Identity politics vs. populist economics?

It’s a false choice – liberals need to look in the mirror

Economic justice and civil rights are not separate; the issue isn’t “identity politics” but liberalism’s failures

Identity politics vs. populist economics? It's a false choice – liberals need to look in the mirror
(Credit: AP/Pablo Martinez Monsivais/Andrew Harnik/Reuters/Scott Audette)

For many Democrats, the fact that the Obama years have ended with one of the biggest party implosions in American history — and not the implosion of the Republican Party, as most had anticipated — remains a difficult reality to accept. Thanks to the Democratic Party’s historic collapse, Republicans will soon have complete control of all levels of government in the United States: All three branches of federal government, a large majority of state legislatures and an even larger majority of state governorships.

Facing this bleak reality, one would expect Democrats to quickly take a step back for some reflection, if only to figure out how to start winning elections again. As the country braces for a Trump presidency, it is absolutely critical that Democrats accurately assess what happened last month and learn the right lessons.

Unfortunately, many Democratic partisans have taken another approach; one that is all too familiar. As The Intercept’s Glenn Greenwald reported last week:

Democrats have spent the last 10 days flailing around blaming everyone except for themselves, constructing a carousel of villains and scapegoats — from Julian AssangeVladimir PutinJames Comeythe electoral college“fake news,” and Facebook, to Susan SarandonJill SteinmillennialsBernie SandersClinton-critical journalists, and, most of all, insubordinate voters themselves — to blame them for failing to fulfill the responsibility that the Democratic Party, and it alone, bears: to elect Democratic candidates.

There is plenty of blame to go around, of course, and some of the scapegoats that Greenwald lists probably did have some impact, albeit minimal, on electing Trump. But when one looks at this year’s election objectively — not just at the Democratic Party’s failure to stop Trump, but at its failure to retake the Senate or make any gains at the state and local levels (Republicans now control 33 governorships and 32 state legislatures) — one has to be delusional not to recognize that the party itself is primarily responsible for this implosion.

Donald Trump — whom the majority of Americans view unfavorably and consider unqualified to be president — was a gift to the Democrats, and his nomination should have led to an easy electoral triumph. Instead, they nominated one of the most flawed candidates in history, and ran as an establishment party during a time when most Americans were practically begging for anti-establishment politics. As Trump’s loathsome chief strategist Steve Bannon recently put it: “Hillary Clinton was the perfect foil for Trump’s message. From her e-mail server, to her lavishly paid speeches to Wall Street bankers, to her FBI problems, she represented everything that middle-class Americans had had enough of.”

Trump’s victory was all the more depressing for progressives who had warned about the risk of nominating an establishment candidate with almost endless political baggage (in a season of angry populist politics, no less). During the Democratic primaries, these criticisms were either dismissed by establishment Democrats or critics were bitterly attacked for pointing them out. Recall back in February, for example, when Hillary Clinton implied that her progressive opponent, Sen. Bernie Sanders, was sexist for claiming that she represented the establishment: “Sen. Sanders is the only person who I think would characterize me, a woman running to be the first woman president, as exemplifying the establishment.”

Though Clinton did not explicitly call Sanders sexist, her campaign was eager to paint the senator and his supporters as misogynists who opposed Clinton solely because she was a woman. The “Bernie Bro” narrative — which portrayed Sanders supporters as a bunch of white sexist frat-boy types, harassing women and people of color online — was propagated by the Clinton campaign and sympathetic journalists. It was also discredited time and again, particularly by the fact that the Sanders-Clinton split was more of a generational divide than anything else — as evinced by Sanders’ 37-point advantage among millennial women (ages 18 to 29) across 27 states and his popularity among younger black and Hispanic voters.

The kind of self-serving identity politics that we saw from the Clinton camp during the Democratic primaries leads into what has been the most contentious debate among Democrats and progressives since the election: Whether the party has become too preoccupied with the politics of identity and political correctness, while straying too far from a class-based politics that addresses the structural inequities of capitalism. Not surprisingly, the debate has been full of deliberate misinterpretations.

Consider how various news outlets reported on comments made by Sanders on his book tour last week while discussing diversity in political leadership. “We need diversity, that goes without saying,” noted Sanders, who was responding to a question from a woman asking for tips on how to become the second Latina senator, after this year’s election of Catherine Cortez Masto in Nevada. “But it is not good enough for someone to say, ‘I’m a woman, vote for me.’ That’s not good enough. What we need is a woman who has the guts to stand up to Wall Street, to the insurance companies, to the drug companies, to the fossil fuel industries.”

From this comment, the New York Times reported that Sanders had said “Democrats need to focus more on economic struggles and less on the grievances of minorities and women,” while the popular liberal website Talking Points Memo posted the misleading headline: “Sanders Urges Supporters: Ditch Identity Politics And Embrace The Working Class.” These reports are both founded on a false dichotomy pitting economic justice and civil rights against each other. This was also illustrated by a tweet from the Times shortly after the election:

Con vs. Con by Chris Hedges

Posted on Jun 19, 2016

By Chris Hedges

During the presidential election cycle, liberals display their gutlessness. Liberal organizations, such as MoveOn.org, become cloyingly subservient to the Democratic Party. Liberal media, epitomized by MSNBC, ruthlessly purge those who challenge the Democratic Party establishment. Liberal pundits, such as Paul Krugman, lambaste critics of the political theater, charging them with enabling the Republican nominee. Liberals chant, in a disregard for the facts, not to be like Ralph Nader, the “spoiler” who gave us George W. Bush.

