So the Democratic party (and remember, our two party system makes the Democrats the home by default for the left) pretends to be a safe haven for all sorts of out groups: women, gays, Hispanics (on their way to being the dominant group but not there yet), blacks, the poor. But this is stands in stark contradiction to its policies of selling out the middle class to banks and big corporate interests, just on a slower and stealthier basis than the right. So its desperate need to maintain its increasingly phony “be nice to the rainbow coalition” branding places a huge premium on appearances. It thus uses identity politics as a cover for policy betrayals. It can motive various groups on narrow, specific issues, opening the way for the moneyed faction to get what it wants.Good God, our entire political infrastructure is crumbling into a sea of self-hate. The Republican party has been taken over by the Pod People, and the Dems are eating each other alive. I don't see how we can continue on through the new century as a cohesive nation and still maintain this utterly dysfunctional Balkanization. At this rate I don't see how the Democratic party can avoid imploding into a score of navel-gazing boutique cults with a complete lack of vision beyond their own narrow interests.
It took most people far too long to get that Obama was a phony because the presumption that a black man would be sympathetic to the fate of the downtrodden is a deeply embedded but never voiced prejudice (and this bias is exploited successfully by the right in depicting Obama as a socialist). Other elements of traditional Democratic associations played into the Obama positioning: his Administration is chock full of technocratic Harvard wonks, and the last time an Administration was so dominated by technocrats was under Kennedy, the last Democratic Administration to have a strongly positive (indeed romanticized) image. (Yes, the Clintons also liked fancy resume types, but they also placed a very high premium on loyalty, and with the result that long-standing supporters often wound up in surprisingly senior roles).
These traditional iconic symbols of liberalism – secular urban elitism, blackness, technocratic skill, micro-issue identity based political organizing groups – have been fully subverted in the service of banking interests. Obama is the ultimate, but not the only, piece of evidence that these symbols are now used simply to con the Democratic base out of their support and money. The task of moving forward will require rebuilding the symbolic vocabulary of the defenders of the middle class. It will probably also require a similar intellectual civil war within the left, against people like Melissa Harris-Perry. Those engaged in that effort need to become skilled in dealing with these liberal McCarthyite identity smears.
Wednesday, September 28, 2011
The Lizard-Brained Satisfaction of Name-Calling
Yves Smith responds to Melissa Harris-Perry's lazy-ass slur of racism on disillusioned white liberals: