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Andrew Sullivan On The Importance Of Rediscovering Healthy Patriotism

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To move beyond Trumpism, Democrats (and forward-thinking conservatives) must look to embrace a healthy and inclusive patriotism, and end their love affair with a cold form of globalism which undermines nation states, communities and livelihoods

Andrew Sullivan remains my blogging hero and inspiration, but I must confess that until very recently I have not greatly enjoyed his recent return to semi-regular online writing for New York Magazine. The thinking and prose is generally as fine as ever, but Sullivan’s excessive hysteria (not to say that real concern is unwarranted) in the face of Donald Trump’s election victory and the start of his presidency has been offputting, as has his continued slow drift away from conservatism and overly-enthusiastic embrace of Hillary Clinton during the 2016 election campaign.

That being said, last week’s Interesting Times column/diary is vintage Sullivan – beautifully poetic, well argued and undeniably valid.

Sullivan writes of globalisation and urbanisation’s losers, and in praise of patriotism:

I’ve always been unusually attached to places. It’s one reason I still call myself a conservative. Travel doesn’t attract me. I’ve now lived in the same loft in D.C. since I bought it, in 1991 (apart from an ill-fated year and a half in New York City); I’ve spent 20 consecutive summers in the same little town at the end of Cape Cod, and have no desire to go anyplace else. Even when I go home to England, I tend to spend around half my time near where I grew up.

I wouldn’t go so far as Malcolm Muggeridge, who famously said: “Travel, of course, narrows the mind.” (Don’t you love that “of course”?) But I would say that the reverse can also be true. Staying put allows you to really get to know a place deeply at different times and in different seasons, to capture, often serendipitously, a small detail you’d never seen before, or arrive at a street corner and suddenly remember that this was where you first met an old friend.

But staying home brings grief with it as well. Everything changes, and when your beloved tree at the end of the street is cut down, or a new Safeway replaces the corner baker, or, more fatally, the factory that used to be the linchpin of the place lies empty and crumbling, it stings and wounds and demoralizes. When I’ve visited my own hometown in England, so much is the same. And yet, on closer inspection, many of the once-vibrant shops are selling secondhand clothes, or given over to real estate offices. My old church has a broken window where the rain comes in. The services have dwindled to near nothing. Maybe it’s being away for so long, but it seems familiar and yet a little empty, as if something in it has somehow died, a continuity somehow lost.

And more and more, I suspect, the shifting winds of this merciless global economy and the impact of mass migration are bringing about similar changes all over the West. This beautiful but deeply sad story about how a provincial town in France has slowly died — as its young people flocked to cities, as its shops were supplanted by a supermarket, says a lot about the moment we are in: “Down another street is the last toy store, now closed, and around a corner is the last independent grocery store, also shuttered. Walk down the empty, narrow streets on some nights and the silence is so complete that you can hear your footsteps on the stones.” The town, Albi, is not alone.

In America, as Charles Murray has shown in his extraordinary book, Coming Apart, the young and the smart and the talented — the people who would once have formed the core of these small towns — have long since fled to distant colleges and cities. They don’t come back. They would once have been the police chief or the town librarian or the school principal. They once helped make the town a well-run place with a clear identity, where the same families and networks lived together, died together, belonged together. These connections have attenuated … as economics supplants culture, as efficiency erases the individuality of inefficient places, as Amazon rips the heart out of shopping districts, as the smartphone removes us from physical space, and as many more immigrants and their culture alter the feel of a place in ways that disorient those with memories and loyalties.

I don’t think we can understand the politics of this moment — Brexit, Trump, Le Pen — without noticing this abiding sense of loss. The middling city and small town are going the way of the middle class. Patterns of farming in rural America are being devastated. I loved this English farmer’s account of the changes he is seeing: “The future we have been sold doesn’t work. Applying the principles of the factory floor to the natural world just doesn’t work. Farming is more than a business. Food is more than a commodity. Land is more than a mineral resource.”