The liberal class refuses to fight for the values it purports to care about. It is paralyzed and trapped by the induced panic manufactured by the systems of corporate propaganda. The only pressure within the political system comes from corporate power. With no counterweight, with no will on the part of the liberal class to defy the status quo, we slide deeper and deeper into corporate despotism. The repeated argument of the necessity of supporting the “least worse” makes things worse.

Change will not come quickly. It may take a decade or more. And it will never come by capitulating to the Democratic Party establishment. We will accept our place in the political wilderness and build alternative movements and parties to bring down corporate power or continue to watch our democracy atrophy into a police state and our ecosystem unravel.

The rise of a demagogue like Donald Trump is a direct result of the Democratic Party’s decision to embrace neoliberalism, become a handmaiden of American imperialism and sell us out for corporate money. There would be no Trump if Bill Clinton and the Democratic Party had not betrayed working men and women with the North American Free Trade Agreement, destroyed the welfare system, nearly doubled the prison population, slashed social service programs, turned the airwaves over to a handful of corporations by deregulating the Federal Communications Commission, ripped down the firewalls between commercial and investment banks that led to a global financial crash and prolonged recession, and begun a war on our civil liberties that has left us the most monitored, eavesdropped, photographed and profiled population in human history. There would be no Trump if the Clintons and the Democratic Party, including Barack Obama, had not decided to prostitute themselves for corporate pimps.

Con artists come in many varieties. On Wall Street, they can have Princeton University and Harvard Law School degrees, polished social skills and Italian designer suits that are priced in the tens of thousands of dollars. In Trump tower, they can have cheap comb-overs, fake tans, casinos and links with the Mafia. In the Clinton Foundation, they can wallow in hundreds of millions of dollars from corporate and foreign donors, including the most repressive governments in the world, exchanged for political favors. But they are all crooks.

The character traits of the Clintons are as despicable as those that define Trump. The Clintons have amply illustrated that they are as misogynistic and as financially corrupt as Trump. Trump is a less polished version of the Clintons. But Trump and the Clintons share the same bottomless guile, megalomania and pathological dishonesty. Racism is hardly limited to Trump. The Clintons rose to power in the Democratic Party by race-baiting, sending nonviolent drug offenders of color to prison for life, making war on “welfare queens” and being “law-and-order” Democrats. The Clintons do a better job of masking their snakelike venom, but they, like Trump, will sell anyone out.

The Clintons and the Democratic Party establishment are banking that the liberal class will surrender once again to corporate power and genuflect before neoliberal ideology. Bernie Sanders will be trotted out, like a chastened sheepdog, to coax his followers back into the holding pen. The moral outrage of his supporters over Wall Street crimes, wholesale state surveillance, the evisceration of civil liberties, the failure to halt the devastation of the ecosystem, endless war, cuts to Social Security and austerity, will, the Democratic Party elites expect, airily evaporate. They may not be wrong. Given the history of the liberal class, they are probably right.

Sanders supporters, however, were given a stark lesson in how the political process is rigged. Some are disgusted and politically astute enough to defect to the Green Party. But once they no longer play by the rules, once they become “spoilers,” they will be ignored or ridiculed by a corporate press, excoriated by liberal elites and chastised by their former candidate.

Liberals, as part of the quid pro quo with the establishment, serve as attack dogs to keep us within the deadly embrace of corporate capitalism. Liberals are tolerated by the capitalist elites because they do not question the virtues of corporate capitalism, only its excesses, and call for tepid and ineffectual reforms. Liberals denounce those who speak in the language of class warfare. They are the preferred group—because they claim liberal values—used by capitalist elites to demonize the left as irresponsible heretics.

Liberals are employed by corporate elites in universities, the media, systems of entertainment and advertising agencies to perpetuate corporate power. Many are highly paid. They have a financial stake in corporate dominance. The educated elites in the liberal class are capitalism’s useful idiots. They are tolerated because they contribute, by discrediting the left, to the maintenance of corporate power. They do not think or function independently. And they are given platforms in academia and on the airwaves to marginalize and denounce those who do think and function independently.

The battle between a bankrupt liberal class and the left will color the remainder of the presidential race. What is predictable, and sad, is that so many self-identified progressives and their organizations will once again serve as the pawns of neoliberalism. They will practice censorship. Progressive sites in the primaries refused to reprint columns by critics such as Paul Street, who did not see Sanders as the new political messiah. And as we move closer and closer to the election, these sites will become ever more hostile to the left and ever more craven in their defense of Clinton.

