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Fusing Identity and Class Politics in “Trumpland,” by Ray Zwarich

In Consideration of Dr. Zoltan Grossman’s essay: Fusing Identity and Class Politics in “Trumpland”

This essay is written in response to Dr. Grossman’s excellent and hopeful, though ultimately highly flawed, paper. His paper can be read here, or here  .

I want to thank Dr. Grossman for this very strong piece of work. He is clearly pointing us in the right general direction, with his entreaties that we must direct more of our attention and energy toward trying to communicate with more diverse segments of the American citizenry.    

My purpose for writing in response, however, is to point out what appear to me to be major faults in the ideas he presents. My comments here are entirely intended to be constructive, and I hope that Dr. Grossman will encounter them in that spirit. Perhaps he will return the favor, and will apply his own obviously formidable powers of mind, also in a constructive spirit, to what I present here. (I would welcome his own constructive criticism of anything I write here). 

This is the process of collective consideration, and is most likely the only process, (applying our mind power collectively), that is going to lead us to a capacity to sort out our dangerous predicament. Perhaps some great leader will arise to lead us from the wilderness. Much more likely, I think, that the words of the late Jerry Garcia (of the Grateful Dead) will prove to be true: “Somebody has to do something, and its just incredibly pathetic that it has to be us”.

Until Aragorn throws off his hood and cloak, and reveals his shining armor, all we’ve got is each other, folks. Let’s hope we can learn to sort things out through constructive discussion. 

Early in his essay, Dr. Grossman points to the failure of the Left, in Europe, in the 1920s and early 1930s, to adequately address the citizenry, and posits that this: “created a vacuum that the far-right was all too eager to fill” .   This re-postulates what is a very old political adage: that the rise of populism on the Right points directly to the abject failure of the Left.

In regards to the serious predicament in which we now find ourselves, hopefully we all possess (or can develop) the requisite self-awareness to understand that this ‘old adage’ applies very pointedly and directly to us.

Our Adversary, (personifying the Super Wealthy Elites), has taken advantage of our utter failure to address ourselves, over a very long period of time, to the American working class, and/or to the American citizenry in general. This clever, resourceful, and immensely powerful Adversary has exploited the vacuum that our utter failure has left languishing in a condition that was ripe for easy exploitation.

We, on the American Left, have long been satisfied to talk only to one another, in a large ‘closed feedback loop’, which has only served to allow us, for a very long time, to delude ourselves into self-congratulatory thinking, which itself has only led us into adopting the delusion that we have been succeeding, that we have been making progress, when the facts that comprise actual ‘reality’ have been crying out, very loudly, all along, and for a very long time, that we have only been sinking steadily into an ever weaker and more vulnerable predicament.

While we have been steadily failing, we have been just as steadily crowing about our great success.

While it is all well and good to try to buoy our own, and each other’s, spirits by calling attention to whatever successes we have, this becomes counter-productive when it spills over into self-delusion. While there is much value in what Dr. Grossman presents, I think there is also a dangerous element of the continuation of the same habits that have brought our fortunes to such a low pass.

I came of age as an adult in the 1960s, and I have never seen the American Left in as weak, confused, and dangerous a condition as that in which we now find ourselves. We will be MUCH better off if we can acknowledge this stark reality, than if we delude ourselves into thinking that there are any significant, (emphasis on ‘significant’), positive elements in our current circumstances, as Dr. Grossman is suggesting there are.

He actually suggests that current circumstances indicate that “the future is bright”. With all due respect, with the inauguration of Trump only days away, even if we want to take the classic optimistic slant, surely we have to at least recognize that “the glass is only 1/8th full”, (as opposed to 7/8ths empty).

Pretending that things are not as bad as they are is only going to allow us to continue to make the same mistakes that got us into the mess we’re in. Collective self-delusion has played a major role in getting us to where we are. Surely it is obvious to all that more self-delusion now is not going to help us extract ourselves from the stark realities that confront us.

While I do think that there is much to admire in Dr. Grossman’s deeply thought and hopeful essay, I think his primary thesis, that Identity Politics, and what he calls “Unity Politics”, can not only happily co-exist, but can actually compliment one another, is only going to serve to allow people to avoid the sober self-reflection required to examine the causes and reasons for our failures.

It is only by coming to terms with these reasons and causes that we can change course and begin to advocate for our beliefs in a manner that is not merely more effective, but in a manner that will defeat our Adversary, and bring us to power in our nation.

I fear that the net effect of Dr. Grossman’s thesis is only going to be the provision of an avenue of rationalization for people to use to avoid coming to terms with the reasons for our failures.

To an objective observer, nothing could be more obvious than that our self-absorption into this mire of political correctness, which has come to be known as the ideology of Identity Politics, has played right into our Adversary’s hands. It only feeds the raging fires of his age-old “divide and rule” strategy.

How long ago was it that our always clever and resourceful Adversary devised and adopted the strategy represented by the ideology of neoliberalism? Central to this ideology, which supports our Adversary’s power all over the world, is the brilliant conception that Identity Politics could be used as an aggressive weapon against other nations, rationalizing their demonization, and the overthrow of many governments, to serve the real agendas of the Super Wealthy Elites, who don’t, in reality, give a proverbial tinker’s dam about women’s, or LGBT, or racial, or anybody else’s rights.

Any nation whose people have not yet fully adopted the latest in Western neo-culture, any nation that has not yet fully embraced Western concepts of feminism, for example, or that has not fully embraced LGBT rights, or other Western cultural dictates, has been subject to this demonization, often as a prelude to regime change.

