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View Diary: The Democratic Party, The Decline of Unions and Voter Apathy...Random Thoughts (94 comments)

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  •  I still haven't gotten any sleep, but I'll attempt (10+ / 0-)

    a stab at your point, HR...

    What it doesn't realize is that if you are not a white male, identity is economics and class.  
    Firstly, your take on this seems to accept the mainstream view that we are playing a zero sum game here.  That any gains made by White Males must necessarily be at the expense of either women, or people of color, or both.  I don't buy that argument.

    I think that both the Democratic Party and the Labor Movement can promulgate and actively pursue policies that improve lives equally for everyone involved.  

    If the Dems had a cohesive, philosophically and economically consistent message that addressed the needs of "the 99%', it would of necessity address the needs of every other subgroup.  To the extent that their message is written and tailored specifically for whatever slice of the demographic pie that they find themselves in front of at the time, it only promotes the poverty of solidarity and inability to see ourselves as all in the same boat that is part of the problem, in my mind.  It almost invites tribalism, if not excites it, and encourages different groups to self identify around issues of race, ethnicity, gender identity etc, and ask the Party "What's in this for me, instead of how does this improve things for all of us.

    I don't think the struggle for economic justice is that kind of zero sum game.

    But I also believe the Dems are no longer comfortable having that kind of class conscious debate.  They have painted themselves into a box over the past 35 years in so many ways, and are always playing defense politically.  They desperately need to retain the support of various interest groups, but have largely ceded the loss of a wide swath of the Middle & Working Class to Republicans.  Their political survival, as they read the political lay of the land, depends upon shoring up their support among the various identy groups, while currying favor with liberal elites with deep pockets.

    This manifests itself in various ways.  When in control of the White House, modern Democratic presidents seem intent upon appointing people who won't alienate the nebulous "unalligned voters" to important Cabinet positions...up to and including SCOTUS.  That's why, for example, we get Interior Secretaries like Ken Salazar, to pick just one example.  Repubs, on the other hand, know exactly who their core constituency is...it's the affluent and industry.  So when they have the WH, we get ideologues in positions like Interior Secretary or Labor Secretary...or Atty General.

    The Dems' dependence upon large campaign donors has forced them to acquiesce to policies and legislation that harms the Middle Class to one degree or another, and their decision to pursue a strategy of identity politics over class politics has circumscribed its ability to appeal to a more broad based Middle Class coalition.

    I know what the GOP stands for and what its intentions are.  That's why I continue to vote Dem.  But I am hard pressed to say, succinctly, exactly what the Dems' stand for or what their intentions are.  And my confusion, I would suggest, stems from the Party's own lack of a clear philosophy.  

    Oregon: Sure...it's cold. But it's a damp cold.

    by Keith930 on Fri Jun 08, 2012 at 01:11:41 PM PDT

    [ Parent ]

    •  A zero-sum game? (5+ / 0-)
      Firstly, your take on this seems to accept the mainstream view that we are playing a zero sum game here.  That any gains made by White Males must necessarily be at the expense of either women, or people of color, or both.  I don't buy that argument.
      Many white males do buy that argument. And, in the long era of restructuring and retrenchment we've been in since the 1970s, so do many women and people of color.

      I think we would agree that the struggle for social justice doesn't have to be a zero-sum game among the 99%. But that's the way it's been working, and will continue to do so until we figure out alternative strategies.

      The problem with much of identity politics is that it pursues a goal of democratic inclusion of the group within the existing social structure. Two results: the focus is not on "unite the many to defeat the few," but on "unite the few to defeat the many," since not just the (white, male) power structure is seen as the opponent, but every other group as well.

      This makes it very hard to structure a coherent political bloc capable of taking on entrenched, powerful opposition. And it encourages the leaders of each group to cut side deals with that power structure, because after all they are trying to join it, not take it apart. Thus they define the subordinate group's struggle in terms of the interests that group's top strata. See, for example, the myriad media stories defining the advancement of women in terms of the number of female CEOs; or read the history of NOW's abandonment of its opposition to Clinton's welfare "reform" in the face of member criticism. (That's not to say that there have not been important leaders and groups who have fought for a broader liberation strategy--think Martin Luther King or the social-feminists of the 70s--but they have been marginalized.)

      The Democrats have been happy to play along with Republican cultural warfare since the 1960s because they are happy to avoid class/economic struggle in favor of identity politics struggles for democratic recognition rather than democratic redistribution.

      The Democratic Party has always been the less coherent party, going back to pre-Civil War days, when it united Northern mechanics, immigrants, and white Southern defenders of slavery. The ingredients of the coalition have changed over the decades, but pursuit of democratic redistribution as part of a 99% strategy would lead to its abandonment by the elites who help finance it (who might be OK with more Democrats, but not with better Democrats).

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