Cartoon: Liberal Pundit Opposes Identity Politics! What a Shock!


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The pundit march against “identity politics” never gets old, does it? Oh, wait.

In a way, this is something I did a cartoon about last year, although that one was less specific – the tendency of Democrats to paint their own policy preferences as the necessary strategy to win elections.

It’s just motivated reasoning, of course – but it’s still super annoying. I’m particularly needled by the claim that Clinton lost the election because she talked about Blacks/Women/Gays/etc too much, when she should have been talking jobs and the economy.  Because objectively, Clinton spoke MUCH more about jobs and the economy than she did about “identity politics.” It wasn’t even close.

So when pundits say that Clinton spoke too much about identity politics, what that suggests, to me, is those pundits believe that if a Democrat mentions “identity politics” at all that’s too much.

Artwise, I like the last panel best – it’s a very simple panel (basically no background), but I think the figure looks relaxed and expressive and the Watterson influence shows but that’s okay.

I continue to like this approach to color, so I may stick with it for a while. :-)


TRANSCRIPT OF CARTOON

PANEL 1

A white man sits behind the desk of a spacious office. He has a laptop open in front of him and books on either side of him; behind him are windows facing some trees, and some flowers in a vase. He’s wearing glasses and a button up shirt without a tie.
MAN: I have a message for all the identity politics liberals!
As long as idenitty politics exist, Democrats can’t win elections. And if we cna’t win elections, then we can’t make the changes you want.

PANEL 2

A closer shot of the man, as he drinks from his cofee cup.
MAN: Take Black Lives Matter. That alienates working class whites. So just be quiet about it.
Just like trans activists, and feminists, and student protestors… you people are why Trump is president!

PANEL 3

The man raises one finger as he pontificates.
MAN: The only way to get elected is to say nothing that could alienate white Trump voters.
Trump voters will flock to Democrats if liberals just quit mentioning Blacks or gays or trans or women or any other identity politics CRAP!

PANEL 4

The man leans back in his desk chair, one foot on the other knee, his hands behind his head, smiling.
MAN: But don’t worry! Once the Democrats are elected, we’ll be in power, and then… you people should continue shutting up.
Because we’ve got to get re-elected, right?

KICKER PANEL

A tiny panel below the bottom of the strip shows the man smiling, one hand placed on his chest in a “I’m good at this but also modest” sort of gesture.
MAN: I’m just saying we have to look at things objectively! And white men like me are ACES at objhectivity!

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20 Responses to Cartoon: Liberal Pundit Opposes Identity Politics! What a Shock!

  1. 1
    Joe in Australia says:

    I’m with you on the last panel, but part of the reason I like it is the contrast between his relaxed posture in that panel and the busier postures in the earlier ones.

    As for the Watterson influence on the panel, it’s obvious now that you drew my attention to it, but your themes and style are otherwise so dissimilar that I wouldn’t have noticed.

    Argh. Now I can’t stop him metamorphosing into Calvin’s dad, only 10+ years older.

  2. 2
    Bonnie McDaniel says:

    As if Republicans aren’t into identity politics even more–ie straight white male Christian identity politics.

  3. 3
    nobody.really says:

    As if Republicans aren’t into identity politics even more–ie straight white male Christian identity politics.

    Quite so. Indeed, the circumstances strike me as rather similar.

    So let’s take this same cartoon, but change the title: “Conservative Pundit Opposes Identity Politics: What a Shock!”

    G.O.P. National Committee chairman Reince Priebus is sitting at the desk, saying the following:

    I have a message for all the identity politics conservatives!
    As long as identity politics exist, Republicans can’t win elections. And if we can’t win elections, then we can’t make the changes you want.

    Take opposition to undocumented immigration. That alienates Hispanics. So just be quiet about it.

    Just like Pro Life activists, and our insistence on running candidates from the Top 1% of income distribution… you people are why Obama is president!

    The party is marginalizing itself and, in the absence of major change, it will be increasingly difficult for Republicans to win a presidential election in the near future. Young voters are rolling their eyes at what the party represents. Voters’ belief that the G.O.P. does not care about them is doing great harm. Formerly loyal voters gathered in focus groups describe Republicans as ‘scary,’ ‘narrow-minded’ and ‘out of touch’ and that we were a party of ‘stuffy old men.’

