of this site (and Mr. Neer is one of the several owners) itself entitles Mr. Neer or any of the other editors to front-page their opinion whenever they choose, whatever that opinion is. I challenge your apparent disagreement with that, and in particular I reject your use of a crude metaphor in doing so.
Let’s see if I get this right. On Nov 9 you wrote
And now you think I am using a crude metaphor by mentioning the word masturbation. ROFLMAO
Then there are your posts calling 42 million Americans “Nazi COLLABORATORS.” And your trivialization of the Holocaust by calling Trump worse than Hitler.
I hope the moderators are not paying you to be the thought police here on BMG. Anything more than the gum on the bottom of my shoe would be excessive.
Indeed, you have it right.
I do indeed think that your use of a crude metaphor to describe normal and appropriate editorial behavior is different from using “Collaborator” to describe the millions of Americans who endorse and attempt to normalize Donald Trump’s misanthropy by voting for him.
I think that your ham-handed lifting of my comment out of its context is a flagrant misquote. Here is the full text of my comment that you wrenched from its context:
Your misquote is dishonest by any standard of written communication.
I assure you that nobody has ever paid me even on nickel to make any contribution here.
Mark L. Bail says
It is quite easy for a white guy at a fancy university to say that we need to “get past identity politics” but much less so for (say) young, black men who cannot so simply escape the inherent racial biases that remain in various aspects of American society and politics. The piece, in short, is a call for Black Lives Matter and gay people (and liberals) to stay quiet about continuing discrimination and instead pretend that discrimination does not exist because otherwise we might offend some angry white working-class men. That’s a terrible argument from the perspective of social justice and a losing one from the perspective of electoral politics.
The author of the linked piece disputes the latter point on the basis of a couple of empirically wrong claims. First (as Bob notes), he’s very likely wrong about Latino voting. Based on the totality of the evidence (not just the flawed sub-group measures in the main exit poll), Trump did the worst of any presidential candidate ever among Latinos. It is clear that “demographics is not destiny,” as some liberals thought, but I’d rather be gaining Latino support (as Democrats are) than losing it (as Republicans are) for the purposes of winning elections. The angry white male-focused coalition gets smaller every year, and it was already about 2.5 million votes smaller in 2016.
Second, and more importantly, he claims that identity politics “never wins elections — but can lose them.” This ignores the most electorally successful Democrat in the post-New Deal era — a certain Barack Obama. Obama’s rhetoric (“Yes We Can”) was “inclusive,” but so was Clinton’s main slogan (“Stronger Together”). The key difference is that Obama understandably motivated black voters to turn out at rates higher than white voters — and helped the Democrat earn well above the usual percentage of black votes (96% compared to the usual 88%). That Obama himself, as the first potential black president, represented a broader commitment to diversity also helped him dramatically with younger voters. In short, Obama’s own identity as a representative of a larger “identity politics” worked in his favor.
Indeed, there is a strong case to be made that 2016 will be — by electoral necessity — the last time Democrats ever run an all-white candidate ticket again. Call that “identity politics” if you like, but it will be a winning strategy going forward.
There are a lot of reasons why Trump won and Clinton lost, and we’ll be talking about them for a long time to come. But if we want to keep losing, then a good thing to do would be to take the author’s advice and turn back to strategies that may have worked in earlier but very different eras rather than figure out how to win in 2018, 2020, and beyond.
…when your home is not in foreclosure. But when your new job is paying 60% of what your old job did, with no benefits and no pension because that plant closed down, and your parents just moved in because their retirement savings were lost back in 2007, yeah, it’s easy to be the morally superior liberal, caring about others.
John, I don’t know if you realize it, but right now you’re coming across as hostile toward helping non-white men. Yes, we get it, and I agree with it — we need to offer a path forward to economically struggling whites.
However, your habit of shouting this message at anyone who even discussing other groups as a path to victory is coming across as the uncle who responds to Black Lives Matter with yelling “all lives matter”!
and the results of the past election prove the point. You want white males to get in line march for all your causes, causes that have little or no impact on their lives, and then tell them that “we need to offer them a path…” who is “we”? It sounds “we” are the financially well off Democrats who don’t really give two shits about white trash laborers and we pamper our egos by helping out poor people of color…and feel proud of our generosity to those miserable souls…
It should at least last as long as the Christmas Truce of 1915.
I’m done bashing my fellow team members. We disagree on how to make the next play, but we’re all in blue uniforms.
We’ve discussed this before. There is no need to racialize this.
However, the presumption that “working class” is synonymous with white males is precisely why we need accountable “identity politics”. (That’s grist for another post.)
You presume wrongly that Democrats are “helping out poor people of color”. They aren’t; hence lower black turnout, particularly in Michigan, Ohio, and Pennsylvania. I’m writing this, while I’m taking a break from a political meeting in Pittsburgh; and, believe me, the “they don’t give a shit about us” meme is not limited to white males. In many communities here – and I’ve been in contact with people (even with Trump supporters) for months – blue-collar hostility to the Democratic Party crosses racial and gender lines; is legitimate based upon these folks’ lived experiences; and has not been counteracted on the ground.
In fact, foreclosure rates are highest among communities of color. People in such communities that are hard hit by foreclosure care about economic issues, as well as racial ones.
The most divisive voices, in my opinion, are the ones (like Prof. Lilla, the linked author) who insist that these are exclusive. Either one argues along the lines of “identity politics” or one argues along the lines of economic politics; according to Lilla, it’s one or the other. But this argument — dismiss “identity politics” and “political correctness” so we can focus on angry white men — is a call to discount the views of a crucial part of our Democratic coalition. It’s morally wrong, it’s electorally stupid, and it’s unfortunate that some think this is how we should actually proceed as a party and as a movement.
