1. The challenge for activists in and supporters of the working class and labor movement is to contest the notion, purposefully peddled by Trump and his right wing acolytes, that white men are an aggrieved minority who increasingly encounter discriminatory treatment, undeserved abuse, and systematic victimization at the hands of an accusing and shrill chorus of women — not to mention people of color, gays, immigrants, Hollywood, and out of touch Democrats and urban elites.
This feeling of white male aggrievement to what many white men consider a baseless attack on what they believe to be their earned as well as culturally transmitted sense of entitlement in their relations with women has been heightened in the course of the pitched battle over the nomination of accused sexual predator Bret Kanvanaugh to the Supreme Court.
In his testimony, Kavanaugh aggressively expressed this sense of victimization and entitlement over what he considered a baseless and invented attack on his dignity, accomplishments, manhood, and family. Not only did he deny the claims of Christine Blasey Ford, Deborah Ramirez, and other accusers out of hand, but he angrily asserted without a shred of evidence that he was the target of a far larger conspiracy whose intent was to destroy his impeccable reputation and unfairly deny him what he is earned and is entitled to — a seat on the Supreme Court.
Eagerly assisting him in this exercise of dissembling and blame shifting is Trump, Republican leaders, and the right wing attack machine. Trump at a rally two nights ago in Mississippi turned his appearance into an opportunity to take off his rhetorical gloves and jump in the gutter. In front of an adoring crowd of white people of all ages and incomes, he unloaded on Christine Blasey Ford and mockingly attempted to tear to shreds her painfully and courageously wrought testimony of sexual victimization at Kavanaugh’s hands.
In doing so, Trump not only tried to destroy the honesty and claims of Blasey Ford, but also to turn the whole conversation over sexual violence against women on its head, that is into a platform to stoke and give legitimacy to white male resentment and grievance, while at the same time closing off any space for women to make public their experiences at the hands of predatory and violent men — not to mention mobilize his base for the coming elections.
In Trump’s rendering, the victim became the victimizer and the victimizer became the victim. This inversion is not just without grounds in fact and outrageous. It’s also especially dangerous to every woman in so far as it gives a green light to abuse them as men see fit. And, by implication, it’s a danger to anyone who encounters as well as struggles against the many forms of inequality, discrimination, and oppression in our society.
As Blasey Ford reminded us, white male entitlement and privilege isn’t something that simply inhabits the world of discourse. It sanctions all manner of discrimination, subordination, and violence against women. It’s deeply embedded in the material reality of our society and systematically reproduces itself.
It’s also isn’t peculiar to the white billionaire class even though this class reaps enormous wealth and privilege from this ideology and practice. White workers gain advantage and privilege too, even if goes against the grain of any democratic and egalitarian construction of their interests.
Supporters of and activists in the working class and labor movement can’t ignore nor should they minimize this reality. It has to be challenged, especially with the elections a month away.
2. When Trump and GOP go low, as they are doing now in their ruthless and misogynist assault on Christine Blasey Ford, we should come to her defense in whatever way we can and march (and encourage others to march) to the polls on November 6.
I don’t have a big megaphone, but I try to find ways to bring this shameless attack as well as Kavanaugh’s sense of white, male entitlement that allows him to think that he can sexually abuse women with complete impunity into every conversation that I engage in. Last night it became a subject of conversation in my spin class.
Meanwhile, I will be canvassing later today. I was happy to hear that we will be going to the homes of low turnout Democrats. Up to now we’ve been visiting the homes of registered Republicans.
3. I hear TV commentators in too many instances reduce the Kavanaugh nomination to a partisan fight in which Democrats are as to blame as Republicans for the heightened acrimony in Washington. It is partisan and acrimonious for sure. But to leave it here obscures the fundamental issue around which this contentious battle turns — whether someone who is a sexual predator, right wing political operative, and virulent opponent of all manner of democratic and human rights belongs on the court. And on this score Democrats are fighting the good fight and should not yield an inch their opposition.
4. What goes unmentioned in many accounts of the Obama Presidency is that his very presence in the White House and artfully articulated vision of the American family challenged a core tenet of right wing extremism — the racialized ordering of “America.” In contesting this ordering in which white people because of their supposed “natural” superiority and inordinate contributions to the making of “America” sit at the top of the social ladder, while people of color because of their supposed inferiority and minimal contributions to the making of the country are forcibly assigned to its lowest rung, Obama became the object of the unrestrained, racist wrath of the extreme right.
What is more in thinking about the gestation ground for the Tea Party, Birtherism, Republican congressional intransigence, the explosion of white male resentment, the rise of Trump, and much more, this racial-political dynamic has to figure prominently in any explanation.
To ignore or even to minimize this dynamic makes the dual task of understanding how we arrived at the current moment and finding a path out of this existential political crisis impossible. A narrow class against class, economic populist approach won’t fill the bill. Never has.
6. I was a bit taken aback reading an article on the transition to socialism that made no mention, let alone shined a bright light on, the necessity of strategic alliances between the working class and other powerful social constituencies. It is hard to find support for this notion in the writings of Marx and Engels. And certainly not Lenin. No one insisted on the necessity of an alliance policy with greater vigor than he did. He argued time and time again that the working class, and not only in Russia, could ONLY effect a socialist revolution if it had extensive and stable alliances with other sections of the population who feel the oppressive weight of capitalist policies and power. Now it’s a fact that the working class has massively grown and changed in composition since then, but neither its quantitative expansion nor its qualitative transformation mitigate against a policy of alliances with other social constituencies — people of color and women in the first place. In fact, the opposite is the case. And especially now.