We’ve discussed identity politics time and again on this site and the general danger it poses to the Democratic Party. The willingness of leaders in our party to park ideology at the door in order to promote candidates that fit a certain demographic profile. Many in the party have had a different standard for ideological purity when it comes to white candidates than that of minority groups, whether they articulate this publicly or not. Multiculturalism has become a fundamental part of thinking on the left – and while tolerance teaching and learning about different backgrounds is critical in this or any era, it must be kept in a proper context and not be used to divide people.
A discussion hasn’t been had about multiculturalism as a driving force of thought on the left in this country and how that has divided opinion and perhaps created a serious ripple effect with the electorate. Since the Democratic Party is a disparate collection of factions and now ethnicities putting everyone in a grand coalition is somewhat problematic. What’s even more troubling is the racial sensitivity of many on the political left in this country recently – those who cast aspersions on the entire movement of conservatives or on white working class voters motivations without really knowing or caring about what actually motivates them.
There can be no doubt racism exists on the right while it is fairly obvious that millennials as generation don’t share the pseudo-racist or race-driven views of many baby boomers and Gen Xers. At the same time a misunderstanding on the left, especially among younger activists has developed and led to charges of racism on the right being wildly played and exaggerated.
Bringing people together to fight for a progressive agenda on economic issues and for social justice needs to be the priority of the liberal movement and by extension the Democratic Party. The party and those who influence it have to stop casting aspersions and passing judgement on the motivations of white voters and conservatives. Otherwise any effort to build a lasting and meaningful coalition and to impact positive change will be short-circuited.
Multiculturalism as a doctrine is a problem for me – we should teach tolerance and respect for one another’s customs, beliefs and backgrounds. However, forcing multiculturalism on the left has led to the identity politics which ultimately lost the Democrats not only the 2016 election but probably local elections around the country in the last half dozen years. The counter-reaction to multiculturalism has fuel the Trump phenomena which threatens everything we as progressives and liberals care about, both locally and globally. I believe in multiculturalism as one element of thought but also believe in Americanism and the values that make our country great as an overarching theme.
My fundamental problem with multiculturalism even as a liberal-minded person of color has been that it emphasizes what divides us rather than what unites us. In the United Kingdom, Tony Blair’s Labour Party government pushed multiculturalism (and Europeanness) as a curriculum and the result was some immigrants feeling less British and less accepted. This in many ways fueled the nativist sentiments of UKIP and the BNP which ultimately pushed Brexit. In the United States, I am seeing similar outgrowths of over-the-top multiculturalism and will not simply throw stones at those who react badly calling them racists or ignorant white people. If we go too far with multiculturalism we encourage clannish behavior.
I would never advocate a policy based on race or any form of discrimination – but that’s why the growing intolerance of many on the left (they see it as tolerance but it is in fact it as judgemental as the behavior of some on the right) is becoming more and more difficult to justify. Anyone who expresses a different opinion or perspective is immediately shot down and their motives questioned – this isn’t the liberalism I grew up with, a left-leaning politics that accepted differences in approaches and views, while accumulating information from various sources to formulate an educated opinion.
But it seems for some Democrats playing identity politics is a simple election technique – as cynical and “dog whistle-like” (since that is the term of 2016) as the naked white nationalism and racism on the right.
Calling folks racists when in fact they are not and playing identity politics while making assumptions about those who disagree with you all seems to have emanated from some sort of emphasis on multiculturalism that has run amok on the left in this country. Preaching tolerance doesn’t mean being exactly the opposite when it comes to one set of people or those who disagree with you on their world view.
As I wrote last year with regards to Bill Maher and Islam, many on the left want to cast aspersions on those who have a certain point of view while excusing the behavior of others who are not white.
It seems many Florida and American liberals don’t want to see badly of any people who are not western or white – the rest of the world is filled with victims thanks to western imperialism and white privilege. But it is not that simple – it is never that simple. Thoughts based on right and wrong determinations like that were once the exclusive province of conservatives. Unfortunately, today liberal views shaped by (largely justified) hatred towards George W. Bush and the Republican wars of the last decade and our own domestic racial divides. This leads to fairly simple narratives branding all Muslims as victims or all people of color around the globe as oppressed even when they manage the most sexist, racist and misogynist policies/regimes on the planet.
Our own sorry history of racism and the legacy of colonialism should NEVER justify the rise of right-wing ideologies that profess hate as their core value in other parts of the planet – and that is what radical Islam much like conservative strands of Christianity and Hinduism as a governing ideology are an antithesis to what we believe as liberals and progressives.
My feeling is that the pendulum has swung too far in one direction for those like us on the left where identity politics, multiculturalism and wild assumptions about those who don’t think like us or act like us has permeated our consciousness. We need a certain degree of identity politics and multicultural-tolerance teaching but it must remain in context and part of a broader perspective, not what defines us as progressives.
Democrats need to have more self-awareness that condemnations of white voters and white people drives a counter-reaction that creates a racism far greater than what was the case when the discussions began. Our rhetoric and unwillingness to listen and respect other views have driven so many people who we should be in natural alliance with to the Trump Republicans. We need to rethink identity politics and multiculturalism