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Defenders Of The Nation State Are Not The Authoritarians Here – That Would Be The Unrepentant Globalists

One does not need to be a snarling authoritarian to reject the anti nation state, globalist worldview – and if being wary about the survival of our rights and liberties in a post-patriotic world makes one a populist then so be it

During his recent Intelligence Squared debate/discussion with Nick Clegg on the causes of the populist backlash currently roiling British, European and American politics, Jonathan Haidt makes an interesting observation:

Once you have these incredibly prosperous, peaceful, progressive societies, they people there begin to do a few things. First off, not everybody has those values. Everybody in the capital city and the university towns, they have these values. So if you look at our countries, in America we’re pretty retrograde in some ways, but if you look at our bubble places they’re just like Sweden. And that means that these people now think that, you know, nation states, they’re so arbitrary. And just imagine if there were no countries, it isn’t hard to do. Imagine if there was nothing to kill or die for, and no religion too! So this is the way the values shift, and this is what I and others are calling – the new left/right is the globalists versus the nationalists.

And so the globalist ethos is “tear down the walls, tear down the borders, nation states are arbitrary, why should my government privilege the people who happen to be born here rather than people who are much poorer elsewhere?” And so you get this globalist idea, you begin to get even a denial of patriotism, the claim – there are some pictures going around right wing media now in the United States of anti-Trump protesters holding signs that say “patriotism is racism”. So you get people acting in this globalist way, inviting immigration, spitting on the nation state, spitting on the country and people who are patriotic, and very opposed to assimilation when there is integration because that, as people on the Left in America would say that’s cultural genocide.

So you get wealthy, wonderful, successful societies that are so attractive to poor people around the world you get a flood of immigration, and they are met by the globalists who say “welcome welcome welcome, don’t assimilate because we don’t want to deny you your culture”. And this triggers an incredible emotional reaction in people who have the psychological type known as authoritarianism.

Now it’s a very negative term, but there’s a lot of psychological diversity in this world; there are some people who are attracted to the Lennonist vision, the John Lennon vision and there are other people who are more parochial – I don’t mean that in a bad way, I mean there are people who really care about hearth and home and God and country, and they are actually friends of order and stability, and they are friends of many good things about civic life.

But when they perceive that everybody is coming apart, that the moral world is coming apart, that’s when they get really racist, homophobic, they want to clamp down, they want to restore moral order, and if anybody here saw Donald Trump’s acceptance speech at the Republican National Committee that’s exactly what he said, he modelled himself after Richard Nixon’s 1968 speech, a time when cities are burning, there are riots, and Nixon came in – law and order will be restored, and that’s basically what Trump’s whole speech was.

So what I’m saying is successful democratic capitalist societies create – they change values, they generate wealth, they invite people in and then they make some of the people act in ways that trigger the other people to be furious, and those other people actually have a point because you have to have trust and social capital to have a redistributive welfare state. My point is that yes the economy matters and economic changes matter, but they matter in ways which always run through psychology.

I follow Haidt’s argument, but I do not see myself or many others of my acquaintance in the binary model he describes. For a start, I see nothing particularly liberal about the starry-eyed EU-supporting globalists, particularly when one examines the full palette of their typical political opinions. And there is certainly nothing inherently authoritarian about being a small-c conservative and fearing the jettisoning of the nation state in favour of an ill-defined globalism built upon the foundation of supranational institutions which are flawed, remote from the people and totally lacking in democratic legitimacy.

I and this blog are about as far from authoritarianism as it is possible to get, despite being staunchly pro-Brexit and anti-elite. I alternately use the labels conservatarian and libertarian to describe this blog’s desire for a much smaller state and greatly enhanced personal liberty – give me classical liberalism or give me death! The difference is that I see a strong and healthy nation state as being essential to the defence of these personal liberties, while the globalists (as described by Haidt) seem to lazily imagine that these liberties will automatically continue to endure beyond the era of the nation state.

Our experience with supranational governance – whether the United Nations or, more viscerally, the European Union, has not been a pleasant one in terms of democracy, accountability or the amount of control that ordinary people feel they have over their lives. Perhaps there are ways to reform those institutions in theory, but in practice they are loath to change and almost allergic to close scrutiny. Recall, even the prospect of losing its second largest economy and most powerful military member could not persuade the EU to consider the smallest of meaningful reforms.

Thus the European Union plods blindly onward towards a federal destination set decades ago by grey old men who presumed to decide for us how we ought to govern ourselves in the years following the Second World War, but who never thought to ask our permission. And the result is a remote and unloved supranational government whose “founding fathers” are unheralded and whose true leaders lack all accountability.

More worryingly, the ability of organic popular movements to influence the direction of supranational juggernauts like the EU is almost non-existent. Whether it is anti-austerity movements in Greece or the need for domestic industries to influence vital global trading rules in forums at which the EU speaks for all of us while really representing none of us, it is almost impossible to get the attention of EU leaders or encourage them to change direction. Just ask Greece’s Alexis Tsipras, or anybody who used to work in Britain’s beleaguered fishing industry.

I am patriotic because I love my country and consider it special and exceptional, yes. But I am also patriotic because I believe that the basic unit of the nation state remains a crucial building block in the world order, essential to the defence of our rights and liberties, and will remain so until humanity finds a way to make the various supranational institutions now undermining nation states more democratically legitimate and more responsive to popular opinion.