Jobs are vital not simply because of money — but because they give lives meaning, a meaning that now seems so remote people medicate themselves with opiates. People are grieving for a lost way of life. This is not racist or retrograde or even backward. It is, rather, deeply human. For it is in these places that a deeper identity forms, that Americanness, Britishness, la France profonde, endures. And what we’re seeing right now, across the developed world, is a bid to retain the meaning of a culture and a way of life in the headwinds of faceless, placeless economics.

And Sullivan’s conclusion:

Nationalism is one response. The answer to it is not globalism, which is as cold as it is remote, but patriotism, that love of country that does not require the loathing of other places or the scapegoating of minorities or a phobia of change, that confident identity that doesn’t seek to run away from the wider world but to engage it, while somehow staying recognizable across the generations. If the Democrats hope to come back, that patriotism is going to have to define them once again. But can they get past their racial and sexual and gender obsessions and reach for it?

This is the distilled question of our times.

The answer is not globalism – Sullivan is quite right. This does not mean a rejection of capitalism, globalisation and international free trade, on which our prosperity depends, but it does mean acknowledging that there are negative externalities to all of this aggregate economic progress. We accept that this is the case with the environment, and take measures to restrict environmental damage caused by economic activity, but until now governments have scarcely acknowledged the impact of globalisation on local communities, national identity and cohesiveness, let alone formulated meaningful ways to protect what we are unwilling to lose while still unleashing the best that globalisation has to offer.

This is a challenge – as I have repeatedly acknowledged on this blog – which falls hardest upon conservatives and small government advocates such as myself, who traditionally envisage a very limited role for the state in our lives. If corporations and cross-border economic activity create negative externalities as well as create wealth and material abundance, who if not the state will keep those externalities in check? Left-wing politicians can simply wave their hands and promise new economic programs to retrain workers or encourage labour mobility, inefficient or fruitless though they may ultimately prove to be. We on the Right have a more difficult job, relying as we prefer to do on individuals and the institutions of civil society.

And this is why Sullivan’s enthusiastic embrace of Hillary Clinton during the 2016 presidential campaign depressed me so. I also preferred Clinton to Trump because of the latter’s self-evident deficiencies in temperament, knowledge and ideological sincerity. But Sullivan was strongly for Clinton, and I found that fervour to be inexplicable. As Sullivan rightly notes in his latest column, the answer to nationalism is not more cold globalism. And yet that is precisely what Hillary Clinton and Democrats of her type offered. It is still all they offer – she who spoke openly of her desire for a borderless world where plane-hopping elites treated global megacities as their playground while the impoverished servant class were rooted to their dying towns.

Sullivan is quite right that patriotism – “that love of country that does not require the loathing of other places” – must be embraced again by all sides, not weaponised as a unique virtue by the Right or demonised as evidence of inherent racism by the Left. But right now we are moving away from that goal.

For as long as so many Republicans remain seemingly in lockstep with the Trump agenda, despite the president’s frequent deviations from conservative principle (let alone the normal standards of presidential decorum and basic decency), they effectively lend their tacit support to the administration’s more uncomfortably nationalist behaviour and rhetoric. And for so long as the Democrats and others on the Left choose to double down on their repellent formula of Maximal Globalism + Identity Politics, putting forward candidates like Hillary Clinton who are utterly incapable of speaking authentically to Middle America and the suffering working classes, their actions will continue to signal that they view rural and small town America as expendable so long as wealth and opportunity continue accruing to the urban, coastal elites.

For better or worse, the Republican Party seem to have made their choice. Though they may grumble about the ObamaCare repeal and replacement (or RyanCare, as some Trump loyalists insist on calling it) and some of the administration’s other ideas, it is hopeless to look to the GOP for an alternative to Trumpism so long as their man occupies the White House and they hold both houses of Congress.

That leaves it to the Democrats. The ideologically bankrupt, morally compromised Democrats, whose first response to a stunning repudiation by voters at the ballot box was to swiftly reconfirm all of the main architects of that defeat back into their gilded leadership positions, and who are too busy worshipping at the altar of identity politics to pay attention to the fears and aspirations of Trump’s America.

