Thursday, June 05, 2008

The Fat's In The Fire---Will McCain Debate Obama About "Identity Politics?"

Dan Henninger in today's WSJ has an utterly sensible, completely historical account of how the Dems found themselves in their current quandry:
"Identity politics," something new, emerged from the dank vapors of the late 1960s and 1970s. The theory came hard-boiled and soft-boiled.

The hard version introduced people, mostly college students, to an America partitioned into categories of race, gender, ethnicity and sexuality. The softer version has flown for 30 years under all sorts of euphemized banners – diversity, multiculturalism, celebrating our differences. Only one campaign is celebrating our differences this week.

People were aghast in January when Bill Clinton made his Jesse Jackson remark after the South Carolina primary. But Bill's race card was but one in a full Democratic deck. He surely saw that Obama's astounding 79% of the black vote was something stronger than an old-time ethnic vote.

For 30 years, black leaders like Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton had whipped up an extreme form of race consciousness. Democrats were happy to accommodate it so long as it delivered votes from the inner cities. In return, these inner-city districts were heavily weighted with delegates in the Democrats' proportional primary system. Obama swept them, and Hillary and Bill were helpless against it.

That's right, blacks had DISPROPORTIONATE leverage in their inner-city districts which had many more delegates attached to each precinct, municipality, and CD according to the jurisdiction's previous voting record, which in black districts was always Democrat. Obviously, Hillary's female & union voters were spread more thinly across vastly wider jurisdictions, which in the past perhaps sinned against the Dems by going Repub---ergo, fewer delegates allocated to the winner of said jurisdictions. Henninger explains how this pernicious front-loading originated and how in the past, had no or little effect on the nominating process:
I think Barack Obama is more inclined to interpret American life in the formal categories of identity politics than is generally thought, or even than would older "conventional liberals" like Al Gore or John Kerry. Legal theorists have been a main source of its ideas; it's hard to imagine that Barack and Michelle Obama didn't hear a lot about "marginalized constituencies" at Harvard Law School. Sen. Obama may not be so conventional after all.

Speaking last July about picking Supreme Court nominees, he said: "We need someone who's got the heart . . . the empathy to understand what it's like to be poor or African-American or gay or disabled or old – and that's the criteria by which I'll be selecting my judges." This is the language of identity politics. It's not just talk. It's an ideology designed to produce . . . change.

No real disagreement over identity goals and targets would ever emerge in a debate between Obama and Hillary, who after all was coaching first base in 1993 when her husband nominated the identity-rights theorist Lani Guinier (now a Harvard Law professor) to head the Justice department's civil rights division.

Henninger goes on to elaborate a bit concerning McCain's opportunities in the future to bring this up in a debate:
I suspect these two have profoundly different notions of how America works. John McCain by instinct, biography and upbringing is prone to see America as a common civic culture. The vocabulary of "unjust" class distinctions familiar to Obama is alien to the McCain worldview. Sen. McCain should think about this and figure out a way to talk about it. If Americans are going to affirm a president making appointments on the basis of race, gender, class and sexuality, they should know it in 2008, rather than 2009-2012.

I suspect that John McCain ended up near the bottom of the Annapolis class his year because he did not bone up on Marxism, class warfare, and the socialist frame of thinking, or rather emoting, about social justice and ways that "human engineering" & electoral tinkering could surmount said injustices. McCain is a very old dog---I think he has mastered one form of politicking, the arts of logrolling, splitting differences, accommodating a few outside requests, and finally coming to a reasonable compromise in the age-old Anglo-Saxon tradition. Despite the screeching & hysteria of leftist commentators, GWB has remained in that tradition.

Obama is the exemplar of a continental tradition which is a form of total polemics and basically defines one's political adversary as a class enemy---a person who has little in common with your own goals & ambitions. This paradigm is simply oppositional & totally adversarial---though in practice it can be temporarily and deceptively masked through apparent accommodations---its final goal is the overthrow of the enemy and the complete takeover of the political system.

I don't think Obama himself has this in mind, but such a dynamic is built into the DNA of "identity politics," which is a new name for Marxist class warfare. What Obama exemplifies is "Communism with a human face," but the underlying tension of identity politics is totalitarian & authoritarian, since the identity of the "other" is always that of an enemy, not a citizen of the same civilized polity. That is the underlying dynamic, and if Obama wins, American politics will CHANGE alright, but to a continental autarky rather than an Anglo-Saxon commonwealth.

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