And so when confronted with a movement full of people who talk eagerly about being post-patriotic, who revel in being “more European than British” and who want to dissolve our democracy into a remote and dysfunctional supranational government of Europe without a second thought for our own distinct history and culture, I oppose them. Because however well-intentioned they may be, they are actively undermining the one institution (imperfect though it may be) which has thus far kept us relatively free and prosperous for centuries – our own nation state, the United Kingdom.

Does this make me an “authoritarian”? I hardly see how. While Britain has its share of authoritarian tendencies (which I despise and frequently campaign against), these tend to be even stronger on the continent. If hate speech laws seem draconian here, they would only become stricter if we were to harmonise our laws with those of much of mainland Europe. Want the police to regularly use water cannon to break up public protests? Again, look to Europe, not Britain. Much of Europe is ambivalent about property rights, to the extent that no watertight right to property is truly enshrined in the European Convention on Human Rights.

And putting all that aside, the vast majority of people in this and other European countries, when asked, do not want their countries to become dissolved into a federal European government and assume the subordinate rank of American states. Maybe rejecting this Utopian vision is backward and foolish, but a fully federal Europe is not what people want (which is why the EU has been forced to move in this direction by unapologetic stealth and deception for over half a century). So since the majority of people in the countries of Europe are not yet post-patriotic, how does opposing an institution which seeks to covertly undermine their wishes make me an authoritarian? And how does it make the people who know the truth but still support this vision enlightened “liberals”?

So much as I admire Jonathan Haidt, hail his work in exposing the Cult of Social Justice and Identity Politics and agree with most of his diagnosis of the reasons behind the current populist backlash, I cannot support his conclusion because it totally fails to take into account people like me and other liberal Leavers and Brexiteers.

Indeed, Haidt’s usual perceptiveness appears to desert him when he suggests that something simply snaps and makes people “get really racist, homophobic” when confronted with pro-globalism policies and sentiments. That is simply not how it works. All racists may be anti-globalist almost by definition, but that does not mean that everybody with reservations about globalism (as it currently exists) is remotely prone to racism.

Clearly there are other reasons for opposing globalist projects (or the current state of globalism, at least) that have nothing to do with authoritarianism, including those I have outlined here, which Haidt fails to take into consideration.

The full picture behind 2016’s populist backlash has yet to be fully understood.

 

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Labour’s Hopeless Immigration Quandary

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The Labour Party is doomed to break apart on the issue of immigration because the Metro-Left has become so ideologically insulated and closed-minded that they can no longer speak the same emotional language as half of their own voters (and the country)

Martin Kettle has some advice for the Labour Party as it wrestles to come up with a compromise between the blithe open borders attitude of the Corbynites and the suddenly nativist instinct of Midlands and Northern MPs whose seats may be in jeopardy unless the party moves convincingly on the issue of immigration.

Kettle lays out the issue in the Guardian:

After the issue of Brexit itself, voters think immigration is the most important question facing the country. But Labour’s poll ratings on immigration are terrible. Only 11% of voters in the most recent YouGov poll think Labour is the best party on immigration, with only 29% of Labour voters from the 2015 election – which Labour lost badly – agreeing. A mere 5% of leave voters think Labour is best on immigration.

If Labour’s priority is to re-secure its core voters on the issue, that is a very bad place to start from. Latest research by Chris Hanretty of the University of East Anglia suggests that 64% of Labour’s 232 parliamentary seats voted leave in June. So if it is correct that immigration control was the decisive issue in the leave win, Labour MPs are right to demand that, at the very least, their party says something about immigration that engages with that stark reality.

And suggests a solution based on dubious historical precedent:

There’s a framework for this. For most of the last half-century Labour’s policy was that managed migration made community integration and mutual trust possible. The policy had periods of success and failure. It was too repressive in the 1970s and it was too insouciant in the early 2000s, after EU enlargement. But until recently it worked reasonably, and won electoral consent.

Labour’s challenge in 2017 is to renew that same approach around the realities of Brexit. It won’t be easy, and it will involve compromises of the sort that Crossman expressed half a century ago. The policy cannot be based solely on liberal principles. But it cannot be based solely on ignoring those principles either.

It has to place intervention in the labour market to ensure fair treatment, alongside an unsentimental approach to immigration control. If Labour’s factions can at least agree to start from there, there’s just a chance that enough of the rest will fall into place.

But there can be no agreement between Labour’s factions. One faction – the metropolitan Regressive Left faction, incorporating everybody from leftists like Jeremy Corbyn to virtue signalling centrists – hold it as an article of faith that to even question whether everybody who wants to come to Britain should immediately be allowed to do so constitutes damning evidence of racism. The other faction – call them Old Labour, rooted in the party’s historic Northern, industrial and post-industrial heartlands – have not yet sacrificed patriotism and a belief in the uniqueness of British values and culture on the altar of globalisation, and fail to understand why immigration controls such as those imposed by countries like the United States or Australia are somehow racist.

These two sides simply cannot reconcile – certainly not so long as the metropolitan Regressive Left continues to arrogantly insult agnostics and sceptics, either accusing them of moral deficiency for failing to meekly toe the party line or ignoring their arguments altogether. In fact, with immigration currently a high priority political issue, one can argue convincingly that there is no longer any place for the two factions within the same political party, and that Labour must split (and probably should have done so some time ago).

Kettle, however, would have Labour look back to 1965 for a solution to their dilemma:

Yet the disagreement is not a new one, and Labour has succeeded in managing it before. Back in the summer of 1965, Harold Wilson’s Labour government published a radically restrictive white paper on immigration from the British commonwealth that shocked even cabinet ministers. “This has been one of the most difficult and unpleasant jobs the government has had to do,” the housing minister Richard Crossman wrote in his diaries. “We have become illiberal,” he mourned. “This will confirm the feeling that ours is not a socialist government.”