In short, embracing a healthy new sense of patriotism seems like a grand idea, and a necessary one – but Lord knows who in the American political and media class possesses the wisdom, foresight and bravery promote it.

 

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What It Is Like To Be A Donald Trump Supporter On Campus

The New York Times (in a rare change of perspective) publishes a first-hand account of what it is like to be a moderate, unenthusiastic Trump voter at college.

K.N. Pineda writes:

The presidential election was the last thing on my mind on Nov. 8. I had essays to write and Italian vocabulary to learn. Sure, I kept New York Times and Wall Street Journal tabs open on my laptop, but I was uninterested in indulging in conversation about an election that most everyone could agree was a time bomb.

As a student at New York University and the daughter of a civil servant at the United States Department of State, I am familiar with political unrest and its potentially disastrous outcomes in the arms of ignorance and hysteria. I did not hold any particularly strong opinions about Donald Trump or Hillary Clinton. If I had voted, however, I would have picked Mr. Trump. I was focused on school. I had no idea that a few days later I would be dismissed as a “Trump supporter” and a person of “privilege” who “reflected an us versus them mind-set” in an essay by my college roommate in this publication — an essay that would go viral and change my life.

I did not feel that I should lie to my new college friends, especially at N.Y.U., where we are supposed to be open to hearing opposing views, able to discuss them and put any bias aside. I never tried to persuade my roommate to accept my side, my choice or my views. I even agreed with some of her opinions about Mr. Trump, who has said divisive things about Muslims and other minority groups. As an independent, my feelings toward the campaign were very mixed. I felt strongly that as a country we needed to focus on domestic issues, and for me, the Republicans were more prepared to do that.

My roommate has since apologized to me, but in the meantime I have felt the glare of her friends and been heckled on campus by other students. I have been labeled “racist,” “sexist” and “xenophobic” on Facebook. I have been called a “white without a conscious,” a “misogynist,” a “bigot” and a “barbarian” online by people all over the country.

This tale should make the allied anti-Trump forces stop and think firstly about how they are treating their own friends and neighbours, but more importantly about the image they are projecting to the wider country, and thus feeding into America’s future political discourse.

Presumably those most upset about Donald Trump’s election victory would quite like many of his supporters to vote for somebody else, maybe somebody from the Democratic Party, in four year’s time. They should stop and ask themselves whether this goal is more likely to be achieved by seeking genuine dialogue and understanding with people who voted differently, or by loudly and repeatedly accusing them of complicity in bringing fascism to America.

The enhanced cold-shoulder received by K.N. Pineda is also depressing given her own family background:

Here’s my story. My father is Hispanic. My extended family lives in Southern California and New Mexico. Many of my family members are not native English speakers. My maternal grandmother is an Italian immigrant who holds a green card. Her husband died after struggling with drug addiction and alcoholism; she had to work two jobs to make ends meet. My mother was raised by her stepfather, who is African-American and the only maternal grandfather I have known. He is a kind, devout man whom I love dearly. My family and friends come from all ethnicities, religions and sexual orientations.

Attending New York University was my dream. My dad grew up in a trailer home, and my mom was homeless for a period of time. My parents were the first in their families to graduate from college. They have struggled to provide the best for me and my brother. They have sacrificed financially and worked hard to give us a good life. I came to N.Y.U. partly on scholarship and am accruing debt to pay my tuition.

As minorities, my mother, father, grandparents and I have experienced racial hate. My skin may be light, but I understand discrimination. I may not know each person’s individual experience, but am able to empathize with others.

So not a dumb, ignorant redneck then (incidentally, one of the last groups of people that it is okay to openly mock and denigrate in polite society). Rather, Pineda has Hispanic heritage and so is expected to toe the line and adopt all of the political opinions now expected of that racial demographic by the Identity Politics Left, voting one’s own conscience is seen almost as a “betrayal” of one’s ethnic heritage. This is what the identity politics embraced by the American Left hath wrought, at a time when it otherwise ought to be subsiding – electoral segregation.

