What America needs is more ideology, not less
Shadi Hamid wrote an article a few months back called Why the Center-Left Became Immoderate that really got me thinking. His first brilliant observation was pointing out that the "moderates" are also the most rabidly partisan.
This is the exact opposite of what the news media tries to sell us, and yet it is obvious.
. Ideologues are the ones less amenable to compromise. But although centrists are by definition skeptical of ideology, that does not make them any less prone to partisanship...
Lacking an animating vision beyond expert-led incrementalism, center-left politicians and pundits have few options to rally the Democratic base other than by attacking adversaries and heightening partisan divides. The other option—laying out an alternative that differs from what Hillary Clinton or even President Obama offered—requires ideological conviction.
The leadership of both parties are neoliberal domestically and neoconservative on foreign policy because they are both owned by the very same corporate donors. With little of ideological substance to distinguish them from their opponents, partisan tribal-based politics is the only game in town.
That would explain why Rep. Adam Schiff —previously “known as a milquetoast moderate,” according to the New Yorker—has emerged as one of the most outspoken figures in the Russian collusion investigation. Before being appointed to succeed Mrs. Clinton in the Senate, Kirsten Gillibrand was an upstate New York representative who belonged to the Blue Dog Coalition. Her 2013 New Yorker profile was titled “Strong Vanilla”—and she now boasts the upper chamber’s most anti- Trump voting record.
On the other end of the spectrum, leftists like Gabbard and Sanders sometimes find common ground with right-wingers like Rand Paul on matters such as foreign policy. Moderates denounce Gabbard and Sanders as traitors for agreeing with the right-wing about anything, and yet still claim that being moderate is necessary to "get things done" with the opposition.
Orwell would point out that this impossible contradiction is known as double-think.
Hamid also noticed that the so-called moderates are in fact the most resistant to seeing their own flaws.
Those who find her standard center-left technocratic worldview congenial are disinclined to accept ideological explanations, so they look for scapegoats: Russia, James Comey, even the voters who supported Donald Trump....Centrism may seem an obvious solution, but too little ideology can be as dangerous as too much.
Politicians who are committed to a set of ideas also tend to have less to prove. They don’t need to play to the base; they can lead the base. Congress—and the country—could use more of them.
This article got me thinking.
In a healthy political system we would have a socialist party, and a capitalist party, a nativist party, etc.
But we don't have a healthy political system. We have a corrupt one.
A political system bereft of ideologies needs some sort of game to distinguish the teams, and that is partisanship.
The bigger problem is that this partisanship, which is nothing but phony tribalism, has been internalized by the voting public, and that is making society sick.
The overwhelming majority of Americans were free of anything that resembled coherent liberal or conservative ideologies — indeed, only “about 17 percent of the public could both assign the terms ‘liberal’ and ‘conservative’ correctly to the parties and say something sensible about what the terms meant.”
Which isn’t to say that voters didn’t have opinions, much less party and group loyalties. They did, and they do. But the internally coherent (or at least semi-coherent) ideological frameworks that drive the activities of politicians, pundits, and other political actors are foreign to most voters.
That is just sad. Most Americans are so far removed from coherent ideologies that they wouldn't recognize them if they encountered them. When they encounter people with a principled and reasoned ideology they are usually confused and mistrustful.
That's when it occurred to me that politics for most Americans is nothing but Identity Politics.
"Americans are dividing themselves socially on the basis of whether they call themselves liberal or conservative, independent of their actual policy differences," argues political psychologist Lilliana Mason of the University of Maryland. The roots of today's political polarization, she writes, "are largely based in our social attachments to ideological labels, not only to thoughtful collections of opinions."
...She notes that social identity "fills two basic psychological needs—one of inclusion (being part of a group) and one of exclusion (distinguishing oneself from others)."
I don't simply mean a Disnyfied version of race, gender, and sexual orientation, although those are critical identities for Democrats.
I don't simply mean a Disnyfied version of capitalism, Christianity, and a very narrow definition of patriotism, although those identities are critical for Republicans.
I mean being supporters of each of the two parties has become identities in and of themselves. Sort of like people who are too into their local professional sports team.
People have gotten emotionally invested in their chosen, immensely corrupt political party, which is probably the most stupid thing you could possibly do. You may as well be emotionally invested in a corporate brand.
When you identify and are emotionally invested with a political party, any criticism of that party or success by the other side becomes a personal attack upon your being.
Finding common ground becomes very difficult.
To a large extent, this inflexible partisanship bleeds over into what we think of as Identity Politics.
Identity Politics can be good. For instance, the Civil Rights movements and the first two waves of feminism did a lot of good. What makes modern IP different is that it is more against people than for people. The reason for this is prejudice, and prejudice grows only in ignorance.
U.S. history abounds with examples of members of dominant groups abandoning class solidarity after concluding that opportunity is a zero-sum game. The oppressed have often aimed their impotent rage at those too low on the social scale to even attempt rebellion.
This is particularly true in the catchall category known as “the working class.” Conflict between black and white laborers stretches back to the earliest eras in U.S. history, which witnessed tensions between African slaves and European indentured servants. Racism and sexism have long tarnished the heroic story of the U.S. labor movement—defects that contributed to the rise of a segregated middle class and to persistent pay disparities between men and women, disparities exacerbated by racial differences. Indeed, the American working class has consistently relied on people of color and women to push for improved status for workers but has been slow to include them in the movement’s victories.
This clip is full of half-truths.
The first two sentences are entirely true, but she doesn't mention that this is often being coordinated by the ruling class.
'The catchall category known as “the working class” is an actual thing that is a lot more real than 'the catchall category known as “the middle class.”
As for tensions between slaves and indentured servants, Abrams forgot to mention the fascinating counter-history of Bacon's Rebellion.
Racism and sexism tarnished the U.S. labor movement, but only the conservative unions like the AFL. The socialist labor unions, like IWW and CIO, were largely inclusive and diverse.
So while what she said was mostly true, what she left out made the full picture look entirely different. That full picture leads to an ideology resembling MLK's vision, that included socialism, opposing imperialism, and uniting the working poor of all races.
Abrams leaves off those important facts because modern Identity Politics is fundamentally different from the Civil Rights Movement, due to its limited vision and its tendency to punch down.