Nevertheless Crossman was absolutely sure that the controls were necessary. “I am convinced that if we hadn’t done all this we would have been faced with certain electoral defeat in the West Midlands and the south-east,” he went on. “Politically, fear of immigration is the most powerful undertow today … We felt we had to out-trump the Tories by doing what they would have done … I fear we were right.” Antisemitism and racism were endemic in Britain, Crossman suspected. “One has to deal with them by controlling immigration when it gets beyond a certain level.”

The fact that left-wing politicians and commentators would turn to the overtly racially tinged 1965 White Paper Immigration from the Commonwealth as a blueprint for dealing with Brexit and present-day immigration concerns only goes to show how little they understand the totally different present day context or appreciate the different public attitudes toward immigration in 2016.

The regressive leftist mind is seemingly unable to compute the idea that objections to unlimited immigration could be based upon anything other than racism. And perhaps this is partly understandable, when historically racism has formed one of the key objections to immigration. But no longer. Racism is now, thankfully, a fringe issue in Britain (despite the continual efforts of SJWs and others whose livelihoods depend on representing official victim classes to inflate the problem). Today’s concerns centre around integration and assimilation into society, and the affect on employment, infrastructure and public services.

None of these concerns are remotely race-based, and yet the response of the Labour Party has historically been to dismiss them all as a thin veneer covering for xenophobia. When voters plead with Labour politicians to believe them when they say that their objections are not connected with race, too often the response has been sneering dismissal. And even now, when some MPs and commentators are considering making concessions on immigration, it is done in the spirit of “we must join the British people in their racism as a matter of political survival” rather than a genuine attempt to understand legitimate public concerns.

And thus we have Martin Kettle essentially arguing that the Labour Party should hold its nose and support something which it believes to be overtly racist in order to stave off political annihilation. Why else cite the case of the 1965 White Paper, written at a time when “coloured immigration” was still openly spoken of as a specific problem?

High-minded it isn’t. But those words echo today because the essence of the argument in which Crossman’s generation participated – hard times, more migrants, native resentments, press and public prejudice, liberal principles under challenge, electoral defeats – has not altered all that much. Yet just as the Wilson Labour party was right to grasp the issue, though it could have grasped it far better, so the Corbyn party needs to grasp it in an equivalent way too.

This is the infuriating thing about leftists. They manage to be insufferable bordering on slanderous even in their attempts to be conciliatory and find compromise. Because they sincerely believe that any departure from their worldview can only be prompted by malice or grave moral failure, their attempts at dialogue with political opponents are awkward and strained as they inadvertently insult the people they are trying to flatter.

Martin Kettle has gotten it into his head that Brexit proves that the British people are having one of their funny turns and have come over all racist, just like we did in the 1960s. Unable to even consider that the Leave vote was prompted by sincere and virtuous political disagreement about the merits of EU membership, Kettle therefore suggests that the Labour Party recycle some good old fashioned racist outreach from 1965 as a kind of olive branch to persuade swivel-eyed Labour Brexiteers back into the fold.

This is the kind of clumsy gesture we have come to expect from a political elite which has become so isolated from much of the country that they can barely speak the same language. Listening to Martin Kettle try to strike up a rapport with Brexiteers would be like listening to me using Google Translate to talk to someone in Korean. The rough message might get through, but the garbled syntax would prove that I am not really speaking their language, that I do not truly understand them.

I’ve said it numerous times, and I will say it again: the Labour Party will not taste power or enjoy another general election victory until they stop giving off such strong signals that they openly despise the voters and hold more than half of the country in open disdain.

The British people do not want to be told “okay, we’ll try racism for awhile!” by an exasperated and uncomprehending Labour Party. They want to be listened to, to have their ideas and concerns heard and engaged with rather than being summarily dismissed.

This should not be a lot to ask, yet it is proving to be an almost impossible challenge for a bitterly divided Labour Party. And time is of the essence. Even assuming that the next general election takes place in 2020 and not earlier, it takes years to execute a convincing policy reversal while re-establish public credibility and familiarity.

If the Labour Party are to make a change and decide to meet the British people half way on the subject of immigration, then now is the time to do it. But with Jeremy Corbyn and John McDonnell in charge and an increasingly London-centric party behind them, don’t bet on it happening.

 

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Top Image: Allan Warren / Wikimedia Commons

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How To Use Social Justice And Identity Politics To Ruin Your Unborn Child

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No, your child’s life does not depend on you teaching them to be an insufferable social justice activist or an artificially frail victim-in-waiting

Imagine being married to the kind of spouse who writes an open letter to her husband and publishes it in Everyday Feminism, insisting that she take the lead in all parenting decisions as you raise a mixed race child together because she is black while you are white.

Imagine being publicly instructed that it is your solemn duty to raise a social justice warrior child, the newest member of the Cult of Social Justice and Identity Politics, whether they want to follow down that dismal path or not.

Well, the poor husband of Adiba Nelson doesn’t have to imagine, for he is living the nightmare. For a start, Nelson addresses him as though she were an android, which cannot be pleasant (unless he happens to be one, too):

Husband, for the last few years, we’ve been very firm in our decision to not have a child of our own.

You have two sons from your previous marriage, I have my daughter, and that has seemed like plenty. I’ve been so firm in this decision that I’ve gone as far as telling friends that they’re wise to only have one, or none at all.

Then about two months ago, we had a change of heart, and lo and behold, we’re taking steps to prepare for pregnancy.

