Raise the Floor to Smash the Ceiling


There’s been a strong backlash in the last few days against the recent spate of articles suggesting that one of the reasons Hillary Clinton lost the election is that she relied too heavily on identity politics, ignoring the bigger economic picture in favour of an emphasis on diversity and rights. Two fairly representative pieces were by Laura Penny, writing in the New Statesman, and Hadley Freeman, writing in The Guardian. Addressing themselves to the various commentators now arguing that identity politics has undermined the left’s ability to articulate answers to the major challenges facing the world today, both argue that this view is not only wrong but also predicated on a dismissive attitude towards women and minorities. As Penny puts it: “commentators from all sides of the self-satisfied, chin-stroking debate school are blaming ‘identity politics’ for the disaster on our doorsteps. What they seem to mean by this is ‘politics that matter to people who aren’t white men in rural towns’.”

Now I can’t speak for the whole of the “self-satisfied, chin-stroking debate school”. But I did write an article in the wake of Trump’s victory suggesting that progressive-style identity politics was at least partly to blame for the left’s recent failures. And I do think it survives Freeman and Penny’s analyses, which seem to me to be fairly good examples of the kind of mentality I was criticising. At any rate, I feel the need to elucidate … [More at New Matilda, here.]