Thomas Edsall mulls over Hillary’s strategic blunders in the NYT:
The difference in the rhetorical strategy of Hillary Clinton and Theresa May is one of stress and underscoring. While May made sure her identity group stands were secondary to her pronounced commitment to the working men and women of England generally, Clinton frequently placed her focus on identity groups.
Take her speech in Nevada a week before the state’s caucuses in February:
“Not everything is about an economic theory, right?” Clinton told a gathering in Henderson:
“If we broke up the big banks tomorrow — and I will, if they deserve it, if they pose a systemic risk, I will — would that end racism?”
“No,” the audience replied.
“Would that end sexism?”
“Would that end discrimination against the LGBT community?”
“Would that make people feel more welcoming to immigrants overnight?”
Every campaign seeks to mobilize specific constituencies. Identity politics are, and have always been, a fact of life. The issue is what takes precedence: those constituency-specific appeals or a sustained emphasis on a more encompassing appeal to a broad economic class.
Donald Trump won the presidency on an identity politics counterpunch: the mobilization of angry white voters, most of them men. White men supported Trump over Hillary Clinton 62 percent to 31 percent, while white women supported Trump by a more modest margin, 52 to 43. Clinton’s emphasis on her gender appears to have helped Trump in key battlegrounds.
The approach developed by May and her staff, and by the Obama and Bill Clinton campaigns before her, addresses a question that nags at Democratic strategists: How do you establish a commonweal when everyone is looking to have his or her own concerns ratified?
The tried and true way for a politician to market a coalitional regime amid a cacophony of particularistic demands is to forcefully assert the primacy of the whole. This worked for the Obama insurgency in 2008 because his coalition members were willing to temporarily suspend their immediate demands in favor of a more encompassing victory.
Looking toward the future, Democrats might turn the tables on the Republicans and explicitly demonize Trump and his party as proponents of an exclusionary politics of white male identity.
But it is also legitimate to ask whether the age of identity politics is coming to an end. One lesson of 2016 is that opposition to multiculturalism has become an extraordinarily powerful mobilizing tool for the right. It has spurred the emergence of a white lower- and middle-income Republican party while simultaneously invigorating the formerly insignificant alt-right and white supremacists generally.
It would be simplistic to make identity politics the sole culprit of this year’s Democratic defeat, especially in light of Clinton’s 2.4 million popular vote margin. While universalistic appeals have a certain allure in the face of particularistic clamor, it is unlikely that either identity politics or its hyperactive watchdog, political correctness — the current whipping boys of postelection analysis — will disappear anytime soon. …
Should the Democrats strive for more subtle, sophisticated and ingenious appeals to their party’s cross-section of identities, including a revivification of the idea of the commonweal? I would say emphatically yes. Trump’s recent victory notwithstanding, the debate over how to do this needs to move forward on a higher plane, without the name calling, if it is to have any chance of success.
I’d like that to happen for the good of the country, but my guess is that more likely will be that the anti-straight white gentile maleism that was such a driving force for Democrats over the last few years now has in Donald Trump, the Blond Beast himself, Haven Monahan’s Bad Dad, a physical embodiment of their years of hate whom they conjured up with their rage.
President Trump is like the emergence of the Stay-Puft Marshallow Man as The Destroyer at the end of Ghostbusters, except for one guy conjuring up the thought in his head, most of our cultural elite has been dreaming/dreading/exploiting the fear of the Coming of the Blond Beast for decades to justify their domination of power and thought. The counter-revolution of Emonahanal Havenstein has triumphed.