And so the scene is set.

However, there is no blood test you can take or vaginal swab I can provide that can prepare you, White husband, to raise our Black child.

Yes, our Black child. Because even though our child will technically be biracial, having a biracial child who is half Black means you have a black child (by social, legal, and sometimes medical standards), and that comes with a whole new set of rules.

While your oldest White child may be targeted for his mental illness, statistically speaking, our Black daughter is 2.5 times more likely to be killed by police. So yes, there are some things you need to know before we embark on this journey.

Because in the words of Aladdin, you are about to enter a whole new world.

A whole new world, yes. A whole new world of pained continual racial awareness at all times and a laser-like focus on what divides rather than unites us; a whole new world of corrosive victimhood culture, combined with an infantilising trend among adults to affirm one another (and their children) well in excess of their merits, setting them up for future failure.

And then comes the agenda:

1. We’re Raising a Social Justice Activist

Today, more than ever in our lifetime, this is crucial. Not just to the world that our child will grow up in, but also, to our child’s survival.

The world at large will see our child as Black when it comes to crime, academia, housing, and everything else, but it will question their loyalty to their Jewish heritage when they stand up for the rights of people that look like me.

It’s crucial that we remind our child that one identity and experience does not negate the other, but that as a Black individual living in this country, it’s our collective responsibility to ensure that everyone is entitled to (and receives) fair and just treatment.

By that same token, we also need to teach them how to leverage their access to Whiteness and all of the privileges that come with it to help achieve this goal.

We need to gird them with the confidence, wherewithal, and history of both our heritages so that they can not only speak out against all the -isms with knowledge, but also with empathy.

It’s critical to our child that they understand that while they are in fact, Jewish, Puerto Rican, Panamanian, and African American, the beautiful bouncy curls and caramel colored skin that earned them oohs and aahs as children can also earn them an all expenses paid trip to Rikers Island, or worse, the morgue.

We are raising a social justice activist. Their life depends on it.

Their life really does not depend on becoming a Social Justice Warrior; this cannot be emphasised enough. Using this kind of overwrought language may help to imbue the Cult of Social Justice and Identity Politics with a nobility that it would otherwise lack, but it does not make the statement true. In fact, while nobody should discourage political activism, it is probably true that becoming a social justice activist and involving oneself in various conflicts with an often militarised police force actually increases rather than lowers mortal risk.

More:

2. I Need You to Follow My Parenting Lead in Public

Black people are exonerated at an exponentially higher rate than other races (four times more than Latinx folks and 1.2 times more than White folks), which means that our child is more likely to be arrested, tried, and convicted for something they didn’t do – simply because of the color of their skin and the kink in their hair.

So if we’re out and about and I scold our child for touching things, or I preface every outing with “when we go in the store, you stay right by my side, and you don’t touch anything,” it’s not me being mean.

It’s me educating our child (as subtly as possible) in the ways of the world, so that we aren’t one day paying for court appeal after court appeal.

Adiba Nelson might call it “educating our child in the ways of the world”. Others might view it as constricting their curiosity and imbuing them with a paranoia and vulnerability which they ought never to possess, certainly not at such a formative age.

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3. If We Have a Daughter, Fill Up Her Cup of Self-Worth on the Daily

Yes, to the point of obnoxiously overflowing. I really mean that. Obnoxiously. Overflowing.

As Black women, our styles, beauty regimen, body shape, and facial features have historically been mocked, shunned, and in the case of Sarah Baartman, even put on display in a traveling circus.

When we’ve been nothing but ourselves, we’ve been told it is not good enough, not pretty enough, not right enough – simply not enough.

However, when these same looks, regimens, and shapes are worn, relished and co-opted by other races, it becomes socially acceptable, the hot new fad, and all the rage. But you know this. This is nothing new to you. What you may not know is how to counter this.

Well, I’ll tell you.

To proactively counter this, from minute one of her girlhood, she needs to hear the words “hello beautiful girl,” and every day from that day forward (unless she tells us otherwise).

From the moment we teach her her first anything – rolling over, holding her head up, tracking with her eyes – she needs to be told how fiercely intelligent and unstoppable she is.

Because what could go wrong with filling a child with so much unearned positive affirmation that entering adulthood (or, god forbid, the corporate workplace) is set up to become a traumatic event due to lack of continual praise?

What if Adiba Nelson’s daughter isn’t “fiercely intelligent and unstoppable”? That is not to speculate that she will be ugly and dim (though both are a possibility). But she may be dreamy and artistic, have street smarts rather than book smarts or be known for her empathy and sensitivity rather than as an indefatigable warrior queen. All parents probably project something of themselves onto their young or unborn children, but Nelson seems to have predetermined that her child must become SJW 2.0 or else consider her life a failure.

And what’s all this about the husband having to defer to the wife when it comes to parenting techniques? As the social justice warriors would say: Um, doesn’t that, like, totally reinforce existing harmful gender role stereotypes?

Nelson then leaves her husband with this motivating pep talk:

Husband, being the father of a Black child will not be easy, because by nature (and history), it forces us to confront the fact that the world we thought we knew is not the world we know at all.

There will be times you will feel a rage you didn’t know existed because of someone’s “innocent” microaggression towards our child. However, those moments will be countered with earth-shattering bliss as you watch our child break through every ceiling with ease.

And when those moments come, I’ll turn to you, give you some dap and whisper in your ear, “Congratulations, husband. We did that.”

But today, as we prepare ourselves to bring a beautiful Black child into this world, I only have one thing to say to you.

You got this.

