Stop me if you've heard this before: A older white man who dislikes Hillary Clinton and the Democratic Party says that the left needs to abandon identity politics and get back in touch with "the working class."
[Slavoj] Žižek, a frequent critic of both capitalism and the shortcomings of the modern left, said liberals focus too much on social issues, such as LGBT rights and racism, and on new right-leaning factions. The cost? The majority of working-class voters may not hear what's in it for them.
Naturally, Žižek is not part of one of the marginalized groups whose civil rights are currently under attack. Nor is he one of the people at risk of being murdered by the white nationalist terrorists being wegged on by Donald Trump, who, according to Žižek, is not the real problem. We'll share that sentiment with the families of the dead in Pittsburgh. I'm sure they'll see reason.
Astonishingly, even at this late date, proponents of the "let's get back in touch with the working class" theory of anti-identity politics still fail to see that they are, in fact, practicing identity politics. The giveaway is right there when Žižek says "the majority of working-class voters" aren't interested in the loss of civil rights and the rise of white nationalism. The people not threatened by those things are...white. Last time I looked, that was an identity.
By blithely claiming that "the working class" is comprised mostly of people unconcerned with civil rights, ie white people, Žižek and those like him erase tens of millions of Latino and black working class people that very much care about civil rights. They care about income inequality too but that's not quite as pressing a concern when the police and ICE are openly terrorizing your community.
But that's not a problem for Žižek so it's not important to him. It doesn't speak to his identity so it's not the kind of politics we should be expending energy on. Rather, we should focus on the kind of politics that he feels impact him personally. See how this works?
Žižek would argue that his identity politics (which he would never admit they are) affects everyone, but so does the erosion of civil rights for Latinos and blacks and the LGBT community as well as the rise of white nationalism. The reckless disregard the police have for brown skin combined with the insane militarization and "shoot first, ask questions never" training they receive have resulted in a police force that is almost worse than anything the most pessimistic dystopian nightmares science fiction dreamed up. Who do you think that police force will be used against? White nationalists or the people, including white people, fighting against them? We've already seen the answer.
At the same time, successful legal attacks on the LGBT community open the door to increasingly insane "religious liberty" practices that edge America closer to the theocratic state the very well organized and very well funded Dominionist movement is working towards. The last thing they care about is income equality.
This inability for "my cause is more important" white people on the left to recognize that identity politics are A. important and B. exactly what they're practicing is why they are failing to make more headway in the Democratic Party and a cause of a great deal of unnecessary friction. When they preach their brand of identity politics and claim to be above such petty concerns as race and identity, they signal to the rest of their fellow voters on the left that they don't matter. Naturally, black and brown voters, as well as Muslims, the LGBT community, and other marginalized groups hear that message and turn away, looking instead to leaders that listen to their grievances.
It doesn't have to be this way. Žižek is not wrong that that capitalism is deeply flawed and a root problem. But it's not the only root problem. He ignores the even deeper problem of racism at his own peril:
Hillary Clinton and what she stands for—the status quo, the preservation of global capitalism and even the Republican tradition—is the primary problem for the left, which Žižek said has ceased to question the fundamentals of the system.
"Capitalism is changing, but we simply don't notice this in front of our eyes," Žižek said. "It's crucial to bear in mind that Trump is, to use your terms, a reaction–a consequence–of the new processes in global capitalism, which brought about the disintegration of this welfare state, liberal capitalist consensus."
This, in a nutshell, is bullshit. This is the "economic anxiety" argument. Again. The long-debunked economic anxiety argument. Again. Trump was elected for one reason and one reason only: White Republican voters were terrified of a country in which they were no longer the dominant social and cultural power after the election of a black president and they voted for the person who told them they could be as racist as they wanted while he punished their enemies for them. The "economically anxious" actually voted for Hillary Clinton. Meanwhile, Žižek supported Trump over Clinton under the Susan Sarandon theory that Trump would bring about the revolution the left needed. Then he went on to say the far left should work with the alt-right to reject identity politics and tackle economic inequality. In other words, white people should unite with other white people to tell brown people what's best for them.
It's vital for Žižek to believe this kind of nonsense because anything else undermines his entire worldview that the left just needs to reject the wrong kind of identity politics and embrace his brand instead. Again, it's important to note that because he is a white male, he does not feel threatened by the white nationalist alt-right that is currently breeding terrorists like roaches. After all, Žižek is not on high on their ethnic cleansing hit list. It's easy to say the left should overlook their hate speech when you've erased people of color from the equation.
But with the base of the Democratic Party being so diverse, that is never going to happen and anyone that aligns themselves with white nationalists will find themselves very much out in the cold. It's a short-sighted and fairly bigoted strategy born of a thought process that doesn't consider people of color to part of the "real" left. Good luck getting a presidential candidate nominated with that attitude, buddy.
Again, it doesn't have to be this way. None of our priorities are in opposition and this has never been a zero-sum game. That is the framework of the right and the narrative they want us to use in order to keep us divided. The sooner the allegedly "anti-identity politics" wing of the left get over their recalcitrance and stop antagonizing their allies, the sooner we can push forward a holistic agenda that fully addresses all of our concerns. And that would be the end of both predatory capitalism as we know it and modern conservatism.
What part of that isn't a win-win?