Doggett's dead-on analysis of identity politics - from 1998

Earlier today, I recalled the story of how Howard Metzenbaum and the Democrats on the Senate Judiciary Committee attempted to smear John Doggett during the Clarence Thomas hearings. Hot Air reader Shyla asked if that Doggett was the same person as the one who wrote a scathing criticism of liberals and identity politics in 1998, and it turns out to be the case. Doggett became a talk-show host who embraced conservative thought and turned his back on liberalism shortly before the hearings, and the explanation of his disillusionment resonates in the Geraldine Ferraro flap this week:

When I started my career as a legal services attorney in 1972, I thought that liberals really cared about the poor, the oppressed and people of color. Twenty-six years later, I have learned that while some have good intentions, many liberals are closet racists. They claim to be “sensitive, progressive and concerned,” while in reality far too many of them truly do not believe that blacks or Latinos are as smart as they are. In fact, their liberal orthodoxy cannot exist in a world where blacks and Latinos no longer “need” their help.

Strong people of color threaten bleeding heart white liberals. This tension has existed since the days of the abolition movement. In the 19th century, Frederick Douglass had to fight his white “brothers” so that he, an ex-slave, could speak out against slavery at abolition meetings. The history of white liberalism is a history of their refusal to respect Americans of color who defied white liberal orthodoxy. We saw it most recently when white feminists refused to acknowledge the significant contributions of black women in the fight for suffrage. …

To this day, black Democrats ask me how Clinton could fight for a crook like Webster Hubble and not stand by Lani Guinier. To this day, black Democrats ask me how Bill Clinton could abandon a black woman who was his friend when George Bush stood tall for Clarence Thomas, a man Bush didn’t even know. To this day, black Democrats ask me why Bill Clinton has only white males in his inner circle when George Bush had black men in charge of the military and White House relations with Congress.

Doggett isn’t exactly a doctrinaire conservative, either. He has spoken out for slavery reparations and tangled with fellow convert David Horowitz over the issue. His opinions on identity politics come from both historical and personal perspectives, and Doggett pursues them passionately.

Looking at this, one can see the same issues in the Ferraro flap and the new controversy over Jeremiah Wright’s ranting from the pulpit of Barack Obama’s church. Ferraro on one hand acknowledges that identity politics gave her a boost, but then voices resentment that it also boosted Obama to a level equal to that of Hillary Clinton. Wright goes for the more direct approach, saying that Hillary Clinton has never had to hear the N-word thrown at her in anger, nor castigated by “her own people” for not being “white enough”.

All of this comes from an idea that people are commodities rather than individuals, which is what angers Doggett so much. He got challenged by a white person for not being black enough — ie, not mindlessly following the liberal line. Ferraro, Hillary, Obama, and Wright all perpetuate in one way or another the same notion: that people are commodities who should follow identity politics in order for authenticity, except when those identity politics put them as individuals at a disadvantage.

Doggett understood this ten years ago, and tried to warn people of the meltdown the Democrats will experience in 2008.