Friday, 11 November 2016

In defence of the basket of deplorables

I am worrying a bit that if we pin the blame for Trump on the faux-radical term 'white supremacy' (an insult to all those murdered throughout the 20th Century by actual white-hooded, jackbooted white supremacists), or demand that we acknowledge racism and misogyny first before we are allowed to talk about class, then we are letting Democratic Party neoliberalism off the hook.

Is racism part of the story? Of course it is. Is misogyny part of the story? Absolutely. 

But if more Latinos voted for Trump than for Romney (29 percent! Jesus fuck!), more Blacks, more Asians, then the story has to be more complicated than such a narrative.

The fact that more middle class and upper class voters backed Trump than lower class voters did isn't at all surprising. Most working people voted Democrat; most wealthier people voted Republican—as is usual. That is salutary: across the West, overwhelmingly most workers continue to side with the left over the right.

The point, THE POINT, is not that most workers voted Trump, but that as a result of the neoliberalisation of the left, large numbers of workers (still a minority, but a substantial one) are increasingly either voting for the hard-right option, or more often staying home, to some extent understandably recognising that for whomever they vote, it still gets worse.

If we only look at the 2016 numbers, while there’s lots to chew over, it does not tell us enough: it's the *change* from 2012 (or even worse, from 2008) that tells us that actually, yes, there appears to have been a substantial movement of the lowest income brackets from Democrat to Republican and in the highest income brackets from Republican to Democrat (even as the lower brackets go blue and the upper brackets go red). When socialists are saying that class is the key to explaining Trump, this change over time is why we are saying this.

And racism and sexism will not be defeated by denouncing Trump's working class rustbelt voters as racist, sexist, thick mouth-breathers or, as one image recycled from the Bush years that I've seen shared described them, the inhabitants of 'dumbfuckistan' (curiously combining a hatred for workers with Islamophobia, one of the very things for which we are supposed to be hating Trump).

Rather, the left must try to reach out to them and say: "Trump is no solution to your *very real pain* at deindustrialisation." Refreshingly, this is the conclusion that both Bernie Sanders and Jeremy Corbyn have drawn.

(Let me pause for a second and let me mount my usual hobbyhorse here: Note that the degrowthist likes of Naomi Klein and Bill McKibben are in favour of deindustrialisation. Let's pause for a moment and imagine what sort of globally panoramic Trumpism further deindustrialisation would bring)

If the rest of us do not draw similar conclusions to Sanders and Corbyn, but continue to assail such voters as "deplorables", then we will only help maintain the conditions that encourages this flavour of odious politics and leave a left that unites working class blacks, whites, latinos, indigenous, refugees, men and women, gays and straights, disabled and able-bodied, to further rot on the vine.

Identity politics—the politics of working class division—is the garlic and holy water that protects apologists for capitalism from what truly frightens these vampires: class politics.

The same goes for Nigel Farage or Marine Le Pen or Geert Wilders in other countries where we see the exact same collapse of the centre-left and rise of the new right. We can fight racism without treating working people like scum.

Indeed, it seems thoroughly bizarre to me that anyone who thinks workers are scum could ever genuinely care about inequality, whether of the racial, sexual or gender variety, at all.

1 comment:

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