Coercive Deference and Double Bind Politics on the Left (a response to the 2016 election)
I SHARE WITH I’m sure virtually all of Tikkun’s readers a feeling of pain and horror at the acts of racial and ethnic violence that have occurred since the election of Donald Trump. And I of course agree that the rhetoric of Trump’s campaign has had the effect of stirring up and legitimizing the expression of these racist and xenophobic impulses in terrible and alarming ways. But it does not help our efforts to respond to and counter these realities to simply denounce the Trump campaign or Trump supporters as “being” racist or xenophobic as if their violent and cruel behavior were just an expression of their evil essence or brainwashed minds. Instead, we must look deeply into the impacted conditions of their psychological, spiritual, and economic lives to see what in their experience has led them to burst out by the millions in response to Trump’s message.
Many white working-class communities feel robbed of much of their sense of worth and recognition by the impact of the global economy on the conditions of their life and on their culture. They see elites (millionaires, billionaires, tech wizards, bi-coastal cultural sophisticates) benefiting from an economy that their prior economic communities have been eviscerated by (in the rust-belt states of Michigan, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin, for example, all of whom voted in large numbers for Trump). And they feel this marginalization and cast-asideness not just because of its material or economic aspect, but also, and in some ways more importantly, because of its denigration of their own sense of worthiness, recognition, and sense of communal belonging and value. In this latter sense, they feel spiritual suffering and the loss of human solidarity and love.
Instead of responding to this with compassion and concern, many in the liberal world have unconsciously communicated to this community that the world is, or would be, fine if these whites had exercised their “equality of opportunity” to pursue their god-given right to fulfill their dreams through successfully competing in the marketplace—except for minorities, women, the LGBTQ community, disabled people, and other designated groups who must be given “special benefits” due to past discrimination so that they can gain the same “equality of opportunity” that the so-called white community already has. This liberal attitude reflected in the mainstream of the Democratic Party not only denies the spiritual pain of the white working class, but it also implicitly blames the white working-class for failing to succeed themselves and for somehow contributing to the oppression of African-Americans, women, and all the other groups whom the liberal world (correctly) wants to extend more rights and more benefits to.
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Tikkun 2017 Volume 32, Number 1: 9-10