Mark Lilla encounters my wife
We went to hear Mark Lilla tell us Liberals how our widening up of the Democratic Party by taking up the cause of a variety of groups despised by the Right is hurting us at the polls. A reviewer of his book, and most of the reviews were not kind, did say that Democrats should not wait for demographics to allow government to fall into our laps.
Ignoring for the moment two factors there: one, that demographics do favor Liberal and Democratic policies and two, not all those demographics so reliably Democratic will remain so (note Tucker Carelton’s stupid comment that we won’t need elections anymore once Texas turns Hispanic b/c between it and CA, Democrats will always win, as if the GOP can never develop policies that will appeal to Hispanic voters)….. we must recognize the efforts being made not only by the Party but by a great many other public groups. Lilla paints those efforts as couched in appeals to special interests aka Identities like LGBTQ, Blacks, immigrants, the disabled, religious minorities, Hispanics, and so on.
What is maddening about Lilla – and he says he most often hears from students that he drives them crazy – is that he steadfastly refuses to give full weight to the fact that Republicans for the most part and conservatives totally attack these groups and try to disenfranchise them through voter suppression efforts and gerrymandering. They use tactics like McSally here in AZ, showing thugs robbing and beating up a store clerk (being sure to show White thugs) and stoking the flames of fear as Republicans always do. This is what we are fighting against and Lilla urges us to find a way to make common cause with these folks and not alienate them by calling them out on their hatred and violence.
Another maddening aspect to Lilla’s approach is to assert that this Identity Politics thing is something new, of the last 30 or so years. Politicians of every….. almost every, stripe have eaten kielbasa, tacos, lox and bagels, cheese, cannelloni, hot links, kim chee, and every ethnic food in order to send the message, “Look, I am familiar with your food and so you can bet I am familiar with your people and your problems.”
We can all appreciate any attempt to get more wins for Democrats. Lilla’s discussion of Democratic and Liberal focus is worth considering. To many of us, it is as if he is saying, “Maybe we should tamp down all this discussion of slavery and maybe the South will come our way a little bit” when the basis for action on our part was action against slavery and the basis for the South’s actions was preservation of slavery. How do you get around that?
And so when we want to say things like, “Maybe we should tamp down the talk about Identity Politics,” there seems to be an embedded assumption that this talk about Identity Politics is all on the Left’s side when in fact it is the Right and the GOP along with it who keep prattling on about Muslims, immigrants, Hispanics, Blacks, really anyone but Russians – they can join the NRA. If I could have a discussion about trade policy, policing, regulation of business, taxation, clean energy, health care, education, a social safety net, and the military without running into complaints about
1.) Mexicans taking our jobs
2.) Having to dial one for English (they could have made it 8)
3.) terrorists walking the streets in their hijabs
4.) Mexicans bringing drugs into our country and polluting our innocent children (weren’t the Clintons enough?)
5.) Immigrants as a fifth column undermining America like all those Japanese spies we captured at the start of WW II.
6.) Loss of religious liberty when we have to serve gays; it was bad enough making us serve Blacks. Where will it end? Will I be required to identify the ingredients of my chili in Spanish?
7.) Mexicans overwhelming our schools and health services and taking our jobs while getting on welfare.
8.) The Gay Agenda in our public schools – therefore the reason for charters
9.) Gay Mexicans combining Cinco de Mayo with Pride Day floats and parades
10.) Did I mention the Mexicans?
If our conservative friends, esp the ones toting AK 47s, could back off on the ethnic thing a little, maybe we could find common ground.