    Thus, we must embrace and champion comprehensive immigration reform….

    We have to blow the whistle at corporate malfeasance and attack corporate welfare. We should speak out when a company liquidates itself and its executives receive bonuses but rank-and-file workers are left unemployed. We should speak out when C.E.O.s receive tens of millions of dollars in retirement packages but middle-class workers have not had a meaningful raise in years….

    For the G.O.P. to appeal to younger voters, we do not have to agree on every issue, but we do need to make sure young people do not see the Party as totally intolerant of alternative points of view. Already, there is a generational difference within the conservative movement about issues involving the treatment and the rights of gays — and for many younger voters, these issues are a gateway into whether the Party is a place they want to be. If our Party is not welcoming and inclusive, young people and increasingly other voters will continue to tune us out. The Party should be proud of its conservative principles, but just because someone disagrees with us on 20 percent of the issues, that does not mean we cannot come together on the rest of the issues where we do agree.

    The italicized parts above are direct quotes from the Republican’s 2012 Growth and Opportunity Project report a/k/a the election post-mortem.

    But not to worry: This advice was rejected. Identity politics prevailed. The Republicans opted to reject any effort to appeal to those outside its base, and instead adopted maximalist positions to energize its base. And we all can see how well this strategy has served the nation.

  4. 4
    Ampersand says:

    Nobody Really, the advice – that the only way for the GOP to win elections was to stop being anti-immigrant (etc) – was clearly wrong, at least in the short term. I do think the GOP should stop being anti-immigrant – not because of electability arguments, but because being anti-immigrant is bad policy.

    Also, your last paragraph seems to imply that if identity politics in the GOP are bad, b/c white christian identity politics has badly served the nation, then identity politics in the Democrats must also be bad for the nation. Is that what you were intending to imply?

  5. 5
    nobody.really says:

    Also, your last paragraph seems to imply that if identity politics in the GOP are bad, b/c white christian identity politics has badly served the nation, then identity politics in the Democrats must also be bad for the nation. Is that what you were intending to imply?

    I’m trying to make two points.

    First and foremost, I want to challenge people to extend compassion to Trump voters. If our feelings of exclusion and marginalization cause us pain, I hope we can empathize with others who feel themselves in reciprocal circumstances.

    Recall that small-town White Christian fundamentalists have been treated as national laughingstocks since the Scopes Monkey Trials in 1925. The fundamentalist forces actually won at trial, but the reporting and subsequent iconography (including the fictional Inherit the Wind) left a rather different impression. I grew up in the Midwest in the era of the Andy Griffith Show, the Beverly Hillbillies, Green Acres, Mister Ed, Petticoat Junction, and Hee Haw–and that was just CBS. Each of these shows reinforced the idea that rural America is populated by big-hearted rubes who exist for the nation’s amusement.

    Is this all mere rationalization? Well, from my perspective, yes—but that’s beside the point. The point is that White Christian fundamentalists may see themselves as belittled, victimized, and abandoned by their more urban and sophisticated countrymen. After decades enduring this kind of disdain, it may not be surprising that White Christian fundamentalists would conclude that they need a strong and equally disdainful champion on their side.

    (This just happens to be the theme of a recent essay by Notre Dame prof. Patrick J. Deneen, discussing the Myth of the Metals from Plato’s Republic.)

  6. 6
    nobody.really says:

    Second, I think it behooves us to acknowledge our growing political polarization. In the past the nation was arguably less polarized because it was less tolerant of deviance. We received our news from three TV stations that all shunned gays AND Nazis. We now live in a world that countenances a broader range of perspectives—for better AND worse.

    Intellectually, I like it: We have a broader range of alternatives to consider. We have more candid exchanges. This seems more democratic.

    But it comes at a cost. Each side has ever more reason to regard the other as alien, and to regard political fights as high-stakes battles. This is not just a function of advertising; this is a function of real political consequences. Many policies flicker on and off depending on which party takes the White House; now those polices are the size of Obamacare, DACA, and NAFTA.

    Arguably we now have greater freedom but less cohesion. Arguably this reflects the triumph of classical liberalism/libertarianism at the expense of traditionalism. I used to celebrate this development. Now I have more ambivalence.

