On lessons to be learned

I think David Adler’s article on what the U.S. Left should learn from the British Labour defeat is important and that he understands why Labour lost—in other words, what he reports from working the streets of Britain[1] corresponds with what I’ve seen there from afar.

What is more difficult is to say what precisely the U.S. Left should do about it:

  1. Character assassination, such as occurred against Jeremy Corbyn is easy and, as the British election showed, difficult to refute.

    Most British voters now believe that Corbyn is an anti-Semite, but few can point to an example of his anti-Semitism. Why, then, do they believe it? Because the claim was asserted, over and over, in the papers.[2]

  2. Adler cautions against impeachment for reasons I can agree with—it looks too much, to a portion of the electorate, like a middle finger “to the rebel vote of the 2016 election, and could deepen the sense of discontent that gave rise to Trump in the first place.”[3] But this horse is already, for all practical purposes, out of the barn[4] and it indeed looks like an attempt to defend a so-called “centrist” candidate[5] who happens to be the neoliberal (“Democratic”) party establishment’s preference,[6] but even more importantly, it looks like an attempt to defend the very neoliberalism that has fostered such resentment in the U.S.[7] as being even more sacred than victory.[8]

  3. Finally, Adler complains of demagoguery, “an outright corrupt campaign, disseminating lies, shirking accountability and banking on the likelihood that people wouldn’t care,” which indeed resembles the Fox News bubble we see in the U.S.[9]

    But when you look at kyriarchy and intersectionality, the very point is that they do not reduce simplistically and what I find on the Left is that folks embedded in kyriarchy often, while believing their grievances alone merit attention,[10] resent having to explain their standpoints and their grievances, thinking the rest of us should just be able to find those standpoints on “the Internet.” Those of us who are serious about seeking social justice, let alone wanting to persuade others of its necessity, need to understand many standpoints and we need to understand them from the perspective of people who actually reside in those standpoints.[11] Suffice it to say, the attitude I’m seeing here is not only not helpful but actively counterproductive to the cause.

    Then there’s that list of characteristics I’m avoiding in presidential candidates in today’s earlier blog post—it’s ten items long. Some overlap each other[12] but they certainly don’t reduce to a single buzzword (“power relationships,” really?) that can compete with demagoguery.

So as I read Adler’s article, all I can think of is how he underestimates the problem. Pessimism here is likely realism.

  1. [1]David Adler, “What the U.S. Left Can Learn From the Labour Party’s Epic Loss,” In These Times, December 13, 2019, http://inthesetimes.com/article/22220/labour-party-jeremy-corbyn-boris-johnson-uk-brexit-bernie-sanders-left
  2. [2]David Adler, “What the U.S. Left Can Learn From the Labour Party’s Epic Loss,” In These Times, December 13, 2019, http://inthesetimes.com/article/22220/labour-party-jeremy-corbyn-boris-johnson-uk-brexit-bernie-sanders-left
  3. [3]David Adler, “What the U.S. Left Can Learn From the Labour Party’s Epic Loss,” In These Times, December 13, 2019, http://inthesetimes.com/article/22220/labour-party-jeremy-corbyn-boris-johnson-uk-brexit-bernie-sanders-left
  4. [4]John Wagner, Colby Itkowitz, and Michael Brice-Saddler, “Trump says Democrats have become ‘Party of Hate’ after House panel votes to oust him,” Washington Post, December 13, 2019, https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/trump-impeachment-live-updates-trump-praises-republican-defenders-as-warriors-as-democratic-led-house-panel-prepares-to-vote-to-impeach-him/2019/12/13/d7ed59fc-1d94-11ea-b4c1-fd0d91b60d9e_story.html
  5. [5]David Benfell, “It’s still a smoke-filled room,” Not Housebroken, December 6, 2019, https://disunitedstates.org/2019/12/06/its-still-a-smoke-filled-room/
  6. [6]FiveThirtyEight, “The 2020 Endorsement Primary,” December 5, 2019, https://projects.fivethirtyeight.com/2020-endorsements/democratic-primary/
  7. [7]Chip Berlet, “Taking Tea Parties Seriously: Corporate Globalization, Populism, and Resentment,” Perspectives on Global Development and Technology 10, no. 1 (2011), 11-29, doi: 10.1163/156914911X555071; Thomas Frank, What’s the Matter with Kansas? (New York: Henry Holt, 2005); Thomas Frank, Pity the Billionaire (New York: Metropolitan, 2012); Colin Woodard, American Nations: A History of the Eleven Rival Regional Cultures of North America (New York: Penguin, 2011).
  8. [8]David Benfell, “How the neoliberal (usually known as Democratic) party may well lose in 2020,” Not Housebroken, December 7, 2019, https://disunitedstates.org/2019/12/07/how-the-neoliberal-usually-known-as-democratic-party-may-well-lose-in-2020/
  9. [9]David Adler, “What the U.S. Left Can Learn From the Labour Party’s Epic Loss,” In These Times, December 13, 2019, http://inthesetimes.com/article/22220/labour-party-jeremy-corbyn-boris-johnson-uk-brexit-bernie-sanders-left
  10. [10]Amy Chua, Political Tribes (New York: Penguin, 2018); Amy Chua, “How America’s identity politics went from inclusion to division,” Guardian, November 9, 2018, https://www.theguardian.com/society/2018/mar/01/how-americas-identity-politics-went-from-inclusion-to-division
  11. [11]See David Benfell, “On understanding the ‘other,’” Not Housebroken, October 21, 2018, https://disunitedstates.org/2018/10/21/on-understanding-the-other/
  12. [12]David Benfell, “Bernie Sanders should not have endorsed Cenk Uygur in the first place,” Not Housebroken, December 14, 2019, https://disunitedstates.org/2019/12/14/bernie-sanders-should-not-have-endorsed-cenk-uygur-in-the-first-place/

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