Thursday, July 14, 2016

The "Powerful's" need for "the marginalized"

A snippet from R.R.Reno at First Things:

"To motivate their voter base, liberals have invested a great deal in identifying ever-new patterns of discrimination. Notions such as “microaggression” and “intersectionality” reflect second-wave (or is it third-wave?) liberation politics. They gain currency because of the law of political supply and demand. The twenty-first-century Democratic solidarity-in-marginality coalition is held together by anxieties about exclusion and domination by the “other,” which is to say by Republican voters. This ­creates a strong political demand for narratives of oppression, which liberal intellectuals are happy to supply. 

This dynamic operates most visibly at our universities, where well-off, mostly white liberals—the post-Protestant WASPs—rule. The legitimacy of this elite depends upon its commitment to “include” the “excluded.” It goes without saying that an Ivy League administrator must manage the optics very carefully to sustain “marginality” among the talented students who have gained admission. “Microaggression” and other key terms in the ever-­evolving scholasticism of discrimination thus play very useful roles. They renew the threats of discrimination and exclusion, and this reinforces the power of liberal elites. Their institutional ascendancy is necessary to protect and provide patronage to the “excluded.” I’m quite certain that if political correctness succeeds in suppressing “microaggressions,” we’ll soon hear about “nano-­aggressions.” The logic of solidarity in marginality requires oppression, and solidarity in marginality is necessary in order to sustain liberal power. 

Outside our universities, life is less theoretical and the rhetoric more demotic. The standard approach has been to renew solidarity in marginality by demonizing conservatives as racists, xenophobes, and “haters.” To maintain loyalty, the Democratic party incites anxiety about discrimination and exclusion. A form of reverse race-baiting, perhaps best thought of as bigot-baiting, has become crucial for sustaining the Democratic coalition, which is why we hear so much about “hate” these days. At the recent gay pride parade in New York, a few weeks after the mass shooting at a gay nightclub in Orlando, marchers held aloft an avenue-wide banner that read, “Republican Hate Kills!” 

It’s important to remember a first law of politics for solidarity in marginality: Political success makes it harder and harder to sustain solidarity in marginality, and this leads to bigot-baiting. We’ve seen an increase of harsh denunciations, not in spite of progressive victories on issues like gay marriage, but because of them. When Obama became president, a superficial observer might have con­cluded that the election of a black man to the nation’s highest office would diminish the political currency of anti-­racist rhetoric. But this ignores the symbolic needs of the Democratic party. Black Lives Matter and redoubled attacks on discrimination are demanded by racial pro­gress. Solidarity in marginality needs to be renewed, especially when the marginal gain access to power. 

This pattern of rhetorical escalation because of pro­gress in the fight against discrimination is also evident in characterizations of Trump voters as racists and bigots. Leon Wieseltier says of them, “They kindle, in the myopia of their pain, to racism and nativism and xenophobia and misogyny and homophobia and anti-Semitism.” No mainstream figure talked this way when I was young—and when these descriptions were much more plausible. Incendiary, denunciatory rhetoric was characteristic of a marginal figure like George Wallace, who spoke of “sissy-britches welfare people” and called civil-rights protesters “anarchists.” 

It’s commonplace now for liberals to talk this way. This is not because America has become more racially, ethnically, religiously, or sexually divided. All the indicators suggest otherwise. It’s because the Democratic party depends on a constant bombardment of denunciation to gin up fear. That someone as intelligent as Wieseltier participates in bigot-baiting in such blatant ways indicates how indispensable it has become for maintaining liberal power.
It’s in this context that transgender bathroom access becomes an issue of national import for the Obama administration. Progressives need “haters,” and flushing them out so they can be politically useful targets of denunciation requires advancing the front lines of the culture wars. The ideology of transgenderism provides a near perfect combination. It so completely contradicts common sense and any worldview tethered to reality that resistance is guaranteed. Moreover, the cause of transgender “rights” focuses on confused and troubled children and adults, individuals whose condition makes them by definition marginal. The disordered nature of their emotional lives makes them vulnerable as well. They’re ready-made victims of an oppressive conservatism, an ideal focus for another round of bigot-baiting. Denouncing the “haters” who resist transgender ideology plays to fears of exclusion and discrimination that keep the rainbow coalition together. 

The Republican party establishment recognizes this dynamic, which is why many conservative leaders have been urging retreat from the culture war. In their view, religious conservatives should reposition themselves as victims of a progressive dogmatism that threatens religious liberty. This strategy makes some sense, drawing as it does on liberalism’s own rhetoric of oppression and victimhood. But it misjudges the political realities of our time. Today’s rich-oriented liberalism can only maintain power through the support of voters united in fear of discrimination and marginality—black Americans, Hispanics, Asian Americans, single women, gays and lesbians, and others who worry they don’t fit into what they imagine to be the “mainstream” (which hardly exists anymore). As a consequence, every retreat on the cultural front will be followed by renewed progressive attacks designed to generate politically useful “hate.” Religious liberty is redescribed as the “right to discriminate.” Here again the LGBT movement plays an especially important role. Its agenda collides with traditional religious convictions about God, creation, nature, and morality, guaranteeing the ongoing culture war that has become so essential for post-Protestant WASPs to maintain power. 

Bigot-baiting. It’s not going to end soon, no matter what we say or do. The ever-shriller denunciations directed our way stem from the rhetorical needs of the Democratic party. The present crusade for transgender bathroom privileges in high schools, like so much of the progressive agenda in recent years, is not about civil rights. It’s about renewing the symbolism of oppression and finding the “haters” that rich, mostly white liberals need to sustain their political power."

Read the whole piece at