The rise of identity politics is far more divisive than Trump │Will Atkin
The results of last week’s midterms, although they are only just concluding now due to some hiccups in Florida, signalled that Trump’s irresponsible soundings-off had become too much for the public. The Democratic turnout sky-rocketed as two years of subdued rage surfaced, meanwhile Republicans seemed to have lost their compulsion to vote, presumably due to the absence of Hillary Clinton on the ballot paper.
I don’t think Trump’s legislation has been awful – if we take away his economically illiterate trade wars that he insists on fighting. The President, as promised, has been very effective in passing some of the most conservative policy with respect to deregulation and tax cuts that have stimulated the economy. Unemployment now lies at its lowest rate since 1969 and Trump enjoyed reminding us weekly that the stock market was on its ‘longest winning streak in decades’ – whatever that means.
I think it’s clear for all to see that it has not been Trump’s actions as a lawmaker that have galvanised those against him. The American people simply feel that his divisive rhetoric has gone too far. Think back to Charlottesville. The utterly reprehensible ‘Unite the Right’ rally turned violent when met with a counter-protest, ultimately culminating in a white supremacist driving his car into a crowd. Foolishly, Trump has repeatedly walked away from the opportunity to disassociate himself from the alt-right movement and in this case condemned the actions on ‘many sides’. Coupled with his anti-immigration sound bites and incessant branding of the media as the ‘Enemy of the People’, it’s not difficult to see why Democratic support is increasing across the US.
However, in my mind we ought to be incredibly wary of some of the rhetoric that comes with the rising ‘Blue Wave’. As a counter to the hateful arguments we see on the far right, identity politics and intersectionality have become ubiquitous, and threaten to silence Americans.
Statements such as ‘your white view of racism doesn’t compare’ are now commonplace and deemed an acceptable rebuttal on college campuses. To me, this is utter insanity. The idea that you forgo your right to speak freely on, albeit sensitive, subjects based on the colour of skin is, well, racist.
Indeed, the idea that, for example, only black people can talk about black issues, assumes that black issues are exclusively important to the black population. In a liberal society, they are everyone’s issues and that suggestion assumes a divided society as a prerequisite. That isn’t going to solve the real problems that society faces.
I simply don’t think the danger of this kind of thinking can be over stated. Alongside the push for censorship legislation over subjective ‘hate speech’, this threatens to undermine everything the West was built upon. It’s deeply regressive and a damning indictment for what we ought to expect in American politics in the near future.
America was built on the idea that the state should be at the disposal of the individual. One of the reasons the 2nd amendment was initially formed was so that a tyrannical government could never infringe on the rights of the citizens. However, I see a generation of young people who believe that the government, of the freest nation in the history of mankind, should forcibly implement ‘social justice’ and only allow the ‘correct opinions’ to be heard.
Social justice, in my eyes, is to protect the rights of the individual, deliver equality of opportunity for all and have citizens with the freedom to spend their time and money in whatever pursuit they see fit. If you’re fighting that proposition in America, I think you’re wasting your time.
Clinical psychologist-cum-internet sensation Jordan Peterson likens the willingness to violate the rights of individuals in order to implement ‘social justice’ as a quasi-Maoist philosophy. As extreme as that may seem, it’s tough to disagree. To place such reverence on the success of a particular group over another is incredibly dangerous and has been proven to be beyond deadly over the last two centuries (see countries such as China, USSR, Germany, Spain, Rwanda, Algeria, India, Pakistan, the list goes on).
A certain degree of tribalism is an inherent part of human nature, and thanks to liberal values, it has come to be funnelled through predominantly innocuous conduits. Spending a Sunday cheering for the New England Patriots whilst hoping for the demise of another fan base is harmless. Accusing one group of oppressing another and attempting to root them out of the political discourse is not.
Imagine a time when people weren’t allowed to vote freely based on their immutable characteristics, whether it be their gender, race or creed. Sadly, that time is now. In the wake of the midterms, white women were singled out for voting heavily in favour of Republican candidates. People took to twitter to share their outrage that white women should have the temerity to vote for the candidates they felt best represented them. This is blatantly prejudicial. The idea that you know what opinion someone ought to hold based on their genetic makeup is astounding and egregious.
The Left has abandoned its universalist stance that brought about such profound and much needed change. In his famous speech, Dr Martin Luther King Jr said “the architects of our republic wrote … that all men – yes, black men as well as white men – would be guaranteed the unalienable rights of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.” By growing more intolerant and exclusive, the modern ‘liberals’ do his message of unity and the transcendence of tribalism a disservice.
I have always been an ardent believer that the antidote to bad speech is more speech. Seeking to silence large portions of the country based on their group identity is a huge backward step and is only going to fuel the resentment and divide we all want to eliminate. Trump won the support of so many as he was viewed as the counter to this ugly identity politics, but he is certainly not the solution.