Pineda’s conclusion makes one wonder why it has fallen to a freshman college student to express these sentiments so eloquently, and exactly what the American media and commentariat think they are playing at with their own coverage:

I know the fear that the election has inflicted. I comprehend the hurt that people feel. We all have reasons for casting our votes. What I do not understand is hatred toward one another. Supporters of both parties have misunderstood and fueled hate out of reckless emotion and ignorance.

The answer is not to further the divide by labeling and dehumanizing one another. We should fight the “us versus them” mind-set. We have spent too much time in our own bubbles, and we need to begin a dialogue that will allow us to understand one another.

Blind fear and hatred are far more powerful than any candidate. How can we assume we know someone based on the color of their skin, their religion, or their political choices? Why should we be afraid to express our opinions? If we see one another not as a Clinton supporter or a Trump supporter, but as human, perhaps we can discover empathy in the troubled nation in which we exist.

The narrative should be one of inclusiveness, openness, respect and love. It is not only about making “America Great Again,” it is about making America home again.

I think it is fair to say that the New York Times could have found far more unpleasant and even harrowing tales of political persecution on campus had they searched, or possessed the political will to do so. Young conservatives were well used to public opprobrium and seeing their free speech rights constrained while left-wing identity politics activists were given the run of campus by craven university administrators long before the election. And Donald Trump’s surprise election victory has only enraged and emboldened these tormentors all the more.

The American Left, (sometimes justifiably) outraged on behalf of the various minority groups for whom they claim to speak, should bear in mind that in the rarefied surroundings of the college campus, they are very much in the majority – an oppressive majority, one might even say, to use the current social justice parlance.

And there is a notable, shameful irony in the way that many anti-Trump activists on the Left are so ostentatiously welcoming of every kind of difference and diversity, save diversity of political opinion.

 

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Don’t Let Politics Ruin Thanksgiving

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The holiday season approaches, and politically divided families gear up to fight the presidential election all over again

As Americans prepare to celebrate the Thanksgiving holiday come face-to-face with distant family members who committed the crime of voting for the wrong candidate on November 8, the National Review looks back to a more innocent age when cynical politicians did not attempt to divide families along partisan lines or turn every last social occasion into a teachable moment in favour of their own pet causes.

Jim Geraghty writes:

The idea that Thanksgiving is now a massive, stressful, unavoidable occasion to litigate our national debate about party and philosophy over family dinner represents the insufferable hyper-politicization of American life. Some of this may reflect growing cultural differences, partisanship, communities segregating themselves along ideological lines, and so on. But there’s an unavoidable fact that only recently have we been subjected to political leaders explicitly calling for these holiday arguments.

Back in 2013, Michelle Obama wrote on the site of the White House’s political arm, Organizing for Action, that, “as you spend time with loved ones this holiday season, be sure to talk with them about what health-care reform can mean to them.”

Then in 2014, Mike Bloomberg’s anti-gun group, Mayors Against Illegal Guns, offered a placemat entitled “Talking Turkey About Guns.”

In 2015, White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest concurred, suggesting that families should discuss why members of Congress are too afraid of the NRA to pass a gun-control bill: “As people are sitting around the Thanksgiving table talking about these issues – as they should and I’m sure they all will across the country – I hope that is a question that will be raised and asked by members around the table.”

This year we get “How to Talk to Your Family About Planned Parenthood This Thanksgiving.” Pass the gravy, and let me tell you more about the organization’s commitment to STD testing.

What is wrong with these people? Since when is it a national obligation to subject your relatives to the conversational equivalent of push-polling? Everybody’s gotten together to express thanks, say a little prayer, maybe drop off some canned goods at the soup kitchen, watch a parade and some football, eat way too much, and scoff at the lunatics camped out on shopping-center sidewalks in anticipation of Black Friday. If a family wants the main course to turn into The McLaughlin Group, it will happen naturally. We don’t need government officials and interest groups to coach us on our dinner conversations.

More importantly, there’s a lot more to our relatives than their voting histories and political perspectives.