I’m struck by how many responses to Black Lives Matter are of the form “Blue Lives Matter”. (Someone in my neighborhood has just such a bumpersticker.) It’s as if there’s only so much mattering to go around and, if we give African-Americans too much, then, pow, police won’t have any. And that’s not what BLM has been saying at all. So there’s a rush to hear something that’s not there.
I hypothesize, then, that a significant bloc of our electorate thinks in terms of zero sum games. There’s a pie, it’s only so big, and an inclusive message like the closing theme of the Clinton campaign sounds like a threat to the size of one’s already too meager piece.
…that demographic identity determines voting behavior in either direction, but Sanders showed us how to address economic concerns without the whitelash component.
Mark L. Bail says
Far be it from Lilla to actually define it. I’ve read his op-ed a few times now, and I still wonder what the hell he’s talking about. He writes about liberalism like it has a material existence, as something that does and thinks things:
Swap “Barak Obama” for “American liberalism” and this sentence would make logical sense (though it wouldn’t be true), but how exactly is liberalism is a force? It’s not. It’s a vague idea, a label that can sometimes be a useful shorthand. Ideas don’t have a life independent of people doing and saying things.
Lilla’s evidence for identity liberalism is scant and poor of quality. Reagan and Clinton, he says, were uniters. This will be news to those on the left who disliked Reagan and those on the right whose hate for Clinton was without bounds. He goes from the ridiculous to the sublime, when he starts talking about events on college campuses. Yes, students at Yale and Princeton want to change the names of buildings. And at UMass last week, some protesters held a “Shit In,” commandeering all of the bathroom stalls in the administration building to protest the lack of gender neutral bathrooms. These may be the actions of liberals (though “radicals” is probably a better description), but they do not represent the force of liberalism.
Lilla goes on to complain “diversity”:
Lilla betrays his age here. Diversity and multiculturalism are not the buzzwords they once were. In terms of education, the actual work they prompted have done their jobs pretty well. Kids today are much more accepting of people of other races and identities. Rather than producing “a generation of liberals and progressives narcissistically unaware of conditions outside their self-defined groups,” kids today are much less apt to judge people outside their self-define groups.
If Lilla weren’t a relatively well-known college professor and identity politics weren’t a meme, I’m not sure this op-ed would receive any attention at all.
And if your heard Lilla on WBUR/NPR yesterday, you would have heard him sputter incompetently defending his position. Ashbrook gave him so many times to explain his position but was politely punched by the other guests. One BMG professor from Columbia recommends another professor from Columbia. Quelle surprise?
But I have a problem with you ascribing his position to his age. Since you seem to be a bit younger than I, please don’t attach his political position to age. Age does not define intellect, competence or ideology. I know it was not your intention to do so but if you re-read your post well…
Mark L. Bail says
to ascribe political POV to age, rather his vocabulary. I’m 52 and served on our Diversity Committee and talked about multicultural literature back in the 1990s. We really don’t use those terms much these days. My dad’s 82 and he’s certainly not caught in any time loop.
Lilla often writes about Jewish books and movies for the NYRB. I usually read his reviews because I’m interested in the topic, but I don’t like his point of view much at all. I never put my finger on it until reading this editorial.
We need to represent labor, all labor, against the wealthy, all the wealthy.
I don’t think we should hate wealth or the wealthy for it’s own sake, but we shouldn’t be shy about calling out HOW someone got wealthy if they did it by hurting others.
“Behind every great fortune there is a great crime,”
Who cares what crime they committed?
…but I certainly to not accept its premise.
and I agree — more than I did six months ago, or before November 8th — that the Democratic Party needs a stronger populist, anti-Wall Street, pro-working class mentality. I think Hillary was strong in many areas and would have been an excellent president, but she was lacking in several ways that you and I would agree with. I get that.
But we cannot simply cast the needs of the disenfranchised to the side. It’s frankly ridiculous and immoral the way our criminal justice system treats young black men, for example. Or the way the economy continues to pay women 78% of what men receive. Or how gay, lesbian, and transgender individuals remain discriminated against despite advances when it comes to marriage or treatment under federal tax law. These are all real issues. To say that we should dismiss them because economic status is the ONLY thing that matters or that “political correctness is bad” is to dismiss contemporary liberalism generally.
That’s where I push back on those who say that we need to go back to a “New Deal coalition.” I see what people are saying: let’s ditch the neo-liberalism and go back to serving working people. But what is different is that America is much more diverse than FDR’s 1940s. It is not enough to say “yay, unions!, yay minimum wage!” and ignore the racial and gender disparities in our current society. We can’t paper it over and say “everything is economic, all labor vs. the wealthy” and call it a day. It’s more complex that that.
Modern liberalism needs to take the best of FDR New Deal economic liberalism and join it with a real commitment to racial and gender justice. This includes recognition that the latter part of the equation cannot be dismissed (as Prof. Lilla does) as simply “political correctness/identity politics run amok”. This argument, unfortunately, is something that is too often advanced by those who think that everything will be solved by strong commitments to unions or the minimum wage. No — listening to black and brown voices, as well as economic concerns of the white working-class, will be crucial for the Democratic coalition moving forward.
I reject the lazy binary that Lilla points towards, since I refuse to back down from fighting for social justice. I reject the inverse lazy binary that somehow embracing an economically populist agenda abandons those commitments. If anything, they reinforce one another.
Black working class voters also stayed home in great numbers since they feel the Democratic Party has taken them for granted. A bolder economic agenda that brings jobs back to Milwaukee as well as Scranton would win many of those voters back.