How incredibly condescending. How arrogant, to assume that a fully grown man and existing parent of two children (not to mention somebody Nelson presumably loves and respects enough to have willingly married) requires public guidance and cajoling in the art of raising their new daughter, simply because she will emerge into the world with slightly darker skin than his own.

What chance does this child stand if it isn’t merely exposed to infantilising victimhood culture through the education system but is marinated in that culture from birth at home? How much harm stands to be done to this child as she is raised to view the world entirely through the intersectional prisms (or should that be prisons?) of race and gender theory?

Thank heavens that I didn’t have to put up with any of this nonsense growing up as a biracial child myself. Thanks heavens that I was raised to relate to people as fellow humans rather than members of separately siloed racial identity groups, and not to see colour (I know, I know, how triggering to hear such a thought expressed today).

I fear for the child that Adiba Nelson and “husband” are about to raise together. But then I remember that children do love to rebel against the faith and values of their parents, and that gives me hope. May Adiba Jr. grow up to be a huge ideological frustration to her mother and a thorn in the side of the social justice and identity politics movement.

 

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Donald Trump Victory Reaction: Everybody Take A Deep Breath

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America’s new president-elect is bad, but he is hardly evil on a world-historical scale. Unfortunately, the hysterical media reaction to Donald Trump’s election victory leaves no room for nuance or restraint

In these fractious times, it is very difficult for those of us who fall into the “really didn’t want Donald Trump to win, but don’t consider his victory to be quite the end of civilisation” crowd to say anything, for fear of reprisal – not from Donald Trump supporters, but from certain anti-Trump activists who have taken to using a person’s level of anger at the election result as an indicator of their personal moral code or worth.

Since Trump’s unexpected victory, the strong message being transmitted by much of the left-wing post-election commentary has been that if you aren’t rending your garments, taking to the streets with burning torches, retreating to a safe space or dissolving into tears every five minutes then you must be a closeted Donald Trump supporter.

Look: I really really did not want Donald Trump to be the next president of the United States. This blog has been pretty clear about my estimation of Donald Trump and the low regard in which I hold the president-elect. But not every charge flung at Donald Trump by left-wing partisans deserves to stick, because some of them are major overreaches prompted by partisan fervour rather than objective accuracy. And it should be possible to point out where criticism of Donald Trump goes too far, or is flat-out wrong, without being accused of supporting the man himself.

It does nobody any good if this election causes America to fracture into three distinct factions: unapologetic pro-Trump supporters, furious anti-Trump activists and a group of pragmatists who want to make the best of a difficult situation but who have been cowed into sullen silence for failing to pick a side and express either blanket admiration or total hatred for Donald Trump. If the country is to knit back together, it is this final group which must act as the cords which bind the nation’s wounds and bridge mutual suspicion. Assailing people for neither hero-worshipping Trump nor treating him like Hitler really is not the smartest thing to do in terms of improving the toxic atmosphere in American politics.

I’m told that I cannot possibly understand what it is like to be black, disabled, Mexican, female, gay or transgender in Trump’s America. Well, okay. But I did grow up mixed race in 1990s Britain, when not everybody was super friendly toward people who are not white. Sure, I never had to fear being gunned down in the street by a policeman for walking or driving suspiciously, but as a child I have been shoved and called all the worst racial epithets one can think of. I didn’t let it scar me for life and as I’ve grown older I can probably count the total number of verbally or physically hostile interactions over the past decade on two hands, but I certainly don’t have the dreaded “white privilege”. Yet while I certainly do not look forward to Donald Trump’s presidency, I do not fear it in a physical sense.

Donald Trump is objectionable for all of the reasons that the mainstream media has (belatedly) gotten around to pointing out. He is vulgar and thin-skinned, and in a confrontational situation he will use any defining characteristic to taunt or belittle an opponent. If you are fat, Trump will harp on about how massive you are. If you are not conventionally attractive, Trump will be sure to point that fact out to everyone. And most distastefully, he will apparently do the same if you are disabled. Donald Trump is not a nice person.

But there is vast gulf between being personally repellent and representing an active physical danger to the very same people that Trump insults on Twitter, in television interviews or on stage at his rallies. And we need to recognise that fact. It should be possible to abhor Donald Trump’s mockery of a disabled journalist without making the leap of imagination that a Trump presidency will somehow lead to the state-sanctioned persecution of disabled people. It should be possible to oppose Donald Trump’s most ignorant or insulting rhetoric about racial minorities without imagining World War 2 era Japanese internment camps for black people and lawful, legal immigrants.

The point is this: if we go nuclear in every single criticism of Donald Trump, we have nowhere left to go when somebody with truly severely racist or homophobic views comes along. It is important to leave some slack in our language so that we have room left to describe true evil when it crosses our path. If we wear out our strongest warnings and our most alarmist rhetoric on somebody who has a foul mouth but no evident plans to single out American citizens for persecution, what do we do if one day there is a presidential candidate who actively refuses to associate with black, Hispanic, gay or trans people and who runs on an unabashedly Jim Crow platform?

(Furthermore, I feel compelled to note that right now it is the Social Justice, Identity Politics Left which is clamouring to bring back racial and gender segregation, and not the conventional or alt-right).

Even as I write this, I can feel some people becoming outraged and accusing me of being a Trump apologist. But Trump is terrible! Yes, he is really bad. But the momentary catharsis of accusing Donald Trump of every prejudice and evil under the sun, whether each one is deserved or not, is really not worth the additional damage which going nuclear is doing to our political discourse. At some point it might be nice to persuade some of those who voted for Donald Trump in 2016 to vote for somebody else in 2020. It will be much easier to engage them in dialogue if we have not first accused them of being latter-day Nazi collaborators.

