Border Guard


Going into one of the craziest elections in American history it’s important to remember how we got to this point.

Hint–both parties have contributed to a slow-motion economic crisis.

The Republican party, as it exists now, is an absolute disaster for working Americans. The problem is that the putative opposition party–the Democrats–does not offer up much resistance to the pro-crony-capitalist policies that the Republicans put forward. In fact, too many Democrats are neoliberals pursuing corporate policies while offering identity politics as a fig leaf.

In an interview with  Jacobin on the ramifications of Bernie Sanders presidential campaign, Adolph Reed Jr., professor of political science at the University of Pennsylvania, argues that neoliberal Democrats use identity politics, like race, as a way in which to impose boundaries on what is permissible as a liberal.

These responses to Sanders’s critique throw into bolder relief just how fundamentally antiracism and other identitarian programs are not only the left wing of neoliberalism but active agencies in its imposition of a notion of the boundaries of the politically thinkable — sort of neoliberalism’s intellectual and cultural border guard.”

Reed, one of the more thoughtful political scientists in US academia, makes the obvious argument that economic issues, of the sort that Bernie campaigned on, benefit all the groups that the Democratic party fobs-off with identity politics.

“All through the campaign I asked how a federal minimum wage of fifteen dollars an hour (the current minimum wage is $7.25) is not an issue pertinent to black Americans and Latinos, who are disproportionately likely to be low-wage workers? How decommodified national health care is not a “black issue”? Or free public higher education? Or massively increased public investment? Or renegotiating existing “trade” agreements and blocking the Trans Pacific Partnership, which would further strengthen corporate power against all working people? And so on. No one has argued that black, or other nonwhite, Americans indeed would not benefit disproportionately from implementation of those items of Sanders’s platform.”

Tomorrow we are faced with, once again, a lesser-of-two-evils election. Our urgent goal should be to move past the limited policies offered within our political dichotomy.

Reed says the goal should be to build a political movement that offers true working-class policies.

“I think we should build on the more visionary aspects of the program, e.g., the demand for free public higher education, de-commodified health care, etc and the vital fight to stop the TPP, and yes of course against discrimination on the basis of race, gender, sexual orientation, etc and also against neoliberal policing and the constantly expanding public/private carceral apparatus, which we have to understand and insist that others also understand is a class issue.”

Whoever wins is going to inherit a shit-show. The neoliberal economic policies both parties have pursued for the last 40 years ensure that we face a divisive future.

Be careful out there.

Update: In the wake of Trump’s surprise win, it appears that the Democrat’s reliance on identity politics was not the elixir they imagined it to be. Yves, at Naked Capitalism has a good run down of why.

“One of the reasons for the ferocity of the howling from the Democratic Party hackocracy in the wake of the unexpected Trump vicory is that they are effectively cornered animals. As political scientist Tom Ferguson explains, the Democrats can’t get the number of voters they need with their traditional coalition of Big Finance money plus identity politics without delivering tangible benefits to workers, which they have abjectly failed to do. But the power of money in the Democratic party makes it well nigh impossible for them to devise the sort of populist policies that would appeal to voters that Trump has successfully peeled off.”

Update II: Lambert has a great rejoinder to identity politics.

“racism/sexism/xenophobia” are forms of politics, and that they are the evil twin of identity politics, and together are the only forms of politics permitted by elites.

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