The Democratic Party has lost its ability to pose as the party of labor and the middle class. Firmly controlled by Wall Street and California billionaires, the Democratic National Committee (DNC) strategy of identity politics encourages any identity except that of wage earners. The candidates backed by the Donor Class have been Blue Dogs pledged to promote Wall Street and neocons urging a New Cold War with Russia.
They preferred to lose with Hillary than to win behind Bernie Sanders. So Trump’s electoral victory is their legacy as well as Obama’s. Instead of Trump’s victory dispelling that strategy, the Democrats are doubling down. It is as if identity politics is all they have.
Actually, there is no “as if.” Identity politics is all the Democrats have. The problem is that by now, it is readily apparent that the liberal notion of “inclusion” operates strictly in favor of the advancement of the already privileged: “underpaid” and “underrepresented” Hollywood actors, corporate execs held down by glass ceilings, administrators and bureaucrats eager to convert their “marginal” status into promotional entitlement. Identity politics plays well with hipsters and sentimentalists who vote with their “feelings.” But liberal identity politics have helped coalesce a counter, illiberal identity politics, a right-wing mirror image rooted in nativist ideology. This is hardly surprising. Nationalism begats nationalism and identity politics was merely liberal cover for various forms of tribal separatism used to obscure more fundamental divisions of class. The United States is now itself susceptible to the sort of tribal conflict it has fostered abroad, most notably in the Middle East. In 2008, the day of reckoning seemed to have arrived for capitalism, but it has been deferred in favor of a potentially more barbaric conflict between various deluded identity groups. At a press conference in 1974, Lacan predicted the future “triumph of religion” as a reversal of modernity. Some 50 years later, what seems to be coming to pass is the triumph of tribalism, which is perhaps the most fundamental form religion can assume.