The current political climate can be defined by two opposing forces: the establishment and populism. With Bernie Sanders on the left, and Donald Trump on the right, both are harnessing the discontentment of the people. The Republican establishment and its advocates are doing whatever it can to stamp out the usurping of the party. Since the beginning the liberal media has treated Sanders with a shrug, though only when he gained momentum did they change their tune. The establishment (or rather the status quo) and populism are currently in a tug of war deciding the fate of the next presidential election, and in deciding the priorities to come thereafter.
While this is the current climate and certainly worth mentioning, it is not the subject of this entry. The subject of this entry is the dissolution of class politics into identity politics, and how the latter has inevitably resulted in fragmentation and weakness. While I do not identify as a leftist, I do appreciate the pragmatic function of class awareness. The politics previously mentioned is a clear illustration of a lack of solidarity and how identity politics has become counterproductive to its intended goal. Sanders channels lower and middle class white Americans, typically college educated, many of which are concerned with employment, healthcare, and student loans. Clinton has secured the lower and middle African American vote whom are also concerned with the same every day challenges. Trump is an odd phenomenon, and due to vitriol rhetoric and crass populism has won over the white working class, many without college degree, in other words ‘the average Joe’. There are of course major differences between the left and right regarding their approaches to solving a problem, but what can be agreed upon is across the board these are working class people whom are concerned with very similar issues. The average citizen is suffering due to higher cost of living, employment obstacles, high cost of healthcare, and student loans or their children’s cost of education. So why then do they hate one another rather than acknowledge their common objectives and concern?
Solidarity is easier said than done. The white lesbian college graduate will face different hardships than a black mother working two jobs and again both will differ from the small town Southern Baptist plumber. This may appear simplified in description, but the point stands that while these three individuals are all working class, they are distinct in identity and face hardships that are particular to that identity. By all means identity politics has its place. From civil rights to gay rights, it has been effective at accomplishing social goals specific to that identity. Unfortunately in the past many decades of identity flooding it seems we have lost class awareness, if we ever had it. Indeed, identity politics has become cannibalistic and rabid at times, producing more and more splintered identities, with more and more aggression among themselves. Intersectionality has been a failed attempt at reconciling the common interest between two identities because ultimately an identity will care foremost about its own self-interest. Plenty could be written in criticism of the chaos that identity politics has become, and one could easily conclude it even spins itself into relativist dead ends.What is most important is the reversal of this fragmentation, the backtracking of identities into a class solidarity. Identity politics has sacrificed the forest for the trees, and we increasingly see how this does not assist in populist aims.
Perhaps it is idealistic of me, downright optimistic even, but imagine if two individuals of the working class came together to discuss their shared concerns. They may have different backgrounds, they may support a different approach in solving the problem, but what they do share are similar problems specific to the working class. Perhaps if they could put aside certain differences, put aside convenient scapegoats, and discuss the common problems they face in their every day life. I am all too aware of how optimistic this sound, maybe naive, but solidarity in these matters is arguably more effective than fragmentation. What is the value of a three headed dog if they spend their time biting one another and never realizing they share the same body? Each head is led astray by a politician singing the right song. Time and time again they are met with disappointment when the status quo continues.
In defense of populism, I am not one to praise the masses or let the ‘peasants go unchecked’, but I do believe wholeheartedly it is the responsibility and duty of national leaders to keep the people’s best interest at heart. The nation itself and the peoples of the nation must come first, and ignoring this for the sake of other loftier or distant goals is negligent at best. What I mean to say is, the well-being of the people and the self-preservation of the nation must come first above all things. We see the recent uprising of populism because the well-being of the people has been purposely ignored for too long. If the concerns of the people continue to be ignored there will only be more discontentment and eventual revolt. It is in the best interest of the nation that it does not come to this. It is in the best interest of the head and body that its feet does not become wounded and suffer infection. Class harmony is preferable to class warfare. Of course this may be where one of many distinctions is drawn between myself and leftist ideology.
Hopefully identity politics will recede, the annual flood of new identity politics ceases, and the trend burn itself out. Needless to say it has reached bizarre lengths with the loud ‘social justice warrior’ types which attempt to police language and micromanage behavior in the name of sentiment. If and when this recedes, its intrinsic nihilism realized, perhaps there will be a return of class solidarity. Perhaps we are even witnessing that now in the base support of Sanders and Trump. Maybe it is time for the pendulum to swing in the opposition direction, away from the fragmentated identity politics and toward tangible class solidarity.