No, no, Trump’s campaign was about the economy, his defenders cry! And indeed it was, in that Trump promised the old manufacturing jobs would come back to the overwhelmingly white rural areas (which almost certainly won’t happen), and massive tax cuts to the white super-rich (which almost certainly will). See if you can spot the common denominator in those demographics.
Discussions about identity politics are the new arguments about political correctness, which, as Moira Weigel detailed at length in this paper this week, have long been a means for the male, white and right mainstream to shut down any suggestion that others are worthy of a voice. For Clinton even to acknowledge that she was the first female candidate of a major political party – which is very different from saying people should vote for her because she is a woman – was, according to the sceptics, to play the identity game.
What is less acknowledged by these people – and can be fatally forgotten by some on the left – is that class is as much a part of identity politics as race, religion and sexuality. This has been Sanders’s point since the election: “Yes, we need more candidates of diversity, but we also need candidates to be fighters for the working class,” he says, which is all well and good. But the working class is not an ethnically homogeneous group, and within those divisions there are distinct differences and needs. As Jamelle Bouie wrote this week, “not all inequality is created equal. On average, inequality and poverty among black Americans (as well as native groups and undocumented Americans) is of a different scale and magnitude than inequality and poverty among white Americans.”