Take a good look around the table this Thanksgiving. Even when your family members drive you crazy, you’re lucky to have them. You’ll miss them when they’re gone, and they’ll miss you when you’re gone. Do you really want to spend Thanksgiving arguing with them about their vote, or the fairness of the electoral college, or Trump’s latest Tweet, or what the cast of Hamilton did? Must we say every thought that pops into our heads? Is it really so impossibly hard to find things to admire in our relatives beyond their political beliefs?

My American family has not been immune to the online partisan warfare, with several colourful and highly passive-aggressive Facebook conversations unfolding in the days immediately before and after the US election and Donald Trump’s remarkable victory.

We are not all assembling together in Texas for Thanksgiving, but will be doing so at Christmas, when we will be confronted by the same problem. And while the New York Times would have us print out and follow a tedious 19-point checklist walking us through the process of talking to our relatives about contentious political issues while maintaining an atmosphere of mutual respect, we know an unrealistic proposition when we see one.

Our current working solution: to hang a basket outside the house with a sign instructing people to “Please leave your political opinions inside this basket before you enter, and collect them when you leave”.

 

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Triggered By Trump, Celebrity SJWs Go Deeper Into The Bubble

Besides my weekly newsletter from hilarious SJW site Everyday Feminism, the thing which brings me most pleasure in American political life at the moment is reading twice-weekly dispatch from Lenny, Lena Dunham’s online collaboration with Jenni Konner which can best be described as “social justice for the 0.1 percent”.

Here you can find an surefire antidote to whatever scraps of self-awareness and contrition may be emerging from other, more humble parts of the American Left. Here, Hillary Clinton and the Democrats were beyond reproach at all times, and it was America (specifically those ignorant, self-hating white, working class women who had the temerity to vote for Donald Trump) who let Hillary down, not vice versa.

The first thing you need to understand: commanded by their cult of identity politics, they were really deeply invested in Hillary Clinton as a person. As Lenny contributor Virginia Heffernan put it:

When people told me they hated Hillary Clinton or (far worse) that they were “not fans,” I wish I had said in no uncertain terms: “I love Hillary Clinton. I am in awe of her. I am set free by her. She will be the finest world leader our galaxy has ever seen.”

I want to reverse the usual schedule of things, then. We don’t have to wait until she dies to act. Hillary Clinton’s name belongs on ships, and airports, and tattoos. She deserves straight-up hagiographies and a sold-out Broadway show called RODHAM. Yes, this cultural canonization is going to come after the chronic, constant, nonstop “On the other hand” sexist hedging around her legacy. But such is the courage of Hillary Clinton and her supporters; we reverse patriarchal orders. Maybe she is more than a president. Maybe she is an idea, a world-historical heroine, light itself. The presidency is too small for her. She belongs to a much more elite class of Americans, the more-than-presidents. Neil Armstrong, Martin Luther King Jr., Alexander Fucking Hamilton.

Hillary Clinton did everything right in this campaign, and she won more votes than her opponent did. She won. She cannot be faulted, criticized, or analyzed for even one more second. Instead, she will be decorated as an epochal heroine far too extraordinary to be contained by the mere White House.

Yes, maybe Hillary Clinton is light itself. Anyway, you get the idea.

Strangely, nearly to the last person, each writers seems to have been personally committed not to the Democratic Party or left-wing ideals, but to Hillary Clinton herself, as Meena Harris admits:

I joined the Pantsuit Nation Facebook group early on, when its simple but brilliant purpose was to get as many women as possible to wear a pantsuit on Election Day in support of Hillary Clinton. In the weeks preceding the election, Pantsuit Nation became more than a modest call for a show of solidarity on a single day — it became a vibrant and uplifting community of millions of women and allies demonstrating their commitment to Hillary. It truly was a “safe space,” something that seems increasingly rare on the Internet. It affirmed the hope, love, kindness, and support we all are capable of when we come together to fight for something we believe in. It elevated the values embodied in Hillary’s campaign and proved that, indeed, we are stronger together.

My emphasis in bold.

Perhaps this is why it is so hard for the Lennyists to come to terms with Donald Trump’s victory. The rest of America, not inducted into the Clinton personality cult, didn’t realise that they were supposed to base their vote on the blinkered hero-worship of a flawed candidate.