But they also want us to be bold on criminal justice reform and end the destruction our policies have cause in those communities. Embracing that agenda will always lose white votes we could gain on economic grounds. And we have to be comfortable losing those voters. But we shouldn’t label entire blocs of voters as racist, deplorable or unpersuadable.
A 50 state campaign and 50 state party will be capable of making these hard conversations and running a campaign of racial justice and economic fairness in Akron as well as Aspen and in Mississippi as well as Massachusetts, even if the former state is well out of reach. We should compete there anyway, since the country deserves a national party that listens. Black voters in red states deserve a strong Democratic Party, so do working class whites in places like Wyoming.
We gotta compete everywhere and make our message bold. When Republicans win, inmates which state, they govern as conservatives. We need to be progressive on both issues in every state.
Our party has cast labor to the side for the past 40+ years.
Can you tell me why?
. . .even after Reagan fired the PATCO air traffic controllers.
…the AFL-CIO with a history of consistently endorsing Dems seems not to have gotten the memo. By what authority do you set yourself up as a better representative of labor than, you know, Labor?
Pretty sure he died/disappeared prior to the period JTM refers to and was president of Teamsters rather than AFL-CIO. I still prefer JTM’s answer to your snark.
ie. the “identity groups” who the elites are now targeting.
Wasn’t DWS canned for ignoring the will of the voters? Why is it okay now to ignore the will of the people who voted for Democrats?
Bernie Sanders said “hey, we’re all in this together and we’re getting #%^*ed!”, and in just a year he went from “who?” to the corrupt DNC having to cheat like crazy because he might take the nomination from America’s Abuelita, who was promulgating quite the identity-politics-o-rama.
Then Her doubled-down on the losing identity politics strategy, and lost.
To a lunatic.
Of course identity Liberalism is dead, at least to any sentient political person.
Maybe we need to translate this all into smaller words so the Third-Way clowns running the DNC can understand it? Or better yet, let’s restock the DNC with people who are sentient (and honest, and well-intentioned).
I read and re-read that dribble a few times and still do not know what the professor was trying to convey. His hypothesis seems to be the opening statement.
The author does not address his own statement that IL must be brought to an end. Why? Because he thinks it should? Because it is irreparable? Because it exists?
I am a fan of words. Really, I like words. I like learning new words and the root as well as the meaning of words. He lazily does not even offer one recommendation on just how this phenomenon might be eliminated.
I am left to ‘spose it should happen cuz he said so. And, btw that this exactly the type of rhetoric the non-majority that voted for Trump despise. They voted for a misogynist fundamentally offensive human because he spoke their language without the double-speak and elitist bullshit that that politicians have been delivering for decades en masse.
Cutting the establishment and all that it symbolizes was more important to the Trump voter than common courtesy and respect.
The DNC and many DSCs made a huge miscalculations when they bartered Hillary’s first loss to POTUS Obama for their support in 2016.
The DNC does not support a candidate in the primary independently of national convention and at least in MA, the state party does not endorse presidential candidates in a primary.
Amazon is running a great ad right now where two friends, an aging Christian priest and Muslim imam, give each other knee braces for the holidays to help each other kneel and pray. It’s heartwarming and a clear rebuttal to the kind of “Judeo/Christian straight white male hegemonic” America we have worked hard to demolish these last few decades to give women, people of color, and queer people a place at the table, that seems to be rising again under our new President.
And this is all well and good. But Amazon has always been hostile to labor, Bezos calling it a relic of the last century. It over works and mistreats its employees, and is replacing as many of them as possible with drones and robots. Yet it’s perceived as a liberal company due to social tolerance.
Apple was praised, rightfully so, for leading the boycott against Indianas RFPA and the anti-transgender rights bills in North Carolina. It’s also committed human rights and labor violations against its Chinese workers, and its CEO, gay pathfinder as he is, has vowed never to hire American workers to build his products so long as Chinese workers are “more skilled”.
Lila has lumped in the social corporation activism that doesn’t challenge the neoliberal order with actual radical activism like BLM as part of the same threat to liberal political identity and cause of it’s electoral failure.
The cause was not embracing a bold agenda of racial justice and healing, it was a failure to embrace an equally bold agenda on the economy and really run with it. And a flawed messenger who did not have the kind of populist record and personal touch needed to win over voters.
I completely agree with Hoyapaul above but caution that his binary isn’t really active outside of lazier articles like this one:
I don’t think it should be possible for Democrats to win elections by continuing to emphasize an either/or option. There are two neoliberal parties on economics but one endorsed social equality and the other opposes it. We’ve voted in those elections before, and it’s fair to call them lesser of two evil elections. Democrats have to stop running cookie cutter centrists that are uninspiring, whether it’s downballot or at the top.
But there is a reason Jim Webb failed to gain traction as a potential nominee. Embracing racial justice in tandem with economic equality is the only way forward. The days where Democrats embraced fair trade but practiced dog whistles on crime or the Confederate flag are over. Black lives matter, but all working class voters also matter. We can’t just dismiss the white male ones either, and our candidate and her strategists did.
We must confront concentrated power and protect the vulnerable. We will lose elections and deserve to lose if we abandon our historic commitment to equal rights for all people regardless of race, creed, sexuality, or faith. I refuse to vote for a more socially Democratic Party that is socially regressive. I also refuse to go to bat for the same party that failed to articulate a clear working class agenda this past cycle. It has to do better and we can’t afford for it to continue doing worse.
Republicans in Congress are already planning to overreach during this coming year. I think we can develop a coalition behind a “socially inclusive populism” by fighting back against and providing a contrast with the various pro-corporate and socially regressive policies that will be unleashed by the likes of Paul Ryan and Jeff Sessions.