If it sounds like I am rather treading on eggshells in this piece, it is because I am. Trump’s election victory has divided America, divided the world, divided families. And maybe two weeks after the election is too soon to expect the blood to have cooled and objectivity to reign. So while I struggle to put into words what I am trying to say, I encourage everybody to read this piece by Scott Alexander of the SlateStarCodex blog, who offers some excellent perspective and advice.

(Hat tip to Brendan O’Neill for bringing the piece to my attention on Facebook).

It’s a long piece of analysis, but I will quote the conclusion, which should be required reading for everyone in America (and anyone else moved to write about American politics):

Stop fearmongering. Somewhere in America, there are still like three or four people who believe the media, and those people are cowering in their houses waiting for the death squads.

Stop crying wolf. God forbid, one day we might have somebody who doesn’t give speeches about how diversity makes this country great and how he wants to fight for minorities, who doesn’t pose holding a rainbow flag and state that he proudly supports transgender people, who doesn’t outperform his party among minority voters, who wasn’t the leader of the Salute to Israel Parade, and who doesn’t offer minorities major cabinet positions. And we won’t be able to call that guy an “openly white supremacist Nazi homophobe”, because we already wasted all those terms this year.

Stop talking about dog whistles. The kabbalistic similarities between “dog-whistling” and “wolf-crying” are too obvious to ignore.

Stop writing articles breathlessly following everything the KKK says. Stop writing several times more articles about the KKK than there are actual Klansmen. Remember that thing where Trump started out as a random joke, and then the media covered him way more than any other candidate because he was so outrageous, and gave him what was essentially free advertising, and then he became President-elect of the United States? Is the lesson you learned from this experience that you need 24-7 coverage of the Ku Klux Klan?

[..] Stop turning everything into identity politics. The only thing the media has been able to do for the last five years is shout “IDENTITY POLITICS IDENTITY POLITICS IDENTITY POLITICS IDENTITY POLITICS IDENTITY POLITICS!” at everything, and then when the right wing finally says “Um, i…den-tity….poli-tics?” you freak out and figure that the only way they could have possibly learned that phrase is from the KKK.

Stop calling Trump voters racist. A metaphor: we have freedom of speech not because all speech is good, but because the temptation to ban speech is so great that, unless given a blanket prohibition, it would slide into universal censorship of any unpopular opinion. Likewise, I would recommend you stop calling Trump voters racist – not because none of them are, but because as soon as you give yourself that opportunity, it’s a slippery slope down to “anyone who disagrees with me on anything does so entirely out of raw seething hatred, and my entire outgroup is secret members of the KKK and so I am justified in considering them worthless human trash”. I’m not saying you’re teetering on the edge of that slope. I’m saying you’re way at the bottom, covered by dozens of feet of fallen rocks and snow. Also, I hear that accusing people of racism constantly for no reason is the best way to get them to vote for your candidate next time around. Assuming there is a next time.

My emphasis in bold. Scott Alexander concludes with this plea:

Stop centering criticism of Donald Trump around this sort of stuff, and switch to literally anything else. Here is an incompetent thin-skinned ignorant boorish fraudulent omnihypocritical demagogue with no idea how to run a country, whose philosophy of governance basically boils down to “I’m going to win and not lose, details to be filled in later”, and all you can do is repeat, again and again, how he seems popular among weird Internet teenagers who post frog memes.

In the middle of an emotionally incontinent reality TV show host getting his hand on the nuclear button, your chief complaint is that in the middle of a few dozen denunciations of the KKK, he once delayed denouncing the KKK for an entire 24 hours before going back to denouncing it again. When a guy who says outright that he won’t respect elections unless he wins them does, somehow, win an election, the headlines are how he once said he didn’t like globalists which means he must be anti-Semitic.

Stop making people suicidal. Stop telling people they’re going to be killed. Stop terrifying children. Stop giving racism free advertising. Stop trying to convince Americans that all the other Americans hate them. Stop. Stop. Stop.

I have no desire to denigrate the fear and pain of anybody who is in genuine fear following Trump’s election victory. I do not take perverse joy from laughing at the terror and misery of other people. But it is my contention that much of this fear has been manufactured by various people and for various reasons – some vaguely noble, others much less so.

Frequently we hear the refrain that various identity groups “no longer feel welcome in America”. Would that include gay people, whom President Barack Obama did not consider worthy of the institution of marriage until changing public opinion (and a big helping hand from Joe Biden) caused him to shift position? Would that include illegal immigrants, whom Hillary Clinton voted to thwart with a border fence and Barack Obama deported in record numbers? Would that include black people, whom the sainted Hillary Clinton once described as “super-predators“?

Once the excitement of the election has properly died down we urgently need to separate the things which are actually concerning about Donald Trump from the frivolous dangers which exist mostly in people’s minds.

Much is (belatedly) being written about how the media failed to do a good job covering Donald Trump’s presidential candidacy in the early months. Quite right too – they chased ratings, broadcast voyeuristically lingering live coverage of his meandering speeches for entertainment rather than educational value and failed to ask tough questions or do proper investigative journalism until way too late in the process.

But the media is failing now in a different way, having overcompensated for past sins by now reporting any hysterical fear about Donald Trump, no matter how absurd or far-fetched, as though it is inherently legitimate and worthy of consideration. Take this hypersensitivity to Donald Trump’s boorish rhetoric coupled with an infantilised population who sometimes seem to prefer to act like helpless babes rather than autonomous and resilient adults, and the result is not pretty. In fact, it is downright ugly.