And so while some on the American Left are busy working their way through the five stages of grief and trying to accept that openly despising half the country is not a good route to electoral success, the people at Lenny are doing the opposite – surrounding themselves with likeminded people (even more than usual, if that were possible) and actively seeking out situations and social settings which in no way challenge their existing assumptions and beliefs.

As editor-in-chief Jessica Grose confesses:

It’s been two weeks now. I am falling asleep decently well, but I wake up around three each morning with a start, as if the specter of Trump is chasing me in my subconscious. Then I have trouble falling back asleep after I remember that yes, he really is our president-elect. While we must continue to stay on guard, to stay active, to stay angry, I wanted to write about the times I have felt peace: when I have been in the company of raucous women.

One was a meeting of fellow moms from my daughter’s preschool. We met to discuss a book at a bar, but we ended up talking about our dashed presidential dreams, how to teach our sons and daughters about consent, and who had done (or would do) ayahuasca (answer: would never; am not interested in hallucinating while having explosive diarrhea).

The other was at a shiva for the father of a dear friend. Five women — some of whom had never met before — sat around a living room in Queens, admired foxy photographs of the deceased from his Speedo-wearing youth, revealed our salaries to each other, and argued over whether a sincere belief in chemtrails was a relationship deal-breaker (answer: it depends).

What these meetings had in common was that I felt fully myself and utterly accepted in each grouping. Finding your people, and your solace, in moments of stress and strife is something we’re emphasizing in this week’s issue.

Yes. Reacting to Donald Trump’s election victory by retreating further into the bubble, seeking the company of fellow power moms who sit around discussing the latest fashionable hallucinatory weekend escape and giving their young sons “consent lessons” so that they are no longer tempted to embark on a raping spree across Manhattan, as they would otherwise doubtless be.

These people do not have the slightest interest in learning about the America they actually inhabit, and so when faced with a difficult outcome they simply refuse to accept it, cocooning themselves off with other like-minded people. As private citizens, that might be okay (if still an immature and fragility-creating way for adults to behave). But as supposed writers and journalists, it is an unforgivable dereliction of duty.

Into the bubble. Deeper and deeper…

Meanwhile back in the real world, president-elect Trump continues to wage war on the media and pick his cabinet.

 

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After Hillary Clinton’s Defeat, The Battle For The Democratic Party’s Soul Begins

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Wealthy Liberal donors to the Democratic Party are debating whether to double down on their identity politics and victimhood culture-based strategy or to attempt meaningful outreach to the white working classes whom they so conspicuously cut adrift in 2016

And so the post-election autopsy begins, as analysts slice open the carcass of Hillary Clinton’s failed presidential campaign and methodically pick through the vital organs to determine what possible failure allowed a well-funded presidential campaign that has effectively been running for over a decade to go down in flaming defeat at the hands of Donald Trump.

Politico reports that the hilariously named Democracy Alliance (a group of mega-rich Democratic Party donors using their wealth to tilt the scales of genuine democracy every bit as much as the “evil” Koch brothers) is holding an emergency meeting at the Washington DC Mandarin Oriental hotel to thrash out the issues:

George Soros and other rich liberals who spent tens of millions of dollars trying to elect Hillary Clinton are gathering in Washington for a three-day, closed door meeting to retool the big-money left to fight back against Donald Trump.

The conference, which kicked off Sunday night at Washington’s pricey Mandarin Oriental hotel, is sponsored by the influential Democracy Alliance donor club, and will include appearances by leaders of most leading unions and liberal groups, as well as darlings of the left such as House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi, Sen. Elizabeth Warren and Congressional Progressive Caucus co-chairman Keith Ellison, according to an agenda and other documents obtained by POLITICO.

The meeting is the first major gathering of the institutional left since Trump’s shocking victory over Hillary Clinton in last week’s presidential election, and, if the agenda is any indication, liberals plan full-on trench warfare against Trump from Day One. Some sessions deal with gearing up for 2017 and 2018 elections, while others focus on thwarting President-elect Trump’s 100-day plan, which the agenda calls “a terrifying assault on President Obama’s achievements — and our progressive vision for an equitable and just nation.”

