Sunday, November 20, 2016

The Intense Moral Urgency of Option Two: Some Further Links

I posted a brief comment on the recent post by ambivalent_maybe, in which he outlined two possible paths forward after the disastrous election results in the USA. As I said there, I strongly believe that Option Two--building a populist and progressive coalition around shared economic and social goals--is the only realistic way to build an effective coalition to challenge Trump. We might call this the "Sanders-Warren-Ellison-Gabbard" wing of the Democratic Party.

Also in response to this post, I sent some further links (besides those reactions already posted a few days ago) that lay out some of the prospects and perils of the next few years in our politics. As I told him in my e-mail, there is a way of connecting all these commentaries together into a coherent narrative about the grave dangers of moving forward without trying to rebuild a populist progressive coalition that includes white working-class voters.

One simplified way of putting this message is Marshall Auerback's slogan: It’s Class, Stupid, Not Race. Similarly, Owen Jones, in the Guardian, has declared, in the wake of the recent election results: "The left needs a new populism fast. It’s clear what happens if we fail" In practice, this means setting up a politics in which we can peel away some of Trump's voter base, especially the white working class voters who most dramatically shifted away from the Democrats this year. Les Leopold of the Labor Institute offers an example of what this would mean in a concrete case--Carrier in Indiana--that Trump himself talked about prominently during the campaign. This also means reckoning with the social realities on the ground, as Gary Younge has narrated in a compelling, tragic portrayal of Muncie, Indiana (aka "Middletown")

A broader vision of how we can think about this election is provided by Nathan J. Robinson at Current Affairs, who has provided great contrarian commentary throughout this election cycle: What This Means, How This Happened, What To Do Now.

Nevertheless, although one of Robinson's most devastatingly compelling contrarian take-downs targets has been, I believe we will also need some of their "explainer journalism" as part of the coalition, including their summary of the scholarly literature, pointing out that simply accusing people of racism is highly likely to be counterproductive. And although I share Robinson's discomfort with Vox's elitist, centrist liberalism--and I am much more of a populist, anti-establishment insurgent, to use the terminology of Chris Hayes's incredibly prescient book from a few years ago, Twilight of the Elites--I was moved by Ezra Klein's video (and Matthew Yglesias's plaintive textual introduction to it) on how we will need to hope with all of our hope that our American institutions can provide an effective counterweight to the unprecedented systemic corruption which will rock the very foundations of the American republic under a Trump presidency.

As much as I often find myself disagreeing with centrist liberal elite commentators like Klein and Yglesias, we are going to need their help--and, as they point out, GOP members who believe in the American system over party--even as we push very hard for a populist progressive economic coalition under which opposition to Trump can be organized.

 The most urgent shift, in my view, is to emphasize less the outrageous tweets, statements, and insults, and emphasize more about the coming economic betrayals and political corruption of the Trump administration. I realize that there are many groups which are hurting from the wave of hate and bigotry which has campaign has unleashed, and we will certainly have to take action to protect the most vulnerable. But in terms of our larger political messaging, it is clear from the election campaign that outrage at Trump's bad language and contemptible attitudes will not bring about a robust coalition to oppose him.

We must focus on matters of broad-based interests: basic kitchen table economics, shared public aversion to corporate and Wall Street power, and popular revulsion at political corruption. (And now that Hillary Clinton is gone from the scene, they can no longer fall back on the easy rebuttal that focuses on the Clintons' corruption to distract from the Trumps' far greater corruption.)

Most provocative of all--inevitably and intensely controversial--is Mark Lilla's call in the New York Times for "The End of Identity Liberalism." While I am deeply uneasy about the dangers to our coalition building that may come from Lilla's call for an end to identity-based liberalism, I do believe it is a conversation we need to have on the left, given what happened in the election. This will be a very difficult and painful conversation, but if we truly want to create a world where everyone is equally valued and respected, we simply must ask about what kind of politics will get us there.

The more we care about vulnerable groups in our society, the more it is morally urgent to ask hard questions about what kind of politics will be effective in protecting their fundamental rights. And I am increasingly in agreement with Lilla: such a politics requires a commitment to universalism and shared civic ideals, around which all groups can mobilize.

1 comment:

Ambivalent_Maybe said...

This seems to jibe with the advice from Luigi Zingales in the NY Times, about "The Right Way to Resist Trump," drawing on the Italian experience w/ Berlusconi:

"Only two men in Italy have won an electoral competition against Mr. Berlusconi: Romano Prodi and the current prime minister, Matteo Renzi (albeit only in a 2014 European election). Both of them treated Mr. Berlusconi as an ordinary opponent. They focused on the issues, not on his character. In different ways, both of them are seen as outsiders, not as members of what in Italy is defined as the political caste."