I am very aware that this blog post is not up to the usual standard – it probably does not “flow” as it should, and is much more a stream of consciousness than anything else. But the bottom line is this: there will be enough work to do scrutinising the Trump administration and keeping its worst excesses at bay for the next few years without also turning on each other, fellow people who opposed Trump’s candidacy.

This post will likely see me damned by those who are fully on board the Trump train as well as those implacably opposed to Donald Trump (as I was) and determined to see only evil in everything that occurs until he departs the scene. So be it. I find it very strange to be in the position of the “moderate middle” for once – somewhere I never find myself when it comes to British politics – but there we are.

I knew there was a reason why I named this blog Semi-Partisan Politics.

 

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Identity Politics Gave Us President Trump; More Identity Politics Will Not Make Things Better

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Identity politics cultists created Donald Trump, President-Elect Edition, and from much of their subsequent complaining they haven’t learned a single thing from their mistake

Blogger and polemicist Phil Hendren is in unsparing mood as he takes the identity politics Left to task for their role in provoking the alleged “whitelash” which confounded the opinion polls and made Donald Trump president-elect of the United States last Tuesday.

Hendren’s critique is worth quoting at length, as he writes:

Of course, the political earthquakes have been followed in each case with a sentimental reaction that is both odd and downright scarier than the actual earthquake. This has been coupled with a lack of self-awareness by the losing side.

Be it Brexit or Trump we’ve seen knee-jerk reactions that ponder upon whether democracy is such a great idea after all. Amazingly we have idiots screaming about fascism whilst simultaneously suggesting that something be done about the pesky plebs that voted one way or the other.

They moan about bigotry whilst suggesting that the franchise be removed from certain people who are not suitably intelligent or are too old to be trusted with a vote - call me old-fashioned but that is bigotry right there.

You listen to analysts who say they are “just reporting the data” that tell you Trump scored well with “white males without a college degree”. Has there ever been a more obvious coded dog whistle for “stupid white trash”?

The same thing happened in Britain after the Brexit vote. People started arguing that it was those with less education that voted Leave, the implication being that the stupid unenlightened were to blame.

It astounds me that, as the hand-wringing goes on, there persists, even in defeat, a complete and total contempt for some part of the electorate by the chattering class and the elite.

Don’t they get it? Do they really not see that it is precisely that attitude toward the great unwashed that has caused them to lose? Don’t they also realise that they’re witnessing the ultimate end game of their own orthodoxies?

For the past 20 years, the dominant orthodoxy in the West has revolved around the politics of Identity. We’ve been constantly reminded that humanity should be pigeonholed into groups based on race, gender, sexuality or the Other.

The elephant in the room of this orthodoxy has been the marginalisation of the considered dominant social identity, be it so-called ‘cis-gender’ (essentially a pejorative for someone who’s gender identity is in line with their biology) ; heterosexuals; or good old whitey - aka ‘the oppressor’.

Is it any wonder that these groups have reacted by taking on the clothes of Identity Politics themselves? Anyone that claims to be shocked or disgusted by this development is, to put it as bluntly as I can, a fucking idiot.

If you constantly dehumanise people by making them the sum of arbitrary labels, and then you push the view that each of these groups is structurally disadvantaged by the oppressor then you inevitably structurally disadvantage the oppressor who begins to feel, rightly or wrongly, oppressed.

It isn’t fucking rocket science.

The vote for Brexit and the vote for Trump do not represent some sort of uprising of white supremacy, or the normalisation of misogyny and racism. They represent the inevitable consequence of this misanthropic orthodoxy that has infected the chattering class, the Academy and the elites.

Did I vote for Brexit? No, I was a reluctant (and regretful) Remainer. Would I have voted for Trump? Hell no. He’s an illiberal social authoritarian that supports ridiculous left wing protectionism, but I get why people did.

Until the elite and chattering “enlightened” class begin to realise that they’ve created this. That they are to blame for it, these political earthquakes will keep on coming.

My emphasis in bold.

As an anti-Trump conservative watching the reaction to Trump’s election with amazement and concern, I am absolutely stunned by the lack of introspection and self-awareness displayed by much of the Left.

As this blog has already noted, Donald Trump supporters propelled their man to the White House largely by following the proven playbook of the leftist Social Justice Warriors, and they were able to do so because of the pervasive victimhood culture which has been nurtured and aggravated in America by a succession of cynical politicians and activists.

As Hendren rightly notes, if you atomise society into “separate but equal” identity groups based on race, gender or sexuality, you inevitably spark an arms race of perceived oppression and claims of vulnerability which far exceed the actual real oppression which may still exist. Grievance group is pitched against grievance group in the battle of public sympathy, with only one constant – that “cisgender” white men are always portrayed at the top of the Hierarchy of Oppression, always cast as the villains – whether they live in a New York condominium with gold-plated elevators or an Appalachian trailer park on the outskirts of a town being ravaged by crystal meth and heroin addiction.

I’ve warned about this before, in the context of the oppressive climate faced by young conservatives on college campuses, pointing out that it will not be long before those with conservative views tire of being bullied, censored and portrayed as “hateful” by the social justice mob which the tacit consent of spineless university administrators, and begin to use the same language of vulnerability and victimhood to elicit public sympathy for their own plight. Conservatives see other “identity groups” taking this approach and winning their battles to silence criticism and elevate themselves to a privileged, untouchable position on campus, and already we signs of some harried conservatives adopting the same approach.