The system of corporate power, which Clinton and Trump will not alter, will continue to be ignored. The poison of imperialism and corporate capitalism, steadily hollowing out the country and pushing it toward collapse, will be sidelined. The campaign will be a political reality show, this season with a genuine reality star as a presidential candidate. Campaigning will ignore ideas to elicit emotions—fear, anger and hope. Insults will fly back and forth over social media. The race will be devoid of content. Clinton and Trump, in this world of political make-believe, will say whatever their listeners want to hear. They will furiously compete for “undecided” voters, essentially the apolitical segment of the population. And once the election is over, one of them will go to Washington, where corporations, rich donors and lobbyists—who they represent—will continue with the business of governing.

After November, our role will be over. We will no longer be asked to answer polling questions designed to elicit certain responses. We will no longer be asked to play a walk-on part in the tawdry drama called democracy. The political carnival on television will be replaced by other carnivals. The corporate state will claim democratic legitimacy. We will remain in bondage.

The real face of the corporate state, and the evidence that our democracy has been extinguished, will be on display during the party conventions in the streets of Cleveland and Philadelphia. The blocks around the convention halls will be militarized and flooded with police. There will be restricted movement. Pedestrians will be stopped at random and searched. Helicopters will hover overhead. Permits to hold rallies will only be issued to those, such as Sanders supporters, who stay within the parameters imposed by the political charade. Groups suspected of planning protests to defy corporate politics have already been infiltrated. They will be heavily monitored. Those who attempt to organize protests without permits will be arrested or detained before the conventions begin. The cities will be on lockdown.

If you want to see what America will look like soon, across the country, shift your focus from the convention halls to the streets in Cleveland and Philadelphia. It is in the streets that our corporate masters will win or lose. And they know it.

http://www.truthdig.com/report/item/con_vs_con_20160619

Are conservatives ‘hardwired’ to perceive threats?

Research with emotion-generating images suggest that liberals and conservatives are hardwired to see the world differently.

In a new study, researchers suggest that liberals and conservatives may disagree about politics partly because they are different people at the core—right down to their physiology and genetics.

John Alford, an associate professor of political science at Rice University and the study’s coauthor, says the research suggests that biology—not reason or the careful consideration of facts—predisposes people to see and understand the world in different ways.

“These natural tendencies to perceive the physical world in different ways may in turn be responsible for striking moments of political and ideological conflict throughout history,” Alford says.

“Conservatives are fond of saying that ‘liberals just don’t get it,’ and liberals are convinced that conservatives magnify threats—systematic evidence suggests both are correct,” says John Hibbing, lead author and professor of political science at the University of Nebraska–Lincoln.

Responding to images

The study found that compared to liberals, conservatives tend to register greater negative physiological responses to stimuli and devote more psychological resources to them.

For example, when study participants were shown pictures from the International Affective Picture System (IAPS, a database of pictures used to elicit a range of emotions), eye-tracking revealed that conservative respondents fixed their gaze on negative images more rapidly (less than .8 seconds for conservatives versus nearly 1.3 seconds for liberals) and stayed focused on negative images longer (about 2.8 seconds for conservatives versus about 1.9 seconds for liberals).

Alford notes that when eyes process images, they move so quickly that their movement is measured in microseconds. He explains that most eyes are still moving even as they appear to be fixated on an image.

“The fact that conservatives focused on images for almost an entire second longer than liberals represents a significant difference,” Alford says.

The study included a random sample of 340 US adults over the age of 18 from Eastern Nebraska (54 percent female, mean age 45, 55 percent having at least some college experience). The sample included roughly equal numbers of politically conservative, liberal, and moderate individuals as measured by a five-point self-identification scale.

Subsets of these people, chosen to focus specifically on self-described liberals and conservatives, were shown a series of pre-rated IAPS images, some that had been rated as aversive and some that had been rated as appetitive, and measurements were made of their eye movements and physiological responses.

The paper also drew on dozens of pieces of research from experts focusing on the biology, neuroscience, and genetics of political ideology.

Different worlds?

Alford notes that bringing previous studies together with new research paints a bigger picture about how biology impacts political ideology.

“A recurring feature of human history is right-left political battles between adversaries who see a very different world,” Alford says.

“Empirical evidence is increasingly documenting the psychological and physiological differences across people that can lead them to perceive the world so differently. For example, one person focuses on threats, but when facing the same situation, another person focuses on opportunities.”

Alford says it is not surprising that these different visions of reality lead to fundamentally different sets of political preferences.

“We see the ‘negativity bias’ as a common finding that emerges from a large body of empirical studies done not just by us, but by many other research teams around the world,” says Kevin Smith, coauthor and professor and chair of political science at the University of Nebraska–Lincoln.

“We make the case in this article that negative bias clearly and consistently separates liberals from conservatives.

“By documenting that political differences are not necessarily traceable to misinformation or ignorance on the part of one side or the other, scientific understanding of the broader and deeper bases of political diversity may make it possible for Emerson’s forces of tradition and innovation to live together, if not more profitably, at least less violently.”

The study, funded in part by the National Science Foundation, appears in Behavioral and Brain Sciences.

Source: Rice University

 

http://www.futurity.org/conservatives-liberals-threat-743552/?utm_source=Futurity+Today&utm_campaign=ee68aa5031-August_7_20148_7_2014&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_e34e8ee443-ee68aa5031-205990505