The Democratic Party’s Fault Lines Are Immigration And Identity Politics

The Democratic Party’s Fault Lines Are Immigration And Identity Politics

The left is divided on issues of identity and security. Republicans should realize that there's an opportunity to appeal to the alienated working class.
Sumantra Maitra
By

Hillary Clinton, of all people, had an epiphany recently in an interview with The Guardian, where she said Europe needs to curb mass migration.

“I admire the very generous and compassionate approaches that were taken particularly by leaders like Angela Merkel, but I think it is fair to say Europe has done its part, and must send a very clear message––‘we are not going to be able to continue provide refuge and support’––because if we don’t deal with the migration issue it will continue to roil the body politic,” Clinton lamented, saying that mass migration lit “the flame” in Europe. John Kerry followed suit, as John Kerry is wont to do.

There’s of course no need to take Clinton or Kerry seriously; they are not sincere. They are, after all, the brains behind the disastrous Libyan misadventure that led to the devastation of the North African coastline, and the rise of Islamism and mass migration to the European continent. If anyone is responsible for mass migration, it should be Hillary Clinton and Angela Merkel.

But these comments show a cleavage in the American left that has been exposed post-midterm elections. The conventional wisdom goes that Republicans are the party in siege, despite having increased gains in Senate. But the left is not as united as is portrayed. Immigration and identity politics are going to be the fault lines within the Democratic Party in the coming years.

Immigration Will Be A Big Issue For Democrats

Take immigration, for example. As the Central American migrants storm the U.S.-Mexico border, the line of argument has shifted within the left from “they are never going to come” to “they are only poor refugees.”

Reihan Salam pointed out in the latest National Review podcast that migrants, who had to pay thousands of dollars to human traffickers in the past, can now have the relative safety and comfort of travelling in caravans, with food and blankets being provided by activists and NGOs, helping their every move. This is almost a copybook replication of the European migrant movement, with NGOs and activists with immense funding acting hand in hand with human traffickers.

It is also unsustainable, as the majority of the migrants in this scenario are military-aged men (just like Europe), brandishing their own countries’ flags, chanting worker’s solidarity slogans supported by socialists, and pelting stones at U.S. service personnel. Regardless of what some in the rational left still think of mass migration, this optics will eventually force them to choose between taking a stance of de facto open borders, or use of force and deterrence to stop this precedent.

Even 20 years back, the Democrats were not so left with regards to the border, but lately their base has shifted from working class to urban liberal bourgeoisie. This inevitably means that Republicans can broaden the coalition among those who are directly going to lose jobs if mass migration from Central America takes the shape and size that it has in Europe. Republicans should also simply concentrate on the funding of NGOs and activists, both within the United States and outside.

Identity Politics Will Spell Trouble For The Party

The second fault line is identity politics. Post-2016, the Democrats have not found a way to move forward and are even divided in their diagnosis of what the problem is. The progressive wing of the left wanted a free hand and got one in the recent midterms, but the results were not kind to them.

Two key races, for example, showed the limitations of identity as a factor. In the gubernatorial race in Georgia, the far-left Stacey Abrams is refusing to concede in a manner now prevalent on the left. Abrams was a darling of the media, ticking all the intersectional boxes, which somehow led her to believe in her inevitability of winning and she is now disputing reality.

In another race, Phil Scott won in Vermont, defeating the country’s first transgender politician, Democrat candidate Christine Hallquist. Even in deep Bernie land, Democrats fielded a candidate who was overall terrible on policy and appealed to identity, and lost.

The Brett Kavanaugh bump was also real. Four out of five Senate tossups went to the Republicans. On the other hand, Robert “Beto” O’Rourke, an Irishman with a baffling Latino nickname, came surprisingly close to Ted Cruz in deep red Texas, running on a centrist-sounding platform of health care and jobs.

If the candidate selection process was like the 1950s, in smoke-filled rooms, O’Rourke and other moderate and likeable candidates like Amy Klobuchar would be groomed, starting now, for the next general elections. Instead, we are probably going to see withering blue-on-blue fire between the socialists and progressives who embrace identity politics, and the centrist liberals who are less inclined to do so. The division on the right is nothing compared to this long-term trend.

The Way Forward For Conservatives

Conservatives can seriously improve their coalition if they start focusing on these two issues. Drawing from the Kavanaugh debacle, the American right needs to understand that a significant gender split is observable in the domestic polity. While the city-dwelling bourgeois liberals and women are flocking to the left, there’s a huge working-class electorate tired of feminist overreach, Me Too-era insanity, the left’s obsession with transgender politics, and the injustice perpetuated by college kangaroo courts.

The significant drawback of feminist-led Democrats is that they fail to see that it is not just white men who are becoming disillusioned with these parts of the Democratic Party, but non-white men––Hispanics, Asians, and especially blacks––as well as their mothers, sisters, and wives, who are worried about this radical social change. All Republicans need to do is find outreach candidates and talk about how falsely accused men and their families have suffered.

Second, law and order policies and jobs are going to become more important in upcoming elections. For good or bad, there’s a significant number of working-class people who are alienated from standard Democratic platforms. Unfortunately, the Democrats have no answer to this and an emphasis on jobs could guarantee a Republican swing.

Finally, cities like San Francisco and Portland, as well as the U.S.-Mexico border clashes, are showing what is the future looks like if law and order are not guaranteed. Again, President Trump, with his Nixonian instincts, understands what even the libertarian wing of the right fails to comprehend: that order and stability are a winning issue for middle and working classes who are less worried about academic debates on liberty and more worried about Antifa smashing their small businesses, or Honduran and Nicaraguan migrants pelting stones at border patrol officers.

If Trump and the Republicans can have the message discipline to focus on these issues, 2020 might be another surprise.

Sumantra Maitra is a doctoral researcher at the University of Nottingham, UK. His research is in great power-politics and neorealism. He also regularly writes for The National Interest and Quillette Magazine, and edits Bombs and Dollars blog. You can find him on Twitter @MrMaitra.

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