There’s no better place to start, in my opinion, than challenging Paul Ryan’s plan to end Medicare. This would be terrible for working- and middle-class people of all races — as well as for the future of public social insurance in general — and this is a fight Democrats can win even though Republicans will have unified government for the next two years.
Paul Ryan has learned the lessons of Obamacare and is willing to sacrifice his majority for a long term policy goal of his. This is his best shot.
Either Trump falls for the trap and loses his majority and credibility with white working class voters, or this is his first showdown with the GOP. He has repeatedly vowed no cuts to entitlements and called such a proposal a political suicide vest. But he says a lot of things, so we don’t know how he plays this one.
It’s a critical test for Democrats too. If we stick together on this, we can begin to get he cohesion and end the infighting and regroup for the midterms. It gives us a reason to justify divided government.
And it’s a critical test for my theory of the election. If Trump sells his cuts to his base via race baiting and immigrant bashing and they buy it-then Tom and CMD are right and we might as well buy our tickets to Ireland now.
I fear you are approaching this from a pre-Trumpian perspective.
Here is my prediction.
I predict that Mike Pence works with Paul Ryan and the GOP and guts Medicare, exactly as Mr. Ryan has suggested. I predict that Donald Trump simultaneously partners with Mr. Bannon to launch wave after wave of “attack stories” to attract the attention of Donald Trump’s base and make them dance and cheer about finally having one of their own in the White House.
The latter will be strictly show-business, will have little or no policy import whatever, and will be eaten up by the media and by Donald Trump’s America. Meanwhile, medicare as we know it will be gutted.
Fox News, Breitbart, and the others will, of course, broadcast story after story explaining how this is all media lies and how these changes actually help working-class men and women. Donald Trump’s base will eat it up and dance with joy.
See, I think we are living in post-truth la-la-land where the only thing anybody pays any attention to AT ALL as how good the last show or appearance or sound bite made them feel.
This will be a variation on the classic good-cop/bad-cop schtick, combined with the classic “ceremonial presidency” approach to government. George H. Bush was actually president during most of the Ronald Reagan administration, and made most of the actual policy decisions — especially in the second term. In the same way, Richard Cheney was the puppet-master pulling the strings of George W. Bush.
Mike Pence will do the work of actually governing. Donald Trump will lead the cheering for a fictional reality show starring Donald Trump as “President”, written and directed by Steve Bannon. Get used to it.
A very real risk here is that Mike Pence will serve for years as President, outlasting even FDR in spite of the 22nd amendment.
He ended up being a huge Hillary supporter, in both the primary and the general, despite opposing her in the past. But he consistently said Trump would win the primary and the general, and kept saying to watch the VP. He’s terrified of Pence since he seems “reasonable and amiable” compared to
Trump, which will make his downright dangerous social and economic views all the more palatable.
We already saw the distraction song and dance with Hamilton. No talk of the lawsuit settlement or Trump’s quiet embrace of conservative orthodoxy, lots of talk about him being rude and Pence being civil.
Mark L. Bail says
End liberal identity politics while right-wing identity politics panders to white racists and nationalists.
We won’t get fooled again!
It’s only “identity politics” when it’s being practiced by somebody else. When black males, women, members of the LGBTQ community, immigrants, native Americans, or any other interest group successfully advance their political agenda, it’s “identity politics”.
The Washington Post nails it when they remind us that The alt-right isn’t only about white supremacy. It’s about white male supremacy.
“Identity politics” is stronger than ever.
Mark L. Bail says
when they opine about the white working class?
If we drop the “black/white/Latino/male/female” crap and simply call it the “WORKING CLASS”, what’s wrong with that?
Is the economic agenda of black males, women, members of the LGBTQ community, immigrants, native Americans different from each other and white males? If so, please explain the unique demands of each and where they conflict with each other. Thanks in advance.
. . . so why are you complaining about these groups getting too much attention?
It’s not that these groups get too much attention, it’s that the groups I am talking about get NO attention. Please tell me why?
Democrats, ie. the Obama administration, fought to make the NLRB more pro-labor. All kinds of Democratic politicians supported the various living-wage campaigns. Democrats fought for a higher minimum wage. And this has been the case for the last 40 years. Over time, Democrats have been a lot more consistent supporting workers, than they have been supporting the victims of police violence, just to cite one example.
If you want to argue that their support of workers is inadequate, be my guest, and we can discuss the reasons for that.
But to assert that workers get “NO attention” is just silly. You seem to be oblivious to everything that has happened for the last 40 years. Tell me why.
based on where people live, among other things. If an economic plan is limited to “bring back coal mining,” for instance, that’s not exactly reaching out to all demographic groups. There are also non-economic issues specific to certain of the subgroups you identify that, it seems to me, it should be possible to pay attention to while also pitching a pro-worker agenda. Surely the Democratic party can walk and chew gum at the same time.
…so why has it not done so? Why did Hillary avoid going to union halls and small towns, instead posing with Katie Parry and speaking in front of Goldman Sachs? Why did she visit a big bucks fundraiser on P-Town but never set foot in Framingham, or Fairhaven, or Franklin?
That’s why she (and we) lost.
Hillary never campaigned in MA. She went to fundraisers, which is not campaigning. This is because MA is not a swing state. Are you seriously saying that she never went to places in PA and OH, for instance, where the people you’re talking about live and work? That’s not the campaign I saw.
First let me point out that rallies in Pittsburgh don’t cut it in isolation. The ‘burgh is an outlier in Western Pennsylvania; culturally, socially, and economically; and even there offers from locally-credible labor leaders and black activists were rebuffed (rudely, more often than not).
