Home / General / How IDENTITY POLITICS, Which Were Invented in 1980, Destroyed the Democratic Party

How IDENTITY POLITICS, Which Were Invented in 1980, Destroyed the Democratic Party


Via Yglesias, this strategy memo from the Clinton campaign shows how Trump won:

(d) The Negro. Since 1932 when, after intensive work by President Roosevelt, their leaders swung the Pennsylvania Negro bloc into the Democratic column with the classic remark, “Turn your picture of Abraham Lincoln to the all – we have paid that debt”, the northern Negro has voted Democratic (with the exception of 1946 in New York). A theory of many professional politicians is that the northern Negro voter today holds the balance of power it Presidential elections for the simple arithmetical reason that the Negroes not only vote in a bloc but are geographically concentrated in the pivotal, large and closely contested electoral states such as New York, Illinois, Pennsylvania, Ohio and Michigan. This theory may or may not be absolutely true, but it is certainly close enough to the truth to be extremely arguable.


(e) The Jew. The Jewish vote, insofar as it can be thought of as a bloc, is important only in New York. But (except for Wilson in 1916) no candidate since 1876 has lost New York and won the Presidency, and its 47 votes are naturally the first prize in any election. Centered in New York City, that vote is normally Democratic and, if large enough, is sufficient to counteract the upstate vote and deliver the state to President Truman. Today the Jewish bloc is interested primarily in Palestine and will continue to be an uncertain quantity right up to the time of election. Even though there is general approval among the Jewish people regarding the United Nations report on Palestine, the group is still torn with conflicting views and dissension. It will be extremely difficult to decide some of the vexing questions which will arise in the months to come on the basis of political expediency In the long run, there is likely to be greater gain if the Palestine problem is approached on the basis of reaching decisions founded upon intrinsic merit.

(f) The Catholic. The Catholic vote is traditionally Democratic. The controlling element in this group today from a political standpoint is the distrust and fear of Communism. It is reported that Senator Mead, in his candidacy for Governor of New York, lost Catholic votes because he tolerated a loose alliance with the American Labor party which is controlled by the Communists. The attitude of the President and the Administration toward Communism should exert a definite appeal to this group but it is entirely possible that closer liaison should be established.

(g) The Italian. The Italian vote — which has weight in New York, Rhode Island, Massachusetts, California and several minor states because it almost always votes as a solid bloc — is notoriously volatile, swinging easily from party to party. Roosevelt came perilously close to losing it with his offhand remark in 1940 about Mussolini’s “stab in the back” of France. But he regained it, and in fact almost made it Democratic forever in 1943 when he formally declared Italian aliens were no longer classified as alien enemies for the rest of the war. Today the Italian racial leaders are again somewhat unhappy — this time because they regard the peace treaty for Italy as unnecessarily harsh….

Oh, wait, did I say Clinton? I meant Clark Clifford’s memo to Truman.

Admittedly, the fact that the diverse New Deal coalition was assembled and maintained in substantial measure through ethnic appeals is a highly obscure one that could be uncovered only by, say, a cursory reading of any competent history of the New Deal. One can hardly expect that kind of research before publishing a heavily promoted book.

While we’re here, let’s return to some spicy meat-a-balls I neglected in my first post on the Chotiner interview with Lilla. First this, which was I first saw IDed by Rebecca Trasiter:

The left out about 40 percent of the country in doing that, and she lost people: 51 percent of American women voted for Donald Trump.

As is generally the case when Lilla deigns to make a specific factual claim, this is false, and obviously so if you know anything about American electoral politics — a Republican candidate who got 51% of the women’s vote would win a huge popular vote landslide, as opposed to losing it decisively. But 51% of white women with college degrees voted for Trump*, which I think we can call a tell.

I also want to return to the widely-mocked results of his decision to take David Brooks to Kinko’s:

We have to get outside of our too-closed bubble. We need to be able to go to places where the Wi-Fi sucks, where you don’t want to take a picture of your dinner, where you’ll be sitting with people who are giving thanks to God for that dinner, and they’re not worried about whether spaghetti and meatballs is cultural appropriation.

Beyond the obvious, what I love here is the seamless transition between exhortations to “GET OUTSIDE YOUR BUBBLE” and classic Manhattan provincialism. Restuarants plating food attractively and people taking pictures of food and posting it to obscure hipster sites like the Instabook and the Facegram is a…completely banal activity, not some rare mark of urban sophistication. So is saying Grace before dinner, and many religious people live in big coastal cities. Bad wi-fi is a failure of infrastructure in rural areas, not some lifestyle choice. (Clinton talked about this, by the way.) And big city or small city, coastal or flyover, for all intents and purposes nobody worries about “appropriation” when they eat Italian or Mexican or Chinese food. If you want to get really upset because some student at Oberlin abused the term “appropriation” that’s your privilege, but I would counsel strongly against constructing grand theories of politics around it.

*I was actually being too generous. 51% of white women with college degrees voted for Clinton; 53% of white women overall voted for Trump. It’s not clear where he got the wrong number from.

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