    In short, Amp depicts a political strategist that favors resisting the appeals of the most marginalized members of his coalition in order to appeal to centrist voters. I sense that Amp regards such a political bargain as immoral. Perhaps; yet I believe that it was precisely this kind of political bargain that enabled the Thirteen Colonies to unite against the British, that enabled the passage of the 15th Amendment granting voting rights to black men, and that enabled the peaceful resolution of the Cuban Missile Crisis. (And arguably, it was US maximalist strategies in expanding NATO that prompted Russia to invade Crimea.)

    Amp previously drew an excellent cartoon about looking back upon a past self who espoused a maximalist position regarding Ralph Nader, and the regrets Amp might have in retrospect. Perhaps some people feel this way about the reluctance of Bernie Sanders supporters to endorse Hillary. It is no discredit to either Nader or Sanders to acknowledge that their agendas were not well served by W. or Trump. So the question remains: Do we accomplish more by being vocal advocates for minority groups—and thereby losing elections? Or by being timid advocates for such groups, doing relatively little to advance the cause, but at least keeping the levers of power out of the hands of those who would do actual harm?

    I don’t regard this as a simple, black-and-white question. And, for me, this is less a question of morality than strategy.

    Of course, political cartoons are not the best venue for expressing ambivalence and nuance. Comments are. So here you have it.

  7. 7
    Ben Lehman says:

    It may just be my bubble, but in the last three years, 95% of the people I’ve seen eschewing “identity politics” are people who use “liberal” as a curse word, either because they’re leftists or rightists.

  8. 8
    Kate says:

    We received our news from three TV stations that all shunned gays AND Nazis.

    For me, this is really it in a nutshell. Trump voters find gays (Mexicans, Black Lives Matter, Planned Parenthood, etc. etc.) more threatening to their vision of America than Neo-Nazis and Klan members.
    I do have empathy for the economic situation in rural America – for all ethnic groups. But the economic policies that rural white voters are supporting only make their economic situation worse. I think they’re smart enough to know that.
    They are choosing to scapegoat immigrants, feminists, African Americans, etc. because it is easier to maintain ones status by holding those beneath you on the ladder down, than it is to claw your way up.

  9. 9
    RonF says:

    For me, this is really it in a nutshell. Trump voters find gays (Mexicans, Black Lives Matter, Planned Parenthood, etc. etc.) more threatening to their vision of America than Neo-Nazis and Klan members.

    So then the question becomes, “Why”? Is it because they are aligned with the neo-Nazis and the Klan? Or is it because they don’t see the latter as having any real influence on American culture, whereas groups supporting Planned Parenthood, illegal immigration, etc. are greatly influential? From what I see and hear in talking to Trump voters it’s the latter.

  10. 10
    Jokuvaan says:

    Identity politics are a form of tribalism that does enforce the Us Vs Them mentality.
    Also a good argument is a good argument and a bad argument is a bad argument regardless of who you are.
    There is no reason for why one should because of being pro-gun rights be against abortion or gay marriage or there is no reason for why one should because of being in favor of tackling climate change also be in favor of abortions.
    Yet in the US we can see this division where you in most cases can based on one opinion of a person predict his opinion on other issues.

    Another thing about intersectionality is that by gaining certain factions as allies you will also get their enemies as your enemies.

  11. 11
    Jeffrey Gandee says:

    The best case against Identity politics from a left-of-center perspective comes from Columbia University professor Mark Lilla. I won’t sum him up here, because his opinions are everywhere on the internet and easy to google, but I do think he argues well for his position on Sam Harris’s waking up podcast.

    https://samharris.org/podcasts/the-fate-of-liberalism/

  12. 12
    nobody.really says:

    Upon reflection, the guy in the cartoon does look kind of like Mark Lilla….

  13. 13
    Gracchus says:

    “Yet in the US we can see this division where you in most cases can based on one opinion of a person predict his opinion on other issues.”

    Speak for yourself, the internet seems to me to be positively overrun with twenty-something white dudes who are eager to blow everybody’s minds by being pro gay marriage and legalising weed, but also wanting to see taxes and social services cut down to nothing.