The Clinton campaign was conspicuous in its absence elsewhere.
Trump’s campaign, via rallies and on-the-ground outreach, was all over the place, and had Western Pennsylvania and Eastern Ohio sewn up by May.
For what it’s worth, Trump’s message resonated with locals that knew that the mines and mills weren’t coming back. Per the Democratic Mayor of Monessen, PA (who hosted a Trump rally).
The same dynamic applied all over the Rust Belt; and this is a caution to all you false consciousness people out there. Per Rep.Debbie Dingell (D-MI):
And finally, it is difficult to overstate the ability of Democratic activists in general, and progressive activists in particular, to operate as Republican outreach mechanisms on the ground. By their cultural illiteracy, general arrogance, and willful disregard for facts on the ground (plus their disregard for the locals), the Clinton campaign in the rust belt kept pumping the air out of preexisting vacuums, particularly in black neighborhoods.
The level of top-to-bottom political malpractice was so comprehensive that Clinton’s operatives should submit vouchers to the Trump Committee.
Given the results, there is a better than even chance they might get paid.
I reluctantly agree with this analysis.
I hope you agree that our takeaway must be something different than deciding to pander to the biases and prejudices of white males. Neither racism nor sexism is limited to white males. A factor (not necessarily a deciding factor, but still a factor) is that Hillary Clinton was a white female. It seems to me this fact, itself, supports your argument that the Hillary Clinton campaign should have done more than it did to develop black support. That extra effort was, nevertheless, not as necessary when the nominee was a black male.
America of 2016 remains a racist and sexist culture.
Yes, we must reach out to workers. Yes, we must listen to their suffering. No, we must not automatically reinforce their biases and prejudices.
We must continue to demand equal pay for equal work, regardless of race or gender. We must continue to enforce anti-discrimination laws. We must continue to invest in education in our poorest towns, cities, and regions.
These are the things Democrats have always done and must continue to do.
Based upon experience, the problem is structural, and involves the disengagement of the Democratic Party – locally and nationally – from self-sustaining grassroots politics.
This disengagement includes organized labor, which started recruiting directly from colleges and universities for its middle management positions, in the Seventies (as well as over dependence upon those public sector unions – teachers in particular – with college educated membership).
The result was a gap between working class rank and file and union leadership; ironically because of elitism and class bigotry as part of the latter’s institutional culture.
In the case of black politics, over dependence upon outside funding resulted in a culture of romantic white supremacy reigning triumphant within organized black politics. That was and is the price of getting the foundation grants.
Just to bring this to the local level, there is nothing substantive going on in the Commonwealth (rhetoric and minimum wage increases to the contrary notwithstanding) to address either racial or class-based issues. There are no policies in place to address issues of equity in education in, for example, the Boston Public Schools.
Finally there is the ongoing search for a magic bullet to solve issues of race, ethnicity. (Within so-called “communities of color”, are cultural and historical issues that arguably make them more different from each other than they are from mainstream “American” culture. For example, work within and among Dominican and Haitian communities must acknowledge that Dominican Independence Day celebrates that country’s independence from Haiti. From the other side, Haitians remember the 1937 Parsley Massacre of Haitians in the Dominican Republic under the direct orders of the Dominican government.
Multiply this by the sheer number of non-European-descended cultures in Boston alone; one can see the demographic idiocy of “people of color” as a political concept.
In matters of class, subsidizing upper middle class entitlement and ignoring working class concerns has been government policy for more than four decades (with a break, specific to Boston, during the Ray Flynn years).
And so on.
The issue is not intent, but institutional corruption, resulting in grassroots disempowerment. Each approach to rectify this has to be customized to fit specific conditions on the ground. There is no “one-size-fits-all” solution.
Finally, effective grassroots organizing requires culturally credible organizers (the definition of “culture” being equally subjective), with a shoe-leather work ethic (including a willingness to do the boring stuff), in the context of the final goal of putting the activist out of business, due to a politically self-sustaining community.
Your final sentence notwithstanding (and excepting certain individuals who are exceptions to the rule), Democrats do none of these things.
Here in New England, pretty much all the races I’ve been involved in have included strong ground games. In my experience they are sine qua non and every campaign realizes that. Honestly, I have been having a hard time fathoming how the Clinton campaign got the ground game so wrong. They should have, and to the extent especially that Obama alum were involved, probably did, know better.
…to the extent that field offices are at all indicative I was constantly hearing reports of how much more staff and offices Clinton had than Trump in a whole host of states. Rachel Maddow sometimes wondered if the Trump campaign were taking this race at all seriously on that basis.
A classic of counterproductive field in Massachusetts was the 2014 Governor’s race. In many ways Coakley’s field operated as a Baker outreach mechanism. An example was the low turnout in Boston, despite which half of Baker’s margin of victory came from his increased support there (relative to 2010).
Without mentioning names (to protect the worker bees) I was hearing from some of your colleagues on the State Committee about VoteBuilder-identified progressive suburban white women slamming their doors in the faces of Coakley canvassers…
Field offices in isolation don’t mean squat, and local Obama alumni were excluded – this dynamic was not race-specific, and included elected officials. The Clinton operatives did little to no outreach, and what little they did alienated far more people than it attracted. If you staff your offices with out-of-state assholes, you deserve what you get.
Finally, although the Trump people did not advertise it, they had a far more comprehensive, credible, and operationally competent ground game; backed by information technology far in advance of the silly-ass algorithm the Clinton campaign used.
Finally, purely as an unsentimental observation, the Trump campaign knew what it took to win, whereas the Clinton Campaign was a classic case of a self-licking ice cream cone.
