US Election Results Raise Doubts About The Efficacy Of Woke Activism
Fixating on identity above all other variables, especially class, may not be in the best interests of the democratic establishment, as election results have shown.
“Woke’ anti-racism proceeds from the premise that race is real — if not biological, then socially constructed and therefore equally if not more significant still — putting it in sync with toxic presumptions of white supremacism that would also like to insist on the fundamentality of racial difference,” writes memoirist Thomas Chatterton Williams in Self Portrait in Black and White: Unlearning Race.
Williams is of mixed-race heritage, with a black father and a white mother. In the book, he argues for a post-racial society while pointing out similarities between today’s anti-racists and the racists they despise.
“Working toward opposing conclusions, racists and many anti-racists alike eagerly reduce people to abstract color categories, all the while feeding off of and legitimizing each other, while any of us searching for gray areas and common ground get devoured twice,” he adds.
“We can simultaneously resist bigotry and imagine a society that has outgrown the identities it preys on.”
One of the more striking outcomes of the recently concluded US election was that more minorities voted for Trump than any other Republican president since Richard Nixon in 1960.
Overall, Trump polled about 10 percentage points higher with African Americans than he did in 2016, and 14 percentage points higher with Hispanics.
Even more remarkable is that the LGBTQ vote share more than doubled for Trump and more American Muslims voted for a Republican candidate than ever before, upending the conventional narrative that racial and other minorities vote as a herd and are all driven by the same impulses and grievances.
The data indicates that far from alienating minority groups, the GOP’s stance on immigration, law and order and cultural conservatism may actually be attractive to many of them.
Apart from picking up a historic share of minority votes, Trump also garnered the second highest popular vote in US history with over 70 million Americans voting for him — 10 million more than in 2016.
This is remarkable, not in the least because over the course of the last four years we were told over and over that he was the most loathsome and despicable person in the country, if not the world.
A similar trend can be seen in India where the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), led by the formidable Hindu nationalist leader, Narendra Modi, increased its vote share substantially in segments where it has traditionally lacked support.
In the 2019 Lok Sabha elections, more than one-third (34 per cent) Dalits voted for the BJP as compared to around one-fourth (24 per cent) in 2014.
The greatest gains in vote share for BJP, however, came from economically weaker sections of the electorate and overwhelmingly among rural constituencies.
Modern race theory increasingly equates the social construct of caste with race. So this surprising development in the Indian electorate would have the same implications as its American counterpart.
Fixating on race/caste above all other factors — particularly class — as the sole determinant of social inequality and guilt-tripping non-white voters and religious/sexual minorities into voting for them can and has backfired spectacularly for left-liberals the world over.
Although Joe Biden scraped through and ultimately won the election, the appeal of blatantly outspoken strongmen who challenge conventional ideas of how leaders ought to behave in public life is far from diminished.
As a former US militia member told me, people vote for Trump less for reasons of governance and ethics and more out of antipathy for the “other side” represented by elite globalists and preppie out-of-touch ‘wokesters’ prone to labelling everyone who disagrees with them as an irredeemable bigot.
So infectious is the woke pandemic that 21 per cent of liberal students in the Ivy League favour some level of violence to stop campus speech they disapprove of. Efforts to dismiss professors make news regularly, stemming from the identity-oriented Left inside universities, though it can also come from the off-campus Right.
Recently, a professor at NYU came under attack because he dared suggest (with evidence) that the official narrative about Covid had several inconsistencies.
Prominent columnists at the NYT such as Bari Weiss and James Bennett have been compelled to resign simply because they refused to subscribe to the groupthink that dominates the institution.
More recently, two prominent Left-leaning American journalists, Glenn Greenwald and Matthew Yglesias had to resign from organisations they co-founded — The Intercept and Vox respectively, due to ideological differences with their associates.
The quest for ideological purity and propensity to punish “heretics” that was previously associated with authoritarian regimes and religious fundamentalists are now synonymous with the woke-left.
It is important to unpack this dominant narrative that emanates from elite institutions — corporations, NGOs, legacy media outlets, academia, the entertainment industry and progressives; that American society is divided along primarily racial lines.
That white people live, work, think, and vote one way, while non-white people live, work, think, and vote another way.
This presupposition is distinct from long-debunked theories of classical racism that claimed biological factors determined essential differences between races.
In this new ideology, one is allowed, in fact encouraged, to judge people by the colour of their skin, religion or sexual orientation in order to confer upon them varying degrees of presumed victimhood.
How these multilayered communities feel about themselves is seldom taken into account by woke activists, ironically denying them the agency they claim to be fighting for.
So pervasive is this worldview that it was dubbed the “successor ideology” by writer Wesley Yang, who argues that wokeness is fast replacing classical liberalism as the dominant cultural ethos in America.
The intellectual core of this ideology is critical race theory (CRT). Richard Delgado, one of the progenitors of the movement writes that "Virtually all of Critical Race thought is marked by deep discontent with liberalism, a system of civil rights litigation and activism, faith in the legal system, and hope for progress."
The natural class enemies of America’s critical race activists are the white middle classes, who, they argue, represent all the values that make racial progress impossible, not all that different from India’s anti-caste activists — many of them hailing from privileged backgrounds — who rail against the savarna or upper caste Hindu nuclear family as the root cause of social inequality in India.
“Unlike traditional civil rights discourse, which stresses incrementalism and step-by-step progress, critical race theory questions the very foundations of the liberal order, including equality theory, legal reasoning, Enlightenment rationalism, and neutral principles of constitutional law,” writes legal scholar Angela Harris in Critical Race Theory: An Introduction.
Thus, Martin Luther King’s dream of judging people not based on the colour of their skin but by the content of their character — must itself be seen as racist, because the concept of neutrality enshrined in the legal code, in their view, is a myth.
Indeed, a sizeable portion of BLM (Black Lives Matter) activists, not satisfied with reforming the police force, would like to get rid of it altogether. They justify violence and exonerate vandalism and looting as legitimate resistance to the far greater crime of “structural racism”. Cops across the board are painted as arch-villains to be eradicated by any means necessary.
Their performative outrage, however, does not extend to the scores of families rendered homeless and jobless as a result of the riots that erupted in the wake of incidents of police brutality or the billions of dollars in property damages to homeowners and small business owners, many of them belonging to minority groups.
Nor do the permanently aggrieved, who are always getting their knickers in a twist over Donald Trump’s rude tweets, have anything to say about incoming POTUS Joe Biden, who was talking up war with Iraq five years before the actual invasion, leading ultimately to nearly 500,000 civilian deaths by some estimates, or his incoming cabinet of warmongers, corporate shills and regime-change aficionados.
Andrew Sullivan, who resigned recently from New York Magazine, writes on his blog: “Social inequalities are extremely complicated things. A huge variety of factors may be in play: class, family structure, education, neighborhood, sex, biology, genetics and culture are some of them. Untangling this empirically in order to figure out what might actually work to improve things is hard work. But when you can simply dismiss all of these factors and cite “structural racism” as the only reason for any racial inequality, and also cover yourself in moral righteousness, you’re home-free. Those who raise objections or complications or cite nuances can be dismissed by the same easy method.”
Deplatforming free thinkers and fixating on identity above all other variables, especially class, may not be in the best interests of the democratic establishment, as election results have shown.
The same it seems would be true for India’s chatterati, which looks increasingly irrelevant as Modi goes from strength to strength, winning election state after state with no sign of losing steam.
The political appeal of addressing humans as humans, regardless of caste, creed, race or religion, and unifying them under a single banner, is powerful and will continue to pay dividends for leaders — from the left and right — who make it central to their messaging.
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