However, there are now murmurings of discontent among some of the Democrats present, who claim that persisting with the same tired, clapped out old ideas and electoral strategies will not reverse their sliding fortunes:

Yet the meeting also comes as many liberals are reassessing their approach to politics — and the role of the Democracy Alliance, or DA, as the club is known in Democratic finance circles. The DA, its donors and beneficiary groups over the last decade have had a major hand in shaping the institutions of the left, including by orienting some of its key organizations around Clinton, and by basing their strategy around the idea that minorities and women constituted a so-called “rising American electorate” that could tip elections to Democrats.

That didn’t happen in the presidential election, where Trump won largely on the strength of his support from working-class whites. Additionally, exit polls suggested that issues like fighting climate change and the role of money in politics — which the DA’s beneficiary groups have used to try to turn out voters — didn’t resonate as much with the voters who carried Trump to victory.

“The DA itself should be called into question,” said one Democratic strategist who has been active in the group and is attending the meeting. “You can make a very good case it’s nothing more than a social club for a handful wealthy white donors and labor union officials to drink wine and read memos, as the Democratic Party burns down around them.”

This blog (and many others) have already written extensively that the cynical decision by the Democrats and the American Left in general to wage a relentless identity politics war against the Right is not only misguided, but actively polarising the country, as continued efforts to label working class white people as privileged “oppressors” will only further encourage them to form into a cohesive identity group of their own – the very one which elected Donald Trump as the next president.

Obsessing endlessly about the politics of race, gender and sexuality at a time when many Americans are either suffering economically or teetering on the brink of real economic insecurity is a privilege only available to the type of people who meet at the Mandarin Oriental to naively ask one another how anybody could possibly not have wanted Hillary Clinton to be the next president. To anybody else, the narrow interests and shrill, hectoring tone of the Democratic Party are an irrelevance at best and a source of supreme annoyance and alienation at worst.

People living in towns decimated by the loss of skilled manufacturing don’t want to be told that it is actually a good thing that their air pollution-causing factory closed down and took their job with it, or that they are borderline racists and bigots for not immediately adopting the latest social justice buzzwords spewing out of the university system. Yet the Democrats had little of value to say to the white working classes, the candidate herself clearly much more at home among the Wall Street and progressive celebrity class, spending the night before the election partying with the likes of Beyoncé rather than showing any empathy for struggling voters in the so-called rust belt.

Unfortunately, other delegates seem so wedded to the present profile of the Democratic Party that they believe that change is neither necessary nor desirable.

The Politico report continues:

“We should not learn the wrong lesson from this election,” said the operative, pointing out that Clinton is on track to win the popular vote and that Trump got fewer votes than the last GOP presidential nominee, Mitt Romney. “We need our people to vote in greater numbers. For that to happen, we need candidates who inspire them to go to the polls on Election Day.”

In other words – keep pursuing the SJW vote, even though many of these people have proven that the limit of their political activism is sharing a smug little meme on social media rather than taking the trouble to actually walk to their local polling place and participate in democracy.

This is abysmal advice, not only because it places the future hopes of the Democrats on the shoulders of people who have never once come through for the party, while many of those young people who were politically engaged are probably still smarting from the party’s frantic efforts to thwart Bernie Sanders and allow the coronation of Hillary Clinton as the eventual presidential candidate. That’s one very valid reason, but the other reason is that no party should actively seek to write off the votes of such a large constituency as the white working class. Even if the Democrats could win without the core of America, what does it say about the party that they don’t even bother with meaningful outreach?

Of course, one could level exactly the same criticism at the Republican Party, who for too long have been more than happy to cede the black and growing Hispanic vote largely to the Democrats rather than highlighting the many ways that conservative policy actually often meshes far more closely with some of their concerns (e.g. the Hispanic focus on the family). Indeed, the 2012 Growth & Opportunity Project report outlined a path toward better engagement with these communities and might have started to pay dividends in 2016 had the party not decided to tear it up and focus on complete obstructionism toward Barack Obama instead.