Like it or not, and despite being outspent two-to-one (and taking morality off the table), Clinton deserve to lose.
Not counting affiliated pro-Clinton SuperPac and other outside expenditures.
…how do you think that went wrong? I’m not sure Votebuilder can identify where someone is on the political spectrum. All it has to go on is voter history – which elections you voted in and in the case of a primary which ballot was pulled. If these suburban white women you mention are good voters, are registered Dems or at least consistently pull Dem primary ballot, then yes, any reasonable person would conclude the odds are pretty good they would be for Coakley. Now that you mention it, I do recall struggling to “get into” the Coakley office as a would-be volunteer.
…but that aside, had a locally-based field operation been in place, those particular voters would have been known and cataloged. Back when Dinosaurs Walked the Earth, Democrats had block captains, and those block captains knew precisely who supported whom, and how and when (or whether) to get them to the polls.
The margin of error at the precinct level was about ten to twenty: Voters not percentages.
Scale up: From block; to precinct; to ward; to municipality; to county, and there existed the basis for comprehensive GOTV.
The candidate’s poll watchers had a list of all the voters within their precinct, with supporters and opponents highlighted and (in those pre-cell phone days, a pocket full of dimes for pay phones. Campaigns knew who voted, the specific preferences of voters, and the names of those supporters who had to be brought to the polls (as well as the best time to reach them).
Of course this meant the care and feeding of volunteers (hence the obligatory precinct and ward-level Democratic Party picnics)….
By making political activity a civic and social function, the Party was both more successful and more accountable.
You are much more familiar with these matters than me. Let’s therefore stipulate that everything you’ve written here is true.
What was the difference, then, between Western PA during the successful Barack Obama campaigns of 2008 and 2012, in comparison with the failed Hillary Clinton campaign? Did the Obama campaign truly execute a better ground game in Western PA? Why and how?
If we stipulate that Democrats “do none of these things”, then what is it that Republicans do?
I have enormous respect for your insight, wisdom, and experience in these matters. I’m trying to understand how to best apply those to make concrete forward progress.
…and all politics are local.
The arrogance (and political incompetence) of the Clinton campaign made it personal. That created and reinforced an “enemy of my enemy” dynamic.
Another point was that the 2012 Obama campaign started the cycle with the same disadvantages (having abandoned their 2008 field organization) but had the sense to apologize and clean up their act by proactively using (for example) Republican voter suppression attempts as a recruitment and organizing tool. People forget that it was the black vote that saved Obama in the Rust Belt. Black folks weren’t as enthused as they were in 2008, but they could be and were galvanized to vote out of racial self-interest.
FWIW, the 2012 voter suppression attempts were much worse than in the 2016 election, but those attempts were foreseen and field-support mechanisms were in place to counter them. Clinton, on the other hand, had no structured voter protection (individual cases were filed in federal court, but the approach was ad hoc), and next to no GOTV.
As an aside, the Trump operation took advantage of this vacuum to wage psychological warfare against black voters, with no credible pushback from the Clinton campaign.
The problem was that “better ground game” doesn’t apply; there was no Clinton ground game.
The irony was that Clinton could have spent one fifth the money expended on (generally mediocre and counterproductive) media, invested same in grassroots field development (starting in 2015), and won in a landslide.
That’s very helpful.
I’m the last person to deny the forces of evangelistic racism fomented by Trump. Nevertheless his operation can be countered on the ground if efforts are made to recruit credible locals to bring folks back from the Dark Side.
Not all these folk, but most.
What is going on is extremely well designed and coordinated lynch mob psychology with nothing to counter it. Traditional progressive approached (detached as they are to realities on the ground) simply operate as a means of justifying and increasing the intensity of the lynch mob.
Hence I’m concerned about indulging in false binary premises (eg class v. race) when the stakes are as high as they’ve ever been in American history.
We’re dealing with moving targets here, and from a purely operational perspective, this is one of those cases where the messengers are just important as the message, if not more so.
Consider this: Mayor Mavrakis notwithstanding, Clinton took Monessen, PA.
If – and it’s a big “if” – the Party can put its consultant-driven elitism and activist narcissism aside, and develop some political literacy, Democrats can recover from this; and purely as a thought experiment, I figure it could do so by the 2018 election cycle.
Would it be fair to say that this group of people is not in tune with working class Americans?
However you must remember that you’re dealing with equal-opportunity incompetence.
The Obama campaign, which you hold out as a model, fell on its face in each off year election. I would like to think that we are dealing with a problem caused by incompetent elitists running various campaigns, but I have an uncomfortable feeling that we are not dealing with something so fixable.
…and again after 2012.
My phrase for this is “recruit and abandon”, and the same thing applied here in Massachusetts, when the organization that Nancy Stolberg put together in 2005 – 2006 (which won the Convention, the Democratic Primary, and the 2006 election for Deval Patrick) was allowed to wither on the vine through neglect.
The result are vacuums on the ground, which politically competent Republicans are more than happy to fill.
In a macro sense, Democratic organizations embedded on the ground simply do not exist, particularly at local levels, to the net benefit of Republicans downballot.
It’s fixable, as Howard Dean’s Fifty-State Strategy proved, with the following caveat:
Dean’s local Democratic organizations were not designed to be internally self-supporting. Hence, when Dean was replaced (by Tim Kane, for what that’s worth), the grassroots organizations largely died out when the DNC withdrew resources.
Recreating self-sustaining Democratic grassroots organizations and working up is doable and cost-effective, but it requires both the ability to empathize with local voters and their concerns, and a willingness to put in a lot of boring sweat equity.
Democratic consultants (as a rule) lack empathy, and most progressive activists don’t do boring…
As my father used to say: “Everybody wants to lead the rallies; nobody wants to lick the stamps.”
