Tuesday, May 5, 2015

When Identity Politics Stops Being Fun and Games

On Thursday, May 7, the Brits go to the polls and it looks like nearly all the Scottish seats in the Westminster Parliament will go to the Scottish National Party.

That means that the 5 million Scots will almost certainly negotiate independence from Britain and go it alone.

How did this happen? How could Scotland decide that it would do better outside the United Kingdom after 400 years of union?

There is one simple answer. This is the fruits of the left's identity politics. It started with the class politics of the 19th century, and now it's about every kind of division that can be exploited by politicians.

It's one thing to do the class warfare thing, workers against the capitalists, but it's a bit different when you start encouraging any minority to present its grievances on the street or the ballot box. Where does it stop?

The problem is that humans naturally identify more strongly with local and blood ties. The nation state, a people joined together by language that appears to us to be the most natural thing in the world, is in fact a highly artificial construct. Humans are not naturally national; they are tribal. And tribes is what the left has encouraged ever since the Frankfurt School decided in the aftermath of World War I that pure class politics wasn't as powerful as tribal politics.

It all looked so cool back then. The world was full of marginalized peoples, and the left would advocate for them, for the fringes against the center.

There was one little problem with the idea. The left assumed that these fringes would always be conformable to leftist leadership. The left would encourage separatism and particularism, but when the evil right wing had been vanquished then the fringes would all unite under the avuncular wisdom of their left-wing leaders.

Only this week the Labour Party in Britain is finding out that the fringes might not coalesce under their size leadership. They might just decide to go it alone. Because tribalism. The Scots are still receptive to left-wing leadership. But they prefer a home-grown Scottish lefty leadership to the British kind. Who could have seen that coming?

Try Godwin's Law, and the H word. That chap had it figured out almost a century ago.

There's a reason why I keep hammering on the idea that "politics is division." It's true. The art of the politician is to divide the electorate so that 51 percent votes for him. But that's not the end of the matter.

The art of the statesman is to realize that after the divisiveness of the election campaign he must re-unite the nation. In the election, he will say, we are Democrats and Republicans. But after the election we are all Americans. You must be careful with the politics and the division. You never know where it may end up.

But then there is President Obama.

President Obama has operated in the opposite direction. He started out talking about unity and ended up the most divisive president in modern times. In 2004 and even in the election campaign of 2008 he was all about unity. Said he in 2004:
Now even as we speak, there are those who are preparing to divide us, the spin masters and negative ad peddlers who embrace the politics of anything goes.

Well, I say to them tonight, there's not a liberal America and a conservative America; there's the United States of America.


There's not a black America and white America and Latino America and Asian America; there's the United States of America.
Pretty cool! But now it's all about "Bucket" and rolling over the opposition with executive orders and regulatory harassment, and ginning up riots in black urban ghettos.

Doesn't the president realize what he is doing with this divisiveness?

My guess is that he doesn't. Any more than the Brit Labour Party leaders realized what they were doing when they gave Scotland its own legislative assembly.

People believe what they believe. They think that their beliefs are the best beliefs going. They think they are on the side of the angels. Everyone is like that.

So nobody sees the downside; nobody sees the cracks forming in the ground; nobody feels the first tremors of an earthquake.

Then all of a sudden it's too late.

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