grab them by the pussy: a reflection on identity politics and historiography

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in today’s Nation, Monica Potts has written the following article:

Donald Trump Won on White-Male Resentment—but Don’t Confuse That With the Working Class: The numbers tell a different story.

https://www.thenation.com/article/donald-trump-won-on-white-male-resentment-but-dont-confuse-that-with-the-working-class/

given that 53% of white, largely middle class, women voted for trump, a truly bizarre statistic, while 88% of african americans voted for hilary, it seems to me Potts’ claim that it was white, middle class male resentment that put trump in the white house is insupportable.

and just to be clear, i’m not writing in defense of white males of any class – only to suggest that the reasons for trump’s election goes beyond white male rage.

it seems to me equally necessary to explain why 53% of white women  seem to have no problem with a particularly disgusting, shocking, and potentially unlawful variety of sexism or sexual assault on women. isn’t this a massive sign of the failure of, or of least a major crisis, for feminism?

if it is useful for political analysis to express itself in psychological terms, that ‘resentment’ is the psychological characteristic of the white male, trump vote; then, it should be equally useful to ask: what is the psychological characteristic of this 53 % white female, trump vote? a question i will not attempt to answer here.

there is another latent issue embedded in the language used to discuss the gendering of the ‘responsibility’ for trumps election. and forgive me if i resort to ‘old school’ semiotics here. but clearly, a ‘male’ is not the same object as a ‘man’; just as a ‘female’ is not the same object as a ‘woman.’ the male/female objects are produced by a scientific, shall we say, biogentic, classifying signifying chain; while, the man/woman objects are produced by a political, shall we say, biopolitical, normalizing signifying chain?

whatever chain of significance we might choose, how do we decide which path history follows?

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Potts does say:

“49 percent of white college graduates voted for him, too, which means there are millions of women in the country who went through college and agreed to elect a man who said he would grab them by the pussy.” Yet she goes on to conclude that: “ They [resentful white ‘males’, were voting against an economy they believed was giving women a step up… Men were more likely to vote for Trump…”

i want here to link to my post below in order to suggest a more complicated picture, not an answer:

“another non-theory of this blog – the problem of racial ‘violence’ – and the political solution – a vote boycott – and, the stupidity of nationalism, and the problem of the imminent sacrifice of the global environment, and…”     november 3, 2006

where, i offered the following analysis:

What do these failed political efforts [Podemos, Occupied, Black Lives Matters, 30-60s Civil Rights, Pensee’ 68, Feminism 70s-80s] have in common? They are all based on ‘identity politics.’ they are all narrow in scope, aligned with a small and insular group of the aggrieved. and their grievances are undoubtedly entirely justified. no one would doubt that, not even their most powerful opposition, the state itself. the great irony here is that identity politics is the fuel of violence – it pits ‘white trash’ against ‘black trash’ against ‘gender trash’ against ‘other-gendered trash’. and race then can then be used to divide those divisions even further.

but to ask the same question again: what do each of these failed political efforts have in common?

the non-intuitive answer is: economics. the political economy of class. as long as the focus of any political agenda is identity, then the political economy of class will be ignored. rich whites do, and will continue to, ally with rich muslims according to their economic self-interests. and they do, and will continue to, ally with their economic partners against their own class divided ‘identities’, simply because the ‘divide-and-conquer’ strategy is so economically successful, because it gives ‘them’, the political elite, political power.

…………….

if Trump’s election suggests anything about history, it suggests that ‘identity politics’ has been not only a massive failure, but a ‘cause’ of an at least 30 year black lash against it. this is obviously, a big claim, only very partly addressed by my November 3rd blog post. and one it’s not possible to work through here at this moment. more to come. but in defense of my perspective here, i will suggest that those interested in this line of enquiry read Paul Gilroy’s book published in 2000: Against Race: Beyond the Color Line; where he argues against Spivak’s once seminal concept of strategic essentialism and proposes instead, a new form of ‘universalism’, as a counter to the depoliticized ‘ghettoization’ of identity politics into which multiculturalism fell.

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grab them by the pussy: a reflection on identity politics and historiography

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