There are some strange creatures in the modern political arena. Elizabeth Warren and her notorious claim to be a member of the Cherokee Nation for example.
It has always been embarrassingly obvious that Warren’s likely aim was to identify herself as non-white in a plausible and advantageous way. Which in turn highlights what we already know – there are political, social and even professional gains for white progressives who adopt a kind of apologetic not-really-white political identity. A more subtle version of the Warren approach we might say. Warren Lite perhaps.
One might achieve this in a number of ways. As one is a cosmopolitan citizen of the world and as all colonial baggage has been ostentatiously rejected, the Warren Lite progressives of this world seem to permit themselves an honorary non-white identity. It follows that those who do not subscribe to the Warren Lite game are racists.
The lifeblood of modern progressive political life seems to be a need to hate, to identify and vilify outsiders. It is primitive but effective because hating the outsider is the outsider’s fault and therefore justified. As it always was of course, but how is something as primitive as group hatred justified on the modern caring, nurturing political stage?
One common progressive justification of hatred is seen when political outsiders are labelled as racists. There are many others such as driving big cars and supporting Donald Trump, but racism is one of the majors. Outsiders are racists which makes them the purveyors of hate goes the narrative. Therefore political attacks on outsiders are not expressions of hatred but justifiable outrage at the outsiders’ supposed racism. In other words, as well as being a genuine social and political canker, racism is also being used as a political scam directed at outsiders who are not actually racist. An unpleasant and dishonest game which has been obvious for some time.
It is a pity that we have yet to learn how to deal with deliberately divisive political creeds in a coherent manner. A pity that we fail to admit that fostering an abiding hatred of social or political outsiders is much the same as fostering racism. In the moral belly of the thing it is indeed much the same. Within progressive politics, the bourgeoisie seem to be viewed as another race and that seems to be okay with them.
We should not be surprised - not so long ago the aristocracy saw themselves as a different breed when compared to the great mass of working people. The notion of breeding was taken seriously and not only by the aristocracy. Further down the social scale many people saw themselves as inherently inferior to the aristocracy and especially inferior to royalty.
Simple observation suggests that there is an important sense in which progressives see themselves as a different breed to the bourgeoisie. In the moral belly of the thing, this is the primitive undercurrent still flowing beneath the hatred of Donald Trump and his millions of supporters. A racist undercurrent one might almost suggest - a Warren Lite offshoot of those older ideas about breeding.
From a progressive perspective Trump is obviously viewed as an outsider. Not one of us, spawned from a different breed, from a morally inferior breed. Don’t believe it? Look at how he has been vilified – how he is still vilified by supposedly civilised and intelligent people. Trump understands all this of course, and uses it.
One cannot take this too far though. Identifying and hating the outsider is a powerful political urge and hiding the urge from any kind of moral analysis is just as powerful. We all do it to some degree – that’s a core problem. We rarely admit it though – that’s the second problem. Not admitting it is politically advantageous – that’s the third and biggest problem.