But while it is undeniable that the Republican Party has serious issues of its own – not only relating to minority outreach, but also a more fundamental question of how much to accommodate or push back against president-elect Trump’s authoritarian, big government instincts – it is the Democrats who snatched defeat from the jaws of victory, and who twice in two decades managed to lose a presidential election despite winning the national popular vote. The onus is on the Democrats first and foremost to work out what they stand for in 2016.

More encouraging than the billionaire talking shop underway at the Mandarin Oriental – a sign of just how disconnected the modern Democratic Party has become from its former roots – is defeated primary candidate Bernie Sanders’ efforts to wrest control of the party away from the dull, visionless centrists who have nothing to offer once you strip away the thin veneer of jealous identity politics.

In another Politico piece entitled “Bernie’s Empire Strikes Back“, we learn:

Supporters of Bernie Sanders’ failed presidential bid are seizing on Democratic disarray at the national level to launch a wave of challenges to Democratic Party leaders in the states.

The goal is to replace party officials in states where Sanders defeated Hillary Clinton during the acrimonious Democratic primary with more progressive leadership. But the challenges also represent a reckoning for state party leaders who, in many cases, tacitly supported Clinton’s bid.

“I think the Bernie people feel very strongly that they were abused, somehow neglected during the primary process and the conventions,” said Severin Beliveau, a former Maine Democratic Party chairman who supported Sanders in the primary. “In Maine, for instance, where Bernie got 70 percent of the caucus vote, they are emboldened and in effect want to try to replace [Maine Democratic Party chairman] Phil Bartlett, who supported Clinton.”

[..] The movement outside Washington to install new leadership — especially new leaders whose progressive credentials include support for Sanders’ presidential bid — mirrors the battle in the nation’s capital for the Democratic National Committee chairmanship in the wake of the devastating Clinton defeat and congressional elections where Democrats failed to win back either the House or the Senate. Sanders has endorsed Rep. Keith Ellison, leading House progressive and a prominent backer of his presidential campaign, to be the next permanent DNC chairman.

While this blog disagrees with Bernie Sanders on nearly everything, Hillary Clinton’s defeated primary opponent does at least correctly identify many of modern America’s ailments and propose more authentically (if flawed) left-wing solutions to them. And one can plausibly argue that Sanders has a greater ability to reach out to unionised or working class America than Clinton displayed (though one can only wistfully imagine how much better Joe Biden would have been in this role).

Better still, Bernie Sanders seemed to have comparatively little time for peddling in divisive identity politics. Rather than seeking to fracture America into a thousand competing victimhood groups, each one jealously guarding its own unique set of grievances against the common oppressor, Sanders has consistently more interested in the wealth divisions in society. And while playing rich and poor off against one another in quite such an overt way as the openly socialist Sanders comes with its own set of problems, on balance it is probably much less harmful to the fabric of America than seeking to divide and stoke up fear based on race, gender or sexuality.

Indeed, the fact that Bernie Sanders frequently found himself on the wrong side of Black Lives Matter and the gun control lobby only proves his resonance with the great core of working class America rather than the ultra-progressives. If only Sanders didn’t hug the S-word (socialism) quite so tightly in a country where people are (rightly, in this blog’s view) raised to be automatically suspicious of it, he might have prevailed over Clinton in the primary and taken the fight to Donald Trump on a number of very different fronts.

In short, as during the primary season, none of the options facing the Democratic Party are greatly appealing. Having taken conspicuously little interest in white working class concerns throughout the 2016 presidential election cycle, any efforts to restart outreach will be met with scepticism at first, and take time to pay dividends.

But for their own sake, the Democrats must persist. The alternative – doubling down on their toxic identity politics strategy and continuing to carve America up into competing victim groups and seeking to make them all fear the Evil Republicans – will only inspire an equal and opposite reaction among America’s largest minority group, the white working class.

In 2016, this strategy brought us president-elect Donald Trump. Do the Democrats really want to roll the dice and bet that the same inputs will deliver a better outcome in 2020?

 

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Top Image: Wikimedia Commons

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