  14. 14
    Ampersand says:

    Upon reflection, the guy in the cartoon does look kind of like Mark Lilla….

    What a crazy, random happenstance.

  15. 15
    Kate says:

    Speak for yourself, the internet seems to me to be positively overrun with twenty-something white dudes who are eager to blow everybody’s minds by being pro gay marriage and legalising weed, but also wanting to see taxes and social services cut down to nothing.

    This is true, but there are some beliefs which tend to bundle and interconnect, for various reasons. This is not just about tribalism. We have groups of people in the U.S. with fundamentally different values and fundamentally different ways of making decisions.
    For example, people on the left tend to believe strongly in the centrality of bodily autonomy and consent in issues regarding sexuality. This leads naturally to a bundle of beliefs about abortion, gay marriage, the best ways to reduce unwanted pregnancies (low-cost birth control…which tends to lead to another bundle of beliefs about healthcare policy), how to approach sex education (which, again, tends to link to another bundle of beliefs about education policy). We point social science as evidence – like some of the highest abortion and maternal mortality rates are in countries where abortion is illegal and most of the countries with the lowest abortion rates have national healthcare which provides free or low-cost contraception.
    On the other hand, the beliefs or people on the right surrounding sexuality tend to be rooted in their religious faith or (in Catholicism, which I think as the strongest rational arguments in this arena, rooted in “natural law”). They are skeptical about social science. So, for example, as a person on the left, I point out that it is undeniable that providing free birth control lowers abortion rates more effectively than outlawing abortion. They think that providing free birth control it is wrong for many reasons – sex should be tied to procreation, and breaking that link is immoral (which relates to their beliefs about LGBT people as well); that people should be responsible for providing their own healthcare and not get handouts from the government (which leads to another huge bundle of beliefs). They are not willing to compromise these principles to lower the abortion rate.

  16. 16
    RonF says:

    Kate:

    For example, people on the left tend to believe strongly in the centrality of bodily autonomy and consent in issues regarding sexuality.

    Do you see a distinction between the left and the right in this matter?

  17. 17
    Jake Squid says:

    I do, Ron. And I’m pretty sure everybody else here does, too.

  18. 18
    Harlequin says:

    Yeah. I mean, given that in the last few years I’ve seen people on the right argue that gay sex should be criminalized (consent is not sufficient) and that spousal rape shouldn’t be (consent is not necessary), I don’t think it’s really even a question.

  19. 19
    Kate says:

    Do you see a distinction between the left and the right in this matter?

    Absolutely. It isn’t that the right doesn’t see consent and bodily autonomy goods at all. Other things being equal, I think most people on the right would rather have them than not. But other factors take precedence with them. The clearest case is with abortion, where on the right the life of the embryo/fetus takes precedence over the consent of the pregnant person to carry a pregnancy to term. In the cases Harlequin cited, I think it comes down to the idea that what is in accordance with “God’s law”, the Bible or “nature” (depending on your religion or lack thereof), takes precedence.

  20. 20
    closetpuritan says:

    One example that I think is a good demonstration of the centrality of consent in some belief systems is when people argue that the reason for adults not to have sex with minors is that they can’t really consent, even when they seem to be consenting at the time, because they do not have enough understanding of the world to consent… I’ve also seen this argument applied to why bestiality is wrong. The difference in these cases is not a disagreement between the left and right about what is allowed, but why.

    Caveat: I think there is a difference between left and right in how significant consent vs. other factors are, but I do think there are probably significant numbers of people on the left for whom consent is not central and significant numbers on the right for whom it is.

    I came across another example of making bodily autonomy subordinate to or at least balanced by other factors in the form of a Jordan Peterson clip recently. I think that for people who view consent and bodily autonomy as central, it makes sense that one would value giving people the choice whether to wear makeup and heels (bodily autonomy) and not seeing that as especially connected to one’s right to ask that coworkers not make unwelcome sexual comments (consent). Jordan Peterson feels that women who wear makeup (specifically, makeup that makes one’s lips and/or cheeks redder) and heels are “hypocritical” if they don’t want to be sexually harassed–if I understand Peterson correctly, in order for women to act morally either bodily autonomy or consent should be to some degree compromised.

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