Since the election, I’ve had ongoing discussions about identity politics vs. economic justice with several people. The discussion was fueled by Mark Lilla’s “The End of Identity Liberalism” and the response by Lilla’s colleague, Katherine Franke, with her piece “Making White Supremacy Respectable. Again.”
This was followed by the reasonable voice of Nicholas Kristof. We can reach for both, he said.
I hope that Democrats won’t needlessly squabble over whether to prioritize identity or justice. –Nicholas Kristof
After the Women’s March on Washington, the issue surfaced again. This time from the conservative voice of David Brooks. One of my friends sent me his article, “After the Women’s March,” asking “what do you think about this?”
I know a lot of people have had a lot to say about it already (in the comments, on Twitter, etc.), but I felt compelled to engage this question, because it would force me to go deeper in my understanding of the topic. I have a lot to learn still, but here is my response:
He has a valid point that progressive agendas are unfocused and emotional. I hope that the march was just the kick-off of several progressive movements that will become more focused and grow stronger over time. I’m not too concerned about assaults on capitalism. I think we need a new economic model that works for everyone. I’m torn on globalization. It’s inevitable, but I do think that we should encourage more regional production and consumption systems for the sake of the planet.
After studying Scandinavian models for 3+ weeks, I have a few ideas for how to move forward:
- Progressives need to enter into dialogue (not debate) with moderates to learn from each other and find common ground. I’m not sure who will facilitate it, but it needs to happen.
- We need to combine economic justice with identity politics as MLK did—as Bernie, and Our Revolution, does. The focus shouldn’t be our differences, but on equity (giving everyone what they need to be successful). But we cannot stand by when people experience discrimination, harassment, and violence because of who they are.
- Climate change needs to be at the forefront, but we need to find better ways to address it with the public. Scare tactics don’t work. Images of polar bears on melting blocks of ice don’t work. Stories of real-life impact on people do work. In Oslo, they highlight the decreasing availability for people to engage in their favorite pastime: skiing. And then offer concrete ways people can do their part to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
- I would like to see us come together in study circles to study the ins and outs of politics, economics, globalization, discrimination, and other topics that will get people involved in the political process (not just voting, but contacting representatives, writing opinion pieces, etc.).
- We need to do everything we can to encourage young people to be informed and get involved. Could representatives from local political organizations visit schools and have panel discussions? Could students learn how to write a letter to their congressperson? Could we encourage teenagers to form youth-led organizations to add their voices to the public debate?
- Finally, we cannot normalize what is happening. Trump’s treatment of the press is horrifying. The gag orders on scientists are absurd. His “alternative facts” are lies. And he is actually going to try to build a wall. (What?!) We must contact our representatives at every turn and rally in 2018 to replace every possible Republican in the House and Senate. Top priority.
In my view, the article comes out of a mindset that George Lakoff refers to as the “strict father model,” which leads to this notion of the “American-led global order.” What kind of order is he referring to? The US contributed to the rise of ISIS when we invaded Iraq. Also, I think any form of nationalism is problematic, because it immediately creates an us vs. them mentality. This is not how we are going to work through the inevitable global crises that will stem from climate change, mass migration, and limited resources. I think this is what the global women’s march was about: standing in solidarity with people not just in the United States, but around the world.
But yes, the political parties are in trouble, and I think the best option for now is to work within the Democratic party to make it a party of the people, not just of the “creative class” or the “liberal elite.” (You might enjoy the book Listen Liberal, which addresses this issue.)
What do you think?