There is another major difference with the Obama campaign and the HRC campaign and the is the credibility quotient. While POTUS Obama is perceived as consistent and authentic in his words and actions, candidate HRC was not and never will be.
Sadly, she is the girl who tries too hard to be liked, overcompensated with a stacked resume (straight A’s) and failed to connect with the people (get a date to the prom).
I believe that the nation said no and closed the door to Clinton politics in 2008. The party (insider unethical elites – Wasserman-Schultz and Braziles of the world) did not want to hear a message that was pretty darn loud and clear.
Nothing sexist about THAT characterization, no siree.
The sexism and misogyny directed towards girls, women, and Hillary Clinton RIGHT HERE is nauseating.
I want to just say this one more time, straight out, as clearly as I can.
If you can’t find a way to disparage Hillary Clinton without referencing her gender, then I suggest you rethink whether or not you should post.
Let’s try that second paragraph, directed at a male who lost (pick your candidate):
Sadly, he is the boy who tries too hard to be liked, overcompensated with a stacked resume (straight A’s) and failed to connect with the people (get a date to the prom).
When was the last time we attacked a man for trying too hard to be liked? When was the last time we attacked a man for having straight As? When was the last time we criticized a man — especially a man who won election to the US Senate — for failing to get a date for a prom?
This comment positively REEKS of not just sexism but out and out misogyny, the kind of bullshit that made John Silber an epithet (and lost another gubernatorial race). The kind of bullshit that those of with daughters who are smart, powerful and articulate spend too many hours compensating for, as our daughters weep with frustration and insecurity because they are punished for doing better than their male colleagues.
This kind of commentary is, frankly, disgusting.
I’m not sure I detect agreement in heartlanddem’s comment so much as analysis.
Whether analysis or not, my point is that the second paragraph is flagrantly sexist.
I write from the skin of one who has lived it. That is the reality of what transpired.
You miss the point.
Emmitt Till lived his encounter with racism. Are you arguing that his death was anything but racist?
The “analysis” (or whatever) that you offer is only applied to women, never to men. I don’t doubt that you lived it.
The analysis is sexist, lived or not.
My post is grossly misunderstood by you and I do not know if I can reach through your distress to connect.
I described what happens in our society every day and what I observed happened to HRC. Would perhaps you find it more palatable if I had written, “Sadly, she is the emblem of the girl…..”
“Sadly,” What do you think “sadly” means?
It is a bitter truth. And it is sad. Tragic. Pathetic.
My comments were not sexist and I have re-read what I wrote several times to try to understand your interpretation. In fact, I am articulating the painful reality that millions of girls past and present experience in our society.
Paragraph #1: My comparison of candidate Clinton to POTUS Obama was clearly about perception but the public/credibility. Frankly, there was absolutely nothing that was a direct ‘hit’ towards HRC.
Paragraph #2: See above.
Paragraph #3: My critique of the unethical insider elites was clearly that they were tone deaf to the American public that voted for POTUS Obama and not candidate HRC. Waserman-Schultz and Brazile were the high profile individuals that were caught behaving badly.
Not sexist. Realistic. The comments were not pointed, harsh, hyperbole or mean spirited. I wrote,
It is off the rails to suggest that my statement(s) was misogynist.
My issue is with your second paragraph.
Perhaps the following is what you intended:
I can only react to your words as written. If my rephrase is what you intended, then perhaps you’ll agree that the perception you describe is sexist and misogynist, and the two extra words I added separate that perception from yourself.
If you intended that as a description of the perception of others, than I agree with you.
Women have been on the losing end of 70% pay disparity with men for, well, for ever. So a piece of an economic agenda for women of all races, ethnic groups, and faith traditions is to demand equal pay for equal work. We in Massachusetts belatedly passed a law demanding just that — that a woman be paid the same wages as a man for doing the same job.
The adoption of that law was not universally hailed by self-identified “progressives” here in MA or even here at BMG. The economic agenda of working-class women is often in conflict with the economic agenda of working-men. That conflict often unites black men, immigrant men, native American men, and white men in a conflict against working women of any race, ethnic origin, or faith tradition.
It seems to me that if the problem we all want to solve is the problem of more powerful people exploiting the weaknesses of less powerful people, than fairness demands that the suffering of those who have been most exploited is addressed before the suffering of those whose injuries are more recent.
I hope that working class people of all persuasions enthusiastically join in making such fairness come to pass.
Please explain that one.
Nowhere in my comment did I say “poor white males are behind the low pay for women”, at least if by “behind” you mean “caused”.
What I said, instead, is that women have been suffering wage discrimination longer than poor white males (or ANY males, for that matter).
In my view, it doesn’t matter who caused this discrimination. What matters is that the discrimination is real, is very long-lasting, and can only be addressed by ending it.
I don’t understand what is remotely controversial about this for anybody who says they support an economic agenda for ALL workers. You asked a very specific question:
You then asked for an explanation:
I offered an example and explanation as you requested. I leave as an exercise to others the question of whether or not “poor white men” caused this systemic exploitation of women. I think the point is that that question is irrelevant to what must be done to correct the injustice.
If we do not know who is behind the cause, how do we eliminate it? How do we discover who the cause is? Follow the money. When I hear women complain that they are making less than me, who are they angry at? Me?
It’s a poor analogy, but it’s all I have at the moment….if Mom gives me two slices of pizza for dinner but only gives my sister one, is that my fault? If I need two slices to get enough to eat, what am I supposed to do?
We’re in an economic model where few of us in the labor class are getting our fair share and yes, because of equivalencies with some sorts of labor, the ones women are drawn to pay less then the ones men are drawn to.