So it is outside the university campus too, in wider society. Many millions of decent, non-racist and non-sexist people, often (but not exclusively) white, have been told increasingly stridently that questioning open borders or very recent new norms around gender identity and sexuality is tantamount to “hate” – that they are, in fact, bigots. Leftist identity politics cultists have increasingly deployed the nuclear option accusations of racism, sexism and homophobia against anybody who displays the slightest hesitation in embracing their worldview, leaving no way to distinguish and flag genuinely racist, sexist or homophobic opinions or actions when they occur.

And now we face the worst-case scenario, a white working class which sees other minority groups claiming vulnerability and oppression to demand sympathy and claim perks, and which has decided to think of itself as an oppressed minority group too. A very large, very powerful minority group, as it turns out.

We even get an eerily prescient prophecy that this will come to pass in a 2008 essay by Mark Schmitt in Prospect Magazine, written six months prior to the election of Barack Obama in his battle against John McCain.

Schmitt suggests:

That leaves Republicans with a single alternative, one that’s embodied in the slogan of McCain’s first general-election advertisement: “The American President Americans Are Waiting For.” It’s the politics of identity–not necessarily racial or ethnic identity but identity as an American. The blog FiveThirtyEight.com, which has been gathering all sorts of data relevant to the Electoral College vote, recently noted a fascinating demographic fact: About 7 percent of people refuse to answer the Census questions about ethnic origin and instead write in “American.” Those defiant Americans are overwhelmingly found in the states and counties that turned away from the Democratic Party in 2000 and 2004–the Appalachian belt running from West Virginia through Kentucky, Tennessee, and southern Ohio–which are also the counties where Barack Obama has done worst in the primaries.

David Frum calls explicitly for this brand of identity politics, declaring that while the Republican Party’s issue positions have evolved over the years, “there is one thing that has never changed: Republicans have always been the party of American democratic nationhood,” whereas Democrats “attract those who felt themselves in some way marginal to the American experience: … intellectuals, Catholics, Jews, blacks, feminists, gays–people who identify with the ‘pluribus’ in the nation’s motto, ‘e pluribus unum.'” In case it’s not clear, in Frum’s Latin, “pluribus” means “parasites,” and he tells us helpfully, “As the nation weakens, Democrats grow stronger.”

In Frum’s book, this ugly bit of identity politics is carefully nestled within thousands of words about policy. And this is how the code is supposed to work. The GOP’s attack on “liberals” was always an attack on people not quite like “Americans”–secular, cosmopolitan, educated, egalitarian.

[..]

Traditionally, the phrase “identity politics” has referred to the Democratic coalition’s caucuses, interest groups, and competitive claims of wrongs to be righted and rights to be granted. Identity politics on the left, according to this very conventional wisdom, opened the door to an alternative politics of national identity on the right. And yet in 2008, the Democratic presidential nomination battle between an African American and a woman has not exacerbated left identity politics but brought it to a peaceful close. Obama is not Jesse Jackson; Hillary Clinton is not former Rep. Pat Schroeder. He chose to campaign on national reconciliation, she on bread-and-butter economics and her expertise on military affairs. Whereas McCain–a man whose known positions on the war and on the economy are deeply unpopular, whose other positions are endlessly shifting, whose party and ideology are rejected–is recast entirely in terms of his biography, his honor, his character, his American-ness.

This year the Republican argument is reduced to its barest essence: Americans versus “pluribus,” unprotected by the politeness of issues or safer symbolism. Hence McCain’s slogan, the politics of the flag pin, the e-mails charging that Obama doesn’t salute the flag, and the attempt to associate him with the anti-American politics of 1968, when he was 7 years old. This, then, may be the ultimate high-stakes gamble for the party of confident risk-takers: Accept that everything else–ideas, competence, governance–is gone, and instead of trying to reconstruct it, as the books recommend, bet everything on the bare essentials of Republican identity politics, “The American President Americans Are Waiting For.”

“The American President Americans Are Waiting For”. “Make America Great Again”. Schmitt wasn’t too far off in his prediction of the winning message, albeit eight years later than originally planned.

Read the whole article if you have time – the foreshadowing is quite spooky.

This is in significant part why Donald Trump will be taking the presidential oath of office on 20th January 2017 – because the American Left succeeded in shattering American society into a fractured group of warring special interests and victim groups, claiming nearly all of them for its own side but leaving the largest – the white working class – to the Trump-led Republicans.

And still they don’t see it. Still they rail against the ignorant, inbred hicks with their backward, racist ways. Still they treat the plurality of Americans who voted for Donald Trump as stupid, unwitting enablers of fascism (at best) or actively hateful “deplorables” at worst, unaware that every further such comment only serves to prove to the white working class that they are indeed under attack, and that they were right to band together and vote based partly (even largely) on the solidarity of identity.

At some point, somebody fairly prominent on the American Left is going to have to wake up, reach this conclusion and then have the courage to stick their head above the parapet and urge their fellow travellers to stop their destructive course of action. With their hysterical anti-Trump rhetoric, the American Left not only obscure Donald Trump’s many real and tangible flaws, they actively feed the monster which they fear the most.

Now that the populist Right are catching up with the new rules of the game, playing the identity politics card is turning into something approaching Mutual Assured Destruction. Sure, you can do it, but pandering to the politics of identity is now all but guaranteed to provoke an equal and opposite reaction from those being singled out as oppressors. And whoever wins on any given day, the country is left more divided, more bitter and less able to knit back together with goodwill when it comes time to govern.

The American Left needs to step back from this madness. Now.

 

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