In our own nation, the Elites have deliberately supported and aggressively advanced these cultural concepts, as well as racial divides, or any cultural issues and/or belief systems, (abortion, gun control, etc), that serve to divide people into rival groups at each others’ throats.

The Left, lacking in anything even resembling collective self-awareness, has played directly into its clever Adversary’s hands, agreeing to actually assist our Adversary’s efforts to ‘divide and rule’.  

It has been precisely this capture of all our energy and attention by this foolish and counterproductive ideology, the ideology of Identity Politics, that has shaped and comprised our ever deepening failure, and which thereby has provided our Adversary with the opportunity that he has now exploited with such spectacular success.

A Left that by any and all good sense should always seek out and advance the message and the means to bring diverse peoples together, in unity, against a common Adversary, instead has willingly acquiesced to the adoption of this destructive ideology, which demonizes anyone and everyone who will not conform, in lockstep, to our own rigidly self-righteous beliefs.

The American Left, completely lacking in collective self-awareness, has allowed itself to be played like the proverbial fiddle.    

I believe that Dr. Grossman reveals the weakness in his ‘Identity Politics and Unity Politics can co-exist’ thesis, and reveals the insidious and highly subjective appeal of Identity Politics, in the second sentence of his essay, when he can’t restrain himself from condemning Trump, ‘right off the bat’ for his “racism and misogyny”.  Before even introducing his thesis, he can’t restrain himself from applying his devotion to this ideology. 

Then, in offering up the clearly deluded notion that “the future looks bright”, and after appealing to us to make efforts to communicate more effectively across cultural divides, he chooses to use the stark language of referring to people who adhere to cultures and ideas that don’t coincide (in lockstep) with ours, as “racist and misogynist dinosaurs” and suggests that we must “be the comet that wipes them out”.

Perhaps Dr. Grossman might give pause and consider that calling people “dinosaurs”, and suggesting that we must “wipe them out”, is a rather curious way to reach out to those very people, across cultural divisions, to create understanding with those on the other side.

Perhaps he might consider that it is very obvious that in his concept of reaching across cultural divides to create new understanding, it is clearly, and exclusively, (according to him), those on the OTHER side of the cultural divides who must arrive at whatever new understanding must be reached.

Does he really think that presenting this kind of highly self-biased posture, this degree of assumed self-righteousness, is going to be successful in creating effective communications with those on the other side(s) of cultural divides?

Does he see ANY possibility at ALL, that people on his/our OWN side (of any cultural divide) may need to make any effort at all to ourselves reach new understandings? Any possibility at ALL that maybe some of our own ideas and attitudes maybe could benefit from some rethinking? 

Does he think that the American Left, as we now writhe in our condition of utter defeat and failure, may need to re-examine any of our beliefs? Oçr is he absolutely convinced that he/we are in possession of, and/or command over, the truth itself, and that our sole task is to figure out a better way to bring the heathens into the light?

Has it ever occurred to Dr. Grossman that Trump himself, and/or the vast majority of his duped followers, (leaving aside the crazed extremists, which always exist on every side, even ours), don’t think that they are either “racists” or “misogynists”, and, in actual fact, most of them are neither racists nor misogynists, other than according to Dr. Grossman’s, and other adherents to Identity Politics, own highly subjective, and often ideologically convoluted, definitions?

To give some somewhat over-simplified examples:

People who yet adhere to the deep-seated culture that they were raised in, people who grew up before or in the 1960s, may believe that “a woman’s place is in the home”. This was our entire society’s dominant cultural belief within the lifetimes of tens of millions of people alive today.

Many of these people likely have very deeply seated spiritual beliefs, related, for example, to the value of the nurturing of the society’s children, that leads them to adhere to their beliefs concerning women’s proper roles.

They might also believe that promiscuity in women is highly destructive behavior, both to individual women’s lives, and to the society in general. They might believe that women resorting to abortion as a fail-safe means of casual birth control, (to relieve them of the consequences of promiscuity), is immoral.

I am certainly NOT saying that I necessarily believe these things, (although I do think there are elements in all these beliefs that would bear discussion). I am only pointing out that these are the deeply held beliefs of many millions of American people. What I am saying is that if we want to expand these people’s consciousness, applying our extreme and ideologically based definitions of “misogyny” to them, declaring that these people’s deeply held cultural beliefs can be equated to “hatred of women”, is not likely going to be effective in reaching across cultural divisions.

What I am also saying, is that if we ever do bring ourselves to a frame of mind in which we are even capable of reaching across cultural divides, all the ‘new understanding’ that might be useful is not the exclusive province of the OTHER side.

Whenever we come to think that we have gained exclusive ownership of, and/or control over, truth itself, we are only sailing blind in dangerous and stormy waters, with jagged rocks on every side.

The assumption of the possession of truth itself under our own control has been a major factor in the American Left’s current state of marginalized powerlessness and failure. 

Anyway…..Although there are many other things in Dr. Grossman’s essay that I would like to point out and discuss, my word count tool tells me I’ve already exceeded 2000 words, so I’ll save anything more for another time.

To sum up, I greatly appreciate Dr. Grossman’s work here, and I do think he has pointed us toward valuable ideas to which we need to give serious consideration. But I think his “we can be on both sides of the fence” thesis is primarily counterproductive because it is only going to provide a handy rationalization for people on the Left to continue in the thought patterns, belief systems, and behaviors that have been instrumental in delivering us into our current predicament.

Dr. Grossman seems to be trying to make people on the American Left feel better by telling us we can all have our cake and eat it too. He may be successful in this regard, but making us feel better is not going to help us devise the means to extract ourselves from our dangerous predicament.   

Ray Zwarich