We’re both getting screwed and women want to just get equally screwed and that’s okay?
I feel that most of the anger of women whose central issue is wage equality is directed at men, not the system. Am I wrong there? If women pushed for a living wage for all and not “equal screwing”, we’d all be better off.
In this particular analogy, your sister needs just as much “food” as you. She’s been trying to tell anyone who will listen for decades that she’s hungry, and nobody will listen. Meanwhile, during those decades, you’ve been getting twice as much food as her and haven’t been hungry.
Why IS it that your mom gives twice as much food to you as your sister? Did you not notice that your sister is hungry? Did it ever occur to you to give half a piece to your sister yourself?
I suggest that if you know that your sister is hungry, and you know that your mom is treating the two of you unfairly, then yes — you do have a pro-active obligation to do what you can to improve the situation.
Your next door neighbor stops in and tries to help. Her family is hungry as well, but she knows that your family is worse off. She sees your sister wasting away, weak and gaunt. She says “I know it’s not enough, but I want to do something. I can only give one slice a meal, that’s all we can spare.
She chooses to give the extra slice to your sister, so that you and your sister both have the same amount.
In my view, your language like “the [sorts of labor] that women are drawn to pay less than the ones men are drawn to” exemplifies the perhaps unconscious or unintentional sexism that women object to. You see, too often the reality is just the reverse — women and men are equally drawn to those high-paying jobs, and men squeeze out the women.
It wasn’t that long ago (years after I moved to Boston) that help-wanted ads in newspapers were divided into “openings for men” and “openings for women”. THAT is the sexist world you bring to mind, to me, when you speak of (low paying, of course) jobs “that women are drawn to”.
Your assumption that I have not been hungry is not true. Also, males require a higher amount of calories, that’s just biology. As for history, males have been relied on as the bread winners, guys date girls and pay for the date…etc, and so on.
In any case, you are nearly there when you start asking about mom. Mom is the economic model that declares what we all get. So, instead of sister focusing on me and those who look like me, let’s start with mom and work for a system where everyone, regardless of identity, gets a fair amount of pizza.
It was not long ago that I was a manager of a restaurant, well, it was over 30 years ago…but whatever. The management preferred waiters at dinner service and waitresses at breakfast and lunch service. How did they manage that? It was not as difficult as you might think.
We had a simple policy to work at dinner service. All service staff had to start in the dish room, then move into busing tables, then bar back, and then server. No exceptions. When told this, no women applied to wash dishes. They did, however, apply to be a waitress as there were no prerequisites to be a server at lunch or dinner.
My oldest daughter, and her husband, are each chefs. My second daughter is a bartender. My two sons have been servers. I have some familiarity with how restaurants work today.
What you are describing is sexism. I understand that this is hard for you to hear. So what. You paint a picture of a sexist restaurant. I grant you that those still exist. The picture you paint is a sepia-toned print of a bygone era that also includes darkies by the front door saying “Yasam”.
Just because its old, or even familiar, does not make it any more acceptable.
… it was at the hands of white males that all the peoples listed suffered and suffer different forms of oppression.
It is the white male who has embraced terror and hate and, in doing so, has corrupted his own soul, first to maintain the position and then to avoid seeing the damage done.
Your entire argument boils down to “I just don’t want to look.”
Your argument boils down to avoiding the issue.
And then demonizing people based on a stereotype. Well played and another reason why we lost the White House…
… you’re done. Nothing to do but stick a fork in you.
Trickle up says
I always try to learn form people with whom I may not agree, but the author makes it very hard.
“Identity Liberalism” is not a thing. I honestly cannot tell you what she means by that. Her main criticism seems to be that by calling out so specific groups, Clinton fueled white backlash. Which she says is not her point at all, that the “whitelash” argument is a cop-out by identity liberals.
She’s an academic and spends a lot of ink here on campus issues, so I guess she has some strong feelings about that. She ought to realize that her personal experience with diversity follies is not a very helpful lens onto America.
The kernal of truth I can winnow is that Clinton could have crafted a better message, though part of me says, Yay hindsight. There’s some evidence that the “deplorables” thing did her real harm, and in a close election everything is on the margin so who knows?
Her closing suggests one thing I agree with completely: We could sure use an FDR right now.
Mark L. Bail says
The whole identity thing is actually more of a white thing. Most of us white folks suck at discussing race, and we have a bunch of tricks up our sleeves to fool ourselves into not dealing with the fact. Lilla’s piece is one of those strategies. He’s the kind of guy who says we should see people, not black and white. A Very Serious Person with an academic pedigree.
Mark Lilla is not just a “he”, Mr. Lilla is a white “he” at that.
Here’s another nitpick — the complaint that “America is sick and tired of hearing about liberals’ damn bathrooms”.
Isn’t it funny how this complaint comes only after rural white racist homophobes in North Carolina use bathrooms as a pretext to impose sweeping and draconian restrictions on a too-liberal city (that happens to include a major university).
This is the way bullying thugs have ALWAYS gotten their way — provoke a fight, then whine “Johnny hit me”.
Trickle up says
Not a trivial error, but it does not change my critique.
Plenty of lessons to be learned from this election, not sure of the same from Mr. Lilla.
…is presuming that sexism is purely a white working-class male phenomenon. It also exists within elite professions.
For example female partners at law firms are paid an average of 44% less than their male peers.
To reiterate the point we’re talking about partners; not attorneys: Partners.
Indeed, the striking thing about sexism is that it truly is pervasive. It is rampant from the very top of each and every profession to the very bottom, it is found in pretty much every ethnic and racial group, and it tends to be found in almost every social justice organization.